Grieving Mother's War Protest Draws Notice
Written by Angela K. Brown
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
The mother of a fallen U.S. soldier who started a quiet roadside peace vigil near President Bush's ranch last weekend is drawing supporters from across the nation.
Dozens of people have joined her, and others have sent flowers and food. One activist called her "the Rosa Parks of the anti-war movement."
Cindy Sheehan, 48, of Vacaville, Calif., says she was surprised at the response.
"Before my son was killed, I used to think that one person could not make a difference," she said Wednesday under a tent where she has slept since Saturday. "But one person that is surrounded and supported by millions of people can be heard."
But Kristinn Taylor, co-leader of the Washington, D.C., chapter of FreeRepublic.com, which has held pro-troop rallies, said Sheehan's actions are misguided and hurt troop morale.
"She has a political agenda that goes way beyond her son's death in combat," Taylor said.
Although a few residents have complained about the protesters, no one has been arrested because the group has been on the public right-of-way, said Capt. Kenneth Vanek of the McLennan County Sheriff's Office.
On Saturday, two high-level Bush administration officials, the national security adviser and deputy White House chief of staff, talked to Sheehan for about 20 minutes.
Sheehan called the brief meeting "pointless" and still wants to talk to the president.
Her 24-year-old son, Casey, was killed in Sadr City, Iraq, in April 2004 just five days after he arrived. Two months later, Sheehan was among grieving military family members who met with Bush at Fort Lewis, near Seattle, Wash.
Since then, she said, various government and independent commission reports have disputed the Bush administration's claims that Saddam Hussein had mass-killing chemical and biological weapons — a main justification for the March 2003 invasion.
On Wednesday, a coalition of anti-war groups in Washington called on Bush to speak with Sheehan, who they say has helped to unify the peace movement.
"Cindy Sheehan has become the Rosa Parks of the anti-war movement," said Rev. Lennox Yearwood, leader of the Hip Hop Caucus, an activist group. "She's tired, fed up and she's not going to take it anymore, and so now we stand with her."
At her makeshift camp in muddy ditches off the two-lane, winding road leading to Bush's ranch, Sheehan has spent the past several days talking to reporters, hugging fellow protesters and taking brief breaks to eat sandwiches and fruit brought by supporters. Her vigil has also become a hot topic on the Internet and blogs.
Although she doesn't expect Bush to meet with her in Crawford, she says if he did she would ask him whether he has encouraged his twin daughters to enlist.
"I want him to quit using my son's death to justify more killing," she said. "The only way he can honor my son's death is to bring the troops home."
Sheehan, a former Roman Catholic youth minister, formed a group called Gold Star Families For Peace earlier this year and has spoken out against the war across the nation and overseas.
Judith Young, national president of similarly named The American Gold Star Mothers of America, Inc., said she is concerned that the public will mistake her 76-year-old Washington, D.C., nonprofit organization with Sheehan's group.
Young's group, commonly known as Gold Star Moms, arranges for mothers whose children died in the line of duty to volunteer in veterans' hospitals and programs. Members don't do advocacy work, Young said.