Cindy and the Media | Talk of Iraq Withdrawal in Congress | It’s Getting Hot in Here

What Took the Media So Long?—Cindy Sheehan is not a recent phenomenon, even though the mainstream media are treating her as such. She began speaking out after her son Casey’s death on April 4, 2004, forming a small organization, Gold Star Families for Peace, and contributing to the antiwar website LewRockwell.com. In March, The Nation featured Sheehan on its cover, asking whether she, along with other grieving military families, constituted “The New Face of Protest.” In June she testified at the Democrats’ unofficial hearings on the Downing Street Memo.

But it took a sweltering August in Crawford, Texas, for the press corps finally to pay attention. “Certainly Sheehan has caught a wave, and the ranch stakeout was very clever,” Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank admitted in an online chat. “But she has been seeking publicity for more than a year (she even held a protest outside the Post a few weeks ago because she didn’t like something I’d written) and for the most part, the media ignored her.

“My sense is, something of a perfect storm has developed: low polling numbers for Iraq, and Bush on Iraq, a surge in the violence, struggles over the constitution, and the Bush vacation providing a vacuum.”

Iraq Withdrawal Gains Support—Russ Feingold (D-WI) shook up the pro-war establishment in both parties last week, becoming the first senator to introduce a deadline for withdrawing all US troops from Iraq by the end of 2006. Last June, Feingold—who voted against the war and the Patriot Act—called on President Bush to articulate a plan for winning the war and bringing US troops home. But over the course of 15 town hall meetings held with constituents back home in Wisconsin during the August recess, Feingold became convinced of the need for bolder action.

“It’s almost as if talking about completing the mission in Iraq has become ‘taboo,'” Feingold said in a sharply worded statement. “It’s time for senators and Members of Congress, especially those from my own party, to be less timid while this Administration neglects urgent national security priorities in favor of staying a flawed policy course in Iraq.”

Republican war critic Chuck Hagel (R-NE) heard similar echoes of disenchantment with the war from “rock solid, conservative Republicans” while traveling across the deep-red state of Nebraska last week. “We are seen as occupiers, we are targets,” Hagel said on his road trip. “We have got to get out. I don’t think we can sustain our current policy, nor do I think we should.”

On the Sunday talk shows, Hagel and Feingold stepped up criticism of hawkish members of their parties. “The Democrats are making the same mistake they made in 2002,” said Feingold, “to let the Administration intimidate them into not opposing this war, when so many of us knew it wasn’t a good idea. And same thing with this taboo on talking about a timeline. It doesn’t make sense.” Added Vietnam vet Hagel, “What I think the White House does not yet understand—and some of my colleagues—the dam has broke on this policy. . . . The longer we stay there, the more similarities [to Vietnam] are going to come together.”

Both Hagel and Feingold are considered potential presidential candidates for 2008, underscoring the reality that the Bush White House cannot easily dismiss the facts on the ground in Iraq or the shift in public opinion at home.

Siberia Is Melting—“The world’s largest frozen peat bog is melting,” says a fascinating and disturbing article on NewScientist.com. A million square kilometers of frozen tundra in western Siberia have metamorphosed into a mass of shallow lakes the size of Germany and France combined. This discovery was made by researchers from Oxford and Tomsk State universities. They found, in the words of botanist Sergei Kirpotin, “an ecological landslide that is probably irreversible and undoubtedly connected to global warming.”

Frigid western Siberia is already experiencing one of the world’s most intense heat waves, disrupting peat bogs that date back 11,000 years, since the end of the last Ice Age.

If the bogs remain as water, they could release billions of tons of methane—a toxin twenty times as potent as the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide—straight into the atmosphere. It’s another global-warming catastrophe in the making, and one that the Bush administration is likely to ignore.