CRAWFORD, Texas – Cindy Sheehan rode down to President Bush’s Crawford ranch last weekend on a Veterans For Peace bus after the veterans’ national convention in Dallas. Since then she has maintained a vigil outside Bush’s ranch and refuses to leave until he personally listens to her demands to bring the troops home now. Her son Casey Sheehan and many of his comrades died in Iraq in 2004 attempting to save several ambushed soldiers. She believes that the best way to honor the fallen is to ensure that no more fall in the same way.
Crawford TX, August 13, 2005. Rally in support of Cindy Sheehan’s vigil. Photos by Hobie Hukill and Jim Rivers
Caravan to the rally
News of her vigil reached local, national, then international proportions this week, as a growing number of supporters flock to Crawford every day.
Saturday, Aug. 13, began with a noontime rally at the Crawford Peace House, then some 500 participants caravaned several miles out to Sheehan’s vigil. Among them were veterans, members of Military Families Speak out, and Gold Star Families for Peace.
In an exclusive interview with the World, Sheehan said, ‘Although I didn’t expect it, I’m not surprised by the wonderful response we see here today. I knew the American people were with us.’ She encouraged Americans watching and reading about the vigil to get together and stand in unity against the war in Iraq. ‘This war can end, and I won’t quit my vigil until President Bush speaks with me – here or in D.C.,’ she said.
The police had barricaded the public road a mile before the entrance to Bush’s ranch. The vigil stopped just short of the barricade. Folk music and peace chants rang out as the caravan arrived. As the crowd grew, several military families against the war lined up to speak.
Bill Mitchell, a member of the Gold Star Families For Peace, likened the amazing turnout and caravan to the movie, ‘Field of Dreams.’ ‘If you build it, they will come,” he told the crowd. “People will drive to Crawford and they won’t even know why. They will bring love and support.’ He told the audience about similar small camps and vigils popping up all over the nation as evidence of the growing movement we are all a part of. Bill Mitchell’s son, Sgt. Mike Mitchell, died in Iraq with Cindy Sheehan’s son Casey, attempting to save their ambushed comrades. Mike had only seven days left in his military service.
Overwhelmed with emotion, Cindy Sheehan gave a stirring speech to the crowd gathered to support her. ‘Who knew that the beginning of the end of the occupation would begin right here in Crawford, Texas?” she said.
“Sixty-two percent of the American people think the war in Iraq is wrong, and now they are letting their voices be heard,” she continued. “What we have here in Crawford is hope and love. We do not have to be angry because we the people have the power, and we will exercise it and hold President Bush accountable for his actions.’
This vigil is just the beginning, she told the audience, declaring that it would continue on to Washington, D.C., Sept. 1 when Bush returns to the White House from his vacation. President Bush will never again vacation in peace, Sheehan declared.
‘I wrote a letter to President Bush on November 2, 2004,” she said. “I told him that if he doesn’t resign, I will work my butt off to impeach him. Hopefully after seeing the amazing movement today he’ll take me more seriously.’
She added, ‘I don’t have a political machine; I don’t have a Rumsfeld or a Cheney or a Rove. I have a broken heart. But we don’t have to hide like him. We have the power, and we will overcome. For the last 16 months I’d thought that America was cursed, but now, after seeing all of you here today, I can finally say, God bless America.’
This movement can’t stop when the occupation ends and the troops come home, she told the crowd. She said, ‘Americans must build a movement strong enough to make sure that our sons and daughters are never forced to fight and die again. We will stay the course! We will complete the mission! He may have started it, but we’re going to end it!’
Beatriz Saldivar of Ft. Worth, Texas, had constructed a memorial for her nephew, Sgt. Daniel Torres, at the vigil. Daniel died while fighting in Iraq this February. She told the World she is committed to raising awareness about the war among the Hispanic community, and said she hopes to join in counter-military-recruitment campaigns in local high schools.
Al Zappala, a Gold Star Families for Peace member from Philadelphia, told me about the organization.
‘We’re an offshoot of Military Families Speak Out. We’re the members of that organization that have lost loved ones in the Iraq war.’ Zappala’s son, National Guard Sgt. Sherwood Baker, was killed in Iraq last year.
The corporate media tells America that these families view the death of their loved ones as a necessary sacrifice for democracy, Zappala said. Members of Military Families Speak Out formed Gold Star Families For Peace to challenge the corporate media’s distortions and lies.
I asked Zappala what message he had for all the Americans watching the events in Crawford unfold on their evening news. He said each person has to find workable ways of waging peace specific to their organizations and communities. This could include letter-writing campaigns to Congress, utilizing the corporate media as much as possible, and supporting independent media. He stressed the importance of political work, and getting the Democrats in Congress off the fence. ‘As it stands, the American people are far ahead of the Democratic Party,’ he said.