is Enough! A Soldier’s Mom Stands Up for Peace
The Satya Interview With Cindy
a mother grieving the loss of her son, surprised the world when she
set up camp in front
of President Bush’s vacation ranch in Crawford, Texas, this past
summer. Cindy waited for a chance to ask the president to explain the “noble
cause” her son Casey had died for in Iraq. A mechanic with
the 1st Calvary, Casey Sheehan was killed during an ambush in Sadr
on April 4th of last year. He was only 24.
The Bush administration did its best to ignore Cindy, but she stood
As she often points out, after Casey’s death, she has nothing to lose.
And as the right-wing media tried to smear her, she shrugged it off. Having already
experienced the greatest pain any parent could know, the cruel stings of the
likes of Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh are nothing by comparison.
The country—and world—responded to Cindy’s call for peace.
Actor Martin Sheen observed: “What Cindy Sheehan has done for our country
is just miraculous... A thaw is felt throughout the land. People have started
to speak, and their voices are being heard.”
Having lost a family member in war, Cindy received the undesirable distinction
of a Gold Star, and to spare other Americans such grief, she joined other grieving
families to co-found Gold Star Families for Peace.
Since Crawford, Cindy has traveled tirelessly across the country, demanding
an end to a war based on lies and greed. In late November, Cindy’s call for
peace was published in book form, Not One More Mother’s Child ($15, Koa
Books). This Thanksgiving, Gold Star Families for Peace, Crawford Peace House,
and other groups are planning a week of activities, including a civil disobedience
action and a Thanksgiving meal of Iraqi food in Crawford.
After a day in court—fighting an arrest in front of the White House during
actions that followed the peace march in Washington, DC on September 24—Cindy
Sheehan took a moment to talk with Catherine Clyne.
I understand you were just in court. Can you tell us about that?
We went to fight the citation for demonstrating without a permit we got on
September 26. There were about 41 people at the court arguing that we were
not [at the
White House] to demonstrate but to petition our government, and that the First
Amendment guarantees us that right. We argued that we didn’t need a permit
to exercise our rights to freedom of speech, peacefully assemble and petition
But we were found guilty and fined the $50 we had originally received. So we
are going to appeal it and question the constitutionality of a law that says
you have to have a permit to exercise your First Amendment rights.
What are your thoughts on the ruckus that took place in Congress on November
17th? Representative John Murtha (D-Pa.) called for a planned withdrawal of the
troops, and the Republicans countered with a bill to withdraw the troops immediately,
which Congress then voted on.
For one thing, I think all the Democrats should have called the Republicans’ bluff.
[Although] we do want the troops to come home immediately, it doesn’t mean
that they are all going to come home in one day—that just isn’t
I get accused of playing politics with my son’s death but what are these
people doing? It is nothing but a political game to them. They don’t have
anybody in harm’s way. They could care less about how many die while
they play politics. I think it is despicable.
What do you think really needs to happen to end this war?
I like Jim McGovern’s—the representative from Massachusetts—bill.
He wants to cut off all funding, except to fund a safe and orderly withdrawal
of our troops from Iraq. I think it would bring them home the soonest. There
are a couple of things in Murtha’s bill that bother me, like the redeployment
of troops to permanent bases. I think our troops need to come home—I don’t
think we really need to have military bases in any countries.
You’ve been meeting with a lot of politicians. What are you saying
to them and how have they been receiving you?
I am basically saying what I just told you. This war is based on lies. Our government
deceived us. You know, my son Casey and almost 2,100 other brave young Americans
should be alive. Yet, the more they play politics, the more families in the world
are destroyed. Not to mention the tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis and their
country that these lies have devastated.
To me it is not about politics. It is not about right and left. It’s
about right and wrong and we really need to get our troops out of there. I
to call the government back to their humanity, but they are so worried about
the politics of it all. It sickens me that there are people who can actually
worry more about their jobs and their pocket books than they can about human
Some lefties feel Hillary Clinton could be a great presidential candidate. What
are your thoughts on this?
I do think that she comes across as a peace candidate—but she is not. I
really don’t think we can trust her to be anti-war because she voted yes
on the war. She won’t call for an immediate withdrawal of the troops and,
as a matter of fact, she calls to send more troops in. And unless she becomes
a peace candidate, she would be a terrible candidate for president. I think we
as Democrats—I have been a Democrat my entire life—should not make
the mistake of supporting a candidate just because he or she is a Democrat. We
should make them represent us—not just say we are going to vote for them
because they are not Republican.
What kind of presidential candidate—or any politician for that matter—would
you get behind?
Somebody who is for peace. Somebody who is active for the withdrawal of the
troops. There are actually some congress members and people in the senate who
doing that. I think we need to have a leadership that we can trust, who won’t
use our military in callous and reckless ways. We need to have a secure country.
And a secure government that assures its citizens that it will keep the country
safe. George Bush is not doing that.
I understand there was a recent UN resolution to get women involved in the decision-making
processes of the Security Council. Can you talk a little about this?
It was a resolution that women have to be involved in the peace process—in
every country. Most of the time, women are excluded from the process. It is important
because women would be more compassionate and far slower to send their or other
people’s children into harm’s way. I think women would look for a
diplomatic solution. I am talking about most women—not Hillary, Condoleezza
or Dianne Feinstein.
It’s scary that there are women in very powerful positions who
are not promoting peace.
I know. I think being women, having ovaries, is our strength. We won’t
look weak if we exercise our strength in trying to promote peaceful, nonviolent
resolutions to conflict. If all of our leaders who are women think they have
to act like men, then our world is lost.
We hear the phrase ‘one makes a difference’ all of the time, but
you seem to be living proof of this. I can’t even imagine your grief—I
can’t even express how sorry I am—in losing Casey. But I have heard
you say that his loss made you take action. Given the indifference of the Bush
administration to demands for peaceful solutions, what do you say to people who
feel their actions really don’t make a difference?
Well, that’s what they really want us to think, that we don’t have
any power. They would really like us to just give up and let them run the world—take
away more of our freedoms and liberties. So we have to stand up and say we are
not allowing them to do this anymore. I think maybe a movement needs leadership,
but every person has the ability to do what I did in Crawford. What I did was
not anything extraordinary. It was very simple. It will just take all of us together
to demand that they call for an immediate withdrawal of the troops, or sign on
to Jim McGovern’s bill. We just need to let our leadership know that
we are not buying this bullcrap anymore.
I think we need to hold people accountable for the wrongs they have done in the
world. If we have to say that they are liars to get them to stop killing people,
then that is what we have to do.
What inspired you to start Gold Star Families for Peace? I understand that 9/11
Families for Peaceful Tomorrows was an inspiration. How so?
I saw 9/11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows and the work they were doing and
what parallels we had. Our philosophy was the same as theirs. They didn’t want
the invasion of Afghanistan or Iraq. They didn’t want their loved ones’ deaths
exploited to justify the invasion. We don’t want our loved ones’ deaths
exploited to justify more killing. Both of our organizations just want the killing
to stop. We don’t know how many people this country has to kill so that
our loved ones’ deaths will not have been in vain. It is just despicable.
I feel if all Gold Star families united to be a front against the violence,
that would be very powerful.
How many families are now involved with Gold Star Families for Peace?
We have about 100 families.
When we met a few weeks ago, you mentioned that you are vegetarian. Do you see
a connection between peace activism and the food on your plate?
I just think that every living thing is a living thing. I don’t like to
do violence to anything. One of the reasons our country can indiscriminately
kill people is because they look at them as being less than human—less
than they are. So I think that the reason I am vegetarian is because of the
violence aspect of actually eating another living, breathing thing. Everybody
a life that they can live in peace.
I know that you are a woman of many actions. What’s next?
I am staying home this week to spend time with my family. Then I am going to
Crawford for an action over Thanksgiving. Then I am heading to the East Coast
and to Europe for about three weeks to do some speaking and rallies.
Then we are going to start the Camp Casey Peace Foundation, which will promote
nonviolence and peaceful resolutions to conflict, geared all the way to very
small children. We are also going to start raising money to give out a Casey
Sheehan Peace Prize every year. It will go to a young activist because unfortunately
young people get killed in old men’s wars. And we want and need to encourage
kids to work for peace. We need to develop creative solutions so our country
can live in peace.
Most of our readers are already against the war and support the troops coming
home, but what can they do over the next year?
Get off their butts—write, speak, go to rallies, go to your congress people’s
offices. Just be very obnoxious and don’t say please anymore. Demand
that they bring the troops home. Enough killing is enough.
To learn more about Gold Star Families for Peace see www.gsfp.org.