- In the blazing heat of August, under a sun that can sear
only as it does in a dry place like Crawford, Texas, Cindy Sheehan, mother
of Casey Sheehan who died in Iraq, waits for a requested audience with
President George W. Bush. Her simple question to him, one any mother who
lost a son in combat can rightly ask: For what noble cause did my son die
in Iraq? As she stands near the growing line of crosses representing "Arlington
West" outside the gate to the Bush ranch, awaiting an answer, her
question focuses the grief and, for many, the doubts of the more than
2,000 families who have lost sons, daughters, friends and loved ones in
- In any war, the President must be ready to answer this
question. The agony lies not with "How did my son die?", but
with "Why did my son die?" And in times of great national crisis,
such as World War II, the answer was more often assumed than actually given.
But in the present situation the President lacks either the cover of crisis
or the presumption of integrity that usually surrounds the President in
wartime. He stands exposed, and the harsh sunlight of Crawford only adds
to his discomfort. How does he respond?
- With help from his staff and specifically his war cabinet,
Bush has stubbornly stayed on message.
- During a rump session of this cabinet at Crawford this
week he continued to stay on message, basically to behave as if the question
posed by Cindy Sheehan had not been asked. But if he were to respond directly,
he could not stay on message. That is because his message is sorely incomplete.
Had he and his team leveled with the American people in the first place,
or if they chose to do so now, he would have a great deal more to say.
- He could say, for example: America is the most powerful
and most wealthy nation on earth, but it will not stay that way unless
it solves its long term problems of energy and other key resources. China,
India, Brazil, the European Community, Russia, and Japan, and others, are
after the same resources; we don't have any good international rules for
who gets what; and the present system works badly to allocate the effects
of scarcity. Positioning ourselves in Iraq without international support
was a stopgap, but it looked necessary at the time. Scrambling for resources
may not be, in truth, a noble cause, but it is a realistic one for us to
sustain our way of life.
- He could go on: Unless we, the United States, and everybody
else on the planet can get together on how to divide up the available resources,
overcome scarcities, and live successfully together, there will be more
blood spilled. Right now, countries are scrambling and not really working
together on the solutions to those problems. Unless new rules are established
and enforced, there is nothing for it but to use military power-put our
youth in harm's way-- to assure successful control of key resources until
we find alternatives.
- We must either be prepared to pay for that with blood
and treasure, or we must be prepared to change our way of life. Those
seem to be the choices. I mourn the loss of any of our sons and daughters,
and I will do my best to move them out of harm's way in Iraq or elsewhere
as quickly as possible.
- The writer is a retired Senior Foreign Service Officer
with broad experience in US foreign relations. He will welcome comment