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August 9, 2005

Nobody Here But Us Cactus

Bushsheehanpage

Whether the editors planned it or not, the two stories on page A13 of yesterday’s NYT create a poignant juxtaposition. 

The Bumiller story on top sets up the Bush vacation (Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch, Redefining ‘Vacation’ – link).  The story below (Of the Many Deaths in Iraq, One Mother’s Loss Becomes a Problem for the President – link) gives an account of Cindy Sheehan, the anti-war mom who has set up shop outside the Bush ranch, and is insisting on discuss her son’s death with President Bush.

As much as the President is bending over backward to emphasize it’s a working holiday, he clearly has returned to his pre-9/11 vacation schedule — if not his pre-war attention span.  In the meantime, the slow news period and the focus on Crawford has helped draw attention to Mrs. Sheehan, who would probably have been disappeared under a provision of the Patriot Act if her son Casey hadn’t been killed in Baghdad last April.

As the photos illustrate, Mrs. Sheehan finds nobody home when it comes to Presidential accountability for the Iraq war.  (Her description of a meeting with President Bush at Fort Lewis in June 2004 is also interesting.  If she is to be believed, Bush was somewhat flippant in his manner toward her and her family.)  (For my part, I just find it interesting how often and how emphatically Bush and his staff repeat how they "can’t imagine" what it’s like to lose somebody to the war.) 

2Mics

Sheehanroad

If the "two microphones" photo (set up for a joint press conference between Bush and Colombian President Uribe) is something of a cheap shot, it’s seems to also touch a chord.  This shot, and the image of Mrs. Sheehan below, reflect the barren desolation that exists in the place of true presidential leadership. This sense is sharpened by the absence of growth (as well as the proximity of cactus to the left microphone) in the top shot, and the presence of orange safety cones in the absence of traffic in the bottom image. 

In the bottom shot, I also had a reaction to the camera’s proximity to the ground.  The Administration’s shifting story lines about the war; the media’s arbitrary and contradictory reporting of it; and the limited geographic distribution of the people involved in it  — makes the entire situation seem almost entirely abstract.  In contrast, the view of Mrs. Sheehan at pavement level makes it possible, at least for a moment, to consider the war on a more tangible footing.  It suggests it might even be possible to identify paths we could take that would actually lead us from here to there.

(image 1: David Lee for The New York Times; images 2 & 3: Larry Downing/Reuters.  August 8, 2005.  Page A13.  The New York Times and nyt.com)

  • jonst

    Isn’t the phrase, and therefore the burden, “if she can be believed” better placed on this White House and specifically, this man, G.W.Bush? Can HE be belived! Ah, I think that’s been answered.

  • http://www.futurebird.com Susan Murray

    Wow. It seems the times is giving bush a really rough time with these two. This injured woman… nobody at home… it’s pretty powerful stuff.
    I wonder how these images will play to conservative eyes… All I can say is “very true”

  • lytom

    Both views give feeling of desolateness.
    For Mrs. Sheehan it is “desperately seeking” to meet Shrub. And there is nothing that can make Shrub to see here.
    How long will the press follow Mrs. Sheehan?
    War in Iraq goes on…Hopelessness is the feeling.

  • http://profile.typekey.com/poprivet/ poprivet

    Concerning the Cindy Sheehan picture, can you say ‘grass roots’?

  • Gasho

    Wonderful shots. This whole episode of Cindy going to Crawford is so powerful. She is speaking for a whole population who’s been beaten up so badly by this monsterous administration. They are ignoring ALL of us, but can’t ignore this ONE woman, who has the moral weight and clarity to confront the Beast — at his own doorstep!!
    The bottom photo, considered from the “left”/”right” angle is amazing. The sign on the left – Bring the troops home Now – with Cindy having walked to the far right to confront, and TOWER OVER a tiny, distant bush. Amazing.

  • Mephisto

    Maybe there’ll be a little relief when Dr. Ice comes by next week?

  • MonsieurGonzo

    imho, image #3 of Mrs. Sheehan by photographer Larry Downing is one of the most brilliantly conceived and well-constructed / composed pieces of political propaganda to have ever graced the pages of BAGnewsNotes…
    …i only wish we had a virtual “white board”, a shareable, visual Wikipedia-like facility here to deconstruct its many aspects as a group exercise: it is that good; powerful ~ simply superb.

  • http://crazydaisy.us Kerstin

    The pic? Caution! Soccer Mom!
    Beware of the soccer mom. She’ll fight to win.
    I watched her speak at a congressional hearing a few months ago. I BELIEVE HER. She’s been on message for months. Never wavering, never faltering, repeating the same story again and again. Bush treated her disrespectfully. He called her “Mom.” He didn’t know her son’s name. He acted as if he were at a party. When she told him he had no idea of how she was suffering, he agreed with her. Doesn’t this sound like the Dubya we all know and loathe?
    Looks like she’s getting company this week. Military families are joining her in Crawford. It’s about time.
    This is my favorite excerpt from Raw Story’s interview with Cindy:
    “On Saturday, National Security Advisor Steven Hadley and Deputy White House Chief of Staff Joe Hagin met her outside the ranch, listening to mothers’ concerns for about 45 minutes. Sheehan says she was disappointed.
    “First of all, I didn’t know who they were,” she remarks. “They came out and introduced themselves and we talked, and I guess I was supposed to be very impressed and very intimidated.”
    “I told them, I don’t want to be lied to, I want to meet with the president—that’s an oxymoron—and I thanked them for coming out,” she adds.
    “At one point they said that George believes there are weapons of mass destruction,” she continues, “and they said something else to me, and I said, I may be a grieving mother but I’m not stupid. I don’t believe you even believe what you’re saying.”
    She’s not impressed or intimidated by these suit monkeys nor should she be. They think she’s gonna swallow the old WMD line? What an insult! So, do they think she’s really stupid or are they really that paranoid?

  • Mr. Man

    At first glance I thought the two microphones were makeshift gravestones somewhere in a nameless desert.
    The ranch photos, with their conspicuous absence of people, look like George said, “Heck, I’m hot. Let’s go to the fishin’ hole.”

  • MonsieurGonzo

    At first glance i thought the two microphones were robotic-like, alien beings that, having landed at the desolate Grover’s Mill, were saying: take me to your leader !
    ^_^

  • bob crane

    nice post and sharp commentary. i’m going to save this one.
    ….it’s damn depressing though.

  • http://liberalchrystie.blogspot.com/ Chrystie

    Wow. Pictures tell it all. Very good – you nailed it! And I agree with bob crane poster; “damn depressing” is right!

  • pjr

    Cindy’s vigilence is serving notice to BushCo that their pathetic attempts to ignore her will only show them up for the heartless bastards they are. With all of the much ballyhooed PR prowess supposedly employed by this cabal of chickenhawk/chickenshit cowards, you’d think someone might mention the effect on his plummeting (dis)approval ratings of publically snubbing the mother of a war hero. Honestly, these clowns get more despicable on an hourly basis. The Times, like so many in the MSM are finally getting off their collective asses and going after the hard issues, after their complicity in cheerleading for the war. Whether it’s too little to late to affect a change in public attitude remains to be seen; it’s definetly too late for Cindy Sheehan.

  • hauksdottir

    So much emptiness… and Bush is off somewhere “clearing brush” just to make more of it.

  • http://www.ChurchoftheFrontPorch.blogspot.com via

    I thought, too, of gravestones. And then, scrolling back up to them: what if we gave a war, and nobody came.

  • Dano

    Being a plant person, I see the prickly pear cactus and know that the ground has been disturbed and that the cactus grows in waste areas.
    D

  • http://dox.media2.org/castironbalcony Helen

    Coincidentally, after reading this post, I was reading the archives of another blog – back in May – and learned (yes I’m backward, you probably all know this already) that Mothers Day started as an antiwar protest.
    “Say firmly: ‘We will not have questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us reeking of carnage for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy, and patience. We women of one country will be too tender to those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs. From the bosom of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own, it says “Disarm! Disarm!” The sword of murder is not the balance of justice. Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.’
    Original Mother’s day proclamation, Julia Ward Howe, 1870.
    …Then Hallmark appropriated it and made it into the chocolate-box-fest it is today. Maybe next mothers day I’ll make some MD cards with Cindy on them.

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