MUM'S VIGIL AT BUSH RANCH
The Daily Mirror (UK)
August 30, 2005
By Ryan Parry
AT FIRST she was alone. Sat beneath a tree in 100oF heat outside President Bush's Texas ranch, Cindy Sheehan demanded answers about the war that killed her son.
But she wasn't on her own for long. Hundreds have rallied to her side in Crawford - where George W is spending a five-week holiday - and people across America have taken up her call.
When last week she held a candlelit vigil in honour of those who have died in the Iraq war, 1,500 similar events were held around the country.
The quietly-spoken mother's campaign has forced the president on to the defensive and sparked a vicious right-wing backlash against her.
For Sheehan, 48, the crusade is deeply personal. Her son, 24-year-old Army Specialist Casey Sheehan, a mechanic, was killed in Sadr City on April 4, 2004.
He was out on a voluntary mission in the Baghdad district to rescue injured soldiers when his unit was ambushed. Six other troops died with him.
Now Sheehan wants answers. She pitched her tent outside the Bush ranch three weeks ago saying she won't leave until Bush meets her.
Yet the President, whose lengthy holiday has raised eyebrows across the US, has refused to step outside his 1,600 acre ranch.
Last week Sheehan left to visit her mother, 74, who'd suffered a stroke.
On her return she declared: "I'm coming back to Crawford for my son. As long as the president who sent him to die in a senseless war is in Crawford, that is where I belong."
More than 200 protesters are now camped out with Cindy in the dry summer heat. They call it Camp Casey.
Some have driven 1,000 miles or more. A few leave, but many more arrive to take their place.
Yesterday actor Martin Sheen, who plays the president in TV drama The West Wing, drove to meet her and lend his support. "At least you've got the acting president of the United States," he joked.
For several hours during the day, numbers at Camp Casey are swollen by hundreds more anti-war protesters.
Small white crosses bearing the names of dead soldiers who have died in Iraq make an impromptu roadside shrine. A single red rose marks each name.
THE summer TV news, normally punctuated with dull Bush photo-calls, is dominated by Sheehan's crusade.
Sifting through the piles of letters of support she receives every day, Sheehan told the Daily Mirror: "I'm thrilled at the response, but not surprised. I'm just a spark and the anti-war movement has caught fire."
Shortly after Casey's death Sheehan did meet briefly with President Bush, but she wasn't impressed.
"He met our family for 10 minutes, but his mind was elsewhere.
"He didn't even know Casey's name. Every time we tried to talk about Casey and how much we missed him, he would change the subject.
"I want to meet with him again and tell him that America wants change, the people want honest answers."
Sheehan co-founded an anti-war group called Gold Star Families for Peace, named after the medal given to the families of dead soldiers.
The cost of her crusade has been dear. She has lost her job because of all her absences. She has split from her husband Pat, 52.
For those in favour of the war in Iraq, Sheehan is an extremist. A rival campaign, called You Don't Speak For Me Cindy has been launched.
And as for getting to meet the President to pass on her message, this looks highly unlikely. He leaves the holiday ranch on August 31 in a convoy of armoured cars. Will he stop?
"I doubt it," Sheehan says. "I don't hold much hope of him ever talking to me."
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