Cindy Sheehan has been annointed with Absolute Moral Authority®. Let's see exactly what that entails.

MATTHEWS: Can I ask you a tough question? A very tough question.


MATTHEWS: All right. If your son had been killed in Afghanistan, would you have a different feeling?

SHEEHAN: I don't think so, Chris, because I believe that Afghanistan is almost the same thing. We're fighting terrorism. Or terrorists, we're saying. But they're not contained in a country. This is an ideology and not an enemy. And we know that Iraq, Iraq had no terrorism. They were no threat to the United States of America.

MATTHEWS: But Afghanistan was harboring, the Taliban was harboring al-Qaida which is the group that attacked us on 9/11.

SHEEHAN: Well then we should have gone after al-Qaida and maybe not after the country of Afghanistan.

MATTHEWS: But that's where they were being harbored. That's where they were headquartered. Shouldn't we go after their headquarters? Doesn't that make sense?

SHEEHAN: Well, but there were a lot of innocent people killed in that invasion, too. But I'm seeing that we're sending our ground troops in to invade countries where the entire country wasn't the problem. Especially Iraq. Iraq was no problem. And why do we send in invading armies to march into Afghanistan when we're looking for a select group of people in that country?

So I believe that our troops should be brought home out of both places where we're obviously not having any success in Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden is still on the loose and that's who they told us was responsible for 9/11.

OK. But I thought most American liberal/progressives did not oppose the Afghanistan invasion. I was told it was broadly supported on the moderate left. So will they only follow Absolute Moral Authority® halfway up the mountain?

According to Absolute Moral Authority®, you fight your specific, exact, enumerated, identified enemies, as individuals. You do not bother about the people whose countries those enemies already have taken into possession.

Apply that one back into history. France, under German occupation, was still our friend France, the nation of Lafayette and de Tocqueville, the land that gave us the Statue of Liberty. Germany was our enemy -- or, specifically, the Nazis, "a select group of people in that country." France "wasn't the problem."

How did we handle that in the Good War? We bombed them, then we invaded them. Sometimes it's easy to forget how much the French suffered through the air raids of the Allies -- their allies. Almost from the moment the British evacuated Dunkirk they began attacking French infrastructure and factories to cripple the German war effort. As the D-Day invasion approached, the British and Americans concentrated their air raids on transportation lines. All through it, stray bombs killed French families and even ones that hit their targets killed French workers.

Consider the air raids in just one region of the country, the lower Loire basin. The port city of Saint-Nazaire, with its Kriegsmarine sub base, was an obvious target. Saint-Nazaire also was home to the Penhoët and Loire shipyards, a foundry, and the Donges oil refinery. The civilian populace was virtually unprotected, and there were no real air raid shelters.

In February 1942 British planes bombed the port, killing 18, injuring 42. The city was attacked repeatedly in November 1942 and February 1943. A raid on November 9 killed 186 people; that of November 16-17 killed another 78. Raids on February 16 and 28 killed 27 and 17 respectively. The attack of February 28 is said to have left 12,000 homeless.

By 1943 the Allied air forces had started in on the industrial suburbs of Nantes, up the river from Saint-Nazaire. A raid on March 23 damaged the Batignolles locomotive works, killing workers, and on July 4 the SNCASO and Heinkel airplane works at Château Bougon were hit with heavy casualties.

The worst Nantes raids came on September 16 and 23, 1943. The September 16 raid passed over at 4 p.m. Some 160 aircraft dropped 1,000 bombs on the city and its suburbs, about three-fourths of which missed their dock targets. The earlier raids on the city not only had been smaller, they had been more accurate, so the citizens had gotten accustomed to them. Further, there had been many false alarms in the preceding weeks, so on September 16 few people took shelter till it was too late.

As a result, the raid left 812 civilians dead and 1,785 injured. Among other buildings it destroyed the city Maison du Prisonnier, headquarters of an organization to support wives and families of French POWs, killing 15 staff and visitors. Sgt. Louis Nouais, priest-prisoner at a POW camp in Germany, wrote "I had to inform several comrades of the deaths of a wife or child, sometimes several loved ones. Mass was celebrated on 30 October for the victims of the disaster."

The first September 23 raid struck at 9 a.m., when 60 British planes dropped 500 bombs. The casualties included 45 civilians dead and 110 hurt. At 7 p.m. the bombers returned. This time 150 American planes unloaded 650 bombs from high altitude. Many hit shopping and residential areas, and another 150 French were killed and 200 more injured. The Église de la Sainte-Croix burned. Clergy and nuns who sheltered from the destruction in a cellar emerged to "a scene from the Apocalypse."

All in all, the two raids on Nantes a week apart left 1,300 dead, 20,000 homeless, and sent 100,000 people fleeing into the countryside. The Nazi war machine suffered, but German casualties amounted to only 40 soldiers and railwaymen. Raids on Nantes continued after D-Day. A June 15, 1944, air attack seriously damaged the cathedral and killed an archpriest.

On February 14, 15, and 18, 1944, the raids moved further inland, and the railway station of Tours and Saint-Pierre-des-Corps and the CIMT railway workshop were bombed. Regular raids on Tours airfield and a local aircraft motor factory continued through 1944. One killed 18 civilians and a "delayed action" bomb added 11 more to the mortality list a few days later. A May 20 raid to destroy a railway bridge killed 143 citizens and damaged the cathedral. The French civilians began to suspect the British were bombing every place Joan of Arc was known to have stayed.

Angers suffered its first attacks May 28-29, 1944. Bombs aimed at the railway station hit the church of St. Laud nearby and killed many who had taken refuge there. Bombs also destroyed the bishop's palace. In all, the raid killed 230 Angevins.

And at the end of it all, France was liberated -- sorry, "liberated." What would Absolute Moral Authority® say to that? "There were a lot of innocent people killed. France wasn't the problem. I believe that our troops should be brought home out of places where we're obviously not having any success, like France. Hitler is still on the loose and that’s who they told us was responsible for World War II."

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© August 19, 2005 Douglas Harper Moe: "Say, what's a good word for scrutiny?" Shemp: "uh ... SCRUTINY!"