In the Struggle Over the Iraq War, Women Are on the Front Line

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As President Bush traveled around the country last week, he got caught up in a battle of women. The tableau was a striking change from the 1960's protests against the Vietnam War, when the demonstrations were largely led by young men, who were subject to the draft. Although mothers protested that war too, they were not in the forefront of the movement.

Will Ms. Sheehan's movement spread? The historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, whose son, Lt. Joseph K. Goodwin, served with the First Armored Division in Baghdad, said that it was too soon to judge, and that much depended on what happened in Iraq over the next weeks. ''But if more mothers and more women connect to the losses over there, it could move like wildfire across the country,'' Ms. Goodwin said.

Ms. Goodwin said that as hard as it was for the White House to respond to the women, it was harder to be the commander-in-chief responsible for the losses, something she learned from conversations with Lyndon Johnson after Vietnam. ''He said he would wake up in the middle of the night worrying about what had happened to the bombs and who had died,'' she said. ''It's an emotional thing for these guys, as much as we think they're stalwarts.''

As for Mr. Bush, she said, ''I suspect he's asking himself, 'Why didn't I just meet with her in the beginning''' of her summer protest.

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