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In Texas, A Time to Circle the Minivans


Activists Protest the War, Or Protest the Protesters
By Michael A. Fletcher
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 14, 2005; Page D01

CRAWFORD, Tex., Aug. 13 -- Barbara Cummings was home in San Diego Monday, listening to an Air America radio broadcast, when she heard the tale of a woman who was coming here to join Cindy Sheehan in her growing protest against the war in Iraq.

The woman on the radio had a son who had signed on for a second tour of duty in the Army after losing his job. In two weeks, he is scheduled to ship out to Iraq. Cummings jumped on the phone and called her friend, Gloria Polk. "I asked her, 'Are you following the Cindy Sheehan story?' And she was."

The next day, the two retirees hopped in a rented minivan for the 22-hour drive to the heart of Texas.

Today, Cummings found herself in front of the Crawford Peace House, a gathering place for protesters, holding a hand-lettered sign. She was directing a stream of cars descending on this normally sleepy town to a dirt parking lot adjacent to a nearby high school football field.

Polk, meanwhile, was at the wheel of her blue Dodge Caravan, shuttling protesters up to the roadside campsite near President Bush's 1,600-acre ranch where Sheehan has been holding her defiant vigil for more than a week.

"We're both here because of our grandchildren," Cummings explained. "It feels like a word-of-mouth thing. Everybody I meet is saying they had to be here."

While the antiwar activists buzzed around the Peace House preparing for a scheduled rally, more than 150 flag-waving marchers made their way toward Sheehan's camp to show their support for the war. Also, a lone demonstrator drove a pickup truck blaring country music with a large American flag flying from its bed. A sign on his door read: "Texas Is Bush Country."

James Vergauwen and his wife, Wynell, preferred to stay put next to their Harley to make their point. "I'm just here to let the president and the troops know that there are people here who do support them," said James Vergauwen, who wore a cap emblazoned "The price of freedom is not free."

"I don't agree with the president about everything. I just wish Cindy Sheehan could spend one hour in the president's shoes making tough decisions."

Several hundred antiwar protesters converged on Crawford today, and many of them had similar stories. They believe that Sheehan, a 48-year-old mother from Vacaville, Calif., whose son was killed in Iraq last year, has magically ignited a struggling peace movement with her quiet, but defiant protest.

"It's just a miracle what's going on here," said Bill Mitchell, who lost his son, Michael, in Iraq on April 4, 2004 -- the same day that Sheehan's son, Casey, was killed. Along with Sheehan, he has protested the war for more than a year and helped organize other military families in support of their cause. But often it seemed that no one cared. "We've worked so long and hard to get our message out," he said.

Ray McGovern, a former intelligence official turned antiwar activist, came down from Virginia to support Sheehan. "I think Cindy has lit a spark where Americans can identify with the human costs of the war," he said.

While Sheehan's protest has received the aid of public relations pros, political operatives and even a television spot since it started last Saturday, many of the people drawn here said it was because of her simple but compelling story. Sheehan is the grieving mother of a fallen soldier and she wants the president to explain to her why .

"I'm here just to support this lady and show there is support for getting out of Iraq and stopping this maniac from doing what he is doing," said Lawrence Reuben, a Vietnam veteran and a helicopter technician, from nearby Benton, Tex. "Why can't the president just stop and talk to the woman and say, 'Lady, I know where you're coming from. This war is not going the way I intended.' "

At the Peace House, a small wood-frame cottage just across the railroad tracks from this town's only traffic signal, things were humming. Outside, the parents of fallen soldiers were doing interviews with reporters while volunteers prepared signs, sold T-shirts and buttons and offered food and water to protesters.

Before Sheehan's arrival, the house, established in 2003 by Dallas peace activists, had $121 in the bank and its phone cut off because of overdue bills. But once word of Sheehan's protest took flight, money began to flow in. A woman from Italy paid for a large party tent, coolers and a generator. Other strangers sent checks and made deposits directly into the group's PayPal account. In one week, the house has amassed enough money to pay off its $40,000 mortgage.

"I've been walking around with my mouth open and in a daze for the past two or three days," said Kay Lucas, the Peace House director. "It's a blessing, a miracle. It's like the parable of the loaves and the fishes. The money and the phone calls and the letters of support have all been phenomenal."

Lucas said that the staff of the Peace House sent an e-mail to Sheehan once they learned that she planned to come to Crawford. Since her arrival, the house has been a sanctuary, a place for Sheehan and other protesters to take a nap, a shower or a break from the roadside camp.

At Camp Casey, the name given to Sheehan's encampment, a caravan of cars drove by her as she stood wearing a straw hat in the blazing sun, fighting back tears as she acknowledged her supporters. She wore a T-shirt bearing her dead son's picture. On her left ankle was a small tattoo that read: Casey '79-04.

Before long, she climbed onto the back of a pickup truck to address her supporters, who applauded loudly. She smiled humbly but her words were uncompromising.

"Who knew that the beginning of the end of the occupation of Iraq was going to start in Crawford, Texas, last Saturday?" she said. "Who knew that America would finally stand up and say we're sick and tired of this [expletive]? Bring our troops home."

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cindy has moved my soul with her plight and i thank god for her ,finally a face for all the fallen to be HUMANIZED .Bush is a liar,thief and murderer of women and children and has no respect for life at all,THANK YOU CINDY THANK YOU......GOD BLESS AND WATCH OVER YOU...RULA

Mrs Sheehan has a right to complain and rant and rave because losing a person like that will make a mother crazy. Then far left starts telling her to complain that US soldiers are baby killers but one day she will start connecting the dots: US solders are baby-killers; Casey was a US soldier; did I just say Casey was a baby killer?
Protest the war. Don't say US soldiers are Nazis and baby killers. We put our butts on the line not necessarily for everyone in the US because there are crazies both on the far left and far right. When we sign up, we think about doing what needs to be done to protect our own families and friends. The rest of the people that would never sacrifice for freedom, well, I guess they get it for free.

No, We do not want Middle Eastern American haters killing OUR babies...There is no purpose to this war. We are not fighting to win, it is just a self-perpetuating lie, and we can never kill enough of them to end it...It was illegal to start it, and we should leave it. Bush has killed more people now than Saddam....This is not justice and Iraq does not want a democracy if they are choosing, as they have the right to, a constitution that is based on religion and prevents its women citizens from voting...Go sign up and fight the illegal war. Don't you hate just a little bit being lied to by this Administration as to why they had to start an occupation war?

You are our voice. Keep it up. Maybe, just maybe, the scales will begin to fall from people's eyes. "Blessed are the peace makers...". May God be with you. Pat Cramer

Cindy has restored my faith in America and Americans. Being Canadian I was beginning to wonder if the whole South had gone mad. Thank you Cindy, and all your supporters for showing the world there are still proud, patriotic Americans. It reminds me of the few truly patriotic Germans who quietly defied Nazi Germany. You go, girl! Force that murderous tyrant and his cabal of evil-doers to back off, or justify.

Mrs Sheehan has a right to complain and rant and rave because losing
a person like that will make a mother crazy. Then far left starts
telling her to complain that US soldiers are baby killers but one day
she will start connecting the dots: US solders are baby-killers;
Casey was a US soldier; did I just say Casey was a baby killer?
Protest the war. Don't say US soldiers are Nazis and baby killers. We
put our butts on the line not necessarily for everyone in the US
because there are crazies both on the far left and far right. When we
sign up, we think about doing what needs to be done to protect our
own families and friends. The rest of the people that would never
sacrifice for freedom, well, I guess they get it for free.

In every army in the world, the vast majority of soldiers are honorable people who join up because they are convinced that it's their duty to protect and defend their country.

Unfortunately, not every government in the world is led at all times by people with honorable motives. They give the orders and, let's face it, killing is what soldiers do upon command.

U.S. soldiers aren't baby killers, at least not most of them and not voluntarily, but their Coward-In-Chief certainly is.

Regretably, and despite all honorable intentions, it happens.

Anonymous,
I'm sorry if I didn't clarify my comment regarding Nazi Germany. In no way did I intend to convey that US soldiers are Nazi's. I intended to convey that the President and his murderous gang of thugs are like Hitler and his gang. There wasn't enough resistance from the German people to Hitler's insanity, but it's beginning to seem like there are enough Americans to resist Bush's.

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