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2005-06-29

Mother of Soldier Killed in Iraq: "The Best Way To Honor My Son’s Death Would Be To Bring The Troops Home"

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As President Bush refuses to set a timetable for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, we speak with Cindy Sheehan, her son, Casey, was killed in Iraq in 2004. Sheehan calls on President Bush to withdraw the over 130,000 troops from Iraq and for Congress to investigate the Downing Street minutes. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: President Bush also directly addressed service men and women and their families. He told them that the best way to honor those who have died in the war is to keep fighting. He seemed to acknowledge the falling army recruitment rates by putting a in a plug for military service.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: To the soldiers in this hall and our service men and women across the globe, I thank you for your courage under fire and your service to our nation. I thank our military families. The burden of war falls especially hard on you. In this war, we have lost good men and women who left our shores to defend freedom and did not live to make the journey home. I’ve met with families grieving the loss of loved ones who were taken from us too soon. I’ve been inspired by their strength in the face of such great loss. We pray for the families, and the best way to honor the lives that have been given in this struggle is to complete the mission. I thank those of you who have re-enlisted in an hour when your country needs you. And to those watching tonight who are considering a military career, there is no higher calling than service in our armed forces.

AMY GOODMAN: President Bush, speaking at Fort Bragg. In our studio in Washington D. C., Cindy Sheehan, her son Casey killed in Iraq in April 2004, co-founder of Gold Star Families for Peace. Welcome to Democracy Now! It’s great to have you with us.

CINDY SHEEHAN: Hi, Amy. Thank you. It’s nice to be here.

AMY GOODMAN: Your response to President Bush addressing U.S. service men and women and what his message was.

CINDY SHEEHAN: Well, first of all, I think the best way to honor my son’s death would be to bring the troops home, and that’s what we in Gold Star Families want our children to be remembered for: peace and not war and hatred. For him to use my son’s blood to continue the killing, to me, is despicable. I don’t want one more drop of blood spilled in my son’s name or in my name. We never should have been there in the first place. It was a mistake. It was a mistake when we invaded. It’s a mistake now, and I want my son’s sacrifice and the sacrifices of the other brave Americans to stand for peace and to bring peace to the world and not to spread more hate. You know, he said that my son died to spread freedom and democracy in that region. We’re spreading imperialism and death and destruction everywhere we go. And, no, not one more drop of blood in my son’s name or the names of any other of our brave young people who have made the ultimate sacrifice for basically nothing.

AMY GOODMAN: Cindy, what were your feelings when your son Casey went to Iraq? Are they the same as now? And what were Casey’s feelings about the invasion and occupation?

CINDY SHEEHAN: Right. Our family was against it from the beginning. Casey was against it, but he felt it was his duty to go because he was in the Army. And he felt that he had to go to protect his buddies, to be there for his buddies, to be support, and they are brainwashed into thinking that even if they don’t agree with the mission, they’re brainwashed into just blindly following it. I begged Casey not to go. I told him I would take him to Canada. I told him I would run over him with a car, anything to get him not to go to that immoral war. And he said, "Mom, I wish I didn’t have to, but I have to go."

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Cindy Sheehan, she lost her son Casey in Iraq. How did Casey die? What was the mission he died on?

CINDY SHEEHAN: We were told that he was going to rescue a group of soldiers that had been ambushed on April 4th in Sadr City, Baghdad. It was when L. Paul Bremer inflamed the Shiite militia into rebellion, first in Fallujah, then it spread to Sadr City, which is a Shiite slum in Baghdad. And so we were told he volunteered to go rescue a group of soldiers that had been ambushed, and on the way there, his convoy was ambushed, and seven soldiers were killed in that ambush.

AMY GOODMAN: Cindy Sheehan, there was no mention last night at the Fort Bragg speech of the Downing Street minutes, the minutes that were taken July 23, 2002, before the invasion, of a meeting of Prime Minister Tony Blair and his top advisors, saying that the U.S. was fixing the facts and intelligence around the policy to go to war. But you were at the hearing on the Hill in the Capitol, even if it was in the basement, that was held by Congressman Conyers. Of the significance of these minutes, can you talk about that?

CINDY SHEEHAN: Well, like I said, we didn’t agree with the war, we didn’t agree with the invasion of Iraq. It looked like we were rushing into something that was unnecessary. You know, it was not necessary to protect America. And I could see that the sanctions were working. We had years of devastating sanctions against Iraq. The U.N. weapon inspectors were saying there were no weapons of mass destruction. So I believed all along that this invasion was unnecessary and that there was some other agenda behind it besides keeping America safe.

And when the Downing Street memos came out, and I read them, I just thought, "Well, this confirms my suspicion that this invasion was premeditated and prefabricated for a different agenda." And it looks like my son’s murder and the murder of almost 1,800 other Americans and tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis whose only crime is that they were born in Iraq at the wrong time, are dead — are dead for the agenda of the neo-con war machine.

I really think that somebody in our government needs to be held accountable, and just because George Bush gets up and tells us that things are getting better, they’re not getting better, and he needs to present some kind of facts to back up his position, and he needs to answer the Congressmen. I think it’s 128 Congress people have signed John Conyers’s letter asking for explanation into this Downing Street memo, and it needs to be investigated. Congress needs to do it’s Constitutional duty for once and investigate the memo because we families that have paid the ultimate price, who will be grieving and mourning and in pain for the rest of our lives, we deserve to know the truth.

AMY GOODMAN: Karen Kwiatkowski of the Pentagon, retired Lieutenant Colonel, you have written about how the Pentagon has suppressed information and twisted the truth to drive the country to war. What about the Downing Street memo? Does this fit into the picture? Were you surprised by this particular meeting and the documents that have come out that?

LT. COL. KAREN KWIATKOWSKI: No, not surprised. Very much like Cindy said, it confirmed things that I witnessed that I didn’t understand at the time. This intention to go to war, this decision, this very early decision, possibly as early as 2001 or before, this we were unaware of. But seeing that the decision had been made, and I think the Downing Street memoranda show that very clearly, the position of the administration long before the American people were ever notified of any kind of threat or rationale for going into Iraq, knowing that that existed explains a whole lot of what I saw and it makes sense, and even things that I haven’t written about, things that I just saw and that folks in the Pentagon like me, probably thousands of them, saw and did not at the time understand. This war plan was engaged and operational long before many people, even insiders, understood, and it was engaged for a reason.

And George Bush, in his latest speech — every time he gives a speech, in fact, I listen to see if he will explain why we are in Iraq. And every time I hear him give a speech, I’m disappointed. He never explains why we’re there. He makes up stories, as he did, you know, in last night’s speech, very clearly untrue in many, many ways, and he doesn’t address why our young men and women are dying. You know, it’s particularly insulting to me to hear him talk about those deaths when this country, and this administration has more than any previous administration and more than any other country in the world that has lost soldiers in Iraq, has refused to show proper respect for those dead soldiers and for those losses. He has attended to date no funerals — George Bush or Dick Cheney. They refuse to acknowledge the real cost of their decisions. This is particularly insulting for him to use their deaths and to somehow, you know, wave this flag, when he himself by his own actions does not care about these deaths.

AMY GOODMAN: Karen Kwiatkowski is a retired Lieutenant Colonel speaking to us from West Virginia, worked in the Pentagon, the office that oversaw the Office of Special Plans. Douglas Feith ran that. Also, in our Washington D.C. studio, Cindy Sheehan, mother of Casey, who was a U.S. soldier who died in Iraq last year.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: Our guest on the line with us in Washington is Cindy Sheehan. She is the mother of Casey, who died in Iraq last year. We’re also going to go to Baghdad to talk with a mother, with an Iraqi blogger, about the situation there. Cindy I did want to ask you right before the Fort Bragg address of President Bush, he met with family members who lost loved ones in Iraq. Have you been able to meet with Bush administration officials?

CINDY SHEEHAN: Actually, I met with the President in June of 2004, a couple of months after my son was killed. We were summoned up to Fort Irwin, Washington state, to have a sit down with the president. So my entire family went. And I was on CNN last night with Larry King talking about this, and there was another mother who had met with him, and she said that she supports the war and the President, and she said he was so warm and everything and gentle and kind, and when my family and I met with him, I met a man who had no compassion in him. He had no heart. Like Karen said, he cares nothing about us. We tried to show him pictures of Casey. He wouldn’t look at them. He wouldn’t even acknowledge Casey’s name. He called me "Mom" through the entire visit. He acted like we were at a tea party, like it was something fun, that we should just be so pleased that we got to meet with the President who killed our son.

AMY GOODMAN: What did you say to him?

CINDY SHEEHAN: The first thing, he came up to me, and he goes, "Mom, I can’t imagine your loss. I can’t imagine losing a loved one, you know, whether it be a mother, a father, a sister or brother." And I stopped him, and I said, "You have two children. Try to imagine them being killed in a war. How would that make you feel?" And he got a little bit of — just a little bit of human flicker in his eye, like he might be connected for a minute, because this is a man that’s disconnected from humanity. And he had just got a little flicker in his eye, and I said, "Trust me, you don’t want to go there." And you know what he told me? He goes, "You’re right, I don’t." And so I said, "Well, thank you for putting me there."

And then he moved on to the next person, and then a little while later we were talking, and he went up to my oldest daughter, and he said, "I wish I could bring back your loved one to replace the hole in your heart." And she goes, "Yeah, so do we." And he gave her the dirtiest look and turned his back on her and ignored her for the rest of the meeting. And then a little later on in the meeting, I said, "Why were we invited here? We didn’t vote for you in 2000, and we’re certainly not going to vote for you in 2004." And he said, "It’s not about politics," which is just bologna, because he went through the campaign trail, and last night he said he meets with families, and we say that we’re praying for him and stuff like that.

You know, that’s not — that wasn’t our experience. And everybody else I’ve talked to who have met with him have about the same experiences I do. He comes in, says I want to extend the gratitude of the nation and express my condolences, but he says it, and his eyes don’t convey that, his heart doesn’t convey that. We felt — we left our meeting with him feeling worse than when we walked in, feeling more determined to stop the madness in Iraq than before.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Cindy Sheehan, lost her son Casey in Iraq, did meet with President Bush.

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