Suspiciously Emboldened Dissent
So why is it that people seem to be turning sane enough to demand public debate about the Iraq war?
The Fitzgerald investigations into the Plame leak got everyone in a tizzy this summer: sure, the liberal bloggers speculated wide and far, journalists "very concerned" about journalistic priviledge wrote high-minded articles, but what you really sensed was blood in the water. More than one writer suggested that what was really happening was that a government entity was finally finding a way to punish the administration for its representations of the war.
Bush's poll numbers are way, way down. Since January of this year, the number of people who say that they approve of the job he's doing is down 5 percent, to an average of 45%. Bush's support has usually been understood to have a core faction that will never change their minds, and his (and Rove's) election strategy has usually been to rely on and energize that core group while picking off centrists with hot-button issues like gut-wrenching fear of bearded bombers or of gay sex. This is a second term president rapidly turning into a lame duck with no annointed successor. Hunting season has opened.
We are almost at 2000 US soldiers killed, and that's not counting the wounded. Five years ago, that number would have seemed huge, but I'm already starting to think cynically to myself--"well, but how many names are on the Vietnam Memorial?" 2000 is a lot, especially for a "cakewalk."
This constitution that's on the verge of being written! Almost nobody can come up with a positive word for either the drafts or the process. The main questions seem to concern the extent of sharia law (not whether sharia law is appropriate), whether the Shia will have as much "autonomy" as the Kurds, and, you know, whether Iraq as a state has a future. No worries! I'm sure that a land-locked Kurdistan filled with righteous, well-armed, US-aligned racial victims won't prove a problem, just as I'm sure that a Shi'ite-dominated southern autonomous region filled with righteous, well-armed, Iran-aligned theological victims will be a-okay.
(Is it just me, or does this war seem to have pitted vaguely US-aligned Saudi Arabia against Iran for hegemonic control of the mideast? And in view of the cooperation treaty signed between Iraq and Iran, wouldn't the outcome seem to be that Iran won?)
And then crude is at 65$ a barrel, with more and more people talking about Peak Oil seriously. (It's been a nasty, record-setting summer across the US, and I suspect that your average citizen also starting to wonder about the administration's global-warming skepticism.)
All these factors falling into place before Cindy Sheehan started her vigil outside Bush's ranch, before she made his just-almost record-setting vacation time a little more uncomfortable.
Sure, people are calling her the face of a new anti-war movement, but the anti-war movement has been around for as long as the war has been. Something has changed, and I can't quite put my finger on what the tipping point might have been.