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Lourey to join antiwar protesters


IRAQ:A Northland state senator, whose son was killed in Iraq, will join protesters outside President Bush's Texas ranch.

BY SCOTT THISTLE

DULUTH NEWS TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER (Minnesota)
Minnesota state Sen. Becky Lourey said Tuesday she will join a grieving California mother who is protesting the Iraq war outside President Bush's Crawford, Texas, ranch.

"This is mother to mother," said Lourey, whose son, Matthew Lourey, was killed in the war in May.

Lourey, a DFLer from Kerrick, said she just wanted to "put her arms around" Cindy Sheehan and let her know she's supported.

Sheehan, whose son Casey was killed in the war in 2004, has been camping outside the president's ranch since Aug. 6, demanding that Bush answer her questions about the war.

"This isn't about politics," said Lourey, who has been a consistent critic of the war.

Even before her son's death, Lourey tried repeatedly to pass a resolution in the Minnesota Senate condemning the war and criticizing the administration's linkage of the war to terrorism. Lourey has said she wrote the resolution only after asking her son if he was OK with it.

Army Chief Warrant Officer Matthew Lourey, 41, was a helicopter pilot. He died in a crash north of Baghdad. He had been on his second tour in Iraq. Matthew Lourey was married; he and his wife, Lisa, lived in the Washington, D.C., area.

Lourey said she hadn't intended her trip to gain media attention but felt compelled to answer questions about it after Coleen Rowley, a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Congress in Minnesota, mentioned it to the Associated Press.

Rowley is a former FBI special agent in the Minneapolis office who gained fame in 2002 for her criticism of the FBI's leadership. Rowley said officials failed to act on information that cast suspicion on some of the Sept. 11 hijackers in the months before they carried out their attacks. She was later named one of Time magazine's People of the Year for her efforts.

Rowley, like Lourey, has said there was no link between the Sept. 11 attacks and the regime of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. The other premise for the Iraq war -- that Hussein had weapons of mass destruction -- was also fatally flawed and has needlessly cost American lives, Lourey said.

"We have both been aware of one another," Lourey said of Rowley.

Rowley said she met Sheehan earlier this month at a Veterans for Peace convention in Dallas, where both spoke. At that meeting, Sheehan shared her plans to stake out Bush's ranch.

A few days later, Rowley said, she called Lourey -- whom she had never met -- and suggested a trip to Crawford to lend support to Sheehan. It was, said Rowley, "a very cold call because we've actually never met." Rowley said Lourey had already considered making the trip.

Rowley said she wants to "stay in the background" and offer moral support to Lourey, especially since the vigil has drawn critics and counter-demonstrations in recent days.

"You have to have compassion for folks like Becky Lourey and Cindy Sheehan, who have lost sons in the war," said Bill Walsh, executive director of the Minnesota Republican Party. "I don't need to question their motives, but I don't think you should question the president's motives, either. He's fully aware of the ramifications of sending people's children into battle, but he has to balance that with the question of how do we best address the serious problems facing our world."

Walsh was less kind to Rowley. "You can't ignore the fact that Coleen Rowley is running for Congress right now," he said.

Meanwhile, protesters near the president's ranch agreed to move their roadside camp Tuesday to a more secure area that could better handle the ebb and flow of crowds and the accompanying parking problems.

The move -- planned in the next day or so -- followed the Monday night arrest of a man who drove his truck over rows of white crosses and small flags, which were planted in the ditch leading to the camp. The display was in honor of fallen U.S. military personnel in Iraq.

On Sunday, another disgruntled Crawford-area resident, Larry Mattlage, fired his shotgun into the air from his goat pasture across from the camp and complained about commotion caused over the weekend by antiwar protesters, pro-Bush counter-demonstrators and the media.

"It's not me. It's the whole community," Mattlage said later after the county sheriff and Secret Service agents, who protect the president at his ranch, urged Mattlage to exercise some restraint.

"I just did my deal," Mattlage said.

Lourey said she was hoping to arrive in Crawford on Thursday and will stay until Sunday. She said she isn't seeking any political recognition from the trip but it is difficult for her to not make political statements about the war.

"I feel it is my responsibility to talk about this if the opportunity comes up," she said.

Lourey said she believes the Iraq war will be viewed as a dark period in American history and that political leaders should do all they can to end U.S. involvement quickly.

"A responsible leader can say, 'We made a mistake and we need to ask the world community to help us solve this together,' " Lourey said.

News that Minnesota will be sending an additional 2,600 National Guard troops to Iraq was heartbreaking, Lourey said Tuesday. She learned about the deployment while doing a television interview. "There's just too much ridiculousness going on," she said.

Lourey also said her late son would not have opposed her trip to Texas. "He would support me," Lourey said. "The generals that he respected all advised against this war, many of them, and you know what happened to them. Many resigned or retired. This is going to go down in history as a time in our country when we lost standing and respect in the world."

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The Associated Press, the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Dallas Morning News contributed to this report.

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