Monday, March 15, 2010

Cindy Sheehan plans tent-city protest

Cindy Sheehan plans tent-city protest

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Cindy Sheehan was a long-time thorn in the side of former president George W. Bush, famously camping out in front of his Texas ranch to protest the war that claimed the life of her son in 2004 as he served in Iraq.

But Sheehan, 52, isn’t any more enamoured of President Barack Obama, trailing him as far as Norway when he won his Nobel Peace Prize to point out there’s no real difference between his administration’s and Bush’s when it comes to the American military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Next week, Sheehan’s organization _ Peace of the Action _ is staging its most public demonstration yet against the Obama administration, setting up a tent city at the base of the iconic Washington Monument.

Sheehan will be at the monument all week in the hopes of reminding Americans that two wars are still raging overseas, killing innocent civilians and U.S. soldiers alike.

The group plans to launch its first act of civil disobedience on March 22 in an event near the White House. According to Peace of the Action’s website, the goal is to “clog Washington, D.C. every weekday through diffuse civil resistance actions to have the effect of tampering with ‘business as usual’ in the capital of the United States of America.”

“It wasn’t closure at all for George Bush to leave office,” Sheehan recently told The Hill, D.C.’s congressional newspaper.

A request for an interview with Sheehan wasn’t immediately answered on Thursday, but she told The Hill she’s determined to keep the anemic peace movement in the United States alive.

“I’ve (protested) outside the system, I’ve tried to do this inside the system … it’s time to get together and organize things. That’s how you get something done,” she said.

But in the midst of a devastating recession, a White House preoccupation with pushing through health-care reform and a U.S. capital currently awash in political scandal, there’s no question the wars overseas get precious little attention.

The late Ted Kennedy’s son, Patrick, a congressman from Rhode Island, railed against the lack of media attention being paid to America’s escalating military presence in the Middle East earlier this week.

In an emotional rant on the floor of the House of Representatives during debate over a resolution on withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, Kennedy characterized the media’s coverage of the resignation of Democratic congressman Eric Massa as “despicable.” Massa has been accused of groping his male staff during tickle fights.

“You know what cynicism is?” Kennedy shouted, his voice cracking.

“There’s one, two press people in this gallery. We’re talking about Eric Massa 24/7 on the TV, we’re talking about war and peace, $3 billion dollars, a thousand lives, and no press? No press? .... The press of the United States is not covering the significant issue of national importance, and that’s the laying of the lives down in the nation, for the service of our country. It is despicable, the national press corps right now.”

Richard Rubenstein, a conflict resolution professor at Washington’s George Mason University, has written a soon-to-be-released book entitled “Reasons to Kill: Why Americans Choose War” that explores the arguments and images used to get people to support wars.

Americans are still haunted by the events of Sept. 11, 2001, Rubenstein says, and that’s why the current anti-war movement is a pale imitation of the widespread, well-attended demonstrations that took place during the Vietnam War in the 1960s and early ‘70s.

“The power of 9-11 is still with us, and that was a major trauma for a country that had convinced itself it was invulnerable to that sort of attack. It was incredibly shocking,” he said Thursday.

“That trauma is still active and when things can be linked to it, as the Iraq war has been and now the Afghan war, even more so, it keeps the fears alive.”

The Obama administration, he added, has done nothing to alleviate those fears while failing to clearly outline what its plans are in the Middle East. The confusion has only been exacerbated, Rubenstein says, as military generals and top administration officials frequently contradict one another when discussing long-term foreign policy goals.

“It’s not the fog of war, it’s the fog of Obama,” he said.

“The administration has failed to give us a new paradigm for foreign policy, to talk about other ways of being in the world that aren’t about empires. It’s all cosmetic. There’s nothing being done to calm people’s fears or to help them think in a more long-term manner about what’s good for America as well as the rest of the world in terms of foreign policy.”

But others wonder why Americans, so consumed with their own economic wellbeing as the recession lingers and one in 10 U.S. citizens is out of work, aren’t more outraged about the expensive wars being waged overseas.

“Our nation is literally being destroyed, not from attacks by a powerful foreign enemy, but by the relentless expansion of U.S. wars and empire building,” foreign policy commentator Michael Payne wrote recently on the progressive OpEdNews website.

“Almost every facet of our economy, except the defence industry, is collapsing; our national debt is staggering and we are, by far, the largest creditor nation in the world. Yet, the massive spending for the military and defence contractors continues unabated. And the people of America continue to watch in passive silence.”

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