SOUTH BEND -- A day after the Pentagon announced soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan will serve longer tours of duty, peace activist Cindy Sheehan urged Americans to make personal sacrifices to help end the war."You need to reach deep down inside yourself and figure out what more you can do," Sheehan said Thursday during a speech at Saint Mary's College. "If we want to have true and lasting peace, we all have to sacrifice."
Sheehan became well known in 2005 after she publicly demanded that President Bush be held accountable for the death of her son, Casey Sheehan, a soldier who was killed in the Iraq war.
"If the United States hadn't launched its war of aggression against Iraq, our soldiers wouldn't be dying, the people of Iraq wouldn't be dying," said Sheehan, who is harshly critical of the president.
"There really hasn't been anyone so utterly incompetent, so utterly unqualified for the position he is in," she said of Bush.An audience of about 300 people greeted her speech with repeated applause and cheers.
The United States, Iraq and the world would be better off if U.S. troops immediately withdrew from Iraq, said Sheehan, who was dressed in jeans and a green shirt adorned with peace signs.
"The opposition in Iraq has the right -- no matter how painful this is for me to say -- they have the right to oppose an occupation," Sheehan said, comparing the U.S. occupation to British control in North America before the American Revolution. "We overthrew that occupation," she said.
Sheehan, who is Catholic and worked eight years as a Catholic youth minister, said her family lost many friends after Casey's death. "When I started to speak out against George Bush, they started to disown me. They said, 'But Cindy, he's pro-life,' " she said. "And I said, 'If he's pro-life, how come my son is dead?' "
The president's concern for human life doesn't extend to life after birth, Sheehan said.Sheehan said she wishes Catholics who oppose the war would become more visible, particularly the clergy. When Sheehan starts seeing priests, the pope and other church leaders in clerical garb marching against the war, "that's when I'll know the church is really against bloodshed," she said to applause.
Sheehan said she has no reservations about pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq. "The longer we stay there, the less chance of stability in that region," she said.
Contrary to popular opinion, young people are involved in the peace movement, she said. They are pursuing an end to the war in a peaceful manner, she said, urging others to adopt nonviolent means to bring peace.
Sheehan said the movement has to focus not just on ending the Iraq war, but also preventing future wars. "The war machine wants a constant state of war and preparedness for war," she said.
She called for a "10,000 Mothers March" on Washington, D.C. on May 14 -- the day after Mother's Day. She wants at least 10,000 mothers to march on the Capitol to urge impeachment of the president and an end to the war."I'm calling on mothers all over the world to join us," she said, "so our leaders will stop killing our babies."
Sheehan's visit was hosted by the Michiana Peace & Justice Coalition, the Saint Mary's College Democrats and several other local groups.
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