CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER 12:00 PM EST
Sunday, August 7, 2005 Sunday
BLITZER: Welcome back.
The war in Iraq has claimed more than 1,800 U.S. service men and women. One mother who lost her son in Iraq is protesting outside of the president's ranch in Crawford, Texas.
Cindy Sheehan's son Casey was killed in Baghdad's Sadr City in April 2004. She's a founder of Gold Star Families, joining us now live from Crawford, Texas.
Our deepest condolences to you, Cindy Sheehan, on the loss of your son.
Talk a little bit about Casey and the circumstances surrounding his death.
CINDY SHEEHAN, FOUNDER, GOLD STAR FAMILIES: Casey was a very amazing, indispensable part of my family.
He got to Sadr City, Baghdad, we think about five days before he was killed. The command changed at 6:00 p.m. on April 4, 2004. By 6:54 Casey had been killed in an ambush.
BLITZER: And he was in the Army. His rank?
SHEEHAN: He was an Army specialist.
BLITZER: How long had he been in Iraq to begin with?
SHEEHAN: He had only -- from what we understand, he'd only been in Iraq about five days. He was in Kuwait for a couple weeks before they deployed to Iraq.
I only heard from him once when he was in Kuwait. I didn't hear from him again. That's the last time I spoke to him.
BLITZER: Was he onboard when he went there? In other words, was he fully committed to this war?
SHEEHAN: He was not committed to the war at all. He was committed to his buddies.
I begged him not to go because my family knew that the war was wrong. And he said, "Mom, I have to go because my buddies are going. If I don't go, someone else will have to do my job."
BLITZER: All right. So tell us a little bit about what you're doing now. You had a chance to meet with the president, we're told, last summer. Is that right?
SHEEHAN: I met with him, I think, about June 17th last year. It was about two and a half months after Casey had died. And it was me...
BLITZER: Was that a private meeting, just you and the president?
SHEEHAN: It was me and my family, my other three children and my husband.
BLITZER: What did you say... SHEEHAN: And we met with about 15 other -- about 15 other families were there also. But we got to -- he came in individually and met with each one of us individually.
BLITZER: And so, what did you say to him then?
SHEEHAN: It was -- you know, there was a lot of things said. We wanted to use the time for him to know that he killed an indispensable part of our family and humanity. And we wanted him to look at the pictures of Casey.
He wouldn't look at the pictures of Casey. He didn't even know Casey's name. He came in the room and the very first thing he said is, "So who are we honoring here?" He didn't even know Casey's name. He didn't want to hear it. He didn't want to hear anything about Casey. He wouldn't even call him "him" or "he." He called him "your loved one."
Every time we tried to talk about Casey and how much we missed him, he would change the subject. And he acted like it was a party.
BLITZER: Like a party? I mean...
SHEEHAN: Yes, he came in very jovial, and like we should be happy that he, our son, died for his misguided policies. He didn't even pretend like somebody...
BLITZER: So now you're trying to meet with him again. What's the point? What are you trying to achieve?
SHEEHAN: This week we had a terrible loss of life in Iraq. Everybody knows about the National Guard unit of Marines from Ohio. And that enough saddened me and broke my heart because I know what those families are going through. And it also broke my heart because I've been working very hard for a year to end the war in Iraq. And every day that another soldier, another Iraqi person gets killed just rips my heart open. But then George Bush, in a luncheon he was giving a talk at or something, he said that the families can rest assured that their children died for a noble cause. And he also said that we have to honor the sacrifices of the fallen soldiers by continuing the mission, by staying the mission in Iraq.
And I have said this so many times: I do not want him to use my son's name to continue the killing. It's bad enough that my son is dead, and I'm a mother whose heart was ripped out on April 4, 2004. Why would I want one more mother, either Iraqi or American, to go through what I'm going through?
I don't want him to justify my son's honorable sacrifice to continue his murderous killing policies.
BLITZER: The president did allow his national security advisor, Stephen Hadley, and other top White House aides to go out yesterday where you are, outside the ranch in Crawford, Texas, and meet with you.
How did that meeting go?
SHEEHAN: Well, they were very respectful.
And I don't think the White House even knew they ever met with me until I told Joe Hagan that I had already met with the president. Because Joe Hagan, the deputy chief of staff, said that, "I can tell you the president really cares." And I said, "You can't tell me that because I've met with him and I know that he doesn't care."
And I told them that, "I feel that my son didn't die for a noble cause." And they told me the party line of why we are in Iraq. And I don't believe that. And I told them that I don't believe that they believed that.
And I said, "Just because I'm grieving mother doesn't mean I'm stupid. I'm very well-informed of the facts that are going on here." And they said, "OK, we'll convey your concerns to the president."
BLITZER: Well, our condolences to you, Cindy Sheehan.
SHEEHAN: Thank you.
BLITZER: You've got a tough struggle that's never going to end, I'm sure. But we appreciate your spending a few moments with us.
Cindy Sheehan, whose son was killed in Sadr City in Iraq a year ago.
I'll just read the statement the White House yesterday on behalf of the president. "Many of the hundreds of families the president has met with know their loved one died for a noble cause. And the best way to honor their sacrifice is to complete the mission."
The White House statement goes on to say it is a message the president has heard time and again from those he has met with and comforted. Like all Americans, President Bush wants the troops home as soon as possible, but the U.S. will not cut and run from terrorists.
That's the statement from the White House.
Cindy Sheehan, again, thank you very much.
SHOW: CNN LIVE SUNDAY 4:00 PM EST
Sunday, August 7, 2005
WILLIS: That is very soon indeed. Aneesh, thank you so much for that report.
In Ohio, mourners gathered yesterday for the funeral of Lance Corporal Andre Williams. The 23-year-old was among more than a dozen Marines from Ohio who lost their lives in recent attacks in Iraq. His funeral was the first in the string of services for the fallen soldiers from the Buckeye State. More than 300 people attended yesterday's services for Williams.
And President Bush continuing his working vacation this weekend in Crawford, Texas. Not far away, a handful of protesters who are expressing their opposition to the war in Iraq. CNN's Elaine Quijano joins us now from Crawford with an update, Elaine?
ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you, Gerri. That's right and the woman who is leading these demonstrators is a woman named Cindy Sheehan. Her son was killed in Iraq last year and Sheehan says that she not only vehemently opposes the Iraq war, but she rejects the president's past statements that her son and other U.S. troops died for a noble cause.
She is vowing to remain there in place until she gets a chance to see President Bush. Her son, Casey, was 24 years old when he was killed in Sadr City, Iraq, in April of last year. Yesterday two top White House officials came out and met with her for about 45 minutes, but she insists she wasn't satisfied by what she heard and she plans still to stay put.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CINDY SHEEHAN, SON KILLED IN IRAQ: I told them what I was doing here, what I just told you, what I wanted to ask the president. They told me the party line about the story, this week about what the occupation is about. I disagreed with them. They disagreed with me and I said, you know, they tried to tell me, you know, it was because of terrorism. It was making the world safer and I said, you know what? Just because I'm a grieving mother doesn't mean I'm stupid and you guys aren't stupid either. I don't think you even believe what you're saying.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
QUIJANO: The two people that Sheehan met with were the president's national security adviser Stephen Hadley and his deputy chief of staff Joe Hagin. Yesterday, Sheehan led a group of about 50 demonstrators to Crawford and she says the bottom line is that she wants to ask President Bush why her son died. She also believes that U.S. forces should be brought home immediately, but of course, that is something the Bush administration has rejected, saying that the president wants to bring home American troops as soon as possible, yet at the same time does not want the U.S. to cut and run from terrorists. Now the White House is noting that Mrs. Sheehan did meet privately with President Bush last year, but Mrs. Sheehan says at the time it was only several months after her son's death. She says that she was in a state of shock and she says she now has questions that she didn't have at that time. Gerri?
WILLIS: Elaine Quijano, thank you for that report.