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Crawford Vigil Is Not Over

Exclusive Interview with Cindy Sheehan After Mother’s Stroke: “I Want to Get Back As Soon As Possible”

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Broadcasting on location from Crawford, Texas, Democracy Now! brings you the voices of military families and anti-war activists who are speaking out against the occupation of Iraq. Cindy Sheehan left Crawford last night to attend to her sick mother, but we caught up with her on her way out of Texas. [includes rush transcript]

Cindy Sheehan had to leave Crawford temporarily after her mother suffered a stroke. She spoke with Democracy Now! in the airport on her way to Los Angeles. She said that also she left her vigil without meeting with President Bush, she said, “This Camp Casey movement is bigger than me. It’s growing, it’s bigger than any of us.”

Cindy Sheehan went on, “I believe that it is my right and responsibility as an American to question our government when our government is wrong. I’m not one of the immature patriots who say my country right or wrong because my country is wrong now, and my country-the policies of my country are responsible for killing tens of thousands of innocent people, and I won’t stand by and let that happen anymore.”

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

JUAN GONZALEZ: We head now to Crawford, Texas, where Amy Goodman is reporting today from the grounds of Camp Casey, just down the road from President Bush’s property. Well, Amy, I’m guessing Karl Rove didn’t invite you in.

AMY GOODMAN: No, we’re right outside the ranch, although we did drive down George W. Bush Highway to get here. We’re at Camp Casey, Juan. It’s just outside of President Bush’s ranch, where he is vacationing now. We’re somewhat near a Secret Service checkpoint, so the Secret Service is changing shift right now. Behind me people are waking up, about a hundred people slept here last night. The signs say that “Bush should speak to Cindy,” it says. Another just says “Welcome to Camp Casey.” Casey, of course, is Cindy Sheehan’s son, Casey Sheehan, who died in Iraq, as she says on 04/04/04. That’s [April] 4, 2004.

Last night, when we came into Ft. Worth — to Dallas/Ft. Worth airport, we actually crossed paths with Cindy. She was planning to stay here during the entire time that President Bush is vacationing, but yesterday afternoon she learned in a telephone call that her mother had suffered a stroke in Los Angeles, California, and so she and her sister Dee Dee dropped everything here, and they raced to Waco to the airport, flew off to the airport, where we were just coming in from New York, the Democracy Now! crew. We met her at her gate and sat down and had a conversation with Cindy to find out how she’s doing, but also to find out what her plans are.

This is Cindy Sheehan, the woman who began it all here just a few weeks ago when she left a Veterans for Peace annual meeting in Dallas and headed to President Bush’s ranch, asking if he would simply have a meeting with her. I asked her yesterday at the airport how her mother was.

CINDY SHEEHAN: It’s too early to tell. She was still in the emergency room when we left, so we didn’t get any messages from my brother, who is there with her right now. So, hopefully, the status hasn’t changed since we last talked to him.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think it means for you to leave Crawford, for you to leave the ranch where President Bush is vacationing?

CINDY SHEEHAN: Well, it’s kind of ironic, because this morning I gave two interviews, one to Air America and one to “Nightline” early this morning. And I said, you know what, this Camp Casey movement is bigger than me. It’s growing. It’s bigger than any of us. And even if I had to leave today, it would keep on going. And if we leave August 31 without the President speaking to us, it’s going to keep on. It’s growing. It’s organic. It’s here, and nothing is going to stop it. And just because I’m gone, things will just carry on as normal. I want to get back as soon as possible, because I did say I would stay there until President Bush spoke with me until he left on August 31. I hope if he comes out and speaks to the other moms that they give him hell, though.

AMY GOODMAN: How many other moms are there there of people who are in Iraq or who have died in Iraq?

CINDY SHEEHAN: We have about six moms there. They’re Gold Star moms. And there’s probably — I don’t — of women who have — who have children over there right now, it’s hard to tell. Maybe about the same or a little bit more.

AMY GOODMAN: Your reaction to the more than 1,500 vigils that were held around the country on Wednesday night?

CINDY SHEEHAN: It, to me, is just absolutely amazing and so gratifying that something I did — like, I was just a spark that just lit this fire, and it’s blazing, and it’s out of control now. Like I said, we don’t need the spark anymore, and I am just — I’m just so grateful that the universe chose me to be the spark, but also that America has responded. But I’m grateful and amazed, but I’m not surprised, because I have seen this coming.

AMY GOODMAN: If you get this meeting with President Bush, what will you say to him?

CINDY SHEEHAN: I want to ask him what was the noble cause that Casey and the others have died for, because he keeps on saying that they died for a noble cause, and I don’t think a war of aggression against a nation that was no threat to the United States of America is a noble cause. And I’m not going to let him tell me about keeping America safe for freedom and democracy, because he told us before he invaded that it was about weapons of mass destruction and Saddam Hussein with some kind of a link to al Qaeda. And that’s been proven wrong, and it’s been proven wrong consistently, and the Downing Street memos prove that as early as July of 2002, they knew that that was wrong and they had to fabricate the intelligence to fit their policy of invading Iraq. And that means that my son’s murder was premeditated.

AMY GOODMAN: Where did your son die?

CINDY SHEEHAN: He died in Sadr City, Baghdad, in an ambush on April 4, 2004.

AMY GOODMAN: What was his understanding of why he was going there?

CINDY SHEEHAN: He thought it was probably for oil, and he didn’t want to go. He didn’t agree that the President was using his troops wisely. And I begged him not to go, and he said, “Mom, I have to go. My buddies are going.” And if I had known that, you know, if I had known what was going to happen to him, I think I probably would have tried to force him into Canada or something, but, you know, he was an adult, and he thought it was his duty, and so I was as supportive as I could be. He was only there for five days, though, before he was killed.

AMY GOODMAN: There is a major rightwing attack on you led by Bill O’Reilly, the Drudge Report. They call you a traitor. Your response?

CINDY SHEEHAN: I believe that it is my right and responsibility as an American to question our government when our government is wrong. I’m not one of the immature patriots who say my country, right or wrong, because my country is wrong now, and my country — the policies of my country are responsible for killing tens of thousands of innocent people, and I won’t stand by and let that happen anymore. And I believe that anybody who tries to tell me that I don’t have the right to say what I’m saying, they’re unpatriotic, they’re un-American, and their attacks are not going to stop me.

AMY GOODMAN: Are you going to follow President Bush back to the White House? Are you going to follow him from now on?

CINDY SHEEHAN: We’re going to do a bus tour from Crawford to D.C. on the 31st, and it’s going to — we’re going to take three buses through different parts of the country, going through different cities, picking up different people, and we’re going to converge together on D.C. on September 24th for the big United for Peace and Justice rally. And I won’t be able to be on those buses because I have commitments. My whole entire month of September is committed. And it was even before I decided to do this, so I’m going to be meeting up with everybody on September 24 in D.C. And then we’ll see where we’re going to go from there.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you plan on taking up the same vigil in Lafayette Park outside the White House?

CINDY SHEEHAN: There’s a group of us planning on doing that. I won’t, of course, be able to be there 24 hours a day forever, but it’s going to be like a rotating vigil. And then when he goes back to Crawford, we’ll go back to Crawford.

AMY GOODMAN: That is Cindy Sheehan, she was speaking to us at Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport, as she caught the next plane to Los Angeles to see her ailing mother. Her mother had a stroke yesterday. She is 74 years old. Cindy Sheehan, co-founder of Gold Star Families for Peace, also founder of Camp Casey, named for her son, Casey Sheehan, who died April 4, 2004, in Iraq in Sadr City.

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