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The Day Casey Died


The Day Casey Died: Cindy Sheehan, Journalist and Wounded Soldier Remember the Battle of Sadr City

http://www.democracynow.org

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On the last day of Cindy Sheehan's vigil outside President Bush's estate in Crawford, we look back at the day her son, Casey, died. We speak with a U.S. army soldier who was wounded on the same day Casey was killed, an independent journalist who visited the area shortly afterwards and Cindy Sheehan. [includes rush transcript]
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President Bush's vacation is officially over this week, as he returns to Washington. And there is little doubt that his time these past weeks at his Crawford, Texas estate will forever be remembered as the summer of Camp Casey, named for 24 year-old Casey Sheehan who was killed in Baghdad's Sadr city on April 4, 2004. By now, you'd have to be living in a news vacuum to not know the name Cindy Sheehan, Casey's mother, who set up a lawn chair down the road from Bush's property at the beginning of the president's 5 week vacation to demand that she be allowed to speak directly to Bush. What grew out of that simple act was an antiwar tent city of sorts that has seen a stream of visitors. Among them: families with soldiers deployed in Iraq or who had their loved ones killed there, veterans of the current Iraq war, musicians Joan Baez and Steve Earle, actors Martin Sheen, Margot Kidder and Native activist and actor Russel Means. Scores of activists and other concerned or inspired people have joined the camp at various points. There have been literally hundreds of journalists in Crawford; among them, the celebrities from the White House press corps. There have also been counter-demonstrators and prowar families.
Over these weeks, Cindy Sheehan's vigil has served as an igniting spark for the antiwar movement and has provided a gateway into a broader discussion across the US on the occupation of Iraq. Well, as Cindy Sheehan prepares to leave Camp Casey in Crawford, we wanted to focus in on the story of her son and his death more than a year ago in Baghdad's Sadr city. In fact, Casey Sheehan was killed on Sunday, April 4, 2004 and that Monday on Democracy Now!, we reported on the battle in which he was killed.

Democracy Now broadcast, April 5, 2004.

President Bush and his supporters have sought to portray the resistance in Iraq as foreign fighters, terrorists, Saddam loyalists and al Qaeda. But the death of Casey Sheehan gives lie to that line.

Cindy Sheehan, talking recently about how her son died.

In a moment, we are going to be joined by a U.S. soldier who was in Sadr City that same day as Casey Sheehan. He didn't die but he was severely wounded that day and is now paralyzed from the chest down. But first, here is what President Bush had to say the first time he was asked publicly about the uprising in Sadr City that took the life of Casey Sheehan and 9 other soldiers.

President Bush, April 5, 2004.

At the time Casey Sheehan and his fellow soldiers were killed in Sadr City, independent journalist and author Rahul Mahajan was in Iraq and reported on Democracy Now! about his time in Sadr City that weekend talking with US soldiers.

Rahul Mahajan, speaking on Democracy Now!, April 13, 2004.

U.S. Army Specialist Tomas Young fought in the same division as Casey Sheehan and was shot during the massive uprising in Sadr City on April 4th 2004 - The same date and place that Cindy Sheehan's son Casey was killed. Young is now paralyzed from the chest down. He recently left Camp Casey where he also demanded to speak with President Bush.

Tomas Young, U.S. Army Specialist and Iraq War Veteran.
Rahul Mahajan, independent journalist and author of a number of books including "Full Spectrum Dominance: U.S. Power in Iraq and Beyond." He runs a blog at empirenotes.org.
Cindy Sheehan, mother of soldier killed in Iraq and founder of Camp Casey in honor of her son Casey Sheehan who was killed in Iraq in April, 2004. She is also a co-founder of Gold Star Families for Peace.
Photographs of Camp Casey by Kim Terpening can be found at AlaskaGyrl.blogspot.com

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RUSH TRANSCRIPT
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AMY GOODMAN: Casey Sheehan was killed on Sunday, April 4, 2004, and that Monday on Democracy Now!, we reported on the battle in which he was killed.

AMY GOODMAN: [April 5, 2004] The U.S. occupation entered a new phase Sunday as Shiite Iraqis staged an armed uprising against the occupying forces in four cities. A total of at least 50 Iraqis and 10 U.S. troops died on Sunday. Hundreds were injured. The U.S.-led occupying forces lost control of at least one city. Police stations were burned in four others. The resistance continued early today in Basra, where dozens of Shiites occupied the governor's office. The young Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr called for the uprising after the U.S. shut down one of his newspapers and arrested one of his top aides. In a statement, Sadr said, "Terrorize your enemy. God will reward you well for what pleases him. It is not possible to remain silent in front of their abuse."

AMY GOODMAN: That was our report on April 5, 2004. President Bush and his supporters have sought to portray the resistance in Iraq as foreign fighters, terrorists, Saddam loyalists and al Qaeda. But the death of Casey Sheehan gives lie to the line. This is Cindy Sheehan talking recently about how her son died.

CINDY SHEEHAN: Casey was such a gentle, kind, loving person. He never even got in one fistfight his whole life. Nobody even hated him enough to punch him, let alone kill him. And that's what George Bush did. He put our kids in another person's country, and Casey was killed by insurgents. He wasn't killed by terrorists. He was killed by Shiite militia who wanted -- they wanted him out of the country. When Casey was told that he was going to be welcomed with chocolates and flowers as a liberator, well, the people of Iraq saw it differently. They saw him as an occupier.

AMY GOODMAN: Cindy Sheehan. In a moment, we'll be joined by Cindy Sheehan and also by the U.S. soldier in Sadr City the same day that Casey Sheehan was killed. But Tomas Young didn't die. He was severely wounded that day and is now paralyzed from the chest down. First, though, President Bush, what he had to say the first time he was asked publicly about the uprising in Sadr City that took the life of Casey Sheehan and nine other soldiers.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: The message to the Iraqi citizens is they don't have to fear that America will turn and run. And that's an important message for them to hear. They think we're not sincere about staying the course. Many people will not continue to take a risk toward -- take the risk toward freedom and democracy.

AMY GOODMAN: That was President Bush, April 5, 2004. At the time Casey Sheehan and his fellow soldiers were killed in Sadr City on April 4, the day before, independent journalist and author, Rahul Mahajan, was in Iraq and reported on Democracy Now! about his time in Sadr City that weekend, talking with U.S. soldiers. This is what he had to say.

RAHUL MAHAJAN: Initially I did, when I was in Sadr City a couple of days after the outbreak of violence there, and I talked to some young men who were posted there. They had only been in Iraq three weeks, and so they were more friendly and easier to approach. There was one we tried to talk to who simply kind of waved us on, the way that most troops will do if they've been in the country for a long time. They get extremely wary and nervous. But these guys talked to us. They were perfectly nice. They were very, very ignorant of what was going on in Iraq. They were there in Sadr City because of clashes with al-Sadr's Mahdi army. And I asked them, "So what do you think about this stuff with al-Sadr? What do you think about the Mahdi army?" And they said, "What? Who is that? Who are they?

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Iraq war tests resolve of a patriotic U.S. soldier 1 hour, 27 minutes ago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Sergeant James Connolly volunteered for the U.S. army on the afternoon of September 11, 2001. He served a year in Iraq and took part in the operation that killed Saddam Hussein's sons in July 2003.

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Now, facing a second lengthy deployment by the end of the year, Connolly wants out. He says he will do his duty to the best of his ability, but he feels he has fulfilled his commitment to the military and the nation and he does not believe the Iraq operation is worth dying for.

"I feel terrible. I'd like to get out. I'm done with the army. I want to move on. My commitment was up last December but they extended the whole division until January 31, 2007," Connolly said in a telephone interview.

His dilemma and his feelings illustrate the severe strains placed on the military and on military families by the Iraq war, in which nearly 1,900 American troops have died and which has developed into a relentless and ferocious insurgency.

Connolly was only 17 when hijackers crashed planes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon in 2001. "I called the army recruiter the afternoon of 9/11. I figured they'd need people to help," he said.

Now 21, Connolly who serves with the 1st. Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division and is currently stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, is one of over 14,000 soldiers who have been handed stop-loss orders preventing them from leaving the military, even when their tour of duty is done.

Connolly wants to marry his girlfriend Rebecca Consalvo and dreams of becoming a policeman in New York. Right now, his dreams and his life are on hold.

His parents, who live in Westford, Massachusetts, supported their only child's decision to enlist and as well as President George W. Bush's Iraq invasion. But they strongly feel the burden of fighting the war is not being shared fairly.

"If Bush feels it's such a noble cause, maybe he should talk to his own daughters about making a commitment," said Connolly's mother, Deborah.

"We don't feel the war was a blunder, but how does he achieve his goal? Does it involve sending the same people over and over again? I don't want my son to go a second time. He's already been," she said.

SUPPORT FALLING

Public opinion polls show support for the war has been falling as U.S. casualties have mounted. The protest outside Bush's ranch in Texas, led by Cindy Sheehan whose son died in Iraq, has injected renewed vigor into the anti-war movement.

In a Washington Post/ABC poll released Wednesday, 46 percent said the war had been worth fighting, while 53 percent thought it was not worth it. Thirty percent said the number of U.S. casualties was acceptable, but 68 percent disagreed.

Connolly's future mother-in-law Frances Consalvo is furious about the situation and wrote angry letters to a dozen senators from both parties protesting Connolly's impending redeployment. Only one, Nebraska Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel (news, bio, voting record), responded.

"I do not feel that Sergeant Connolly's father should risk the possible sacrifice of his only child for Bush's blunder in Iraq. Particularly when Bush's own children are safely ensconced at home," she said.

Connolly himself said there were mixed feelings in his unit about returning to Iraq.

"A lot of guys who got stop-loss orders don't appreciate it. Some guys who want to make the military their career are excited about going back. It's good money and they get to do what they're trained for," he said.

Politics are rarely if ever discussed in the unit. But Connolly, who lost buddies on his first deployment, said he often thought about getting hurt or dying.

"The only people I feel are worth dying for are the people I'm over there with," he said.

And the war itself? "For me, I don't think it would be worth my life, no."

I attempted to post the following on www.freerepublic.com, a website I checked out after receiving an email. I guess I should have known better. It seems they do not consider these valid questions, for not only was my post cut off ('this thread has been pulled' is the message you get), there was not even an actual response to it. Anything deemed antiwar is viewed as negative.

When I was younger, I wondered how those such as Hitler were able able to convince so many that death and destruction was a noble and righteous path to a better life. Considering the views of so many Americans on the Iraq war, we can see how it was possible in Nazi Germany. Yet I doubt I will ever understand their rationale. In one article on the aforementioned website, someone writes, "If the whole country was united for the war in Iraq, I doubt if the terrorists would have started their suicide bombing campaign."

I am thankful that there are those such as Cindy Sheehan who are demanding answers to questions we all should be asking.

John Liccardi

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Some questions you should be asking...

Just who is profiting from this war? Where are the billions of taxpayer dollars going? Certainly not all to the troops and their families.

How many wounded and dead American soldiers is acceptable? Are we willing to say 'However many it takes to win'?

What about the Iraqi civilians? We should not blame the US troops for civilian deaths and injuries – there is no way to fight a war without civilian casualties – but it does happen.

Why did the US (during different presidencies – Republican & Democrat) support Hussein for so long?

If this war is worth fighting and is for the defense of America, why hasn't the draft been reinstated so that we can fight was as many troops as possible? If this war is similar the WWII as some claim, does it not require as great an effort?

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