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Of the Many Deaths in Iraq, One Mother's Loss Becomes a Problem for the President

The New York Times
Published: August 8, 2005

CRAWFORD, Tex., Aug. 7 - President Bush draws antiwar protesters just about wherever he goes, but few generate the kind of attention that Cindy Sheehan has since she drove down the winding road toward his ranch here this weekend and sought to tell him face to face that he must pull all Americans troops out of Iraq now.

Ms. Sheehan's son, Casey, was killed last year in Iraq, after which she became an antiwar activist. She says she and her family met with the president two months later at Fort Lewis in Washington State.

But when she was blocked by the police a few miles from Mr. Bush's 1,600-acre spread on Saturday, the 48-year-old Ms. Sheehan of Vacaville, Calif., was transformed into a news media phenomenon, the new face of opposition to the Iraq conflict at a moment when public opinion is in flux and the politics of the war have grown more complicated for the president and the Republican Party.

Ms. Sheehan has vowed to camp out on the spot until Mr. Bush agrees to meet with her, even if it means spending all of August under a broiling sun by the dusty road. Early on Sunday afternoon, 25 hours after she was turned back as she approached Mr. Bush's ranch, Prairie Chapel, Ms. Sheehan stood red-faced from the heat at the makeshift campsite that she says will be her home until the president relents or leaves to go back to Washington. A reporter from The Associated Press had just finished interviewing her. CBS was taping a segment on her. She had already appeared on CNN, and was scheduled to appear live on ABC on Monday morning. Reporters from across the country were calling her cellphone.

"It's just snowballed," Ms. Sheehan said beside a small stand of trees and a patch of shade that contained a sleeping bag, some candles, a jar of nuts and a few other supplies. "We have opened up a debate in the country."

Seeking to head off exactly the situation that now seems to be unfolding, the administration sent two senior officials out from the ranch on Saturday afternoon to meet with her. But Ms. Sheehan said after talking to the officials - Stephen J. Hadley, the national security adviser, and Joe Hagin, a deputy White House chief of staff - that she would not back down in her demand to see the president.

Her success in drawing so much attention to her message - and leaving the White House in a face-off with an opponent who had to be treated very gently even as she aggressively attacked the president and his policies - seemed to stem from the confluence of several forces.

The deaths last week of 20 Marines from a single battalion has focused public attention on the unremitting pace of casualties in Iraq, providing her an opening to deliver her message that no more lives should be given to the war. At the same time, polls that show falling approval for Mr. Bush's handling of the war have left him open to challenge in a way that he was not when the nation appeared to be more strongly behind him.

It did not hurt her cause that she staged her protest, which she said was more or less spontaneous, at the doorstep of the White House press corps, which spends each August in Crawford with little to do, minimal access to Mr. Bush and his aides, and an eagerness for any new story.

As the mother of an Army specialist who was killed at age 24 in the Sadr City section of Baghdad on April 4, 2004, Ms. Sheehan's story is certainly compelling. She is also articulate, aggressive in delivering her message and has information that most White House reporters have not heard before: how Mr. Bush handles himself when he meets behind closed doors with the families of soldiers killed in Iraq.

The White House has released few details of such sessions, which Mr. Bush holds regularly as he travels the country, but generally portrays them as emotional and an opportunity for the president to share the grief of the families. In Ms. Sheehan's telling, though, Mr. Bush did not know her son's name when she and her family met with him in June 2004 at Fort Lewis. Mr. Bush, she said, acted as if he were at a party and behaved disrespectfully toward her by referring to her as "Mom" throughout the meeting.

By Ms. Sheehan's account, Mr. Bush said to her that he could not imagine losing a loved one like an aunt or uncle or cousin. Ms. Sheehan said she broke in and told Mr. Bush that Casey was her son, and that she thought he could imagine what it would be like since he has two daughters and that he should think about what it would be like sending them off to war.

"I said, 'Trust me, you don't want to go there'," Ms. Sheehan said, recounting her exchange with the president. "He said, 'You're right, I don't.' I said, 'Well, thanks for putting me there.' "

Asked about Ms. Sheehan's statements, Trent D. Duffy, a spokesman for the White House, said Sunday: "The president knows one of his most important responsibilities is to comfort the families of the fallen. That is why he has personally met with and grieved with hundreds of families who have lost a loved one who made the ultimate sacrifice. We can only imagine how painful and difficult it must be for a mother to lose her son. Our hearts and prayers are always with the moms and dads and spouses and children of those who have fallen."

It is not clear how the White House will handle Ms. Sheehan. Mr. Bush usually comes and goes from the ranch by helicopter, but he might have to drive by her on Friday, when he is scheduled to attend a Republican fund-raiser at a ranch just down the road from where Ms. Sheehan is camped out. She will no doubt get another wave of publicity on Thursday, when Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice join Mr. Bush at the ranch to discuss the war.


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as a mother of a american soldier u are nuts dont speak for them

YES Here is my idea. put mr rove on trial. if the evidence is sufficient to acquire a finding of guilt then impose the maximum prison sentence of ten years. thats the propper action. we're not a mob out for revenge! we're trying to restablish the rule of law. there will be no lynchings! not while im sheriff in these hare parrts!**Humphrey**

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my name is unimportant since i do not matter, im a soldier who has fought for this great nation of opinions without any real facts. when has a war been ever since its birth been either worth while or just plain since to have since our revolution against a tyranny nation with a tyranny leader from britian. i was with the 101st airborne division in mosul. i spoke to alot of iraq's there, who would tell you there was chemical there, if you follow a road (highway 8) from mosul you will be surprised to see that it goes through tal afar to siria, hmm , we were told before the first bombs hit bagdad there were many large trucks full of rockets, missiles, and canisters heading there, hell we even had one of the truck drivers working for us as a informant, maybe there wmd's on board those trucks maybe not. maybe we should have not gone into iraq for them, that is history. nothing will ever change that, but what i am proud of is the fact when i see these ppl for once happy becuase they are just little more freed since the fall of sadam then yes mission is a success. we as americans take freedom for granted, include myself, but imagine (this is what happend to iraqis when sadam was in power) you are getting married to your bride or groom, on your wedding nite you or your bride is taken by one of sadams henchmen or his sons, and they rape you, which is custom of sadam, or they come in late at nite take one of your children and return with just a picture showing them dead. the list goes on and on. i could keep writing about all this. yes soldiers die, that is war. but remember 9/11 when they attacked us on our land, this could happen again. but atleast for right now, we are fighting them on their own turf, you need to be happy that this is not going on in your neighborhood. when us the soldiers feel the support of our own country lose faith in us or what we are doing our moral goes down, and when that happens ppl die. we dont expect you to like what we do or what the president does, but we do expect our country men to support us until then end. what you say hurts more in the end then what you think, if you want a change fine go for it do it with votes on the election day, but just remember one thing. this war with the islamic nations who support the terriost are not going away no time soon. and if you think that peace and love is going to detour them not to attack then when the next attack comes, maybe you will feel more patrotic again. ,,,,, A NATION TOGETHER IS ALWAYS STRONGER THEN A NATION DIVIDED. SGT DAVIS. US ARMY

For the most part Sgt, I understand what you are saying, although I do not agree. Prior to our invasion there were no bombig in the streets, now it is common place, several times every daypeople are being blown up. Their services are virtually non-existant, fresh water, elect. a working sewer, where are they? People are afraid to walk the streets, this was not the case before our invasion. the part of your statment that bothers me the most, though, is when you mentioned that they attacked us. Iraqi's DID NOT attack us. Ben Laden and his bunch did, and that's where we should be, geting this murderer. Bush said we would rest until he was brought to justice, there was no place he could hide.

In Iraq people were afraid to open their mouthes before we got there in fear that Saddam and his kids would stick your legs in a plastic shredder. Do you not watch anything but CNN, CBS, etc? People are walking freely in the streets in Iraq but you don't see that. Our media is so blinded by hate that they refuse to show anything but the horrible things that are happeneing there. What about all the schools that are opening to teach future generations of Iraqi's about the real world? Where is that in the media? The reason there were no bombing in the streets is because the insurgency wasn't afraid of democracy like it is now.

And how can the media talk about how the insurgency is growing stronger and stronger when they are resorting to strapping bombs on dogs to kill people? Maybe because they are running out of willing participants in the name of 40 virgins???

When is the left going to understand...

As for the mother, I love the fact that she is allowed to voice her opinions for this war. Her son wanted to go and fight for this country and HE made the choice and ultimate sacrifice. If she is the left's only rallying cry, you may want to try something else. And just because her son lost his life does not give her the right to demand the President's time. Regardless of what you think. This is just a blantant attempt by the left to try and spin this in their favor because the 2006 elections are coming and they are afraid they are going to lose more ground in the house and Senate.

When are you going to get it?!! IRAQ HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH 9/11!! Gawd, do people like you just keep their head in sand because its easier? Easier to justify over 100,000 people dead and countless other lives like Cindy Sheehan, destroyed because of a lying, treasonous president.

Just curious, when was the last time you spoke to Iraqs outside of the Green Zone? Do you really think they are happy we're there? They are living in anarchy, raw sewage, death, destruction, have little to no electricity STILL and they have a foreign force in their country that only cares about their oil.

Lastly, why would you say "a soldier's opinion, if it is allowed here" - why would it not be allowed? The only place contrasting opinions are not allowed are in the White House!


Just to fill you in, the conditions that these people that you speak of are living in the same conditions they were before we got there you IDIOT!!! Iraq is not a developed nation if you didn't know that already... Do you know what treason means anyway???? You are lefty, what would you know about war. Tuck your tail and run, that is the moto of the left. I have a feeling this man knows more about what is REALLY going on in Iraq than you want to know because it will make your leftist cause look foolish.

As for oil, if we are there only for oil then why is oil at $64/barrel???? You people are just helpless. But please keep up the ludicrous hate talk. It worked in 2004, it will probably will work again in 2006... HAHA!!!!

It is funny how you say "The only place contrasting opinions are not allowed are in the White House!" You must have gotten used to that with Clinton in office. Speaking of Clinton, where is he supporting this leave Iraq cause????? He knows it was his failed international policy and failed civil rights policies that got us into this mess in the first place. Can you say, Able Danger????? History will call 9-11 the biggest catastophe of the Clinton Administration.

Why don't you wake up and smell the freedom, people like this man have given you... Coward!!!!

Your opinion is certainly allowed here and while I respect your opinion and even respect more your service, the whole point here is whether you and the rest of our volunteer forces were sent to war under false pretenses. (I have two nephews currently serving in Iraq, one for a second tour. I respect their service as well.) It doesn't matter that Saddam was a very bad man and all the rest of it. We maintain that Bush and his cronies wanted to go to war in Iraq long before 9/11, that they were just looking for an excuse and that they used the fear engendered by 9/11 to do it. Paul O'Neil, the former Secretary of the Treasury who was cashiered by Bush because he didn't agree with his second tax cut, so far is the only "insider" who has talked. O'Neil wrote in his book that from the very first cabinet meeting he attended that this administration wanted to go to war in Iraq but knew they lacked an excuse to go. O'Neil's reputation is that of an "honest broker"--he is not a liar. Once 9/11 occurred, this administration didn't even hesitate and consider whether attacking a Muslim nation was wise--they just went ahead and did it being the ideoloques they are. Our whole point is that they exaggerated WMD to scare the American people and savaged anyone who disagreed with them. They also cowered most of the Democrats just prior to the 2002 election. All we want is the truth and I put it to you--even if they believe they are doing the right thing, do you believe it is right for an administration to deceive the American people in sending our troops off into harm's way?


Georgie Porgie Puddin and pie

Started a War and watched men die

When a Mom just wanted her say

Georgie Porgie ran away!

There was a crooked man
Who had a crooked smile
He appointed a crooked advisor
Who had a crooked style
He bought some crooked fat cats
To pounce upon any mouse
Who tried to expose a crooked White House!

A wise old owl sat in an oak,
The more he heard, the less he spoke;
The less he spoke, the more he heard;
Why can’t George be like that wise old bird?


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