Friday, August 19, 2005

Victim's (Family's) Rights

     A lot has been made recently about "Victim's Rights" - a Right Wing buzzword that replaced "Tough on Crime", which replaced the previous phrase, "Tough on Blacks". (I'm just kidding. No politician has said that openly in years) Really what Victim's Rights means is "presumption of guilt". Apparently people trust the police so much that they feel like it's coddling criminals when the accused are given state-appointed attorneys. (Maybe it's really more of a case of, If you're poor, you're as good as a criminal mentality) They feel that preventing police from making illegal searches and seizures emboldens criminals and that shooting people in the subway for no reason other than some diaphanous "War on Terror" prevents people from being blown up. Generally we give the victims (of criminals, not of the state) special status and give their opinions special weight. Ashley Smith, the woman who fed Brian Nichols pancakes while she waited for police to collect him, has written a book and has become a motivational speaker. She might have a decent claim to this, though, since she purportedly talked Brian into surrendering peacefully.
     Lately, I've noticed that the families of victims are being given special rights and privileges. The families of the people killed in the September 11th attacks, for example, were on the committee to decide how to rebuild the World Trade Center site. This is land owned by the Port Authority of New York and leased by a private developer. Does the fact that a family member died there give them some sort of partial ownership? Does it make them smarter or more business savvy that they should be heard in business meetings to decide what to do with millions of dollars of prime Manhattan real estate? Surely they have the right to protest and make a fuss, but only a suck-up politician would give them actual power.
     I haven't talked about Cindy Sheehan, mostly because I felt there was no issue there. A woman stood on a public right of way and protested. It's not news, it's not controversial, it's not anything. It has been pretty shameful how the Right-Wing media has been trashing her, saying she has no right to speak for her dead son (funny coming from people who a few months ago said Terri Schiavo's parents had every right to speak for their dead daughter), and trying to discredit her from every angle. Really, why do they care? It's every American's right to protest. Why vilify her? Are red staters so sheltered that they aren't aware there are a lot of Americans opposed to both the Iraq war and Bush? Do they need to be protected from this affront to their fantasy world?
From everything I've read, Cindy Sheehan has been accurately representing her son's attitudes. But even if she was not, she is entitled to her own views and there's no reason for her to be vilified for her actions. For her actions that the first amendment was specifically written to protect.
     That being said, Sheehan's views are a bit kooky. I support what she's doing, but as much as I dislike the Iraq war, I'm not packing a bag to stand by her in Crawford, Texas. She blames a Jewish conspiracy for sending her son to Iraq, claiming that her son signed up to defend the US, not Israel. Not I know that Iraq wasn't BFF with Israel, but the vast majority of Jews in the US still vote Democrat and thus it stands to reason that the majority of Jews also don't support the war. Certainly most of them didn't vote for Bush. (Still, it's kinda nice to be accused of being in some vast conspiracy. It makes me feel important.) Anyway, it's a silly, stupid idea, but it doesn't detract from her right to express it. Forget about her divorce (which is very common among parents who have lost a child) and about what her great-aunt and unnamed cousins have said to the media about her. Let her have her say and if you don't feel it's newsworthy, don't cover her.

18 comments:

Ben said...

I have only two problems with the whole Sheehan thing. One is the way the media is portraying her as speaking for all the parents of soldiers killed in Iraq, whereas the vast majority disagree with her. Two is that from what I've read, she is not speaking for her son, but is speaking opposite what he felt. The kid had already done a tour in Afghanistan and REENLISTED, knowing he would be going to Iraq. Does that sound like someone who thinks Bush is a murderer, and it's all the fault of the Jews? Not to me. If anything I would bet his mother's rabid left-wing views drove him to the right. I guess there's a third problem with all this... He volunteered to go, yet his mother is acting like Bush forced him to go and forced him to be put in dangerous situations. That is, of course, hard to do in a volunteer army.

Johnny Virgil said...

Yes, I agree with Ben. The amount of coverage she is getting boggles my mind. It scares me that the media can whip up such a shitstorm about nothing. In WWII, she would have been treated exactly as what she is -- a grieving mother who has gone off her nut. She would have been ignored by the media.

Stephen (aka Q) said...

Does the fact that a family member died there give them some sort of partial ownership? … only a suck-up politician would give them actual power.

Couldn't disagree more. No matter how valuable the real estate, I'm sure you agree that money isn't the only value fit to build a society around.

Have you forgotten that the bodies of the dead are mixed with the soil where the tower once stood? Not intact bodies, of course; bodies that have been reduced to their constituent molecules and cannot be retrieved and buried. For these families, and the people of New York, that site is hallowed ground.

Kudos to whoever established the committee for taking the intangibles into account, not just the property value.
Q

Sylvana said...

People may have volunteered to defend and fight for their country, but that doesn't mean that we should be so casual in the way that we use them. It is their LIVES on the line. They should be treated more as having the value they deserve. They are great heroes for being so brave to serve, but our President is a coward for the way that he is using them- and the way that he is treating those that want answers.

These men and women were going in to fight under misrepresented reasons. Perhaps if they had known the real reasons, they never would have enlisted in the first place. I know a lot of people that were 100% behind the Afghanistan war/invasion/operation (what the hell are they actually calling that) but were against invading Iraq- especially after they found out that all those left wing crazies were right- THERE WERE NO WMD!!! It was all a scam to get what the president wanted. He's a manipulating asswad that should fess up to the American people, once and for all.

ORF said...

The whole Ground Zero thing and involving the families and everyone else who thinks they need to be involved has turned into the tackiest most ridiculous political debacle I have ever seen. I do feel that the families should have some say as the ground itself is somewhat hallowed, but I must say that four years on, the plans for the tower(s) are still changing and a horse designed by committee looks like a camel. It is just terrible what is going on down there, but I don't think anyone who lives outside the city can really fathom just how political it is because it doesn't get much national coverage.

As for Cindy Sheehan, did anyone hear about how David Duke has come to her defense since she contends that the war about protecting a Jewish cabal? David Effing Duke, people....

Shannon said...

I immediately dismiss anyone spewing the word "Conspiracy," be it Jewish, right wing, or left wing. Sometimes there are correlations between ideologies and political actions, but c'mon, this isn't the x-files...Or maybe I just wasn't invited into the conspiracy???

Ben said...

90% of interviews with soldiers that I have seen or read (excepting, of course, ones on major news networks, who tend to get the most liberal Bush-hating soldier they can find), the soldiers are PROUD to serve in Iraq, they feel what they are doing there is good, even great, and they are disgusted with the way the war is misrepresented in the mainstream media. But I guess they are all lying, because moveon.org and Dick Durbin disagree, and even though none of them have spent much time at all in the war, they must know more than an actual soldier, right?

Sylvana said...

It's real easy for 90% of the soldiers you see on TV to support what is going on if they are hand picked based on their support for what is going on.

Ben said...

Yeah. 90% on TV are against the war, and 90% of the far larger number who I see in interviews online are for it. Seeing as it's the military, and peaceniks rarely join the military, I don't think it's a tough assumption to make that most current soldiers support the war. Polls certainly back that up (http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/iraq/2004-12-26-poll_x.htm?csp=34). And most current soldiers, though I don't have polling numbers on hand for that, think the press is misrepresenting what's going on in Iraq.

Sylvana said...

You can't trust info from the military. It's their job to control info. They are only let you know what they want you to know.

Ben said...

You could say the same about the media. The New York Times has made a business out of bashing Bush and the war. It's not in their interest to say anything good about it, because then people might realize they haven't been telling the whole truth. Just like the economy, which is going great by any standard, but you wouldn't know it from the NYT, because then people might realize that Paul Krugman is a compulsive liar who will not tell the truth unless it looks bad for Bush, but is willing to lie to bash him all the time.

And thank god Cindy Sheehan went home. Maybe now her son can rest in peace and this poor woman won't be exploited by the left-wing press anymore.

Sylvana said...

Yeah, you could say the same about Fox News. They have their lips so firmly on Bush's ass, it's a wonder they don't suffocate.

Ben said...

I don't know about that Sylvana. Sure they support the war, but I see FoxNews diss Bush's overspending all the time.

kaitlin said...

I understand the comment about the military controlling information, but not to the extent you suggest. Those USA Today polls aren't taken from military sources, but rather individual poll results. Having been in/around the military, I can say that I for one, don't think the numbers are too skewed.

I remember having a commanding officer, after I left, send an email about his excitement and motivation about being sent to Iraq. He wasn't thrilled at the idea that he might be killed, but it was more of an issue about a duty to protect and serve, and a belief in the core values the military supports.

That's not to say that I think that every military conflict is "right," per se, but instead of focusing on particularized issues, I think there's an emphasis on the overarching themes.

While the media and news outlets release information that may be reliable to soem extent, I'm skeptical that they have all the knowledge necessary to make a truly informed decision. Classified information wouldn't be available to them, so that in and of iteself limits capabilities. I don't think anyone likes that the assertions about Iraq turned out to be false, but in a conflict situation where someone is HIDING information, it's never going to be possible to get every last tidbit of information, and you have to be able to make decisions, like Bush did, without all the information. You might not agree with that decision, or you might think he should have waited, but there are far more factors to consider than I think most of us will typically factor in. There's a theory about causing war that focuses on windows of opportunity and vulnerability, and I think perceptions of that can make people act more hastily in some situations versus others (for a decent discussion, I believe Steve Van Evera of the security studies program at MIT wrote a book on the causes and prevention of war--Steve, by the way, was an advocate of not going into Iraq, but based more on modern military capabilities and the fact that he saw far bigger threats to the United States in terrorists than in Sadaam, if I remember correctly).

Sylvana said...

Who was hiding information? Bush had all the info. We are finding proof of that now, even though some had suspected all along. He ignored the info and he ignored the advice of the experts in the field and ordered up a war anyway.

kaitlin said...

How can you say for certain that he had all of the information? There's probably still stuff about Iraq that we don't/won't ever know. Granted, yes, it seems that there was more information that was originally given to the American people, that doesn't mean that's everything or that it's dispositive. I don't mean to say that we should trust politicians/leaders blindly, but at some point, you have to recognize that our own wiews of the world are based on sparse information, despite an abundance of it.

And Sadaam was hiding information, or so it was believed (by most of the international community, I might add--they just didn't think it was worth fighting over).

As a side note, I have to say that I get tired of people simply saying that Bush lied, get our troops out. While it's significant that he lied, and he should be held accountable for that, the solution isn't really a solution. There's a lot more to taking troops out of a country than just doing it. And to be honest, now that we've destroyed what was there, we are in the position to clean it up. So while people want the troops out, just pulling them out could, in fact, cause more fallout than making the effort to try to fix what's broken (in part because of U.S. actions).

Scott said...

I agree with you Kaitlin. If Bush lied, we should get him out. It's too late for our troops. It's like what they tell you at the store: "You break it, you bought it."

Ben said...

How could Bush have all the information? Saddam kicked out all the weapons inspectors, and wouldn't allow them to return, despite numerous UN resolutions. The UN and every other major intelligence service int eh world thought Saddam had WMDs, and he did nothing to disabuse them of the notion. I won't argue that the post "major combat operations" could have been planned better. As an aside, that people stil make fun the major combat operations thing bothers me, though. To me a major combat operation is batallions of tanks fighting each other, dogfights in the air, that sort of thing. Thus Bush was right in that. What we have now are minor combat operations.

Anyway, Bush had a hard choice to make, and he made it. If he hadn't gone in to Iraq, and Saddam then blew up Israel with a nuke, you'd be saying that was all Bush's fault. Thankfully the other reasons for going in there are still valid.