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Cindy Sheehan and the Silent Majority

August 26, 2005
By Bennet G. Kelley

A recent AP poll reports that, for the first time, a majority of Americans consider President Bush to be dishonest. After five years of lies about Iraq, tax cuts and everything else, the American people are waking up - but both Washington and the media refuse to acknowledge this silent majority. The Los Angeles Times buried the story with a headline reading "48% of Americans Describe Bush as 'Honest.'" Meanwhile there have no been sounds of outrage coming from Capitol Hill.

Enter Cindy Sheehan and her vigil outside the President's Crawford ranch. Ms. Sheehan is demanding what the Republican Congress and the timid media will not - accountability. Thirty months into a war which shows no sign of an imminent conclusion, the reasons for starting the war in the first place remain elusive and shift like desert sand in the wind. Cindy Sheehan is simply demanding what we all deserve - the truth.

It has been said that the President "is the spokesman for the government and the people of the United States [and that his] honesty and integrity ... directly influence the [nation's] credibility." When the President "is guilty of a continuing pattern of lies, misleading statements and deceits over a long period of time, the believability of any of his pronouncements is seriously called into question."

This eloquent statement comes from the House of Representative's trial memorandum in the Clinton impeachment trial. The same people who were willing to tie up the government over President Clinton's lying about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky today are silent about lies that have resulted in over 15,000 American soldiers being killed or wounded, and cost the taxpayers $187 billion to date.

There is no dispute that the decision to go to war is the most important decision that a government can make, which is why the Constitution requires that the President, although commander-in-chief, must get authority from Congress to wage war. Soldiers such as Spc. Casey Sheehan who, like all members of the armed forces, had sworn to uphold the Constitution and volunteered to risk his life to do so, should be entitled to have any decision that places them in combat be made with due deliberation and consistent with the very Constitution that they are defending.

Congress' decision as to whether to go to war should have been based on a real assessment of the Iraqi threat and not an ideological pretext. By distorting and/or exaggerating the threat posed by Iraq, the Bush administration prevented this assessment from happening and thereby subverted the constitutional process by preventing Congress from properly carrying out its sole authority to declare or authorize war.

In doing so, the President betrayed our soldiers, especially Spc. Sheehan and other fallen soldiers from Cpl. Roberto Abad to Cpl. Ian T. Zook, and their families. People may disagree about the decision to go to Iraq, but who would dare say these soldiers and their families were not entitled to have the decision that sent them to war be based on the truth.

Unfortunately, Iraq is not an isolated case, as the administration also has used deception to advance its domestic agenda. The most notable example is the administration's Medicare prescription drug legislation, which passed by five votes based on assurances that the program would cost no more than $395 billion, when the White House knew the true costs were 33 percent higher.

The result of this governance by deception is that instead of a democratic system of majority rule reflecting the will of the people, we now are governed by a powerful minority that is able to impose its agenda through deceit and intimidation. It is a tragic irony that the men and women who are risking their lives to bring democracy to Iraq will return to find that it is being eroded at home.

Cindy Sheehan's protest is an attempt to prevent that from happening by demanding the truth and holding the Bush administration accountable for its lies about Iraq. As thousands across the nation joined her vigil last week, it is possible that Ms. Sheehan's courage may ultimately wake a slumbering nation to demand the same.

Bennet Kelley was Co-Founder and National Co-Chair of the Democratic National Committee's Saxophone Club, and is publisher of BushLies.net.

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