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DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- The easiest way to judge a person's reputation is to see who their enemies are and what they are saying.
By this measure, Cindy Sheehan is eligible for sainthood.
Even by the admittedly low standards of the Karl Rove era, the amount of slime that has been dumped on Sheehan has been disgusting.
"Wacko." "Crackpot." "In bed with the radical left." "Traitor." "Communist." "Self-righteous ignoramus." "Hateful." "Un-American." "Unhinged."
And these are some of the milder epithets directed at her (see and some of the other right-wing hate blogs for the truly vile characterizations). But it's the same old trick -- throw lots of dirt at your enemy, and even if it doesn't stick, you manage to confuse enough people to sow doubt.
But this isn't a politician that is getting slimed. This is a Gold Star Mother, someone whose son has made a ultimate sacrifice for his country.
A mother who lost a child in combat used to be sacrosanct. They were the women who rode at the front of Memorial Day parades. They were looked upon with a mixture of sadness and reverence. They gave their country all that they had to give. They were honored for that sacrifice.
But that was a time before people like Karl Rove and the right wing screech monkeys in the media existed. Now, if you dare question their great and glorious war, you are considered a traitor -- deserving of the worst treatment that can be handed out.
What's worse, this is a Gold Star Mother getting slimed by a group of men who actively avoided combat in the Vietnam Era, men who seem almost proud of it, while they are attacking the patriotism of others who oppose their war.
These are people without shame.
How could Dick Cheney -- a man who helped himself to five draft deferments and who said he had "other priorities" rather than serve in Vietnam -- address the 73rd convention of the Military Order of the Purple Heart last week with a straight face?
How could George W. Bush -- whose family pulled strings to get him into a safe National Guard unit and who, by all accounts, never completed his military obligation -- appear before the Veterans of Foreign Wars national convention on Monday and compare our ongoing misadventure in Iraq to World War II. How could he do that without everyone in the hall laughing him off the stage?
How can people like them wrap themselves in the flag while sending other people's children off to die? Because the paradigm has changed. It's now patriotic to attack a Gold Star Mother rather than having members of your own family enlist to fight in a war you wholeheartedly support. It's now patriotic to support a president who lied and deceived our nation in an immoral and unnecessary war. It is now patriotic to mock and vandalize the makeshift memorials erected to honor those killed in that war.
This is messed up.
How did it come to be that the left honors war dead and the right desecrates them, like the drunken Texan who mowed down the crosses at Sheehan's vigil site?
How did it come to be that veterans are mocked and attacked for their service if they dare to speak out against the Iraq war?
The answer is simple. Right-wingers have put winning and maintain power ahead of everything, including truth and integrity. Partisanship is more important than patriotism. Cowardness is a virtue. Bravery and sacrifice are for suckers. Shame and remorse are not in their vocabularies.
To these people, keeping soldiers on the frontlines of a failed war built upon lies and wishful thinking is the height of patriotism. Pointing out that the war is a failure and that lives are being wasted in Iraq for no good reason makes you a traitor.
I stand with Cindy Sheehan. And I suspect that a growing number of Americans also stand with her. They are sick of the lies. They are sick of the excuses. They are sick of the spineless politicians who are happy to have other people's sons and daughters die for their half-cocked schemes. And, most of all, they are sick of cowards who would slime a mother who sacrificed far more than any so-called supporter of this war ever will.


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Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 25 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at

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