Cindy Sheehan, co-founder of After Downing Street coalition member Gold Star Families for Peace , appeared last night on Hardball on MSNBC.
GREGORY: Welcome back to HARDBALL. I'm David Gregory, in tonight for Chris Matthews.
Sue Russell and Cindy Sheehan have suffered pain and loss in such a personal way because of the Iraq war. Sue Russell's son, Lance Corporal Joshua Doyle (ph) was ambushed while on patrol in Iraq July 19, 2003. His thigh bone was shattered, his sciatic nerve severed. And he was shot through the knee. He is still recuperating from the physical and emotional trauma of that attack.
Cindy Sheehan's son, Army Specialist Casey Sheehan, was killed in action in Baghdad on April 4, 2004, five days after he had arrived there. Since then, Cindy has become an outspoken critic of the administration's actions in the war. Both of the soldiers' mothers join me now.
And I thank you both of us -- for being with us.
And I don't think any American can say it enough. Thank you for the service of your sons and for their sacrifice.
SUE RUSSELL, MOTHER OF SOLDIER WOUNDED IN IRAQ: Thank you.
GREGORY: Cindy, let me begin with you. Tell me something about your son Casey.
CINDY SHEEHAN, MOTHER OF SOLDIER KILLED IN IRAQ: He was an amazing man. And he was a wonderful person.
He was an Eagle Scout. He was an altar boy for 10 years. He just wanted to serve his community and serve his country. And he was very obedient. He was very funny. He was sweet. He was kind and he was gentle. And we were surprised when he joined the Army and not too surprised when he got killed in the war, because he said that he couldn't kill anybody.
GREGORY: And, Sue, we talked about your son being injured. What is his progress like? And tell us a little bit about how the injury happened.
RUSSELL: His progress is slow, but continuing, which is always a good thing.
He was ambushed in Iraq. And I got the call saying that he had been injured, which of course, is not a call you want, but what I tell people that say, didn't that make you mad? Well, no, because my son got to come home. He shattered the thy bone. He got fragments, shrapnel, whatnot. The sciatic nerve has been severed. Luckily, it is something that regenerates, so that that has been regenerating. He is getting use back of the leg. They figure at least another couple of years of rehab to get movable.
GREGORY: Cindy, you their debate about the war. You follow its progress. Do you still believe in it?
SHEEHAN: Do I still believe in the war? Is that what you just asked me?
GREGORY: Yes. That's my -- that's my question.
SHEEHAN: I never -- I never believed in the war. I never believed that Iraq was a threat to the United States. I didn't see why we were rushing to invade a country that posed no threat, was no danger to the United States.
My son didn't believe in the war. My entire family don't believe. We didn't believe in it then and we certainly don't believe in it now, with all the proof that has come out about the lies and betrayals that our government led us into this war. And the newest thing is the Downing Street memo that just confirms what we already suspected, that this administration wanted to invade Iraq at all costs.
And they would even fit the intelligence around that, around the policy of invading Iraq. My son didn't believe it. He didn't want to go. But he said, mom, I have to go. It's my duty and my buddies are going. And it makes me very angry to look and see that my son's death was premeditated, that before -- before the president went before Congress to ask for the War Powers Act, they already had plans.
In fact, they were already bombing Iraq to provoke Saddam into attacking us. I am very angry. And I don't really like being called an anti-war crazy, like your previous -- previous guest did. I think everybody should be against war, especially wars that have no basis in reality.
GREGORY: Sue, do you think it is -- it is the wrong time to criticize the war while we're still in it?
RUSSELL: Absolutely. We have the right to criticize whatever we want whenever we want, and that's our freedom in America. And, thankfully, we have that.
But I think now is the time to be united with our president, with our country, with our troops, to support them. Whether we believe in what is right and what is wrong, we need to support our men and women that are order there fighting, whether you believe in what they're fighting for is just or unjust. They're there. That's a fact. They're going to stay there until the president and the Congress brings them home. Whenever, that that's their decision.
As an American, I'm going to support my president, the country, the troops in whatever means they need.
GREGORY: But do you get a sense that Cindy or anybody else is really criticizing the troops? Certainly, her son sacrificed himself. He was a proud soldier and felt a sense of mission, even if he had some real differences about the war.
RUSSELL: Oh, no, not at all. I don't think -- I would never -- I would never sit here and try to tell Cindy that -- how she should think or what she should think. Her son gave the ultimate sacrifice. She has every right to feel however she feels.
I get to hug my son every night. She doesn't. And I would never want to walk in her shoes. I couldn't imagine telling her that what she feels is wrong.
GREGORY: What do you think criticism of the war at this point is accomplishing? In other words, do you think this is an important point to keep the pressure on the administration?
SHEEHAN: Well, we need to. This war was...
RUSSELL: I don't...
GREGORY: This one is for Cindy.
Go ahead, Cindy.
This war, nobody should have been there in the first place. Not one person should be killed. And I don't believe that we support our government when they're wrong. It is wrong. There's innocent people dying. There's innocent Iraqis dying. And Americans should never have been over there. We don't support our country when it is wrong.
We try and fight and make it better and make it a better place. And we need to keep pressure on the administration. They don't support the troops. You know, my son was killed doing a job he was not trained for. He was not wearing the proper body armor. He was not in an armored vehicle. And he was killed in a political mess, a political mess that our leadership made. That's not supporting the troops, as far as I'm concerned.
They have to pay for their own laundry when they're over there. They're getting killed guarding mercenaries who make $1,000 a day, when they barely bring home $2,000 a month. They're losing their homes here in America. They're not being supported by their government. I think the only way we can support our troops who are only there doing their jobs and doing the best they can to stay alive and doing their duties is to bring them home, because it is a lie.
And we're building permanent bases there. And our government doesn't intend on bringing our troops home. So, we have to put pressure on them. And we have to tell the American people that this war is wrong.
GREGORY: All right.
SHEEHAN: And we don't support -- we don't support something like that.
GREGORY: Cindy Sheehan and Sue Russell, thanks to both of you, a much more personal part of this debate over the war and its costs. Thanks to you both.