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You Can't Fight 'Ists' and 'Isms'
An Interview with Cindy Sheehan
By Joshua Frank
Cindy Sheehan is the mother of Spc. Casey Austin Sheehan, KIA 04/04/04. She is co-founder of Gold Star Families for Peace. Sheehan was recently interviewed by Joshua Frank, author of Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush, published by Common Courage Press.
Joshua Frank: Cindy, why did you decide to hook up with the "antiwar" movement? Do you think that it would have been more powerful to continue building a family-in-mourning movement of mothers, fathers, wives, and husbands of the maimed and the slain in Iraq?
Cindy Sheehan: I think those go together, actually. I founded an organization called Gold Star Families for Peace; people can visit us at www.gsfp.org. We are an antiwar group allied with Military Families Speak Out, Veterans for Peace, and Iraq Veteran Against the War. We are antiwar and for the immediate withdrawal of all troops from Iraq. Any group that supports our position is welcome to join with us.
JF: Many war supporters have furiously denied any link between our foreign policy and the risk soldiers are at in Iraq and Afghanistan. Tony Blair has denied any link between foreign policy and the summer bombings over in London. What do you see?
CS: I think that U.S. foreign policy is totally responsible for 9/11, as well as the recent bombings in London. Our policies of killing innocent Iraqis; Afghans; supporting the occupation of Palestine; our permanent bases in Saudi Arabia; our presence in Lebanon; our support of the shah; supporting Saddam and giving him the WMDs used on his own people. I think this sort of behavior drives hatred toward the U.S. This is just all my opinion, of course. I am not a politician or a military strategist. I am just a citizen voicing my opinions.
JF: What fuels the war in Iraq today is central to our geopolitical interests: oil. How do you think this affects our chances as a movement to end the current war, compared to what it took to end the Vietnam War?
CS: I think even more than oil, it has to do with the industrial military complex that Eisenhower warned us about. They have to keep us afraid of something or someone. During the 1950s and '60s it was the Communists. We lost that focus in the 1970s – so the evil Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Perle, along with the rest of the neocons, kept that alive. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, we needed a new enemy; so now it is terrorists… they are the "ist" du jour. It really is impossible to fight "ists" and "isms." You just can't do it. All we get in the end is prolonged, evil, and unnecessary war and death.
JF: The 2006 mid-term elections are right around the corner, and there are a few pro-war Democrats up for reelection. The most popular among them [are] Hillary Clinton in New York and Nancy Pelosi out in California. There is a bit of speculation rumbling in activist circles that you may be planning to take on one or the other in the Democratic primaries coming up. Is this true?
CS: I think Nancy Pelosi is changing her tune, but not nearly fast enough. I have met with her a couple of times lately. I am not thinking of running against Hillary, or Nancy, or Dianne Feinstein, for that matter. If it were anyone, though, it would be Feinstein because I am a Californian and I believe she is a despicable warmonger. People have been begging me to run, but I think I can do more good on the outside of Washington than the inside.
JF: If the Democrats continue to take the stance they have on the Iraq war, mainly supporting the invasion and subsequent occupation – will you support a Democrat in 2008 for president? Or will you stick to your cause and support a candidate along the lines of Ralph Nader or an antiwar Libertarian or Green Party candidate?
CS: No, I will not support a pro-war Democrat. I will support any antiwar candidate, even if [laughter] it is a Republican. There are some, Josh, really, it could happen! I regret supporting John Kerry in 2004. The movement gained nothing from his candidacy. However, I do think Kerry may be changing his tune on the war. The next few weeks will be telling.
JF: Kerry certainly was a warmonger along the campaign trail. What do you think is going to change in Kerry's Iraq position, if anything? You've met with both Senators Clinton and Kerry recently; do you think either would ever endorse bringing the troops home immediately?
CS: As I said, I think Kerry may be changing, but I don't think Clinton ever will. This is just my own speculation, though.
JF: What are the most important pressure points you see coming up in the next few months for the antiwar movement?
CS: The Iraq referendum and elections are at the forefront. We really want the referendum to be successful, but we are not hopeful that it will be. We still need to expose the failures of the Bush administration along with those of Congress and the media. We'll need to keep pushing for the full withdrawal of troops now. That is paramount.
JF: How do you think antiwar activists can translate their protest and passion against the war into more than marching in circles at a weekend rally?
CS: A lot of people sacrificed a lot to be in Washington on the 24th of September. If peace activists really want to make changes, they have to start putting intense pressure on their elected officials. Of course, everything should be nonviolent, because we are trying to create a peaceful world and violence can't produce peace – no matter what George W. Bush and his buddies say.
JF: What ultimate outcome to your work – for the war in Iraq, and beyond that in America's role in the world – do you think would be a fitting monument to your son Casey?
CS: We need to bring our troops home ASAP. We can't allow any war for imperialism or greed to be fought in our names. This is what we need to keep fighting for. Not just for Casey, but for all, on both sides, who have perished in this illegal, immoral war.