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Peace Mom draws both sides to rallies here
Chicago Sun Times
September 8, 2005
BY LISA DONOVAN
A month ago, Cindy Sheehan stood vigil near President Bush's Texas ranch with a message: Bring home the troops from Iraq so no other parent feels the anguish of losing a child there, as she did.
This week, she delivered that same message to the Chicago area, invigorating supporters who see her as a Gold Star mother leading the cause against a war she claims the Bush administration started based on lies.
"I'm back in love with my country because of you," Sheehan said Wednesday night at a candlelight vigil in Wheaton.
But the California woman was in DuPage County -- Bush country -- and the president's supporters turned out to say their piece, too.
"We support our president; we support our troops, in Afghanistan and Iraq," said Lois Finkel, 68, of Glen Ellyn. "I feel after the terrorist attack of 9/11, I think it's important to confront the terrorists on their land, and so far, I think it's working. So far we haven't had any other terrorist attacks in our land."
Finkel was among a handful of Bush supporters in a crowd of hundreds who attended the vigil at the Danada Equestrian Center organized by Sheehan supporters.
But Sheehan, 48, disagreed, telling the crowd the war in Iraq was not about fighting terrorism but about oil and handing off lucrative contracts to Bush's "buddies" to repair the war-torn nation.
"I have been working for peace, working to expose the lies, for months and months and months," Sheehan said. "I don't believe invading a country that is not a threat to the United States is a noble cause."
One mom sparked a movement
In August, she said, she was "fed up" and decided to head to the Crawford, Texas, ranch of the vacationing president, camping out and demanding to meet with Bush about the Iraq war and the death of her son, Army Spc. Casey Sheehan, 24, who was killed in Baghdad in April 2004. The numbers of her supporters and detractors mushroomed.
The president has said he sympathizes with Sheehan but has made no indication he will meet with her. Some critics, including other Gold Star families and many in the Bush administration, say Sheehan is exploiting her son's death to promote a left-wing agenda.
Her efforts shone the light on a movement of veterans and families and friends of soldiers who oppose the war.
Earlier in the day Sheehan and dozens of others picketed in front of the Batavia offices of U.S. House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.). Sheehan's limited tour of appearances concludes with a rally Sept. 24 in Washington, D.C.
She said Wednesday that the sluggish federal response to victims in a flooded-out New Orleans was linked to the war in Iraq. Sheehan said funding that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could have been used to shore up the city's collapsed levees was diverted to the war effort.
'There's no end in sight'
Many of her statements were greeted by cheers from the crowd, some of whom pumped their fists and held up signs that read, "Where was the National Guard last week?"
But another sign, held by a woman holding an American flag in one hand, read in part, "Freedom isn't free. Cindy disgraces her son and our troops."
Aaron Kaat, a 20-year-old Wheaton College student who attended the vigil, said his opposition to the war has makes for interesting dinner conversation with his family now that his younger brother has enlisted in the U.S. Marines. Kaat fears the possible outcome.
"That's scary for me, considering there's no end in sight," he said.