Sheehan sees the Khans’ story through the prism of her own sour experience in the public square. The villains aren’t all on one side of the aisle. “I think the Khans’ grief is being used by a party that is treacherous,” she said. “I have all the sympathy in the world for them. Not only sympathy, but empathy.”
She’s not just talking about the loss of her son but also her onetime alliance with the Democratic Party. After “Camp Casey,” Sheehan was a key figure in the Democrats’ efforts to reclaim power in Congress, which were predicated on riding, if not co-opting altogether, the moral energy of the anti-war movement. The strategy by the 2006 midterms was to rail against the now-unpopular war and regain a majority in the House. Sheehan met with members of Congress. She campaigned relentlessly. “Every Democrat I met with in 2005 said, ‘If you help us win the House, we’ll help you end the war,’ ” she recalled. Only one of those two things came true.
“Back when I was working with them after my son was killed, I was still a Democrat,” Sheehan said. “I still had some kind of illusion that they really cared about these issues the same way I did, but they really only cared about power.”