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December 2005/January 2006
Enough is Enough! A Soldier’s Mom Stands Up for Peace
The Satya Interview With Cindy Sheehan

 

Cindy Sheehan, 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 City on April 4th of last year. He was only 24.

The Bush administration did its best to ignore Cindy, but she stood her ground. 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 our government.

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 possible.

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 just try 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 beings.

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 have been 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 deserves 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.

 


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