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Cindy Sheehan: 'I am not the issue'

Scripps Howard News Service
August 24, 2005

- Cindy Sheehan says she's tried to keep the focus of her protest on the immorality of the war in Iraq, but she's found this month that it's difficult to keep the spotlight off herself.

"I am not the issue," she said on her Web blog. "The issue is a disastrous war that's killing our sons and daughters and making our country less secure. They attack me because they can no longer defend this war."

The 48-year-old housewife and former youth minister at St. Mary's Catholic Church in quiet and conservative Vacaville, Calif., isn't new to the fight. Three months after son Casey, her first-born, was killed in an ambush in Baghdad on April 4, 2004, Sheehan was transformed into a militant grieving mother demanding answers.

Members of the anti-war movement say they're pleased that their questions about the war in Iraq are getting an audience, although they admit they are mystified why Sheehan's anguish blossomed into international headlines this summer since she had been so active trying to get attention before.

"I think Sheehan personifies the pain a lot of families are feeling because of the number of deaths and injuries in Iraq - and it's real pain," said Tom Kiley, an aide to Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., who represents the Vacaville area. "She's definitely tapping a nerve."

In the last year, Sheehan has appeared on ABC's "Nightline," taken a bus tour to churches in New York, Chicago, Indianapolis, Lexington, Ky., Columbus, Ohio, and Pittsburgh. Sheehan, who has another son and two daughters, testified before a special congressional hearing called by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich. And in January, she launched the nonprofit group Gold Star Families for Peace, of which she is president.

But it wasn't until she set up "Camp Casey" at the front gate of President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, this month that Sheehan vaulted into headlines around the world, bringing a torrent of criticism from conservatives like Rush Limbaugh.

"Her story is nothing more than forged documents. There's nothing about it that's real, including the mainstream media's glomming onto it. It's not real. ... It's the latest effort made by the coordinated left," Limbaugh said on his radio show.

There's ample proof that Sheehan's story is true: It's a story she's repeated on Internet sites and in e-mails for the last year, and in letters sent to the White House urging Bush to withdraw troops from Iraq. She said Bush misled America by launching the war to destroy weapons of mass destruction that didn't exist and is making America less secure by continuing the war.

"We're watching you very carefully, and we're going to do everything in our power to have you impeached for misleading the American people," she told Bush in a letter. "Beating a political stake in your black heart will be the fulfillment of my life."

Until Casey was killed, Sheehan lived a relatively anonymous life. With her children and husband Pat, she lived in a modest home in Vacaville bought last year for $280,000. She worked first as a volunteer at St. Mary's Catholic Church near her home, then a youth minister.

Wolf Corrington, a Persian Gulf veteran who knew Casey Sheehan as a youth, helped coordinate his funeral at St. Mary's last year. He said he doesn't question Cindy Sheehan's right to protest. But Corrington, the commander of Vacaville's Veterans of Foreign Wars post, openly wonders whether Casey would have agreed with her.

"It's her American right, and she can knock herself out and speak her mind," said Corrington. But he noted that Casey Sheehan was not forced into the Army or drafted, but volunteered.

"It was a natural progression in Casey's life. She raised her son to serve others, and he was an altar boy, a youth volunteer and an Eagle Scout serving others. Military service was a progression - that was his nature," he said.

Corrington said that no one can know what Sheehan's 24-year-old son would feel about the war today, "but all I do know is that he volunteered to serve, he re-enlisted, he volunteered for the mission, so he must have believed in his job."

The international attention given Sheehan's protest has sparked a backlash in Vacaville, home to many military retirees who worked at nearby Travis Air Force Base and the location of two state prisons.

Diane Barney, editor of the Vacaville Reporter, said there's been a passionate debate in the newspaper over her activities. One recent peace vigil drew 160 people - 80 supporting Sheehan and 80 opposed. She said a previous demonstration was just as equally divided.

"The story really took off when Mrs. Sheehan decided to camp out in Crawford. Her story was always compelling, but it was her action that placed her in the national spotlight," Barney said in an e-mail.

The Reporter tried to conduct an Internet poll to gauge reader opinion, but stopped after national Internet sites sent their readers to flood the newspaper's site. More than 93,000 votes were cast, just shy of Vacaville's 94,000 population, with 59 percent supporting Sheehan.

Her protest has also divided her family, with Cherie Quartarolo - Cindy Sheehan's sister-in-law and godmother to Casey - insisting that not everyone in the family supports her protest. Sheehan's husband filed divorce papers in the midst of her Crawford protest, something Sheehan insisted had been in the works for a while. The two had been high-school sweethearts in Bellflower, Calif., where she was born.

Anti-war activists say Sheehan is only expressing the growing public discontent against the war in Iraq, which is reflected in national polls where 58 percent of those asked say they are in opposition.

"I think she's totally real," said Rabbi Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Center in Philadelphia.

Waskow recalled Sheehan's appearance last April at the Riverside Baptist Church in New York, commemorating the April 4, 1967, speech given there by the Rev. Martin Luther King. Coincidentally, it was the first anniversary of Casey's death, and Waskow said Sheehan's address was both courageous and moving.

"I've seen her blossom," he said. "She's given a focus to a vague, but real and very much growing movement of disgust for the war. It's been bubbling for months."

Waskow, who has participated in the Crawford protests, said Bush's decision to break off from his vacation to counter Sheehan's protests clearly demonstrates her impact. Sheehan, who met with Bush last year, says she wants to ask the president to explain why the war in Iraq is "a noble cause," and whether he would send his daughters Jenna and Barbara to fight there.

"One of the classic religious acts is to face the king face-to-face and say, 'You are wrong,' " he said.

David Cortright, founder of the Win Without War Coalition and a University of Notre Dame professor, said Sheehan re-energized a peace movement that was left in the doldrums after Bush's re-election.

"I have the impression she's under inhuman pressure. She's just a mom," he said. "She's done an amazingly good job."

Cortright said he feels there's more to the Sheehan phenomena than just an August story when not much else is going on, and he said the White House and its defenders haven't come up with a good response to her anguish over why her son died.

"You see the drip, drip, drip of casualties every day where I live in Indiana, and there's a cumulative effect," he said.

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It's interesting that people like Rumsfeld can dismiss comments like one made by Pat Robertson about assasinating Chavez, saying that they are "just comments made by an American citizen", and so we shouldn't overreact to it.

Yet, this same group so vigorously attacks Cindy Sheehan and other American citizens opposed to the Iraq war - a war which has sucessfully assasinated hundreds and thousands of innocent people.

Their moral compass is going haywire at the moment. They are like the captain of the slave ship in the movie "Waterworld". When asked by his psychophantic underlings where the ship is heading, after Deacon issues a fierce and manically inspirational command to the slaves rowing the ship, Deacon says..."How the fu** do I know. Just keep 'em rowing !"

Many of the world's leaders are like that insane captain on that doomed ship of fools. They really have no idea where they are heading and don't really care about their crew.

What is interesting is Bill O'Reilly is seeing the truth. I actually watched him tonight and did not want to vomit. The wheels are turning and I hope this government that is supposed to be for us does not do something horrible, I hope there will not be an attack or some event that makes the government suddenly look really good.

I have to say this government is us! We are he government! Stand up people!!!

You nailed that right on the button! The double-talking, double-standard bearers of the right wing at work. We must fight them and rid our country of them, every one of them. They must be forced to relinquish the power they have secured by lies and deceit.

Read what you said and think about it...You sound like one of the extremist that is blowing themselves up in Iraq.

Why don't you take yourself over there and do us all a favor. You'll get 40 virgins out of it you left wing kook.

Your party has no power because of idiots like you. Keep up the good work, the GOP appreciates your efforts.

Tell me and the rest of the world what the "noble cause is"

We're waiting in baited breath! OH RIGHT, it was based on lies.....

Maybe the United Nations should have FINISHED ITS JOB, AY ASSHOLE?


Doug E.

Dear Doug,
I completely understand your rage, but sinking to your opponent's level weakens your case. Save your energy and direct it toward helping others to understand, no matter how infuriating their behavior might be. Ultimately, our case is strengthened by facts and logic not vituperation.

Dear Doug,
I completely understand your rage, but sinking to your opponent's level weakens your case. Save your energy and direct it toward helping others to understand, no matter how infuriating their behavior might be. Save your energy to contact your Representative (forgive me if you alread have). . Let's keep words like "idiot" and "moron" out of our vocabulary; we hear enough of that trash on the other side. Ultimately, our case is strengthened by facts and logic not vituperation

Dear Anonymous--Unfortunately, you don't have the courage to sign your name, but feel comfortable with disrespectfully attacking another, calling him by name. Please review the comments and notice the difference between the majority of them and yours--substance. While most of the folks engaged in this dicussion are concerned about bringing facts to light and intelligently analyzing the policies of our government, you, Anonymous, are content to leak verbal toxic waste and make personal attacks. Poor ammunition. Please do your best to become informed and take part in this vital debate by honoring us with comments worthy of such a vital issue.

Cindy Sheehan, like many of God's good servants, is just one of the messengers. She is representing a philosophical position that is shared by everyone deep down, and that is why her stand has struck such a chord.

A mother gives birth to a child in the hope that the child will grow up and prosper in a safe world. No mother wishes for the early and untimely death of her child, unless she is deranged.

The Nation State is meant to defend freedom, purity and innocence of the citizenry. Good citizens of a nation should not be defending another corrupt, sleazy, lying nation state.

Corrington said that no one can know what Sheehan's 24-year-old son would feel about the war today, "but all I do know is that he volunteered to serve, he re-enlisted, he volunteered for the mission, so he must have believed in his job."

I believe in my job too, Mr. Corrington, but I don't always agree with my boss.

The point is not whether Casey Sheehan made his own decision to enlist, re-enlist, or even if he believed in what he was doing. And nobody is arguing whether or not he understood the risks.

The point is that the fact that Casey made his own decision to enlist does not grant his commander-in-chief a free pass to put his or anyone else's life at risk unnecessarily.

That, sir, is exactly what happened. Casey and almost 1900 others have paid the ultimate price for a pack of lies put forth by George W. Bush and his parrot administration.

If America does not rise up as one and not only demand that every last one of this cabal of war criminals be removed from office but also pay a just legal price for their heinous misdeeds, then our Constitution has never been worth anything.

Where's the evidence, you might say?

The column to the left on this page (right under "Key Documents") is a good place to start.

John Perry

Mr. Perry

In other words you feel totally free to negate after you signed a contract or agreed to perform your duties according to your job description.
Very interesting. Will your excuse be that your bossed hired you
under false pretenses?
Very interesting.

Cindy Sheehan is a hypocrite... I thought the issue was finding why her son died... for what "noble cause". Now she says its about ending a war... and all this other crap... how do you lefties follow her. Cindy needs to wake-up and be clear and blunt... but shes probably to busy smoking one.

YOU MUST EDUCATE YOUR SELF. This war was penned by Rumsfeld and CHENEY IN 1998. They and others wrote the new American project for the 21'st century. Read it and become a democrat!

It is interesting that you cannot discuss the actuall issues, but must instead try to attack the people that support it.

Sign up to fight in Iraq and get your friends who feel like you do to sign up...The military needs people like YOU.

In response to the fifth paragraph... this guy is a moron. Look at the polls... Cindy supports the minority of military families. No wonder this guy is so weird he's from California... the land of the fruits and nuts.

Cindy is right, and her naysayers are wrong. This war is wrong, and it is based on evil. The issue isn't Cindy; it's the war and the reason we are fighting. George Bush lied to get us to go along with this, and it is wrong, wrong, wrong.

What's it going to be, Freepers, fascism or truth? What are you really fighting for? And who?

Read the American project for the 21'st century penned by Rumsfeld,Cheney and others in 1998. CHILLING

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