Published on Sunday, August 7, 2005 by the Sacramento Bee (California)
A Mother's Vigil
Vacaville Woman Whose Son Died in Iraq is in Texas to Confront Bush
by Jim Downing
A Vacaville woman whose son was killed in an ambush in Iraq began Saturday what could become a monthlong anti-war protest outside President Bush's ranch near Crawford, Texas.
"People are dying every day for lies," Cindy Sheehan, 48, said in a telephone interview with The Bee. "The only way we can support our troops at this point is to bring them home."
Sheehan, who was supported Saturday by more than 50 marchers, said she plans to stay in Crawford until the president comes out to speak with her so she can deliver that message - or until he returns to Washington at the end of the month.
Bush, who is vacationing at the ranch, did not emerge Saturday. But two White House aides - Steve Hadley, national security adviser, and Joe Hagin, deputy chief of staff - met with Sheehan for 45 minutes.
"They said they'd pass on my concerns to George Bush," she said. "I said, 'Fine, but I'm not talking to anybody else but him.' "
Any meeting with the president would be her second.
Sheehan first spoke with Bush at Fort Lewis, Wash., in June 2004, two months after her son, Army Spc. Casey Sheehan, was killed in Iraq, she said.
The president's comments that her son and other soldiers had died for a good cause angered rather than consoled her, Sheehan said Saturday.
He "was supposed to express his condolences. He said a lot of hurtful things to my family and we felt worse after talking to him," she said. "I don't know why I want to repeat (meeting him). But now that I'm thinking more clearly, I think it's important that ... he knows that he can't use my son's name to condone the killing anymore."
Since her son's death on April 4, 2004, Sheehan has devoted herself to protesting the war and the Bush administration.
She has spoken on Capitol Hill, demonstrated at military recruiting centers in Sacramento, and was featured in a campaign ad during last fall's presidential campaign.
"She's a mother, and this has completely changed her life," said Natalie Womeli, a Davis organizer with Code Pink, a grass-roots peace and social justice movement.
"Right now, this is her job," said Womeli, who has worked with Sheehan. "It's not a glamorous job in any way. She's sleeping on people's couches and depending on the kindness of other activists."
Sheehan is also co-founder of Gold Star Families for Peace, a group of 50 families of fallen soldiers.
She said she developed the plan for the Crawford protest at a Veterans for Peace convention Thursday in Dallas. She drove to Crawford on Saturday with members of several different activist groups in a caravan of a dozen vehicles led by a red, white and blue bus labeled "Impeachment Tour."
Saturday evening, Sheehan took a short break from her vigil in the Crawford Peace House, a center founded by local peace activists.
"I have a pretty bad headache" from the day in the sun, she said.
Later, Sheehan planned to return to a roadside campsite two miles outside Crawford where she and 10 other activists had set up tents. She said Secret Service agents had stopped by more than once to warn the protesters that they were camped in a dangerous location.
"They keep on coming and saying if you stay out there by the side of the road, you're probably going to get killed," she said.
Crawford Police Chief Donnie Tidmore said Saturday evening that no protesters had been arrested.
"They were rather vocal, but other than that, they were peaceful," he said.
Sheehan said that McLennan County sheriff's deputies stopped her group about five miles from the president's ranch house.
Tidmore said protests are common during the president's stays in Crawford. Saturday's march was the first of Bush's current vacation, he said.
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