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A Mother Grieves

The Bahama Journal
15th August

Cindy Sheehan’s son was a soldier. The name of the dead soldier is Casey Sheehan. Today his mother, father and other neighbours, family and friends mourn his furious passage to the exit. And as they grieve, the whole world now watches as another drama plays out in Crawford, Texas, home to President George W. Bush’s ranch.

This drama involves-among other interested parties- Cindy Sheehan, the dead soldier’s mother and others who have experienced similar war-related losses. Highest on their list of priorities is their stated desire to find out from president Bush why their loved ones are being called upon to pay the ultimate price in a struggle that has come to epitomize the essence of blunder and failure.

"Mr. President, I want to tell you face to face how much this hurts," Sheehan says in the ad, which will air with only a modest $15,000 buy of airtime in Waco, the nearest broadcast market to Bush's 1,600-acre spread. "How many more of our loved ones need to die in this senseless war?"

Cindy Sheehan sarcastically notes, "The president says he feels compassion for me, but the best way to show that compassion is by meeting with me and the other mothers and families who are here."

As she continues, "Our sons made the ultimate sacrifice and we want answers. All we're asking is that he sacrifice an hour out of his five-week vacation to talk to us, before the next mother loses her son in Iraq." Other news suggests that Cindy Sheehan has vaulted into national consciousness this month on the power of her story as the grieving mother of a fallen soldier.

As we are learning, "what began as a solitary campaign to force a meeting with President Bush by setting up camp along the road to his ranch has quickly taken on the full trappings of a political campaign. Sheehan is working with a political consultant and a team of public relations professionals, and now she is featured in a television ad."

We learn that Sheehan "began her protest here last Saturday after crisscrossing the country for more than a year demanding answers on why Bush continues to wage what she calls an unjust war in Iraq. After her son Casey Sheehan, 24, was killed in Baghdad last year, she founded Gold Star Families for Peace, an antiwar organization that labored largely in obscurity -- until now."

In part, Sheehan's case has echoed as her grievances merged with what polls show is growing dissatisfaction with the war. But her cause has also been aided by political organizers who swiftly mobilized around her -- recognizing an opportunity to cause acute discomfort for a vacationing president and put a powerful emotional frame around the antiwar movement.

It is today quite clear that no one watching cable television news this week, dominated by coverage of Sheehan's crusade, could doubt that they largely achieved their aim.

We are also learning that Sheehan's Crawford encampment has swollen in the past week, as other antiwar protesters have flocked to Texas. Members of CodePink, a women's antiwar organization, have pitched their tent near Sheehan's.

TrueMajority -- an antiwar group founded by Ben Cohen, one of the creators of Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream -- hired Fenton Communications, a Washington public relations firm that has worked intermittently with Sheehan over the past year to coordinate media coverage.

With this help, Sheehan has courted coverage from the traveling White House press corps with a news conference. A schedule of when relatives of other military casualties in Iraq are expected to join Sheehan here was distributed to reporters. Her team is coordinating an antiwar rally planned for Saturday.

"Mr. President, I want to tell you face to face how much this hurts," Sheehan says in the ad, which will air with only a modest $15,000 buy of airtime in Waco, the nearest broadcast market to Bush's 1,600-acre spread. "How many more of our loved ones need to die in this senseless war?"

Bush has been publicly respectful, responding to Sheehan's case with reporters on Thursday and saying he has thought "long and hard about her position," even though he disagrees with her about the war.

All we can say is that we too –like hundreds of millions of other peace-warriors- await the coming of the day when wars like the ones that have chewed up the likes of Casey Sheehan are no more; and when swords, as such, are made into plough shares, and no further study is given to war.

Until then, mothers like Cindy Sheehan will and should be expected to ask questions; and grieve for their sons and daughters who have become little more than fodder for the war machines.


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