Sunday is Mother’s Day and a group of women have chosen to honor it by calling for peace. Women from all over the country are gathering in Washington D.C this weekend and will be holding an all night vigil outside the White House to demand that the troops be brought home from Iraq. We’re joined by Elaine Johnson and Cindy Sheehan, who both lost sons in Iraq. [includes rush transcript]
Sunday is Mother’s Day and a group of women have chosen to honor it by calling for peace. Women from all over the country are gathering in Washington D.C this weekend and will be holding an all night vigil outside the White House to demand that the the troops be brought home now.
The main organizer of the weekend’s event is the group Code Pink. And this is what they have written about why they are taking action. "We, the women of the United States, Iraq and women worldwide, have had enough of the senseless war in Iraq and the cruel attacks on civilians around the world. We’ve buried too many of our loved ones. We’ve seen too many lives crippled forever by physical and mental wounds. We’ve watched in horror as our precious resources are poured into war while our families" basic needs of food, shelter, education and healthcare go unmet. This is not the world we want for ourselves or our children. With fire in our bellies and love in our hearts, we women are rising up–across borders–to unite and demand an end to the bloodshed and the destruction."
We are joined now by two mothers who have lost sons in Iraq:
- Elaine Johnson, mother of Specialist Darius Jennings. He was killed in November 2003 when the Chinook helicopter was shot down in Iraq. Darius was 22 when he died.
- Cindy Sheehan, her son Casey was killed in Iraq in April 2004. She is the co-founder of Gold Star Families for Peace.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined in Washington studio by Elaine Johnson. Her son, specialist Darius Jennings, was killed November 2003, when the Chinook helicopter was shot down in Iraq. Darius was 22 when he died. We welcome you to Democracy Now!
ELAINE JOHNSON: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about your son and why you’ll be in Washington outside the White House this Mother’s Day?
ELAINE JOHNSON: First of all, I’d like to say good morning, and thank you for having me on your show. My son was specialist Darius Jennings, and he was a mama’s boy. And Mother’s Day is Sunday, and every mother that lost a son would love for the son to walk in the door on Mother’s Day and say, "Happy Mother’s Day" with a bunch of flowers. That will never happen to me and a lot more mothers anymore, since our sons and daughters were killed over in Iraq.
AMY GOODMAN: In South Carolina, in the unit your son was in, how many of the soldiers have died in Iraq or been wounded?
ELAINE JOHNSON: Okay, my son was stationed at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, but from my hometown of South Carolina, we have lost 39 soldiers.
AMY GOODMAN: 39.
ELAINE JOHNSON: 39.
AMY GOODMAN: And what is the feeling in the community? Do other mothers and fathers, the community, share your feelings? Do they want the soldiers to come home now? Do they support the war? Are they opposed to it?
ELAINE JOHNSON: They’re opposed to the war. They want the soldiers to come home now, and when they come home, for the government to take care of the soldiers when they bring them back home.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re also joined on the telephone by Cindy Sheehan. Her son Casey was killed in Iraq April 4, 2004 in Sadr City. She, too, is headed to Washington. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Cindy.
CINDY SHEEHAN: Good morning, Amy. Good morning, Elaine.
ELAINE JOHNSON: Good morning, Cindy.
CINDY SHEEHAN: I can’t wait to see you.
ELAINE JOHNSON: Me, too.
AMY GOODMAN: Cindy, can you talk about this Mother’s Day and what it means to you and what your plans are? You’re now in Seattle.
CINDY SHEEHAN: Right. Well, as soon as I get off the phone, I’m heading to the airport to get to Washington, D.C. to stand with Elaine and other mothers, Susan Sarandon, Randy Rhodes and Willie Nelson’s wife, and we’re going to stand — and other people, you know, other good mothers with good hearts. And we’re going to stand together to say, "Enough is enough." Like Elaine said, too many of our sons and daughters are being killed for George Bush and his lies in his war for corporate greed.
And what this Mother’s Day means to me, like what it means to Elaine, is the same thing every day means to me. My son was killed needlessly and senselessly. I will not get — he used to send me funny cards on Mother’s Day. I used to get phone calls from him every day but, you know, Mother’s Day especially, and that is something that will be missing in my life for the rest of my life, because of George Bush and the neo-cons and, you know, it’s just — it’s heartbreaking, but what Elaine and I want to do is stop this from happening to other mothers, before it’s too late for them.
AMY GOODMAN: Elaine Johnson, what is the response of other military families to you, to your call for the troops to come home now?
ELAINE JOHNSON: I have their fullest support of bringing the troops home. Every time I do different rallies and different events, I get emails and phone calls, you know, telling me to keep up the good work, because we all support our troops. We just don’t support this war, because when I met President Bush back in '03, there was nothing — he couldn't tell me why my son was killed, why the soldiers are over there. And here it is 2006, and the matter has not gotten better. It’s just gotten worse, so he still can’t tell me anything, why our kids are getting killed. But, you know, we know why. It’s because of the oil. Like Cindy was saying, the greediness of him and his colleagues is for oil.
AMY GOODMAN: Cindy Sheehan, you, Code Pink, women’s organizations have taken out letters in Iraqi papers, Iraqi women, U.S. women, mothers, calling for the occupation to end. Some newspapers are publishing them, others aren’t, in Iraq. Can you talk about this?
CINDY SHEEHAN: Well, you know, here we’re supposed to be spreading freedom and democracy to Iraq, and we know every day our own freedoms are being eroded in the United States. Our corporate media’s not free. They’re getting our phone records of just normal Americans, and here we’re spreading freedom and democracy to Iraq, and their press isn’t free there, either. And many of the so-called free press in Iraq won’t print our letter. So we have to put pressure on the people to actually have a free press in America. And you know very well that we don’t. They don’t have it in Iraq, either.
And also in D.C. this Mother’s Day, we’re calling for an end to the occupation, but also for an end to this evil rhetoric of them talking about invading Iran. And people can go to dontattackiran.org, too. But, you know, there’s so much we have to get out in the streets. We have to get out like the immigrants, because we as Americans have to realize that we are intimately connected to and are being harmed by George Bush’s policies in the Middle East. So I want everybody just to go to codepinkalert.org. We have petitions. We have ways you can sign up to support us, and we all have to stand up and do this. You know, over 70% of America now do not support George Bush and what’s going on, and we have to translate that into policy.
AMY GOODMAN: Elaine Johnson, why did your son join the military?
ELAINE JOHNSON: My son joined the military, because he wanted stability. He was a mama’s boy, and the military did provide the stability. And it was for money for college. I come from a small town in South Carolina, where there are no jobs and no money for schools, so my son joined the military, you know, because of financial reasons, you know, going to college and no jobs.
And I’m here also a member of the Military Families Speak Out , Gold Star Families Speak Out, Black Voices for Peace. And we are now starting an organization called Military Moms Speak Out. Damu Smith, who is deceased now, was the founder of Military Moms Speak Out. So that’s — like other people in South Carolina, you know, I come from a town that’s so full of soldiers due to them joining the military because of financial reasons, money for college. They didn’t join to go fight a war for no reason. You know, and this war was for no reason based on the American people. Now, for the President, his reason was for oil. For Donald Rumsfeld, his reason was for oil. Ms. Rice, she’s backing the President, I guess, because that’s her job. But what about the military families that’s suffering? We are suffering. We are suffering mentally. We are suffering physically.
AMY GOODMAN: On that note, I want to thank you very much for being with us, Elaine Johnson and Cindy Sheehan. Both will be in front of the White House on Sunday on Mother’s Day, and we will cover that and bring it to our listeners and viewers on Monday here on Democracy Now!