Vacation From Reality

Sheehan, supported by more than 50 shouting demonstrators, pours water on her head while camping out on Prairie Chapel Road, Aug. 6, 2005, in Crawford, Texas.
AP
This column was written by John Nichols.
George Bush is on vacation in Crawford, Texas, taking the same August-long break that he did in the summer before the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The appeal of Crawford appears to be that it provides the President with an opportunity to put aside all the troubles of the world and to focus on fixing fences and clearing brush. After all, it was during his previous vacation that Bush ignored an August 6, 2001, briefing document titled: "Bin Laden determined to attack inside the U.S."

Bush's inner circle, a collection of neoconservative ideologues with an agenda of their own rather than an interest in what is best for the United States, made no effort in 2001 to steer the President's attention toward pressing matters of national security. And they remain determined to keep the woefully disengaged chief executive focused on busy work around the ranch rather than life-and-death questions of how this country should position itself in a complex and dangerous world.

But this summer, the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq named Cindy Sheehan is making it harder for Bush to ignore the truth that his decisions have led to the unnecessary deaths of more than 1,800 Americans, and tens of thousands of Iraqis, while making both the United States and Iraq more vulnerable to violence.

Sheehan's 24-year-old son, Army Specialist Casey A. Sheehan, died on April 4, 2004 -- almost a year after Bush was dressed up in flight-suit drag to appear before a banner that declared "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq. Sheehan mourned, as any mother would. But then she organized, helping to found Gold Star Families for Peace, an organization of relatives of soldiers killed in Iraq who are demanding an end to the ill-fated occupation of that land and a redirection of US policy to achieve real security -- as opposed to neoconservative misadventuring.

On August 3 of this year, Bush addressed the mounting death toll in Iraq with a pair of declarations:

1. "We have to honor the sacrifices of the fallen by completing the mission."

and

2. "The families of the fallen can be assured that they died for a noble cause."