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Destruction of crosses angers fallen GI's mother

By Elisabeth Bumiller The New York Times

CRAWFORD, Texas Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq who has set up a vigil near President George W. Bush's ranch here, said Tuesday that she was "very disturbed" that a local resident had mowed down hundreds of small crosses bearing the names of other dead American troops, and that her now 10-day protest was "only the beginning" of what she described as a growing national movement to bring all American men and women home from the war.

In reaction to growing anger from many local residents, Sheehan's supporters said she would probably move "Camp Casey," her increasingly crowded roadside encampment named after her son, to a 300-acre, or 120-hectare, piece of property even closer to Bush's ranch. Her supporters said that the owner of the property was sympathetic to their cause, but that they could not release his name until a deal was complete.

In the meantime, a group of Bush's neighbors appeared before the McLennan County commission on Tuesday, asking that a no-parking zone near the president's ranch be expanded, which would effectively force the vigil to move to the town of Crawford, seven miles, or 11 kilometers, away. Neighbors have complained of traffic jams, and some told the commissioners that they worried about the safety of their children, who start school on Tuesday.

On Monday evening, the police arrested a local resident who had used a truck to mow down about half of the 500 small wooden crosses hammered into the roadside dirt. The crosses were put back in place by Sheehan's supporters on Tuesday as flowers continued to arrive at the site from around the United States.

"What happened last night is very disturbing to all of us, and it should be really disturbing to America," Sheehan said. "Because no matter what you think about the war, we should all honor the sacrifice of the ones who have fallen. And to me it's so ironic that I'm accused of dishonoring my son's memory, by doing what I'm doing, by the other side, and then somebody comes and does this."

Sheehan, who has vowed not to leave until Bush meets with her, said that if local residents wanted her to leave, "they should talk to their neighbor, George Bush, and tell him to talk to us."

Bush did meet with Sheehan once before - in June 2004 at Fort Lewis, Washington. But Sheehan has said that the president was disrespectful to her by referring to her as "Mom" throughout the meeting.

Bush has since said he is sympathetic to Sheehan, 48, of Vacaville, California, whose son, Casey, was killed at age 24 in Baghdad on April 4, 2004. On Tuesday a White House spokeswoman, Dana Perino, reiterated Bush's words, and said that while the president disagreed with Sheehan's views, "he says he respects her right to peacefully protest."

Sheehan, meanwhile, declined to comment on the news that her husband had filed for a divorce, calling the issue a private affair. Patrick Sheehan officially filed for divorce in a California court, citing "irreconcilable differences." The two have been separated since June.


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