Meet with the Mothers
On August 28th, Cape Codders for Peace and Justice held a public forum entitled Families Stand for Peace: the Truth About Iraq at at Cape Cod Community College's Tilden Auditorium. The speakers were:
James Kinney, Cape Codders for Peace and Justice
Bob Silverberg, Veterans for Peace
Mimi Evans, Military Families Speak Out
Cindy Sheehan, Gold Star Families for Peace
Kathy Kelly, Voices in the Wilderness
CCPJ Press release and informative flyers for the event are here.
Here is media follow-up to that event
Cindy Sheehan's open letter to George Bush
Since August 6th, Bush has hidden on his "ranch" from Cindy, who wants him to explain what "noble cause" her son died for. Updates on her mission here. Even the Cape Cod Times has 100 photos
Putting a human face on Iraq war - 'My View' by Dr. Stephanie Wall
Cape Cod Times, July 22, 2005
Guest Commentary - The local costs of war by James Kinney
Barnstable Patriot, July 28th(?)
Anti-war speakers call for a louder voice by Kevin Dennehy
Cape Cod Times, July 29, 2005
Examining the real cost of war by Joe Burns
The Register, Aug. 4; Cape Codder, August 5, 2005
Hundreds rally at 4Cs to end war in Iraq: Speakers personalize cost of conflict by Alex Howell
Barnstable Patriot story Aug. 5
In case you missed the anti-war rally by Lawrence Brown
published August 5, 2005 in the Cape Cod Times
Standing vigil with Cindy Sheehan by STEPHANIE WALL and DIANE TURCO
Published August 15, 2005 in the Cape Cod Times
Standing with Cindy by Donna Tunney
published August 19, 2005 in the The Cape Codder
Cindy Sheehan's open letter to George Bush:
You don't mind if I call you George, do you? When you sent me this letter offering your condolences on the death of my son, Spc. Casey Austin Sheehan, you called me Cindy, so I naturally assume we are on a first-name basis.
George, it has been seven months today since your reckless and wanton foreign policies killed my son in the illegal and unjust war on Iraq. Casey, my big boy, my hero, my best friend.
Casey was always a good boy. He could play for hours by himself He loved Nintendo, G1 Joes, the World Wrestling Federation, baseball (especially the Dodgers), his church, and God. He joined the Cub Scouts when he was in the first grade, and he eventually earned the rank of Eagle Scout. He became an altar boy when he was eight, and he continued serving his church for the rest of his life. He never talked back to his dad or me. He rarely fought with his brother and sisters. He loved our animals and he loved little children.
Everyone assumed Casey was going to be a priest because he was so faithful to God and to the church. He never missed Mass even when he went into the Army. If he was on post, he went to Mass. Casey was such a good Christian that after he died, his chapel on Fort Hood started a new Knights of Columbus Council, and the members voted unanimously to name it the Spc. Casey Austin Sheehan Council. They said that Casey embodied everything that they want to stand for.' love of God, country, family, church, and service. We are honored that Casey's name and what he stood for will always be remembered on Fort Hood.
Back in 2000 when Casey was still alive, after you stole the election, I had the most ironic thought of my life: "Oh well, how much damage can he do in four years?" Now I know too well how much you have damaged my family, this country, and this world. The 20004 election has come and gone. But if you think I am going to allow you another four years to do even more damage, then you are truly mistaken. I will fight your lies and your agenda every step of the way. The only thing is, I'm not politically savvy, and I don't have a Karl Rove to plan my strategy. But I do have a big mouth and a righteous cause, which still mean something in this country, I hope.
During the presidential debates, you kept talking about "hard work." You said you know how hard the war is because you watch it on TV and get the casualty reports every day. George, let me tell you what "hard work" really is. Hard work is seeing your oldest son, your brave and honorable man-child, go off to a war that had, and still has, no basis in reality. Hard work is worrying your-self gray and not being able to sleep because you don't know whether your child is safe. Hard work is seeing your son's murder on CNN one Sunday evening while you're enjoying the last supper you'll ever truly enjoy again. Hard work is having three military officers come to your house a few hours later to confirm the aforementioned murder of your son.., your firstborn.., your kind and gentle sweet baby.
Hard work is burying your child forty-six days before his twenty-fifth birthday. Hard work is holding your other three children as they lower the body of their big "baba" into the ground. Hard work is not jumping in the grave with him and having the earth cover you both.
But, George, do you know what the hardest work of all is? Trying to digest the fact that the leader of the country that your family has fought for and died for, for generations, lied to you and betrayed your dear boy's sense of honor and exploited his courage and exploited his loyalty to his buddies. Hard work is having your country abandon you after it killed your son. Hard work is coming to the realization that your son had his future robbed from him and that you have had your son's future and future grandchildren stolen from you. Hard work is knowing that there are so many people in this world that have prospered handsomely from your son's death.
George, I must confess that my family and I worked very hard to redefeat you this time, but you refuse to stay defeated. Well, we are watching you very carefully. We are going to do everything in our power to have you impeached for misleading the American people into a disastrous war and for misusing and abusing your power as commander in chief. We are going to scream until our last breath to bring the rest of our babies home from this quagmire of a war that you have gotten our country into: before too many more families learn the true meaning of hard work. It is going to be an uphill battle, knowing how Republican the Congress is. But thanks to you, we know the meaning of hard work and we're not afraid of it.
The fifty-six million citizens who voted against you and your agenda have given me a mandate to move forward with my agenda. Also, thanks to you and your careless domestic policies, I am unemployed, so this will be my full-time job. Helping to bring about your political downfall will be the most noble accomplishment of my life, and it will bring justice for my son and the hundreds of other brave Americans and tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis your lies have killed.
Thank you for that, George. Have a nice day and God bless America. We surely need it!
[Included in the book Stop the Next War Now, which is edited by Medea Benjamin and Jodie Evans]
July 22, 2005 - 'My View' published in the Cape Cod Times
Putting a human face on Iraq war
By STEPHANIE G. WALL
A recent Washington Post-ABC poll indicates that 58 percent of the public now says that the Iraq War is not worth fighting, and 73 percent of us feel that the number of casualties is unacceptable.
Perhaps we are reaching a ''tipping point'' wherein we support our troops but wish them home and out of harm's way.
Two Cape visitors and two Cape residents will put a human face to the war when they tell their stories at a forum sponsored by Cape Codders for Peace and Justice at 7 p.m. on Thursday, July 28th at Tilden Auditorium, Cape Cod Community College.
Kathy Kelly of Chicago was an eyewitness to the ''Shock and Awe'' campaign of the Iraq invasion as she sat in a Baghdad bunker holding a terrified Iraqi child. Ms. Kelly is founder of ''Voices in the Wilderness,'' an organization providing medicines and toys for Iraq's children dating from the sanctions of the 90s. She was in Iraq on a humanitarian mission and stayed through the invasion of March 2003. She is a three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee.
Cindy Sheehan calls herself ''an average American housewife and mom'' until her 24-year- old firstborn son, Casey, was killed in action in Sadr City, Iraq, on April 4, 2004. He had been an altar boy and an Eagle Scout and had enlisted in the service. There is some speculation that he may have been killed by so-called ''friendly fire.'' Mrs. Sheehan founded ''Gold Star Families for Peace,'' whose purpose is to end the Iraq occupation and to be a support group for the families in their losses.
She recently testified in Washington before Michigan Rep. John Conyers' hearing on the Downing Street memos along with Ambassador Joseph Wilson and others.
Mimi Evans, a Cape Codder and member of ''Military Families Speak Out,'' has raised three children. Her older son is a humanitarian aid worker just returned from two years in Afghanistan and Iraq. Her younger son is a Marine captain and JAG lawyer who will ship to Fallujah in August. She fears for his survival though he is not yet deployed. She has strong feelings about the yellow ribbons on all our cars and SUVs.
Bob Silverberg is a Barnstable resident and Pacific combat veteran of WWII, a member of Veterans for Peace and is a poet.
These people, all touched by war, will bring their stories and their unique views to the forum.
Cape Codders are invited to join them and the peace effort that night. It is our hope there be no more GI deaths or injuries on foreign soil, no more children weeping in bunkers, no more devastated families, American or Iraqi.
Stephanie G. Wall is a physician who lives in Cotuit.
(Published: July 22, 2005)
July 29, 2005
Anti-war speakers call for a louder voice
By KEVIN DENNEHY
HYANNIS - Mimi Evans sees the yellow ribbons slapped on windshields wherever she goes, but doesn't quite get it.
What does it mean? she asks. ''Support Our Troops?''
Does it suffice to show support with stickers and words? If you oppose the war, is it enough to join a social club and complain about the government?
In a few weeks, Evans, a Cape mother, will watch as her son, a U.S. Marine, leaves for Fallujah.
Is it even enough, she asked last night, for a mother to say goodbye to a son or daughter?
Staring out over about 250 gathered at Cape Cod Community College, Evans, an opponent of the war in Iraq, challenged them to do more than any of that.
She challenged them to be bold, to be loud and clear. And to question the war.
''The best way to support the troops and protect my son and your daughter,'' she said, her voice betraying a contained rage, ''is to get them the hell out of there now.''
While Evans and a handful of other speakers were clearly preaching to a converted crowd at an anti-war forum in West Barnstable last night, they suggested it's not enough to simply be against the war.
The challenge for the regular citizen, she said, is making noise, raising dollars and changing history.
Hosted by Cape Codders for Peace and Justice, the event also introduced Bob Silverberg, a World War II veteran from Barn-stable who now writes poems about the costs of war.
And Cindy Sheehan, a California mother whose 24-year-old son, Casey, was killed during the spring of 2004 in combat, and says she ''hasn't shut up'' about her opposition to the war since.
The final speaker, Kathy Kelly, is a three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee who for years provided humanitarian aid to Iraqis. And, during the days of ''shock and awe'' in 2003, she was huddled in a Baghdad bomb shelter.
During the evening, there was talk of costs. Like the $204 billion price tag so far, said Jamie Kinney of Sandwich, citing the latest estimates from the National Priorities Project.
But, more, they spoke of the human costs.
While the U.S. government has not kept estimates on civilian casualties, a study last fall by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, Columbia University and Al-Mustansiriya University in Baghdad estimated some 100,000 Iraqis had died by that time.
And as of yesterday, 1,790 members of the U.S. military had died since the war in Iraq began, according to the Department of Defense.
Fighting back tears, Sheehan told the crowd that she watched silently as the Pentagon made its case for war more than two years ago.
She now calls herself an ''extremist'' battling this war that claimed her son, an Army specialist who'd volunteered for the war, ''immature and honest.''
''I can hear him whispering in my ear, and in my dreams,'' she said. '''Mom, finish my mission. Bring my buddies home alive.''
Kevin Dennehy can be reached at email@example.com.
(Published: July 29, 2005)
Examining the real cost of war
By Joe Burns/ firstname.lastname@example.org
The Register, Aug. 4; Cape Codder, August 5, 2005
WEST BARNSTABLE - Kathy Kelly huddled with an Iraqi family in a makeshift shelter the night American bombs rained down on Baghdad.
Cindy Sheehan's son Casey was one of 1,790 members of the military killed in action in Iraq.
Mimi Evans' son has just returned from a humanitarian mission to Iraq, and she will soon be sending a second son, a JAG Marine, to Fallujah.
Three women with three different experiences and one common cause - to end the Iraq war. They came together July 28 from as near as West Barnstable and from as far as California to Cape Cod Community College to participate in a public forum, "Families Stand for Peace: The Truth about Iraq." Some 250 people attended he event sponsored by Cape Codders for Peace and Justice.
The women spoke with anger, compassion and sorrow and with a credibility earned through strength and sacrifice.
Sheehan, from Berkeley, Calif., is co-founder of Gold Star Families for Peace. She read a poem her daughter Carly had written that began with the lines "Have you ever heard the sound of a mother screaming for her son?"
She echoed those words with her own emotional confession.
"I take responsibility for my son's death. I was apathetic. I will regret forever not saying 'I am so against this war,'" Sheehan said, her voice breaking; her eyes welling with tears. "No matter how much I scream and cry, I can never bring Casey back."
Sheehan also invited Kevin and Joyce Lucey of Belchertown on stage to tell the story of their son, who hanged himself after returning from fighting in Iraq.
Evans, who preceded Sheehan to the podium, shook with anger as she held a $1.99 "Support the Troops" ribbon magnet.
"What the hell does it mean?" she asked, calling a symbol slapped on the side of an SUV not nearly enough of a commitment to those who are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"The fact that my son is going to Iraq is not enough of a sacrifice. Our sons and daughters are fighting and dying," she declared, challenging herself and the 250 or so people in attendance to do more. She said it isn't enough to speak to one another about their opposition to the war, They had to do more.
"Are you willing to speak to strangers?" she asked. "Are you willing to get into the face of someone who says they support the war and tell them 'I don't.'"
Kelly made that commitment and then some. A two-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee and founder of the humanitarian group Voices in the Wilderness, Kelly has put her life on the line time after time. Since 1996 she has made 22 trips to Iraq to bring badly needed medicines to its people, in violation of the sanctions and later in defiance of the danger of the violence and unrest.
She's been arrested 60 times and was incarcerated in Pekin Federal Prison, a medium-security prison in Illinois, for her peace actions.
Kelly's compassion and experience put a human face on the people who were feeling the wrath of reprisals for the Sept. 11 attack that neither they nor their country played any part in.
Kelly, who appeared at a book signing for her recently published "Other Lands Have Dreams," described at that signing how the war was being felt by ordinary Iraqis. "The bombs were coming down morning, noon and night," Kelly said, recalling how she sat with a family in the glow of candlelight and how after a week of bombing the play of their young daughter had become a reenactment of what was going on around her.
"She'd point her finger in the air and she'd trace an arc and she'd shout out 'taaira!, taaira!' the Arabic word for airplane and she'd fall back in her mother's arms."
Like the others, Kelly called for a conclusion to the carnage. Kelly, who hasn't paid taxes since 1980, challenged others to do the same. Sheehan, who stopped paying taxes after the death of her son, declared "Give me back my son and I'll pay my taxes."
James Kinney of Sandwich, a member of the Cape Cod Center for Peace and Justice, cited figures from the National Priorities Project that put the cost of the Iraq war at $204 billion. Other sources have estimated the cost as high as $330 billion. Kinney said Cape Codders have already paid about $195 million toward the war.
Bob Silverburg of Barnstable, a World War II veteran and a member of Veterans for Peace, read two poems - "Okinawa 1945" and "Don't Look, Don't See," a plea for the president to think of those who died.
The evening concluded with a question and answer period and as it came to a close Sheehan walked down the aisle where she was met by a member of the audience who thanked her for her comments and commitment.
"Would you thank a fish for swimming?" Sheehan asked.
"Well, keep on swimming" was the reply as the two women, strangers just moments before, embraced.
Hundreds rally at 4Cs to end war in Iraq
Speakers personalize cost of conflict
By Alex Howell
Barnstable Patriot, Aug. 5
During a night filled with tears and applause, well over 300 Cape Codders united during a peace rally at Cape Cod Community College last Thursday. "We are the majority," said Stephanie G. Wall, the event's moderator. "We can end this terrible war. No one has a quarrel with the young men and women serving in Iraq. Our quarrel is with those who sent them there."
The public forum, titled "Families Stand for Peace: The Truth About Iraq," opened with a somber short film clip, Eyes Wide Open, which rolled off a few of the names, ranks and ages of the U.S. military casualties, followed by names and ages of Iraqi casualties.
Throughout the evening the total cost of the war was examined, from the economic toll to personal accounts of tragedy and loss. James Kinney, a member of Cape Codders for Peace and Justice, discussed the local impact, focusing mainly on economic numbers. According to Kinney's information, which came from the National Priorities Project, a non-profit watchdog group, more than $204 billion has been spent on the Iraq war and occupation, a number Kinney called "a conservative estimate." The cost attributed to Barnstable County was more than $195 million.
"That's a mind-boggling amount of money to be spending on death and destruction, money that could be spent to address the many pressing human needs in our country and around the world," said Kinney.
Personal loss due to war was brought to light by Mimi Evans, a Barnstable resident and member of Military Families Speak Out, whose son, a Marine Corps captain, is being deployed to Iraq. Holding up one of the ubiquitous "Support Our Troops" yellow magnets, Evans questioned the true resolve and motives of all Americans, saying "more Americans have yellow ribbons on their cars than are serving in Iraq." Evans strove to point out that it is up to the people to make a change, that putting a magnet on a car or even saying goodbye to a child as they deploy to fight is not enough. Evans also questioned the Bush administration and its motivations for invading and occupying Iraq. She pointed out what she called enormous gap between social class and military service.
"Barbara Bush has 17 grandchildren, and none of them are serving in Iraq," said Evans. "The best way to support the troops and to save my son and your daughter is to get them the hell out of there."
YELLOW RIBBON MAKES HER SEE RED - The Marine Corps captain son of Mimi Evans, a Barnstable resident and member of Military Families Speak Out, is being deployed to Iraq. She says the best support people can provide is calling for getting the troops out now. -- ALEX HOWELL PHOTO CAPTION --
Cindy Sheehan, a California resident and co-founder of the group Gold Star Families for Peace, also spoke about personal loss. Since her son Casey was killed during combat operations in Iraq, Sheehan has become a national speaker, testifying before Congress during the infamous Downing Street memos controversy. Sheehan spoke passionately against the war and the Bush administration, saying that she refused to call him Bush, Mr. President, or any other honorary title, instead just referring to him as George and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld as Donald.
Sheehan said she blamed herself for her son's "murder," declaring that her silence contributed to her son's death.
"No matter how much I scream and cry, and rail against God, country and humanity, I cannot bring Casey back," she said. "But I have not shut up since Casey was killed, nor will I be silent until every last one of our nation's sons and daughters are brought back from this morally repugnant and ill-fated war, nor will I give up when the occupation is finished."
On Labor Day, Sept. 5, the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom will hold a "peace action" from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Route 6 rest area between exits 2 and 3 in Sandwich. All are invited to participate by displaying banners and signs addressing "the continuing loss of life in the Iraq War" and to "call for a withdrawal of U.S. and other troops."
Barnstable Patriot, July. 28th?
Guest Commentary-The local costs of war
By James Kinney
Editor's note: James Kinney of West Barnstable, a member of Cape Codders for Peace & Justice, presented this speech at last week's conference on the war in Iraq at Cape Cod Community College.
I'm honored to be on stage with such dedicated and courageous people. And I'm looking forward to hearing what they have to say, so I'll be brief. In a 1953 speech, President Eisenhower said:
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."
What I want to do is bring the costs of war Eisenhower talked about up to the present-day war and occupation of Iraq - and down to the local, Cape Cod level.
There's some dispute about the actual costs. The discrepancies in budget numbers are mostly due to differences in timelines and allocations included. For instance, according to the July 20th Congressional Record, Rep. Bill Delahunt pegged the costs "... in excess of $330 billion."
Most of the budget numbers I'm going to cite come from the National Priorities Project, a nonprofit group that focuses on the impacts of federal tax and spending policies on the community level.
According to their conservative analysis, by the end of fiscal year 2005, on Sept. 30, the US government will have spent $204 billion on the Iraq war and occupation.
That's 204 billion dollars of our federal taxes - our money. As I said, that number may be far higher.
But in any case, I think it's important to put that amount -$204 billion -into perspective. Because even one billion dollars is a difficult number to comprehend. In Europe, they don't even have the number one billion. They say, "1,000 million."
If you could count one dollar at the rate of one per second, every second of every day, it would take almost 32 years to finish counting to one billion. (31.7 years more exactly)
And we're talking about $204 billion for the Iraq war and occupation alone! That's a mind-boggling amount of money to be spending on death and destruction - money that could be spent to address the many pressing human needs in our country and around the world.
At the state level: The war and occupation is costing Massachusetts taxpayers $6 billion.
Barnstable County's share of the cost of the war and killing being done in our name in Iraq is more than $195 million! That's just a tiny .0955 percent (less than one tenth of 1 percent) of the total cost to the entire country. Taxpayers in the town of Barnstable are shoveling out at least $41 million. Falmouth people will pay $29.4 million.
Chatham's share of the cost of this war is $5.6 million. That's more than the town's huge shellfishing industry brings in each year (about $5 million).
If the rulers of our country hadn't lied to us and frightened a large proportion of the American people into accepting the phony need to invade and occupy Iraq, think what we could be doing with all that federal tax money!
For the $195 million Barnstable County taxpayers are paying, we could: Provide medical insurance to 30,495 children for one year.
We could build 1,177 additional housing units for middle- and low-income people.
We could hire 2,957 additional public school teachers for one year - more than enough to improve education in all the towns on the Cape. Or we could build 16 brand new elementary schools.
And instead of our young people being forced to join the military to get job training and education - the economic draft that forces poor and working class kids into the all-volunteer army -we could give four-year scholarships at public universities to more than 8,000 of our kids.
I could go on - but you get the idea. This war and occupation is an almost unimaginable waste of tax dollars.
But it's only money. As staggering as these lost opportunities are to improve life for ordinary people here and around the world, there are even more direct costs in human lives.
Of the 1,782 American military killed in action in Iraq thus far, 24 are from Massachusetts. That may not seem like many, but each one of them was someone's son or daughter, wife or husband, mother or father.
And every day more people are dying -Americans and Iraqis.
I don't know for sure how many of the 13,438 wounded in Iraq are from Massachusetts. And nobody knows how many troops will come back home with crippling psychological problems.
I don't know any of the dead or wounded personally. But I know some of their names: Lance Cpl. Jeffrey C. Burgess from Plymouth, Staff Sgt. Joseph Camara of New Bedford, Pfc. Norman Darling from Middleboro. But I'm willing to bet none of them are the sons of senators or corporate CEOs.
The death toll in the Vietnam War -another war based on a lie perpetrated by our government -started small, too, and at first seemed far away from our daily lives. But that death toll rose to more than 58,000 Americans and three million or more Vietnamese. More than 1,300 of them were from Massachusetts.
I remember some of their names - they were kids from my hometown of Attleboro, in southeastern Massachusetts-- Ernie Falardeau, Dick Cunningham, Larry Woodson, Fran Driscoll. All killed in Vietnam. Others came home wounded or emotionally wrecked.
The Vietnam War was a terrible waste and so is the war against Iraq. By the end of tonight, I hope many of you in the audience will join us to end it. That brings me to the cost of peace. The cost of peace also has to be borne by you and me.
Cape Codders for Peace and Justice is a group of your friends, neighbors and coworkers who are working to end the war. We need your support - your brains and your energy and your dollars... Please give what you can to support our work. This forum alone cost about $1,000. And we need to do more of them. We also want to support the good works you're going to hear about tonight. CCPJ is dedicated to raising awareness, educating people, and taking nonviolent action to end this war and to create a world of social and economic justice. To do that, we need your help. Thank you.
In case you missed the anti-war rally
By LAWRENCE BROWN
(published August 5, 2005, in the Cape Cod Times)
Although the auditorium at Cape Cod Community College was packed on July 28, you might have missed it. You might not even approve of the organizers' general purpose. But I was very moved by the speakers, and I'd like to take you there - if only for a few minutes.
The lights dim and at the sound of a gong, names of dead American soldiers and their ages are read aloud - with accompanying photos. Now we're seeing grieving Iraqis and hearing the names and ages of their dead. The voices begin to blur together with the pictures - Americans and Iraqis. The total dead are enumerated.
James Kinney of West Barnstable gives us the cost of this war, nationally and locally. By the end of this fiscal year, he says it will be $204 BILLION. (At one dollar per second, it would take 32 years to count to one billion.) The war has cost Massachusetts taxpayers $6 billion. That's $195 million for Cape Codders, he figured.
''That's medical insurance for 30,000 children''? over 2,000 more teachers''? 16 new schools''? 8,000 scholarships to UMass,'' Kinney said.
Mimi Evans spoke to us, a Cape Codder, mother of two sons, one a captain in the Marines. ''Support our troops. You support our troops, right? What the hell does that mean?'' She holds up a yellow ribbon. ''Only .005 percent of our population is actually in Iraq. Are we really a nation at war? What sacrifices are we making, beyond slogans? Is that a contribution, slapping on a yellow ribbon? Is that enough?''
Her son is leaving again for Iraq. Has she given enough, she asks. Terrorists win if you don't go to the mall? So her captain in the Marines''? ''is it his mission to see to it you go to the mall? It's not up to my son to question. It's up to us to question. The civilians. Do you donate frequent-flier miles to the military? Are you willing to confront a stranger? Ask at a store how much yellow ribbon money actually goes to the troops. Whatever you are doing, now do more. Do something bold and loud. The best support for my son and your daughter is to get them out now.''
Cindy Sheehan speaks. Her 24-year-old son, Casey, her first born, was killed in Iraq. She begins, then has to pause, struggling to regain her composure. Casey said he joined the military to make the world a better place. In that same spirit, he'd volunteered to go on a mission so his buddies wouldn't have to go. He was shot in the head.
''I am convinced this war in Iraq is illegal and unnecessary,'' she said. ''Martin Luther King wrote: 'We will have to repent not just for the hateful actions of bad people but for the silence of good people.' I was silent, too. 'If you're not for us, you're against us,' says Bush. I didn't call to tell him I was against him. Their armor, equipment and training are inadequate. Would my son and yours still be alive if I'd spoken out? I cannot bring Casey back. But I cannot remain silent until other people's sons and daughters can come back.''
She introduces parents whose son came home and then hanged himself. Now they're working to lobby Congress to greater awareness and action about post-traumatic stress syndrome and its effects, sometimes delayed. Their first hint: At Christmas, he threw his dog tags at his sister, saying he was just a murderer. Their son had returned with mortal wounds they had not seen. They've come to warn us, when all the rest of our sons and daughters return, that they will bring with them a tidal wave of pain.
Half a century ago, London as well as Manchester and Leeds were bombed half to rubble by the Nazis because they stood up against tyranny. If it was right to stand up, then everything that followed from that was necessary. If Britain and the United States are right to be in Iraq, then everything that will follow shall have been necessary also. But my generation was also sent into Vietnam to supposedly guarantee the freedom of others - and it was not right. It was not right because our intervention was not requested. And it was not wise because the objectives for which so many gave their lives were not won. If, for the same reasons, our country today is neither wise nor right, it is a public service to say so, as these brave people have done this night.
Lawrence Brown of Hyannis teaches humanities at Cape Cod Academy in Osterville. His column appears every Friday. Call him at 508-771-5096.
Standing with Cindy by Donna Tunney
published August 19, 2005 in the The Cape Codder
CRAWFORD, Texas - Standing at the edge of a ditch on the side of a hot, dusty road in President Bush's hometown, Jane Lowey of Brewster talks fast, and with unbridled enthusiasm, into her cell phone as she explains to a reporter why she traveled so far to support a woman she doesn't know.
"I never met Cindy Sheehan, but I decided to stand with her against this war. My heart breaks because I am a mother, and war is the worst thing. I'm sick of it. So I'm standing up with Cindy," she said.
Lowey's concern is for the troops in Iraq now, and the ones who will fight there in the future. She doesn't want her son, Jake, 12, to be one of them.
"It doesn't take much to figure out we're entrenched there, and we'll possibly be there for several years. I don't want Jake to be fodder for the cannons," she said, her voice cracking with emotion.
Lowey is one of several Cape Codders who in recent days traveled to Camp Casey, Sheehan's makeshift anti-war outpost on Prairie Chapel Road, which leads to President Bush's ranch. Camp Casey is named for Sheehan's son, Casey, who was killed in Sadr City on April 4, 2004, soon after he arrived in Iraq as a humvee mechanic.
Cape residents who were at the camp this week included John Hopkins, a Vietnam veteran who lives in Provincetown; Diane Turco of Harwich; Sarah Thacher of Dennis; and Mimi Evans of West Barnstable, whose son is serving in Iraq.
A self-employed planner of cross-cultural trips for women, Lowey said she told her husband, Kevin, last week that she was Crawford-bound to align herself with Sheehan, who in recent weeks has become a household name around the country.
"You don't have to come with me," she told her husband and son, "but I have to leave town. They were completely supportive. And my sister, Mary, who was visiting from Florida, offered to stay at my house an extra week and help out with Jake. So here I am," she said.
Sheehan has sparked support and criticism nationwide by planting herself as close as she can legally get to the president's ranch and using the almost constant media attention that's focused on the camp to get her message out. Sheehan, who has repeatedly asked the president to meet personally with her, is planning to establish a second Camp Casey in Washington, D.C., and move her protest there at the end of the month.
Sheehan spoke on the Cape last month, one of a panel of speakers at a forum, "Families Stand for Peace: The Truth about Iraq" July 28 at Cape Cod Community College.
Lowey, who spent three days at the outpost with Sheehan earlier this week, said the protest near the Bush ranch is "organic."
"It's really just a bunch of people essentially standing on the side of the road - not too close to any private property that borders where we are. We aren't allowed on any private property. There are some chairs. There's a food tent, and a sort of car shuttle service to and from Crawford Peace House, where there's more food and places to sleep," she said.
The Crawford Peace House on its website, crawfordpeacehouse.org, describes itself as "a culturally diverse environment for spiritual growth and intellectual understanding that gives hope to humanity by providing peaceful alternatives to war."
Lowey, who spent her overnights at a nearby bed-and-breakfast inn, said that between 50 and 75 people typically are at the roadside with Sheehan, whom she described as warm, focused and grounded.
Harwich's Turco said in a phone interview Wednesday that she feels her presence at Camp Casey "represents thousands of Cape Codders." She said Sheehan has sparked the imagination of the world, "showing how one person can make a difference."
Turco said she agrees with Sheehan's position that there must be a U.S. troop withdrawal plan, as outlined in a bipartisan bill dubbed Homeward Bound, now making its way through Congress.
"Cindy is asking the question," said Turco, "what is the noble cause? There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, there was no connection between Sept. 11 and Iraq. The president needs to answer the question."
Thacher, of Dennis, said Sheehan's action "is effective because it's being sustained." What's happening outside the Bush ranch, she added, "seems to be the best that mankind can do. I'm honored to be here."
Hopkins, a contractor, said he felt compelled to travel to Crawford after he saw Sheehan on television.
"When I saw this woman out there ... she's so brave ... I felt the least I could do is give my support this way," said Hopkins, who spent five days on Prairie Chapel Road before heading back to the Cape Tuesday night.
The only downside, he said, was having to sleep in a car. He didn't opt for the bed-and-breakfast, but he said he did find a swimming hole. "Being from the Cape," he said, "I had to find water."
Along with supporting Sheehan and voicing contempt for the war, Lowey said she's learned a bit about "media distortion" during her stint at the Texas location.
"Nothing really comes close to the truth about what's going on here. Everything is distorted," she said. For example, Lowey said she and other Sheehan supporters were involved in a "very rich dialogue" with an Iraqi war veteran who opposes the protest. He had traveled to the site with his wife and child.
"He told us he was offended that we would be against the war, and that got everyone engaged in a deep discussion. We all talked and in the end, we all found common ground. But the Fox radio station reporter, who was here at the time, reported that Cindy had pulled this guy out of the limelight, trying to keep the attention focused on her. And that wasn't at all what happened. Not even close."
Sheehan supporters also witnessed a new use for tractors late Monday night, when a local man who opposes the peace activists used his to mow down hundreds of white crosses the demonstrators had placed near Camp Casey in honor of those who have died in Iraq.
Said Turco: "The supporters made new crosses and put them up, and the next day a truckload of flowers arrived at the camp. So now there are flowers on every cross." The alleged vandal was arrested by Crawford police, and the activist group has sought a restraining order against him.
Meanwhile, on Prairie Chapel Road, Lowey said she never caught a glimpse of the president, the convoy he travels in, or any member of his entourage.
"There's been nothing," she said.
Standing vigil with Cindy Sheehan by STEPHANIE WALL and DIANE TURCO
Published August 15, 2005 in the Cape Cod Times
On July 28, Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a 24-year-old son killed in Iraq and now standing vigil outside President Bush's ranch in Texas, was part of a forum held at Cape Cod Community College. Sponsored by Cape Codders for Peace and Justice, the forum was titled ''Families Stand for Peace: The Truth About Iraq.''
Mrs. Sheehan eloquently and poignantly told the story of her son Casey's combat death as a soldier in Iraq, and the heartbreaking consequences for her family.
The 450-people in the audience applauded their thanks for her courage.
Now she stands on a different platform, a ditch by the side of the road in Crawford, as she tries to obtain an audience with our vacationing president to ask him a few questions about how and why her son died in Iraq.
As of this writing, President Bush has refused to meet with her, instead sending representatives to sit out on the grass with her in the stifling Texas heat. There are threats of arrest by the local gendarmes, who now say she's on private property and not by a public road and is trespassing.
This whole incident is a paradigm for the Bush administration in the way it treats our soldiers and their families. Gold Star Mother Sue Niederer was handcuffed and dragged away at a Laura Bush rally during the 2004 campaign when she asked an impertinent question of Mrs. Bush: ''When are your children going to Iraq?''
Now Gold Star Mother Cindy Sheehan has been left by the side of the road.
This is very disrespectful, if not contemptuous; this from a man who preaches family values.
Meanwhile, the war continues: 1,843 Americans dead in Iraq so far and 14,000 wounded. More than 100,000 Iraqis have been killed, many of them women and children.
There were no weapons of mass destruction, no link to 9/11 and no link of Iraq to al-Qaida. Many people all over the world deem this war illegal, immoral and unnecessary.
Thus all these deaths and injuries may have been needless.
Neither the president nor the vice-president has attended the funeral of a soldier.
The caskets are rolled off planes from Iraq in the middle of the night and families and press are forbidden from greeting them at the Air Force bases. (Ask Ohio, which recently lost 20 young soldiers at once).
Services to veterans have been cut by the Republican Congress. Soldiers are ill-paid and corporate mercenaries overpaid.
Army and Marine recruiters at public schools promise the world to kids so that quotas are met, then later they ''bait and switch.'' (There are no recruiters at private schools).
No presidential or vice-presidential children serve in Iraq. No children of Senators or Cabinet members are in Iraq. A rare U.S. representative has a child in Iraq.
Cindy Sheehan asks our president for accountability on behalf of her family, the other Gold Star Families, and all of us.
Dr. Stephanie Wall and Diane Turco are members of Cape Codders for Peace and Justice.