President Bush Ditches Mother of Slain Soldier
By Nathan Diebenow
Even though two of the President's aides later agreed to deliver her message to him, Sheehan said that she would remain in Crawford for the whole month, if need be, until she is granted a private audience with the commander-in-chief to ask him for what "noble cause" did her son die overseas.
"If he doesn't come out to talk to me in Crawford, I'll follow him to D.C., and I'll camp out on his lawn," she said, to a round of applause from her supporters. "I'll go to prison. I don't want to live in a country where people are treated this way."
Sheehan's actions, she said, were sparked by President Bush's comments like those made last Wednesday in Grapevine to about 1,800 members of the American Legislative Exchange Council: "Our men and women who've lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan and in this war on terror have died in a noble cause and a selfless cause."
"We all know by now that that's not true, and I want to ask George Bush, 'Why did my son die? What was the noble cause that he died for?'" said Sheehan. "I don't want [President Bush] to use my son's name or my family name to justify any more killing or to exploit my son's name, my son's sacrifice, or my son's honor to justify more killing. As a mother, why would I want one more mother to go through what I'm going through, Iraqi or American?
"And I want to tell him that the only way to honor my son's sacrifice is to bring the troops home now."
Her son, Casey Sheehan, 24, of Vacaville, Calif., died in Baghdad, Iraq, on April 4, 2004, when his unit was attacked with rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire. He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.
Bush's comments Wednesday coincided with the deaths of 12 Marine reservists from Ohio who were killed in perhaps the deadliest roadside bombing of US troops in Iraq. So far, the lives of about 1,821 Americans in uniform have been taken since the 2003 invasion. Pollsters indicate that Bush's approval ratings are declining in relation to the rise in US casualties in Iraq.
Sheehan, joining anti-war activists at the Crawford Peace House, arrived with a busload of veterans from the Veterans for Peace convention which was held in Irving, near Dallas, since Thursday. The total group of activists there numbered over 50 and included members of Veteran's for Peace (VFP), Military Families Speak Out (MFSO), Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), CodePink, and the Crawford Peace House.
Vietnam veteran Jim Waters, not affiliated with any activist group, said that he drove overnight from Lubbock alone in support of Sheehan and the Gold Star Families for Peace because he is "very concerned" about the war in Iraq and wants to ask President Bush, "Why aren't his daughters there?"
"One of the principles of leadership is you don't ask people to do what you yourself don't have the courage to do, and [President Bush] is asking people to fight to their deaths when he himself and most of the architects of this war never served," said Waters, a retired Navy commander and former hospital administrator. "[President Bush] served, but he jumped over 10,000 people to get into the National Guard Champagne Unit, so he could avoid duty in Vietnam. I had to go to Vietnam, and now he's sending them to their deaths - over 1,800 so far.
"I'm sick and tired of what's happening to our country," he continued. "To me it's almost like the White House operation is a mob operation. These guys are scary, and they're dangerous, in my opinion."
The demonstrators gathered around one side of Sheehan as she spoke with the news media. A World War II veteran, Archie Goodwin from Naples, Fla., carrying a sign, stated away from the group that he is for peace, but "Bush isn't." His sign read, "Somebody lied."
Sheehan was accompanied on Saturday by her sister, Dede Miller, and Amy Ranham, another mother of a slain US soldier. Among her fellow supporters present were Ann Wright, a former US diplomat who resigned her post in March 2003 in protest of the invasion of Iraq; Camilo Mejia, a reservist in the Florida National Guard who became a consciousness objector upon returning from service in Iraq; and Persian Gulf War Veteran Dennis Kyne, a former battlefield medic who is outspoken on the effects of depleted uranium weapons.
Captain Kenneth Vanek of the McLennan County Sheriff's Department agreed to lead the caravan of anti-war demonstrators to the Bush Ranch. "As long as y'all work with us, we'll work with y'all," he said.
The situation, however, turned less friendly as the afternoon progressed.
At a checkpoint, the demonstrators, on orders from the peace officers, exited their vehicles about eight miles from the ranch and were told to walk in the direction of the ranch on the shoulder of the road, not the roadway itself, so as to not impede the traffic. The conditions of the shoulder made it increasingly difficult for the demonstrators to walk. Five-to-10-feet wide, the shoulder was sloped inward ditch-like to two-to-three feet in some places and lined with dry, uncut grass and damp dirt.
The deputies finally ordered the demonstrators to halt miles from the ranch because the group had not agreed to its side of the "bargain" by walking on the roadway. "The media is allowed on the road, so why aren't we?" asked one of the demonstrators, to which an officer of the Sheriff's Department replied, "Because they were following you."
Sheehan, making one last attempt to push forward, said, "In the name of 1,828 soldiers that should be alive, I'm going to see the president. He killed my son."
Holding signs that said, "No more blood for oil," "Support our troops, bring them home now," "Iraq is Arabic for Viet Nam," and "Frodo failed. Bush has the ring," the demonstrators then chanted, "W. killed her son. W. killed her son."
This first attempt to meet the President ended up futile. Members of the group, including Sheehan, exchanged a few heated words with the Sheriff's deputies, Secret Service agents, and Texas Department of Public Safety troopers who kept their composure through the afternoon. There were no arrests made during the demonstration.
Other political slogans and chants were heard, including one from Hadi Jawad of the Crawford Peace House who urged the news media keep reporting on the Downing Street memos. These documents are a series of classified, British reports made during a planning session between British and American officials over Iraq months before its invasion. The British officials note in the memos that the United States was "fixing" evidence around the administration's policy to justify the US-led invasion of Iraq.
Sheehan, after the main-steam media had left to file their reports, said, "This is the beginning of the end of the occupation of Iraq." A wild round of applause followed.
White House spokesman Trent Duffy said in response to Sheehan's actions that President Bush also wants the troops to return home safely but their mission must be completed in their honor. Two aides to the President, national security adviser Steve Hadley and deputy White House chief of staff Joe Hagin, later met with Sheehan to say that the president cares, but she, though appreciative, said in a message through The Iconoclast to the President, "George Bush, if you really care about me, why aren't you meeting with me?"
Sheehan, an opponent of the war in Iraq since its inception, took part in a meeting with other military families and Bush in June 2004 at Fort Lewis, near Seattle, Wash. This occurred two months after her son was killed in Iraq. In an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Sunday, she said that during her first meeting with President Bush, she felt that the President seemed more jovial than sorrowful and expressed no interest in knowing the name of her son or seeing pictures of him.
Sheehan intends to continue to attempt to gain an audience with President Bush. "I'm filled with hope now, too, that we might be able to turn things around," she said, noting that additional support is on its way from throughout the country as she continues her efforts, which will include a candlelight vigil. Caravans from Louisiana and San Diego are on the way, to name a couple, she said.
Before her first attempt to speak to President Bush in Crawford, Sheehan met with two victims of the Hiroshima nuclear bombing, Dr. Satoru Konishi and ex-Marine Paul Ritthaler, and Ritthaler's wife, Betty. A press conference was held at the Peace House on the 60th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing.
During the day Sunday, Sheehan received numerous votes of thanks, well-wishes, and support from around the globe, said Diane Wilson, founding member of CodePink, a national anti-war group. While Sheehan was doing interviews Sunday afternoon, small groups of supporters were arriving at her campsite, dropping off supplies and and enjoying the cloudy weather on Prairie Chapel Road.
Wilson announced Sunday that she is starting a hunger strike in Crawford aimed at getting President Bush to talk with Cindy Sheehan, mother of a US soldier slain in Iraq. According to CodePink's website Sunday evening, three others have joined the strike: Jodie Evans, Cindy Sheehan's sister DeeDee, and Sarah Rath. Wilson said she believes that more volunteers will follow suit around the country in the coming days.
Friends of Peace and Justice of Waco are in the process of mobilizing support for Sheehan's perhaps month-long vigil. More information can be obtained at the Crawford Peace House website or by calling (254) 486-0099 after Monday.
For more Information:
Crawford Peace House
Gold Star Families for Peace
Military Families Speak Out
Veterans for Peace
Vietnam Veterans Against War
Iraq Veterans Against the War
Go to Original
I'm Not Budging, Says Soldier's Mother Camped at Bush's Door
By Tom Baldwin
George Bush loves his Prairie Chapel Ranch in Crawford so much that he has spent almost one fifth of his presidency "taking the pulse of the heartlands" in this big-buckled, open - if not red - necked, beef-eating corner of Texas.
He knows this enthusiasm is not shared by everyone but apparently delights in forcing aides, journalists and, yesterday, even Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld, to do a stint of ranch duty. "I just checked in with the house, its about 100 degrees," he told reporters with some relish on Monday.
Crawford would not even rate as a last resort for a summer holiday unless you happen to be President of the United States - or Cindy Sheehan.
She is one of America's "Gold Star moms" after her 24-year-old son, Specialist Casey Sheehan, was killed in an ambush at Sadr City, Iraq, last year.
Ms Sheehan says that it was last weekend when she "spontaneously" decided to march up to the President's gate for some answers. "I want to know what is this noble cause he says my son died for and why he doesn't send his own daughters out there to fight for it."
The President dispatched Stephen Hadley, his National Security Adviser, and Joe Hagin, a White House Deputy Chief of Staff, for a 45-minute chat with her.
But Ms Sheehan, 48, from Vacaville, California, refuses to be fobbed off. She has been camping on a patch of grass about a mile from the ranch, where she intends to stay until Mr. Bush heads back to Washington at the end of this month or consents to talk with her.
"Camp Casey", as she calls it, has grown to about 50 people, including other bereaved military families, and there are predictions that numbers will swell to 1,000 this weekend.
It is a ramshackle place of temporary shelters, home-made banners and the tie-dyed peace art familiar to anyone who remembers the protests at Greenham Common in Berkshire in the 1980s. Like Greenham, Camp Casey is already under pressure from the authorities who have placed "no trespassing" signs around it, as well as some local people who have driven over to yell abuse.
In the local paper, the McGregor Mirror, there is an open letter to "the woman complaining about her son's death in Iraq" from Ann Lehman, a Crawford resident.
"You dishonor the President, yourself and God when you deny your son the freedom in death that he had in life to choose. He knew the risk when he joined the military, just as President Bush knows the risk for his life every day!" she said.
But Ms Sheenan is more than just a blot on the President's landscape: she is fast becoming this summer's media phenomenon. When she spoke to The Times, she did so with the ease of a woman who has conducted more than 100 interviews since the weekend.
"We need to get our troops out of Iraq. The only reason Bush wants to stay there is because his buddies are getting rich and feasting off the blood of our children." She also wants a complete military withdrawal from all Arab countries to make us safe from terrorism.
Is not ridding the world of Saddam Hussein a noble cause? "We sold him weapons and were once his friend - we made him," she said.
"I have to wonder for the rest of my life if the gun which took Casey's life was sold to Saddam by the US or by Britain." Ms. Sheenan has separated from her husband, Patrick, since Casey's death because he does not agree with the "level of intensity" she has devoted to peace in the past year. She has had to dissuade her younger son, Andy, from joining the Army. "I said there was no way this Government was going to get another of my children."
It is hard for the President to attack a bereaved parent but right-wing websites have been doing their best to discredit Ms. Sheenan, pointing out that she has already met the President, two months after her son's death. Back then, according to a report in her local paper, she said, "I now know he's sincere about wanting freedom for the Iraqis" before suggesting that Mr. Bush had given her back the "gift of happiness ".
Ms Sheenan says that she was confused by grief at the time and now gives a very different account of her meeting with the President, saying that he acted as if he was hosting a party and clearly did not know her son's name. She knows that her protest is distracting attention from Mr. Bush's attempts to portray his five-week Crawford vacation as a wholesome exercise in clearing brushwood and finding out what i s on the minds of ordinary folk.
The focus on Ms Sheenan chimes with the sense that support is slipping away from Mr. Bush as the death-toll for US troops exceeds 1,840. An opinion poll published yesterday showed that only 38 per cent of American voters approve of Mr. Bush's handling of Iraq.
Speaking after his meeting yesterday, Mr. Bush said: "I sympathize with Mrs. Sheehan. She feels strongly about her position and she has every right in the world to say what she believes. This is America."
He said that he understood the "anguish" of families who had lost loved ones but he insisted that those calling for all American troops to be pulled out of Iraq were wrong, because it "would send a terrible signal to the enemy".