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We Will Retool...and Come at it from a Different Direction" - Cindy Sheehan Says She Will Return Aft

We Will Retool...and Come at it from a Different Direction" - Cindy Sheehan Says She Will Return After Stepping Back as Antiwar Leader

Wednesday, May 30th, 2007

http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=07/05/30/1343232

Cindy Sheehan has been the face of the US antiwar movement for the past two years. In August 2005, she set up Camp Casey outside President Bush's Crawford estate in memory of her son Casey, who was killed in Iraq. Now Cindy says she is stepping back from her role as a leading campaigner against the Iraq war. In this Democracy Now! special, Cindy Sheehan joins us for the hour to talk about her decision. [includes rush transcript - partial]

 


We turn now to Cindy Sheehan, who has just announced that she is stepping away from the antiwar movement after two years of being the nation's most visible critic of the war in Iraq.

She began speaking out against the invasion and occupation of Iraq after her 24-year-old son, Army Specialist Casey Sheehan, was killed in Iraq on April 4, 2004.

Cindy Sheehan made headlines around the world in August of 2005, when she staged a camp-out to pressure President Bush to meet her as he vacationed at his Crawford estate.

On Monday, Sheehan announced her resignation as the face of the antiwar movement. Sheehan said she is stepping down in part because of hostility from Democrats, whom she has criticized for supporting the war. Sheehan also cited repeated threats on her life, strains on her health and family, and divisions inside the peace movement.

She wrote, "When I started to hold the Democratic Party to the same standards that I held the Republican Party, support for my cause started to erode and the 'left' started labeling me with the same slurs that the right used. I guess no one paid attention to me when I said that the issue of peace and people dying for no reason is not a matter of 'right or left', but 'right and wrong.'"

Cindy Sheehan joins us from Sacramento, California.

 

  • Cindy Sheehan, co-founder of Gold Star Families For Peace. Her son Casey was killed in Baghdad on April 4, 2004.

AMY GOODMAN: Joan Baez singing “Joe Hill” at Camp Casey, August 24, 2005, a few weeks after Cindy Sheehan established Camp Casey, where ultimately thousands of people came, many of them who lost loved ones in Iraq -- sons and daughters, husbands, wives, mothers, fathers. Cindy Sheehan joining us in Sacramento. She just flew home yesterday, after releasing a letter on Memorial Day called "Good Riddance, Attention Whore." Why did you call your letter that, Cindy?

CINDY SHEEHAN: Well, that was one of the last slurs that I read before I decided that I had, you know, had enough. And it was Memorial Day when I read that slur against me on a so-called left blog, a leftwing blog. And it was Memorial Day. I was in Crawford, Texas, and I thought -- I had just also talked to my oldest daughter, who had just been to the cemetery to put flowers on Casey's grave. And I thought, what am I doing here? Why aren’t I home with my children?

AMY GOODMAN: You talk about your twenty-nine-year marriage. At the time you were establishing Camp Casey, making international headlines, your marriage was crumbling. And your children, your surviving son and daughters, talk about them.

CINDY SHEEHAN: Well, I have a daughter Carly -- she is in university right now; she was Casey's next youngest sibling -- and then a son Andrew, who is a land surveyor in the Bay Area -- he’s doing really great -- and my youngest daughter Janey, who’s a massage therapist. And it was a struggle when I first started doing this. And when they saw their mom and dad -- it ruining their mom and dad's marriage, it was, you know, a lot. They had just lost their brother, and their mother went on this mission, this passion to end the war and to hold somebody accountable for their brother's death. And they’re just -- they’re so strong. I dedicate my book to them, because they have gone through a lot. And they get stronger every day. They get more capable every day. And we went from a family, where even though mom worked full-time, she did everything for the kids. My children were the center of my life. We were involved in every aspect of their lives. And it was very hard for them to adjust to the new life without their brother, their mom and dad divorced.

You know, they thought that they were going to be, you know, a family that was together forever, but, you know, April 4th, our entire universe changed. And, you know, the members of my family, they wanted to go back to April 3rd, before he Casey was killed, and I knew we could never do that. I knew we would have to move forward and forge a new life together, a new family together, without Casey there, because our family was never going to be the same.

And it was a struggle with my children, but, you know, we have regained a very solid relationship. I want to now, instead of spending quality time with them, I also want to spend quantity time with them. I want to be able to alleviate some of their physical stress that they have, to be there for them. Carly, this is her last quarter at university, and she’ll be graduating. You know, I want to be there for her to help her through this. She’s majoring in history. I majored in history. It’s very exciting to be with her and to have conversations, mature adult conversations, with her. So, you know, I want to get to know my kids as adults, and I want to be there for them, you know, help forge this new relationship that we have and give it a good foundation. You know, it’s been a relationship that’s been very inconsistent because of my travel. And I now share a home with my two daughters. And now, when I go away, I miss them even more than I did before.

AMY GOODMAN: Cindy, headlines around the world this week. Guardian of London: “Sheehan quits as face of US anti-war fight.” Xinhua News Agency, China: “Activist Cindy Sheehan ends her anti-war campaign.” Alalam News Network, Iran: “Anti-war mom gives up campaign.” Melbourne Herald Sun, Australia: “Grieving mom walks away.” Ontario Now, Canada: “Cindy Sheehan throws in the towel.” Your response? And are you concerned your decision could deflate some of those in the antiwar movement? What words do you have to say to them, and especially families who have lost loved ones in Iraq, soldiers who are in Iraq, soldiers who have come home?

CINDY SHEEHAN: Well, you know, I have -- in those hundreds of emails I’ve gotten in the past couple days, there’s been many from soldiers in Iraq, there’s been many from family members who have loved ones in Iraq and from people all over the Muslim world, telling me, please, please don’t give up, don’t abandon us. And I just want them to know I’m not. I’m just -- I’m pulling back. I’m, you know, getting some rest. I’m trying to restore my health. I want to come back stronger, but I’m not coming back the way I was before.

We’re going to seriously reevaluate our place -- and when I say “our,” I’m talking about Gold Star Families for Peace, I’m talking about the Camp Casey Peace Institute, my skeletal staff. We’re going to -- and my sister Dee Dee, of course. We’re going to just hunker down and find a way that we can be more productive, that we can be more useful to humanity. Like I said, I’ve come to a dead end in what I’m doing now. We’ve found a chink in the armor. We exploited that chink. Now, most of the country is on our side. I don’t think we can work with the politicians. When we come back, we won’t work with or against politicians, but we’ll work with humanity.

Well, since I’ve been traveling the globe, I’ve met so many people who have been encroached upon or damaged or their families damaged by this corporate military imperialism of the United States. We want to help them. And we’re hoping by helping our brothers and sisters around the world struggle against the imperialism of the US military and the US corporations, that it will have a residual effect in helping America. We don’t want to abandon our soldiers there in the field like the Democrats did. You know, last night I was on Air America. Laura Flanders calls it to sacrifice the troops, instead of support the troops. We don’t want to leave them abandoned in the field. We don’t want to give the impression to the people of Iraq that they have no hope.

But I just want to let you know that I was just a small cog in this movement. It’s a large movement. And I think that this will encourage people to step up to the plate. And I sacrificed too much for this movement, and I’m not blaming anybody except myself. I was a willing participant. And I would be willing to keep sacrificing, if I thought we were making progress, if I thought my sacrifices could help. But I don’t think that it’s helping anymore, so we’re going to pull back and figure out how we can help. But, you know, people need to step up now. And everybody in America is going to have to sacrifice something. We have too much. We work too much to get things that we don’t even need, while 24,000 people a day die of starvation in the world. So everybody is going to have to sacrifice a little bit. If everybody sacrifices a little bit, you know, a few people wouldn’t have to sacrifice so much.

AMY GOODMAN: Cindy Sheehan, I asked you about messages to people here -- of course, then there’s the Iraqi people, and people do know of your activism there. What would you say to Iraqis?

CINDY SHEEHAN: You know, I would say that we are still there trying to help you, trying to end this horrible occupation, that my new organization that’s going to be humanitarian in nature will do everything we can to help alleviate your suffering. And I just hope that the people of America finally come to the realization that you are our brothers and sisters -- we all share one beating heart of humanity -- and that we cannot allow our leaders to do what they’re doing anymore. And, you know, it’s very important for people in America to struggle against our system, to hold the Democrats to the same standard of accountability that we were trying to hold the Republicans to, and to force an end to this occupation. And that -- I’m not going to work, you know, in this political system anymore, because I don’t have the energy to do that anymore. But it’s very important that everybody keep up the struggle.

AMY GOODMAN: And I want to read a few of the comments of our listeners and viewers and readers around the world that came in at democracynow.org. On electoral politics, Gordon Brown, a teacher in Switzerland, asked, “Who do you believe would make the best next president of the United States?” Leslie Bonnet of California writes, “Will Cindy join the Green Party, which has steadfastly advocated for peace and against the invasion of Iraq? Will Cindy consider running as a presidential or vice presidential nominee with the Green Party?” Barbara and Graham Dean said, “What can all of us in the peace and justice movement do now to give you back your hope that we can indeed change the dangerous course this government has forced upon this country?” And they ask, “Would you consider running for Congress?” Paul said, “Given what you’ve described as the corruption and deception that exist in both the Republican and the Democratic political parties and how the huge appropriations of money for defense contractors have become such a force in the US economy, do you have any hope we will return to being a nation that stands for right instead of being a nation that has to have something to fight?” And another listener/viewer, John Stauber, says, “What is your opinion of MoveOn and the role it played in the recent congressional debate over war funding?” Take your pick.

CINDY SHEEHAN: Well, of course, I’m not going to run for election. I don’t -- you know, I’m very disillusioned with our political system. If we don’t wake up in America and realize that we have to vote out of our courage and integrity for candidates who reflect our own beatitudes, and not the beatitudes of the war machine and the corporations, we are -- we’re doomed. And if we don’t get a viable third party -- or some people say second party; you know, the Democrats and Republicans are so similar, and their pockets are lined by the same people -- we are -- our representative republic is doomed, where George Bush has assumed all the powers to himself and Congress has given him those powers. And we really need an opposition party in this country. But we vote out of our fear. We go and we vote for the lesser of two evils, and we always end up getting somebody evil. And, you know, I say “evil,” not in the Christian sense of the word. But, you know, I do believe that.

I’m not going to join any party. If I do vote again and if I do become, you know, politically active, it will be independent. I’m not going to, of course, run for anything, be in the system. I have been asked by the Green Party to run for president, but, you know, that’s not anything that I want.

And I know John Stauber. He has been struggling against MoveOn. I was really upset with MoveOn, and plus with the corporate media, who were characterizing MoveOn as the antiwar left in America, which was just really, for people who are on the inside know how hilarious that is. So I think that MoveOn has a lot of resources, and they should be trying to represent -- truly represent the opposition to, instead of being, you know, so tied in with the Democratic Party, to really represent the views of the left.

AMY GOODMAN: Cindy Sheehan, what do you think are the greatest successes of the peace movement so far, and then, of course, what you want to see changed?

CINDY SHEEHAN: Well, you know, I think that we did an incredible job of educating America about -- causing a debate really in this country about the Iraq war that didn’t exist before August of ’05. It didn’t exist in a public way before August of ’05. And the shift in the country has been enormous, you know, to being against George Bush and against the war, when it was overwhelmingly in favor of it. And we thought we were doing something good when we elected Democrats. We thought that we were electing them to change the way things are going, not for this, to keep the status quo. And I think that we’ve been very successful in raising awareness.

Where things have to go now -- and, you know, I’ve been saying this for a long time -- is that we have to be willing to put our bodies on the line for peace and justice, that, you know, we can’t work on short-term band-aids. We need true solutions to the problem, to this corruptness, to the stranglehold the corporations have on our government. And we can’t just put band-aids on them. Like, ending the Vietnam War was major, but people left the movement. It was an antiwar movement. They didn’t stay committed to true and lasting peace. And that’s what we really have to do.

AMY GOODMAN: Cindy Sheehan, we have fifteen seconds. I have the sense, as you talk, that you’re not actually leaving, even as a public face of the movement, but stepping back perhaps for a few months, a few weeks, to regroup. Is that accurate?

CINDY SHEEHAN: Well, what I like to think about is like, we’re closing down the factory, we’re going to retool, and we’re going to open up, and it will be a new and improved version of it. But we are definitely going to come at it from a totally different direction.

AMY GOODMAN: Cindy Sheehan, I want to thank you for being with us.

CINDY SHEEHAN: Thank you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Co-founder of Gold Star Families for Peace, speaking to us from, well, near her home. She’s in Sacramento, California.

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