Hundreds of supporters converged on Camp Casey outside Bush’s Crawford estate this weekend. Although Cindy Sheehan had to leave temporarily to care for her ailing mother, other military families delivered a letter to the gates of the presidential property. [includes rush transcript]
Despite the temporary departure of Cindy Sheehan to care for her ailing mother, the antiwar vigil outside President Bush’s estate in Crawford is continuing to grow. Hundreds gathered on Saturday night to hear musician Steve Earle perform at Camp Casey. Legendary folk singer Joan Baez also held a concert Sunday evening. Military families, veterans and other supporters are coming from around the country–as far away as Alaska, California and Massachusetts–to support Cindy’s efforts.
It all started two weeks ago on August 6th when Cindy began the vigil in memory of her son, Casey who died in Iraq last year. She has vowed to stay until Bush meets with her, or until his month-long vacation ends. Cindy’s protest has received national and international media attention and has become the central focus of the antiwar movement. She left the site abruptly on Thursday to be with her mother who suffered a stroke. She says she plans to return before the end of the president’s August vacation.
Over the weekend, Bush met with cycling champion Lance Armstrong for a two-hour bike ride around the Crawford property. Armstrong has recently criticized the war in Iraq saying it has prevented the country from spending more on cancer research. While President Bush gave him a t-shirt that said "Tour-de-Crawford", he made no public comments, Cindy Sheehan, the "Tour-de-Force" while in Crawford.
After two weeks at the Crawford estate, Bush is heading out on the road this week for a pair of speeches focusing on Iraq and the war on terror. On Monday, the president is scheduled to address the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Utah.
Meanwhile, at Camp Casey, Cindy Sheehan’s supporters are vowing to stay throughout the month until Bush’s vacation ends and then on to Washington for a major antiwar rally on September 24th.
Democracy Now! broadcast from Camp Casey on Friday. We stayed on though the weekend to cover the story. Military families and Iraq veterans held a press conference at Camp Casey Friday afternoon.
- Becky Lourey, (D-MN). Her son, Matt, was killed in Iraq in May. Lourey was a leading opponent in her state of the invasion of Iraq. In March 2003, she authored an antiwar resolution signed by eighteen other state senators.
After the news conference, military families, veterans and others held a prayer vigil in front of the more than 840 crosses planted in the camp grounds representing soldiers killed in Iraq. They then boarded into vans and headed out towards President Bush’s property to deliver the letter. Leading the procession were two women: Beatrice Saldivar whose nephew, Daniel Torres was killed in Iraq in February 2005 and Mimi Evans whose son is a marine awaiting deployment to Iraq. They were stopped at a checkpoint on the way to Bush’s property.
Refusing to be turned away, Mimi Evans and Beatrice Saldivar walked hand in hand up to the barriers blockading the entrance to President Bush’s estate. They dropped the letter on the ground and laid a pair of flowers on top. This is Beatrice Saldivar.
- Beatrice Saldivar, her nephew, Daniel Torres was killed in Iraq in February 2005
AMY GOODMAN: Military Families and Iraq Veterans held a news conference at Camp Casey on Friday afternoon. The temperature, as usual, over 100 degrees. One of those who spoke was Minnesota State Senator, Becky Lourey. Her son, Matt, was killed in Iraq just a few months after Casey Sheehan died. Lourey was a leading opponent in her state of the invasion of Iraq. In March 2003, the State Senator authored an anti-war resolution signed by 18 other state senators. This is what Becky Lourey had to say at the rally on Friday.
STATE SEN. BECKY LOUREY: Thank you so much for being here so that you can report to the world that Camp Casey is alive and well. I’m Minnesota State Senator, Becky Lourey. My son, CW-4, Matthew Scott Lourey, a wonderful American hero, died on May 26, saving his colleagues’ lives in Iraq. And I’m reading you a letter written by all of us here.
August 19, 2005. "Dear Mr. President, Cindy Sheehan a Gold Star mother who has been camped outside your ranch, asking you to take one hour out of your five-week vacation to meet with her, left Camp Casey today when her mother had a stroke.
“While Cindy Sheehan is temporarily not in Crawford, we want to be clear that we, Gold Star and Military Families and Veterans who have stood by Cindy these past 11 days, remain encamped outside your ranch, and we will stay here until you meet with us and answer ours and Cindy’s questions about the, quote, 'noble cause,' unquote, for which our loved ones have been killed or placed in harm’s way. Cindy Sheehan may have started this, but we are committed to carrying it on on behalf of Cindy and the thousands of Gold Star and Military Families across the country who have the very same concerns and questions.
“Many of our families have paid the ultimate price for your administration’s lies leading up to this war in Iraq, and we all deserve answers. Harm, danger, death and grief entered our living rooms the moment you sent our nation and our loved ones to a war with a country that posed no threat to America and had nothing to do with the terrible tragedy of September 11th.
“We need answers. We need the truth. You put our loved ones and all of our troops into harm’s way based on lies. Too many of our loved ones have already paid the ultimate price. For those of us with loved ones deployed or about to deploy, every day threatens to transform them from a military family to a Gold Star family. We call on you, Mr. President, to support our troops and bring them home now.
"Sincerely, Charlie Anderson, Iraq veteran; Rebecca Bahr, mother of a soldier; Lynn Bradach, Gold Star mother; Cody Comacho, Iraq veteran; Michelle Deford, Gold Star mother; Linda Englund, mother of returned soldier; Mimi Evans, mother of deploying soldier; Linda Jansen, family of soldier; Doug Met, family of soldier; Tammara Rosenleaf, wife of deploying soldier; Beatriz Saldivar, aunt of fallen soldier; Nancy Towson, mother of deployed soldier; Allison Townson, sister of deployed soldier; Pat Vogel, mother of returning soldier." And say your name.
JUAN TORRES: Juan Torres, father.
STATE SEN. BECKY LOUREY: Juan, father —
JUAN TORRES: Juan Torres.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: And Sergio Torres, father.
STATE SEN. BECKY LOUREY: And Sergio, father, right here. And for a few remarks from me personally, I do believe that a conversation is incredibly valuable. If North Carolina Congressman Walter Jones, who dubbed French fries "freedom fries," can change his mind and offer a resolution because it is clear now from all the intelligence that the presence ever our troops in Iraq is making the insurgency stronger, if Congressman Walter Jones can change his mind, so can our President Bush.
AMY GOODMAN: Minnesota State Senator, Becky Lourey, speaking at Camp Casey, Friday afternoon. She lost her son Matt this past May in Iraq. After the news conference, military families, veterans and others held a prayer vigil in front of the more than 840 crosses planted in the campgrounds representing soldiers who have been killed in Iraq. They then boarded vans and headed towards President Bush’s property to deliver the letter. Leading the procession were two women, Beatriz Saldivar, whose nephew Daniel Torres was killed in Iraq, and Mimi Evans whose son, a marine, is awaiting deployment. They were stopped at a checkpoint on the way to Bush’s ranch.
SECRET SERVICE: Hello. How are you doing? I’m B.J. Flowers, Secret Service. How are you doing? What can I do for you this morning?
MIMI EVANS: Hello, we have something for the President of the United States. My name is Mimi Evans. I’m with Military Families Speak Out, and I have a letter for the President.
SECRET SERVICE: Okay.
MIMI EVANS: And this letter says —
SECRET SERVICE: Well, ma’am, I cannot accept —
MIMI EVANS: I’m not reading it, and I know you cannot accept it.
SECRET SERVICE: Okay, I can’t accept it, and I don’t believe there’s anyone from staff here to take your letter at the moment, okay?
MIMI EVANS: Will they be here later?
SECRET SERVICE: I don’t anticipate them to be here. No, ma’am. Sometimes they’re here —
BEATRIZ SALDIVAR: Can you call somebody?
SECRET SERVICE: No. Can’t call them down here. That’s up to them whether they want to be down here, you know, to address any complaints or [inaudible] —
BEATRIZ SALDIVAR: Can you ask them that all the mothers of the fallen soldiers are asking somebody from the White House to come in and accept this letter?
SECRET SERVICE: They — there’s no one here to accept it, ma’am. I’m sorry. I can’t take it. Thank you.
MIMI EVANS: As Secret Service, would you be able to convey the message that we are still down at the camp, and we intend to stay there, the mothers and the families, please?
SECRET SERVICE: I will relay that information.
MIMI EVANS: We are not going anywhere.
SECRET SERVICE: Okay. Very good.
MIMI EVANS: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: Refusing to be turned away, Mimi Evans and Beatriz Saldivar walked hand in hand up to the barriers blockading the entrance to President Bush’s estate. They dropped the letter on the ground and laid flowers on top. This is Beatriz Saldivar.
BEATRIZ SALDIVAR: I want to say to President Bush one thing, okay, and in the name of Cindy and all the mothers, that letter that’s laying there with those precious flowers on top is laying there. Our soldiers when they killed — get killed in Iraq, the men next to them, the other fellow soldiers, picks up their body, their pieces. Sometimes the bodies are not recognized. Sometimes they come back in one piece, and sometimes they have their eyes open and they’re dead. We ask you, President, to have the courage to pick up that letter. It’s just a simple letter. We cannot pick up our sons and daughters and husbands and nephews, but you can — we cannot bring them back alive, but you can have the courage to pick up that letter and talk to this nation and the world. The whole world is listening.
AMY GOODMAN: Beatriz Saldivar, her nephew Daniel Torres, died in Iraq earlier this year. The Secret Service told the women and their religious people supporting them who came to the checkpoint that they had to get back in their vans. The letter and the flowers remained on the ground.