Tuesday, August 23, 2005
Camp Casey and the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo
In Argentina in the late 1970s, some mothers organized a group called Asociacion Madres de Plaza de Mayo or Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in an effort to demand accountability from the government for sons who had been "disappeared" by agents of theArgentineann government.
In a similar way, the moral weight behind gold star mothers asking for accountability from Pres. Bush is very strong. While Pres. Bush will, in all probability, continue to refuse to meet with Ms. Sheehan, there is much more to this action than the typical political ramifications.
Soldiers and their families have borne the most immediate and heavy toll in the US during this war and occupation of Iraq. In US military actions of recent memory, parents of soldiers were often grieving but proud of their children's sacrifice. I'm sure there were exceptions to this but this was the general impression.
Now there are a number of groups trying to ask questions about the necessity of this course of action: Military Families Speak Out and Gold Star Families for Peace are two prominent ones. While Pres. Bush may consider these protests to be just another in a long series during his time in office, I think they are fundamentally different.
Military families, even those who have suffered losses, are generally quite conservative and supportive of the status quo. In the US, there is a fairly distinct separation of the military from the political. The US has rarely seen an obvious military attempt at a coup. (I can't think of any offhand but I'll hedge my bets with "rarely".) This is because we think of the military as subordinate to the political process which puts our president and Congress into office and power. This is a good thing.
The kinds of tensions and discord which can make military families speak against the president must be enormous for them to take public action. My understanding of the military culture is that, while soldiers and their families might privately disagree with political figures and particular courses of action, extremely public dissent is quite uncommon. This is why the symbolism of this protest is deeply powerful. This isn't just an "anti-war" protest by ordinary citizens; it is the voices of citizens most affected by war and usually publicly supportive.
A protest of this sort and length outside the White House in Washington, DC is practically impossible these days. The permits would probably never be issued. There would be citations of "public nuisance" laws and charges of protestors blocking public access and littering.
I think this event will end without significant communication from Pres. Bush but I don't think he understands how this protest plays out deep in the hearts and minds of many Americans. The right-wing noise machine will find faults with Cindy Sheehan, her actions and her motivations. Yet I can't help but see this as a kind of sea change for the American public's perception of the war.
This is PBU34, a semi-coordinated weekly blogswarm by members of the Progressive Blogger Union. Other member posts on the subject of Camp Casey can be found under the subject header "PBU34" at the PBU group at Flickr.