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August 18, 2005


I think that's maybe a little simplistic. Saying that "parents whose children have died in Iraq are citizens just like the rest of us" strikes me as similar to saying that when it comes to disability rights, "people in wheelchairs are citizens just like the rest of us." Yet it's literally true. And no, people in wheelchairs don't have the moral authority to define disability rights law, just as the mother of dead soldiers don't get to decide our foreign policy.
But I think we would all agree that people in wheelchairs have something very important to say about disability rights laws and probably should get listened to disproportionately when crafting such laws. Similarly, I think the families of dead soldiers (along with the families of livig soldiers, soldier themselves, and experts on the place we're invading, to name a few) have something particularly important to say about the decision to keep sending troops to fight a controversial war. Basically, I think the opinion of Cindy Sheehan, as well as the person who wrote the WSJ op-ed, is worth more than, say... mine.
On the other hand, of course nobody wants an "ache-off." But maybe the solution lies somewhere in the middle?

The Bush administration knows all about exploiting tragedy for its own causes ...

While this is certainly true (and has been of politicians since time immemorial), it's liberals/Dems/leftists doing the exploiting here. And I've seen precious little acknowledgement -- let alone denunciation -- of that fact from that side of the aisle.

The grieving loved ones of those killed in war can remind us of the human suffering involved. This is important, but I think we all know this. Mere fellow humanity--as if there's something "mere" about it--demands that we be compassionate with all such bereaved, regardless of their and our politics.

Nevertheless, I deny that the grief of these families gives them any moral authority, whatever that is. All over the world--in Africa, in the Middle East, recently in the former Yugoslavia--there are people who have lost not just a son or a daughter, but an entire family, an entire town, an entire way of life; people who saw this not at a distance, but in person, who have seen--literally seen--their loved ones tortured and killed, and who have themselves been tortured. We feel compassion for them and outrage at the horrible crimes that were committed against them. If suffering in war gives moral authority, surely their moral authority is as great as that of the grieving mothers of Americans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. When these moral authorities are interviewed by American media, many of them say things that inspire us. Others call for genocide against the other side. What moral authority?

Pretty much the only thing that grieving families can add to the debate on the war is an emotional appeal. Is that really what we need?

I think Bush's stated response to Sheehan (unlike that of his surrogates) is exactly right. You have my condolences, but my opinion on this policy matter won't be based on that. (Yes, I know, and then they trot out their own grieving mothers. I'm not denying that they're shameless; I'm only saying that his--note my wording--*stated* response is right.)

I don't think Ben's analogy to people with disabilities works. People with disabilities are affected by, e.g., the placement of ramps in a way that the rest of us aren't. They have a real interest beyond emotional appeal in the laws that affect their lives.

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