As grief-stricken families gathered in Ohio to mourn their Iraq war dead, mothers who lost sons in the war stood vigil on the road to George W. Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas, to demand that he bring the troops home now.

The Pentagon announced that 48 soldiers have died since July 24. It pushed the overall death toll to 1,825 and the wounded to 13,769.

The vigil was initiated by Gold Star Families for Peace founder Cindy Sheehan, whose son Casey died in combat in Baghdad in April 2004. She debunked Bush’s cliché that the soldiers died in a “noble cause” and told reporters she would not leave until Bush agrees to meet with her.

“Bush lied to get us into war and Casey, more than 1,800 other Americans and thousands of Iraqis are dead because of what he did,” Sheehan said. “While Bush is comfortable in his ranch, we are here in a ditch in the heat because we want answers.”

Bush has refused to meet with her, instead sending advisers to try to mollify her. Sheehan said that is not good enough. She and her allies set up tents and sleeping bags by the road, calling it “Camp Casey.”

Military families and veterans are arriving daily to support her in her showdown with the vacationing president. And a movement sprang up with the demand, “President Bush, meet with Cindy!” Progressive Democrats of America marched on the White House, Aug. 10, to press that demand.

Ann Wright, who resigned from the State Department in March 2003 to protest the war, rushed to Texas to join Sheehan. Speaking to the World via cell phone Aug. 8, Wright said 40 people joined the vigil earlier that day. A wealthy rancher posted a “No trespassing” sign along the narrow country lane and the Secret Service ordered the protesters to move, she reported.

“They really have things locked down here,” she said. “But it is really heartening to see the media covering this vigil. We have people here in Texas bringing us supplies, food, water. Here we are out in a cow pasture and the people are coming to us.”

Wright said she was assigned to many hot spots in her 15-year diplomatic career. She reopened the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, in December 2001. She spent 26 years in the Army, retiring with the rank of airborne colonel. Yet she blasted Bush’s pre-emptive war. “Diplomatically, it’s a total disaster,” she said. “It is critically important that we stop our military involvement in Iraq. Our military is fighting an unwinnable battle.”

There has been “extraordinary looting in Iraq,” Wright added. “American taxpayers must pay for it. But who were the looters? The big corporate cronies of Bush and Cheney along with every Republican suck toad in the Bush administration.”

Celeste Zappala of Philadelphia, whose son, National Guard Sgt. Sherwood Baker, died in Iraq in April 2004, also flew to Crawford to join the vigil. “A poll was just released that 76 percent think we should start withdrawing the troops,” she told the World. “The task of speaking out falls to those of us who have lost loved ones. We would hope our elected representatives would speak out for us. But most of them are not. So we must.”

She expressed sympathy for the Ohio families who have lost 22 sons to the war since May 24. They were soldiers attached to the 3rd Battalion, 25th Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, headquartered in Brook Park, a working-class suburb of Cleveland. The latest casualties have decimated the unit.

Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell told thousands of mourners at an Aug. 8 memorial, “There may be disagreement about the policies but there is no disagreement about the bravery, the courage, the sacrifice and the dignity of these young men.”

At a garage sale near the Marine headquarters last week, the talk was, “It’s time to bring the troops home, everybody says so.”

Cindy Shaffer of Brook Park told The New York Times she campaigned for Bush in the 2004 election but now finds the death of 22 Marines “sickening.” She said, “I think it’s time for them to come home.”

George McAnanama, a Vietnam-era veteran and a leader of Transport Workers Union Local 100, representing New York City transit workers, was at the Veterans for Peace convention in Dallas Aug. 5. He heard Cindy Sheehan speak there just before she began her vigil.

“Here we have a grieving mom who lost her son in Iraq. And we have a flag-waving president down there in Texas who won’t come out and speak with her! It’s a disgrace!” he told the World.

McAnanama said he is happy the AFL-CIO adopted a resolution at its Chicago convention opposing the Iraq war. “I’m a little disappointed they didn’t call for bringing the troops home now,” he said. “This war was based on lies. Labor should start preparing now to be in Washington Sept. 24 for the demonstration against the war.”

He was referring to the national march and rally planned by United for Peace and Justice to demand an end to the war.

Wally Kaufman contributed to this story.



Tim Wheeler
Tim Wheeler

Tim Wheeler estimates he has written 10,000 news reports, exposés, op-eds, and commentaries in his half-century as a journalist for the Worker, Daily World and People’s World. Tim also served as editor of the People’s Weekly World newspaper. He lives in Sequim, Wash., in the home he shared with his beloved late wife Joyce Wheeler. His book News for the 99% is a selection of his writings over the last 50 years representing a kind of history of the nation and the world from a working-class point of view.