Good evening, let's kick things off with Democracy Now!
Mother of Soldier Killed in Iraq Protests Near Bush's Ranch
In Texas a mother whose son was killed in Iraq has begun a month-long protest in Crawford in an attempt to meet with President Bush who is vacationing there at his ranch. Cindy Sheehan was joined on Saturday by 50 other anti-war activists. The Secret Service blocked the group from approaching the President's ranch and they were forced to gather four miles away from the site. Sheehan's son Casey was killed last year in Sadr City at the age of 24. She told reporters, "I want to ask George Bush: Why did my son die?"
We're going to pick back up on that topic at the end but right now, we're going to the e-mails.
I have one from a mother with a 15 year old son and she doesn't want him "on those lists" but isn't sure where to go. Here's where you go, Leave My Child Alone. Sign up there to opt out of the recruiters lists and out of the Pentagon's list.
And while you're there, check out The Daily Texan article (link to a link to get there), JJ Hermes' "Teenage Hearts and Minds:"
Over the last few semesters, volunteers with the Austin organization Nonmilitary Options for Youth have taken to local high school lunchrooms in an effort to provide students with a different perspective from military recruiters.
While their impact on the student body is far from quantifiable, their work has brought forward an interesting record of student opinion concerning the war in Iraq. With some parents opting out of the provisions in the No Child Left Behind act which allow recruiters to contact their children, and recruiting goals going missed, winning over the hearts and minds of graduating seniors has become one of the greatest focuses for our all-volunteer army.
NOY has helped to illuminate students' pulses by soliciting responses to three basic questions concerning the current military situation:
"What do you think about the war in Iraq?" "What is your opinion about military recruitment in your school?" and "What do you think about the possibility of enactment of a military draft?"
On its Web site (http://www.progressiveaustin.org/nmofy/), the group posts the reactions it receives. All responses are anonymous, and so far more than 450 students have responded from 11 schools in Austin Independent School District.
While we're in the e-mails, Bobbie writes again. Readers know Bobbie's lost her desire for sex with her boyfriend and we've attempted to offer suggestions here. She wrote that she appreciated the feedback but we'd been no help to her. However, when Lachelle wrote in with a similar problem and readers weighed in on that, Bobbie thought she saw something helpful. She wrote today to say that she broke up with her boyfriend Friday and Saturday went to a gay club. Bobbie says she always knew but she just wouldn't accept her sexuality. She says to tell Lee Anne "big thank you." See, you never know what will help or what you'll find here. Keep us updated Bobbie. (E-mail address is email@example.com.)
I want to talk about The Third Estate Sunday Review because the problem they're having is a problem with Blogger (the program). The error message tells them to contact Blogger. That happened Sunday morning at four a.m. An automated reply was all they got. They wrote again at five a.m. They wrote Sunday evening. They wrote this morning. I just got off the phone with Jim and they've still got no reply and when they try to republish or index their site they still get the same error message. So they wrote again this evening. Right now, they're wondering if they need to move their online magazine somewhere else? If the problem continues this weekend, they'll use one of our sites. Probably The Common Ills. Whichever site they use, we'll all do an entry at our sites to let you know where you need to go to read their magazine.
I'm going to highlight the editorial. I worked on this and so did C.I., Kat, Elaine, Betty and The Third Estate Sunday Review (Ava, Jim, Ty, Jess and Dona). So here's their editorial and the link takes to you The Common Ills because when it wouldn't show up at their site, C.I. posted it at The Common Ills.
"Editorial: Cindy Sheehan puts most of us to shame:"
The angry mother of a fallen U.S. soldier staged a protest near President Bush's ranch Saturday, demanding an accounting from Bush of how he has conducted the war in Iraq. Supported by more than 50 demonstrators who chanted, "W. killed her son!" Cindy Sheehan told reporters: "I want to ask the president, 'Why did you kill my son? What did my son die for?'" Sheehan, 48, didn't get to see Bush, but did talk about 45 minutes with national security adviser Steve Hadley and deputy White House chief of staff Joe Hagin, who went out to hear her concerns.
Appreciative of their attention, yet undaunted, Sheehan said she planned to continue her roadside vigil, except for a few breaks, until she gets to talk to Bush. Her son, Casey, 24, was killed in Sadr City, Iraq, on April 4, 2004. He was an Army specialist, a Humvee mechanic.
[. . .]
"I want to ask the president, `Why did you kill my son? What did my son die for?" she said, her voice cracking with emotion. "Last week, you said my son died for a noble cause' and I want to ask him what that noble cause is?"
The above is from Deb Riechmann's Associated Press article entitled "Mom Protesting Iraq War Meets Bush Aides."
Cindy Sheehan (Military Families Speak Out and Gold Star Families For Peace) has stood and been counted for many times before. At the John Conyers hearing on the Downing Street Memo, Sheehan spoke:
The deceptions and betrayals that led to the US invasion and occupation of Iraq cost my family a price too dear to pay and almost too much to bear: the precious and young life of Casey. Casey was a good soldier who loved his family, his community, his country, and his God. He was trustworthy and trusting and the leadership of his country seemingly betrayed him. He was an indispensable part of our family. An obedient, sweet, funny, and loving son to myself and his father, Pat, and an adored big brother to his sisters, Carly and Jane, and his brother Andy. And the beloved nephew to my sister, Auntie, who is here with me today. Our family has been devastated and torn asunder by his murder.
I believe that the reasons that we citizens of the United States of America were given for the invasion of Iraq have unequivocally been proven to be false. I also believe that Casey and his buddies have been killed to line the pockets of already wealthy people and to feed the insatiable war machine that has always devoured our young. Casey died saving his buddies and I know so many of our brave young soldiers died doing the same thing: but he and his fellow members of the military should never have been sent to Iraq. I know the family of Sgt. Sherwood Baker, who was killed guarding a team that was looking for the mythic WMD's in Baghdad. The same WMD's that were the justification for invading Iraq as outlined in the Downing Street Memo. Sherwood's brother, Dante Zappala, and his dad, Al Zappala are here with us today. I believe the Downing Street Memo proves that our leaders betrayed too many innocents into an early grave. The lives of the ones left behind are shattered almost beyond repair.
Her letter to Bully Boy, "From Cindy To George," is legendary and appears in CODEPINK's Stop The Next War Now:
You don't mind if I call you George, do you? When you sent me this letter offering your condolences on the death of my son, Spc. Casey Austin Sheehan, you called me Cindy, so I naturally assume we are on a first-name basis.
George, it has been seven months today since your reckless and wanton foreign policies killed my son in the illegal and unjust war on Iraq. Casey, my big boy, my hero, my best friend.
Casey was always a good boy. He could play for hours by himself. He loved Nintendo, GI Joes, the World Wrestling Federation, baseball (especially the Dodgers), his church, and God.
He joined the Cub Scouts when he was in the first grade, and he eventually earned the rank of Eagle Scout. He became an altar boy when he was eight, and he continued serving his church for the rest of his life. He never talked back to his dad or me. He rarely fought with his brothers and sisters. He loved our animals and he loved little children.
Everyone assumed Casey was going to be a priest because he was so faithful to God and to the church.
Democracy Now! has noted her fight for truth and justice many times.
From "Pentagon Turns Away Mothers of Soldiers Killed in Iraq" (Januaray 21, 2005):
CINDY SHEEHAN: Hi. I have had a very busy day today. Well, yesterday I was with Celeste when we tried to get a meeting with our Secretary of Defense, and we have been trying for weeks. We have been emailing, writing, calling. They finally stopped taking our calls. And I just saw all of these people today cheering for them and their policies, and I think if I had like $25 grand, I would probably have access to everybody in this administration, but I have paid a price that is priceless. You cannot put a price on what I have given to this country. I gave them my only -- my oldest son -- not my only son, but my oldest son, and they don't even have the courtesy to reply to us to say, no, we're not going to meet with you, or, you know, maybe later, or would you like to meet with another aide. They don't even have the courtesy to meet with Gold Star Families. I was on "Good Morning, America" this morning, and they asked me why I opposed the inauguration, and I said, “While these people are partying tonight, there's going to be more bloodshed. And I just think it's very inappropriate to celebrate when there's millions of people in harm's way."
From "Thousands Protest in Fayetteville in Largest Army Base Demonstration Since Vietnam" (March 21, 2005):
CINDY SHEEHAN: I often get introduced as a mother who lost her son in Iraq. I didn't lose Casey. I know right where he is. He is in a grave in Vacaville, and I know who put him there: George Bush and the rest of the arrogant and ignorant neo-cons in D.C. who murdered my son and tens of thousands of other innocent people. Before I temporarily leave that subject, why are they still in our Capitol? Why are they still running our country? From state-sponsored terror and sustained torture, we have to face it: We're governed by psychopathic killers who need to go. On a very personal note, I told [inaudible] today it has two anniversaries. One is a second anniversary of the so-called shock and awe. Today is also the first anniversary of when my son's deployment began in Iraq. In 16 days, my family will suffer the one-year death-iversary of Casey. Casey was a brave, honest, loving, kind and gentle soul who was needlessly and senselessly killed for lies. Since this war is based on lies and betrayals -- this is very awkward -- not one more drop of blood should be spilled, not one more penny for killing. If our Congress votes to give Mr. Bush $81 billion more, they should soak their hands in blood and not ink from sham elections in Iraq. On this day, we should remember the terrible loss of our country that we have suffered and the devastating losses, too, of the Iraqis, especially we families who have paid the terrible price for our leaders' recklessness. I have a challenge for George W. Bush. [inaudible] democracy, why doesn't he march his daughters over there. I'm done. But if he won't send his kids, he should bring our kids home now!
From "Mother of Soldier Killed in Iraq: 'The Best Way To Honor My Son's Death Would Be To Bring The Troops Home'" (June 29, 2005):
AMY GOODMAN: Your response to President Bush addressing U.S. service men and women and what his message was.
CINDY SHEEHAN: Well, first of all, I think the best way to honor my son's death would be to bring the troops home, and that's what we in Gold Star Families want our children to be remembered for: peace and not war and hatred. For him to use my son's blood to continue the killing, to me, is despicable. I don't want one more drop of blood spilled in my son's name or in my name. We never should have been there in the first place. It was a mistake. It was a mistake when we invaded. It's a mistake now, and I want my son’s sacrifice and the sacrifices of the other brave Americans to stand for peace and to bring peace to the world and not to spread more hate. You know, he said that my son died to spread freedom and democracy in that region. We're spreading imperialism and death and destruction everywhere we go. And, no, not one more drop of blood in my son's name or the names of any other of our brave young people who have made the ultimate sacrifice for basically nothing.
[. . .]
CINDY SHEEHAN: Actually, I met with the President in June of 2004, a couple of months after my son was killed. We were summoned up to Fort Irwin, Washington state, to have a sit down with the president. So my entire family went. And I was on CNN last night with Larry King talking about this, and there was another mother who had met with him, and she said that she supports the war and the President, and she said he was so warm and everything and gentle and kind, and when my family and I met with him, I met a man who had no compassion in him. He had no heart. Like Karen said, he cares nothing about us. We tried to show him pictures of Casey. He wouldn't look at them. He wouldn't even acknowledge Casey's name. He called me "Mom" through the entire visit. He acted like we were at a tea party, like it was something fun, that we should just be so pleased that we got to meet with the President who killed our son.
When others might back down, Sheehan continues to persist. She wants answers and she wants justice. She's not waiting for someone to speak for her or to plead her case. She's making it herself, this time in Crawford, Texas. The high today is expected to reach 95 degrees. There may be rain. But that's where Cindy Sheehan is because she refuses to go along or back down or make nice or simply be silent while others debate "fine tuning" the invasion/occupation.
Thaddeus DeJesus' "Mother of slain soldier demands audience with Bush" (Waco Tribune-Herald):
Cindy Sheehan shrugged off the Texas heat Saturday afternoon as she sat in the shade a mere four miles from the Western White House.
"It's hot in Iraq and our children are suffering there, and the Iraqi people are suffering," said Sheehan, whose son was killed in action in Iraq. "If they can do this day after day, month after month, then I can stay here for a few weeks. This is nothing compared to what they're going through."
Sheehan, 48, of Vacaville, Calif., vowed to stay in Crawford through August until she could get an audience with President George W. Bush, who is spending the month vacationing at his ranch nearby. Earlier in the day, she lead a group of about 50 anti-war demonstrators calling for an end to the war in Iraq.
When she spoke at the Conyer's hearing, she spoke plainly and to the point. Hopefully, she realizes how many people she's touched and how important her voice is at a time when leadership is largely silent.
Maybe the Bully Boy will meet with her, maybe he won't. But she's demanding answers (something the D.C. press corps should have done long ago -- in fact, they should have done it before the invasion began). Make sure you're aware of her bravery and make sure your friends are. Her refusal to back down deserves our attention and our applause and it will inspire other actions.