By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Monday 08 August 2005
The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.
- Stephen King
George W. Bush hauled stakes for Texas and a vacation a few days ago. Cindy Sheehan followed. She got off a bus Saturday afternoon and started walking to the Crawford ranch. She wanted some answers and was going to get them.
Sheehan had met Mr. Bush once before. On April 4, 2004, just shy of a year after Bush stood on an aircraft carrier beneath a banner that read "Mission Accomplished," Cindy Sheehan's son, Army Specialist Casey A. Sheehan, was killed in Iraq when his unit was attacked by rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire. He was 24 years old.
After Casey's death, Cindy Sheehan was invited to the White House for a visit with Mr. Bush in June of 2004. Her first memory of Bush's appearance that day was when he walked into the room and said in a loud, bluff voice, "Who we'all honorin' today?"
"His mouth kept moving," Sheehan later recalled of her meeting with Bush, "but there was nothing in his eyes or anything else about him that showed me he really cared or had any real compassion at all. This is a human being totally disconnected from humanity and reality. His eyes were empty, hollow shells." Bush called her "Ma" or "Mom" throughout the whole meeting, and never got around to learning her name.
"The whole meeting was simply bizarre and disgusting," Sheehan said later. "designed to intimidate instead of providing compassion. He didn't even know our names. I just couldn't believe this was happening. It was so surreal and bizarre. Later I met with some of the other fifteen or sixteen families who were at the White House the same day and, sure enough, they all felt the same way I did."
That was it. Cindy Sheehan, who had never been politically active in her life, became an activist. She traveled the country to speak to whomever would listen, she told the story of Casey's life and death, and she threw fire at George W. Bush with the passionate anguish of a mother who was forced to bury her son.
"Casey was told that he would be welcomed to Iraq as a liberator with chocolates and rose petals strewn in front of his unarmored Humvee" Sheehan wrote in February. "He was in Iraq for two short weeks when the Shi'ite rebel 'welcome wagon' welcomed him to Baghdad with bullets and RPG's, which took his young and beautiful life. Casey was killed after George Bush proclaimed 'Mission Accomplished' on May 1, 2003. Hundreds of our young people and thousands of Iraqis have been needlessly and senselessly murdered since George Bush triumphantly announced an end to 'major combat' almost 2 years ago now. All of the above events have been heralded by this administration as 'turning points' in the 'war on terror' - or as wonderful events in the 'march of democracy.'"
In June of 2005, Cindy Sheehan testified at a hearing in Washington DC about the Downing Street Minutes, the recently leaked British intelligence documents which exposed the fact that Bush intended to invade Iraq almost from the beginning of his first term, and that "Intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy" of invasion.
"I believed before our leaders invaded Iraq in March, 2003," said Sheehan in her testimony, "and I am even more convinced now, that this aggression on Iraq was based on a lie of historic proportions and was blatantly unnecessary. The so-called Downing Street Memo dated 23 July, 2003, only confirms what I already suspected: the leadership of this country rushed us into an illegal invasion of another sovereign country on prefabricated and cherry picked intelligence. It appears that my boy Casey was given a death sentence even before he joined the Army in May of 2000."
And so it came to pass that George W. Bush hauled stakes for Texas and a vacation a few days ago, and Cindy Sheehan followed. She got off a bus Saturday afternoon and started walking to the Crawford ranch. She wanted some answers and was going to get them. She got as far as a police checkpoint, and has gotten no further. She is still there, waiting to speak to Mr. Bush so she can get an answer to her question. Why did her son die?
The folks on the Crawford ranch sent out some important people to speak to her. They sent Stephen Hadley, the national security adviser. They sent Joe Hagin, a deputy White House chief of staff. Cindy Sheehan sent them both packing.
By Sunday, a media frenzy had erupted around her. On Sunday night, the New York Times published a story about Sheehan's Texas standoff. "Her success in drawing so much attention to her message - and leaving the White House in a face-off with an opponent who had to be treated very gently even as she aggressively attacked the president and his policies - seemed to stem from the confluence of several forces," wrote the Times. "The deaths last week of 20 Marines from a single battalion has focused public attention on the unremitting pace of casualties in Iraq, providing her an opening to deliver her message that no more lives should be given to the war."
"At the same time," continued the article, "polls that show falling approval for Mr. Bush's handling of the war have left him open to challenge in a way that he was not when the nation appeared to be more strongly behind him. It did not hurt her cause that she staged her protest, which she said was more or less spontaneous, at the doorstep of the White House press corps, which spends each August in Crawford with little to do, minimal access to Mr. Bush and his aides, and an eagerness for any new story."
Casey Sheehan was every mother's son. Cindy Sheehan is every son's mother. She loved him with every cell in her body and every breath in her soul, and mourns his absence in every second of every day, and will have some answers for her pain and loss, or will know the reason why. She is down in Crawford, right now, waiting for George W. Bush to stop sending lackeys to placate her. She wants to speak to the man who sent her son to die. She is waiting.
William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.