Thursday, August 25, 2005

Indymedia roundup focus on peace vigils and the spark of Cindy Sheehan

CINDY SHEEHAN: The hardest thing for me to hear -- I don't care about them talking about me being a "crackpot" or a "media whore" or a "tool of the left," you know? I’m like, if I truly was a media whore, do you think I would like maybe get myself fixed up a little bit before I went on? That doesn't bother me at all, though. What bothers me so much is when they say I'm dishonoring my son's memory by what I'm doing, that my son would be ashamed of me or that what they really like to say is I'm [bleep] or spitting on his grave.
And look what Casey -- look what Casey has started. You know, I'm here because of Casey. We're all here because of Casey. And, you know, literally there's over 2,000 of our brave young people and tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis, and I know they're behind us, and I see them all, all their faces on your faces.
But Casey was such a gentle, kind, loving person. He never even got in one fistfight his whole life. Nobody even hated him enough to punch him, let alone kill him. And that's what George Bush did. He put our kids in another person's country, and Casey was killed by insurgents. He wasn't killed by terrorists. He was killed by Shiite militia who wanted -- they wanted him out of the country. When Casey was told that he was going to be welcomed with chocolates and flowers as a liberator, well, the people of Iraq saw it differently. They saw him as an occupier.

The above is from "Cindy's Crawford: Sheehan Returns to Camp Casey for Remaining Days of Bush's Vacation" from Democracy Now! .

Brandon e-mails to note Emily Bristol's "Anti-War Vigil Sparks Local Events In Vegas" (Las Vegas City Life):

With cautious enthusiasm, more than 100 people gathered on Aug. 17 at Sunset Park to have a candlelight vigil to show solidarity with grieving-mother-turned-anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan.
The vigil was one of eight, according to local media reports, held that night in Southern Nevada in honor of the woman who camped outside President George Bush's Texas ranch for most of August. Sheehan -- who originally planned to remain at the camp until the president met with her to talk about her dead son and the Iraq war or the president's vacation ended -- left to attend to her mother who was hospitalized late last week, according to the Associated Press.
Despite curtailing her vigil, Sheehan's protest united those who have lost loved ones to the war in Iraq (some of whom traveled to Crawford, Texas in solidarity) and has become an unflinching lightning rod for those on both sides of the war debate. On Aug. 17 there were more than 1,500 vigils around the country to protest the war and honor Sheehan. Peace activist and MoveOn member Helen Patz organized the Sunset Park vigil.

Maria e-mails to note this editorial entitled "Sheehan's War: An open letter to Reps. Nancy Pelosi and Ellen Tauscher and the Democrats" (San Francisco Bay Guardian News):

Gingrich and Norquist may be reactionary troglodytes, but they are no political fools. They see the facts: The body count from Iraq keeps rising, with no end in sight. The Iraqi constitution -- the framework for the new government, such as it is, that is supposed to take over from the United States some day -- is bogged down in very predictable internal conflicts. The analogies to Vietnam only get stronger: As Times columnist Bob Herbert notes, "In one of the many tragic echoes of Vietnam, US troops have been fighting hellacious battles to seize areas controlled by insurgents, only to retreat and allow the insurgents to return." And polls on President George W. Bush's handling of the war show approval ratings as abysmal as Lyndon Johnson's were when he was so mired in Vietnam that he abandoned his reelection efforts.
In other words, by all accounts, the Republicans are on the ropes on one of their signature issues. So why is a Vacaville woman – whose political experience consists largely of being the mother of a dead soldier – leading and galvanizing the antiwar movement in this country, while prominent Democrats seem to offer nothing but silence and evasion?
Cindy Sheehan's vigil outside the Bush ranch has brought enormous news media attention to what Tom Hayden calls the "war for alternative meaning." She has asked the simple question, the one the nation's leaders couldn't answer about Vietnam (and the one that first brought John Kerry to national prominence): Why? Why are thousands of American kids (and many more thousands of Iraqis) dying? What is the great cause for which they are giving their lives? Why are they dying for a lie?
This ought to be the turning point for the Democrats, even those who originally supported or were wishy-washy about the war.

Sam e-mails to note "Letter from Camp Casey" -- text by Margie Becker and Vic Hinterlang --
(Texas Observer):

It started out small.
When I arrived on Sunday afternoon, August 7, there were no more than 10 or 12 people gathered on the patch of land that the world would soon come to know as Camp Casey.
They had arrived the previous day, and most were members of the group Veterans for Peace. They had gone to Dallas for their national convention and later decided that they would escort Cindy Sheehan all the way to Crawford to help her set up camp along a quarter-mile of right-of-way in a ditch alongside of Prairie Chapel Road, just outside town and not far from the president's ranch.
There Sheehan was determined to wait … and wait … and wait … to ask the vacationing George Bush a few good questions about the nature of the cause for which her 24-year-old son, Army Spc. Casey Sheehan, had died in Iraq on April 4, 2004.
I was immediately drawn to the kindness and camaraderie of the vets, captivated by their stories--both painful and humorous--and touched by their willingness to change their cross-country travel plans on behalf of a 48-year-old mother from Vacaville, California.
Ten days have passed since I first arrived. As time goes on and volunteer drivers shuttle new visitors to Camp Casey from the Crawford Peace House, the cast of characters constantly changes, but Ann (always in cool, flowered pants) is the omnipresent leader of the camp.
She works tirelessly in the rain, sun, heat, and humidity to welcome new visitors and assist them with latest updates on parking, events, and assignments, as well as with food, water, and tents. She picks up trash and keeps everyone organized. Every afternoon she holds camp meetings. We’re all on a first-name basis, but it’s important to point out that Ann with the cool pants also happens to be Colonel Ann Wright, a lawyer with a master’s degree in national security affairs from the U.S. Naval War College and 29 years in combined Army/Army Reserve service time and a veteran foreign service officer who has worked in Grenada, Nicaragua, and Somalia, among other places. In late 2001 she was among the diplomats who arrived in Kabul to reopen the U.S. Embassy. In 2003, she resigned her post as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Mongolia because of her strong belief that Bush administration policies are making the world not safer, but more dangerous.

Stan e-mails to note Jim Hightower's "March on Washington!" (Illinois Times)

Well, here we are 232 years later, living under the reign of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld & Co. -- a group of men as vain and aspiring as has ever controlled our government. In four short years, they have looted our public treasury of hundreds of billions of dollars to give to their corporate backers, and they now have our great nation mired in a maniacal, messianic, testosterone-driven war to make the world safe for Halliburton and ExxonMobil.
While the loved ones of ordinary Americans fight and die in Iraq, the elites whom Bush represents sit comfortably in their suites without having any of their loved ones at risk and without even being taxed to pay for his ruinous war. As Thomas Jefferson would say, it’s time for a little rebellion. Let's start starting by bringing our troops home from Iraq -- now.
One thing you can do is to join the grassroots march on Washington to end the war in Iraq.

This mass protest will be on Saturday, Sept. 24. For information, contact United For Peace and Justice:

Portland e-mails to note Kera Abraham's "Desperate Times: Local peace activists step it up" (Eugene Weekly):

The U.S.-led war in Iraq is looking bleak. The Iraqi people are increasingly unhappy about the occupying American presence, and a majority of them now feel that things were better under Saddam. Kids who see their houses bombed, their parents disappear or their siblings die of cancer from depleted uranium are learning to hate America. Muslim extremists are pouring into the country to join the insurgency, and these guerilla fighters with hearts ablaze are killing American soldiers daily. The U.S. troops, for their part, are hot and tired and unsure why they're there. They're coming home mentally disturbed, wounded, or in body bags.

The White House may not care, but peace activists in Eugene do.
While George W. Bush refused to speak with grieving mother Cindy Sheehan, who camped outside his ranch in Crawford, Texas, to ask why her son Casey died in Iraq, hundreds of Sheehan's supporters in Eugene gathered for a vigil on the evening of Aug. 17.
The crowd was surprisingly big and surprisingly hushed. Organizers counted 680 heads at the Federal Building, probably the largest crowd in recent years. Many of attendees were elderly; about a third were college-age or younger. They didn't chant, and they didn't shout into microphones. They did, however, hold candles and sing. It was low-key but lasted two hours. The Register-Guard did not cover the event.

Think the vigils were just going on in the United States? Think again. Olive e-mails to note "Bring Them Home Antiwar Protest" (Melbourne Indymedia):

A Melbourne Vigil in support of Cindy Sheehan highlights who has benefited from the Iraq war. Cindy Sheehan said: "I believe the only people who have profited from this illegal and immoral war are the war profiteers like Halliburton and Black Water Security, Inc. Halliburton has raped and pillaged billions of dollars from our economy with its no-bid, Cheney-enriching contracts". Despite criticism from some media commentators her protest outside George Bush's Texas ranch at Crawford, in an attempt to ask why her son was killed in Iraq, has recieved strong public support with over 100,000 people attending 1600 vigils in communities across the USA. (audio from Whitehouse vigil). One mother's stand Bring Them Home Now

Jonah e-mails to note Richard Ward's "Impressions from Camp Casey" (CounterPunch):

The true and obvious glory of Camps Casey is the people who have come to bear witness, to stand with Cindy and other grieving mothers, to network and plan ways to continue and expand the struggle against George Bush's war. Some stay for only a few hours, others for days, and others still will stay for the duration. Despite the tent and conveniences at Casey II the heat and humidity make it a challenging environment. For those at Casey I it is considerably more difficult. The shuttle volunteers work long hours. Everyone pitches in, helping with preparing and serving food, directing traffic, general cleaning, and security. Volunteers stand watch in shifts throughout the night. The handful of people with organizational skills who keep things running relatively smoothly are indefatigable and good-natured, if very stressed.
I wanted to stay longer and had only a chance to speak at length with a few people. Cindy was not there, tending to her sick mother in Los Angeles, and that of course was a disappointment. I wanted to meet her, give her a hug, be next to her. There is something extraordinary and luminously pure about this woman. But a movement is much larger than one person and her absence, in this regard, was further incentive to go. I didn't get the impression that people were preoccupied with Cindy, which, I am sure she would agree, is just fine. There is something bigger brewing. Occasionally there would be updates about the condition of her mother and messages of love from Cindy that nourished the gathering and then all would go about their business. It is impossible to predict what will come out of this but one would like to think of Camps Casey as pods from which many seeds will go forth and take root.
Joan Baez, wonderful and luminous herself, stayed longer than planned. Monday night she talked about her childhood and experiences as an activist, singing between vignettes, mostly a cappella. Jeff Keys, a gay Marine, poet and performance artist, gave a riveting performance Sunday night recounting his personal journey of liberation and experiences as an Iraq war veteran.
I had a long conversation with a photojournalist from Getty Images (at Casey for some pictures) who was embedded with the troops invading from Kuwait and was appalled at his ignorance in general and his opinion that the US needed to maintain a "footprint" in the Middle East for years to come in order to keep us safe from terrorism. Not once did he mention oil.

Brent e-mails to note Dustin Langley's "Welcome to Camp Casey, the beginning of the end of the war" (Boston Indymedia):

I arrived in Crawford, Texas, on Aug. 17. As I got off the shuttle bus I was greeted with, "Welcome to Camp Casey, the beginning of the end of the war!"As I settled in at the camp, I was overwhelmed by an almost tangible feeling of optimism.
Eleven days earlier Cindy Sheehan--whose son, GI Casey Sheehan, was killed in Baghdad in April 2004--had arrived in Crawford to confront President George W. Bush. By doing so, she had reached out and touched people who had not been reached before.
People have come here from all over Texas and all over the United States. They have also come from as far away as Australia, Turkey and South Korea.All to camp out in a ditch beside a single-lane road. When I ask why they've come, almost everyone says, "I felt I had to be here."
Dave Jensen, a veteran who drove from Tyler, Texas, says: "I saw this and just knew this was something I had to go to. The best way to put it is that I felt like this could be the little snowball going down the mountain that’s going to turn into something and change something."
As I settle into camp, pitching my tent at the side of the road, I survey the vista: cars and tents stretched as far as I could see down the road. Some people sleep inside or on top of their cars. Others sleep in tents, or just in sleeping bags in the open air.
Tammara Rosenleaf's husband is about to be deployed to Iraq. She joined the encampment in its first few days. She says: "When my husband got ready to deploy, the Army gave me a book, called 'Surviving Deployment.' There's a lot of things in it, lists of all sorts of things I should have.
It says I should write down the numbers of the electrician and plumber. You know what? I am 47 years old. I know that if my toilet is clogged up, I should call a plumber. What I'd like to know, at 4:00 in the morning when I wake up scared to death that my husband is dead or injured, who do I call? And it's not in that book."
Sense of community
The next day I meet with Cindy Sheehan briefly. I tell her about the solidarity rally in Union Square and the ongoing presence we had at Camp Casey in New York City.
Sheehan has to leave later in the day when she hears that her mother has suffered a stroke. But those left at Camp Casey are determined to continue building the movement here.
A sense of community and enthusiasm permeates the roadside encampment. People just seem to show up, and immediately begin chipping in.
A group of young activists from Ithaca, N.Y., staffs a kitchen at Crawford Peace House, making sure the camp has fresh coffee in the morning and three hot meals each day.
Others stand out in the blazing Texas heat for hours, directing traffic and keeping an eye out for pro-war troublemakers.
The veterans' tent
There is a veterans' tent, staffed by representatives from Veterans for Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War. Inside, I talk with Cody Camacho, an Iraq War veteran from Chicago.
Camacho tells me he's here because it helps in "dealing with the things I saw and the things I did over there, dealing with the guilt and things."
"You've just got to find a real 'noble cause.' The only way to keep your sanity is to do what is obviously right. All of a sudden, there's clarity after you go through that. That's the reason I'm here, to get my buddies home," Camacho said.
On the night of Aug. 20, the anti-war campers hold a powerful rally at the new campsite--located within view of the Bush estate. Speakers include military families, veterans, and anti-war activists from across the country.
One of the speakers is Andrea Hackett from the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice. Her daughter is currently in Iraq.
She asks: "Now, why is it that the president can't come out and answer her question, okay? Us mothers want to know this, okay? We want him to act like an executive officer that he is supposed to be."

Dallas e-mails to note Ozlem Altiok's "Third Saturday in Crawford" (North Texas Indymedia):

The third Saturday at Camp Casey witnessed a constant influx of folks not only from all over Texas, but also from Oklahoma, Arizona, Arkansas, Alabama, Baltimore, Washington, Minnesota, California, New York, D.C., Wisconsin, and North Carolina. This is just an incomplete list limited by this reporter's capacity to capture all of the over 400 who gathered in support of Sheehan in her absence.
Sheehan and her sister had left Camp Casey to be with their mother, who had suffered a stroke. Despite Sheehan's well-publicized absence, people kept coming to Crawford from all over the country. The truth that undercut corporate media’s rockstarization of a mother's legitimate challenge to the president of the United States presented itself unashamedly: there were many more mothers camping out at Crawford in the past two weeks who had family killing and dying in Iraq. It was not just about Cindy Sheehan's son, and it certainly was not about Sheehan herself.
Hundreds of people, scattered across three different locations on the third Saturday of the Crawford Encampment, proved this. The Crawford Peace House welcomed dozens of supporters with volunteers providing information, directions, shuttle service, food, porta-potties, water, sunscreen, and updates.
Bob, who is sweltering under an aggressive sun, has a son who is in Baghdad. He makes sure to emphasize he is not a peacenik, but that he is here to support Sheehan's courageous challenge to the policy that sent his son there.
Over 20 motorbikers, supporters of Bush, noisily pass by the Peace House. Not one among the one hundred or so people at the Peace House displays any anger toward the bikers; rather, they sort of smile and ask each other if this is the extent of the Bush supporters' numbers. And it is. In several mini-rallies for Bush in town no more than a few people can be seen. One sign reads, "The price of freedom is not free". In the shuttle going to Camp Casey, one woman insists that this is bad English.
The shuttle stops first at the original location of Camp Casey, or Camp One, which is, by this time, an extended network of ditches. There, about a hundred people still attend several tents and a thousand crosses.
The second stop is Camp Two. It is much bigger, and a bit more comfortable, than the original one. A rancher whose property neighbors Bush's donated the use of this site to the Peace House. Not so incidentally, the property owner is third cousin to the man who fired a shotgun from a nearby location during the interfaith service last Sunday.
Standing between the huge tent that shades hundreds of supporters and the road, Ed Boyd, of Baltimore, says he is happy to be in Texas. During the week his job is to place unemployed persons in jobs. He has another job, too, he says. Having left the Navy after learning, courtesy of a leg injury, that "the Navy does not keep broken goods," he advocates for homeless veterans after work, and on weekends such as this one.
Antonio Aversano of New York is a member of 9/11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows. [] Aversano is here to say, once again, "No war, not in our name". When asked about Sheehan's absence at the Camp site, Aversano, along with many others, say he came to Crawford to support Sheehan, but more for the reason than the person.
There is a big jar at the beginning of the line, to receive donations in exchange for something to eat. The food is abundant and extremely delicious! Almost everything is organic, from salad to chicken to apple juice. (One had to eat it to know how absolutely good it was!)
At about 6 pm, Julie of Denton, Texas is getting ready to leave Crawford. Being a teacher, she needs to get ready for work on Monday. She asks in amazement, "How did this woman make all this happen? How did this get started, publicized, and how is it being sustained?" Another woman answers her, "Thanks to people like you and me."

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