You are herecontent / 8-22 The Cindy Sheehan Effect
8-22 The Cindy Sheehan Effect
By Cynthia Bogard
George Bush flew the coop this morning in his red presidential helicopter, off to deliver a speech to 15,000 Veterans of Foreign Wars in Utah, the reddest of red states.[He received 71% of the votes in Utah in 2004.] We were having our morning volunteer meeting at Camp Casey II just then and we raised our arms in unison to salute him with the peace sign as he flew across the prairie.
But a funny thing happened on the way to Bush's carefully scripted photo-op to hype the war, motivated, according to ABC's George Stephanopolos, by "the Cindy Sheehan effect." That's us, the 50 to over 1,000 people on site at any one time here in Crawford and the many thousands of supporters who have besieged the Crawford Peace house with gifts, words of support and donations. "Oddly," noted the New York Times, war protesters showed up in Salt Lake City. And more oddly still, the 1,000 person peaceful protest was organized by none other than Ross C. Anderson, the mayor * yes, the mayor, of Salt Lake. Well, okay, he is a Democrat. But still, that's what's happening today in Utah.
The spirit of Camp Casey haunted the president's appearance in the body of Celeste Zappala, who vowed that she and other Gold Star mothers will appear to remind the president of the costs of this war at every one of his attempts to pump up Americans about Iraq and assure them that our men and women in uniform as he likes to call them, are too, really, there for a good reason. "That's my mom!" said Zappala's younger son Dante, who remained here at Camp Casey while his mother reminded the president from her Salt Lake protest site that he still hasn't given Gold Star parents, or the nation, some reason to believe this war is a noble cause.
Senators and representatives on vacation in their home states are working their constituents and finding that even in the red states, Americans have a newfound voice and are asking questions about Iraq. And that voice has been motivated by Cindy Sheehan and now by the small but growing group of former soldiers and military family members that have vowed to continue spreading her message. Rhea Parker from Maryland, the mother of a young marine stationed in the Red Sea whose ship got fired on a few days ago, has committed herself to standing with Cindy. So has Michelle De Ford from Oregon who lost her oldest son David to this war. And then there's Adele Kubein, whose daughter was permanently crippled by an injury she suffered in a helicopter crash. She had to ask her Congressional Representative to intervene to get her daughter the physical and emotional rehabilitation she needed after "pulling the body parts of her best friend" out of a Hummer that had been decimated by a roadside bomb. "You see, she's a member of the National Guard and they only get 90 days of medical care after they've been wounded in battle." National Guard members who need longer term care are told that they would have to stay on bases far from home and are pressured to sign waivers relieving the federal government of responsibility for their health care "so that they can go home."
Many of these family members have been actively questioning the war for some time but others have come to this decision only after months of trying to believe that their loved ones are fighting and at times dying for a worthy cause. They are eager to share their stories. They make the most persuasive argument anyone can make against this war. "I'm doing this," admits Rhea Parker, "because I don't want my son to die in a war I can't justify."
Most former soldiers and military family members are supporters of America's armed forces. "I love the Marines," says former Marine Jeff Key, and "I think America should have the best military in the world." But with having a premier fighting force comes responsibilities, which just weren't met in the case of Iraq, continued Key. "We thought we were there to take out Saddam and liberate the Iraqi people," Key continues. But somewhere along the line, the mission changed and Key saw his fellow soldiers treating Iraqis as "the enemy." That was a crucial turning point in Key's feelings of support for the war.
Jeff Key has written a masterful one-man performance piece, a journal of his 14 months in Iraq, which he enthralled a late-night crowd with last night here at Camp Casey. Other soldiers and military family members just stand up and tell their story, at Camp Casey and wherever they find an audience at home. Together, they have given the anti-war movement an honesty and credibility that can't be dismissed by either the mainstream media or by the American public. Americans are finally beginning to hear what many of us have been saying for several years now. But it took parents becoming "Gold Star Parents" for that message to spread.
Joan Baez, who played her classic anti-war repertoire for a jubilant crowd Sunday night decided to stay on for another day. Tonight she's giving a lecture (though knowing Baez's style, it will be infused with song) on 40 years in the peace movement. Baez's extended presence has drawn some mainstream media, CNN, NBC and AP reporters were all spotted on site today. It was a quiet day today after the crowds of the weekend, when over 2,000 people visited the big revival style tent perched on the hot Texas prairie. Ann Wright, Camp Casey's coordinator said that 8,000-9,000 people have stopped by since Cindy Sheehan set up in the ditch sixteen days ago.
Yesterday, Frank Rich writing his Sunday column in the New York Times, may have named our three enclaves, the original Camp Casey, which is still a growing concern, the new site with its high-tech equipment and crowds and the welcome center at the Crawford Peace House. He said Crawford constituted "an insurgency at home."
We are a peaceful insurgency, given to carrying signs and making impassioned speeches. But without a doubt, there is a rumble of angry Americans that George Bush must now take seriously. The insurgency, Mr. President, has literally come to your backyard. And it's spreading across the country, finally, faster perhaps than even the Bush Administration can control. We fight with only words and persistence. But the president would be wise not to underestimate what motivated and grieving parents can accomplish.
Call it the Gold Star Insurgency.