Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Speaking of Cindy Sheehan, I have a few things to say...

It's been nine days since Cindy bid farewell to the peace/activist movement. I will miss her, and so will a lot of people. One of the stand out comments for me in the rash of articles, blogs, and media covering this story was one that did not make it into the coverage. It was actually an email reaction from a young person explaining a concept of heros in this generation that registered with me since I'm of that prior generation.

The email indicates that those of us who came from the generation of strong leader's voicess, ie, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy, Malcolm X, and later John Lennon, all who were assassinated; we had 'heros' but this generation has few 'hero voices' and this young person writes that Cindy is one of the few heros for their generation. Losing her voice is cause for many of the younger generation to feel the loss acutely, as the loss of a personal hero.

I was taken aback in reading that comment as I let it swish around, mulled it over and contemplated how Cindy's action, stand, message and voice rose to the national level of attention that it did. I was there in the first week of Camp Casey, at Crawford, so yes, I saw how it unfolded, how the media pounced on the opportunity, how it was a grass roots effort from the moment Cindy lit out down that road to the Bush Ranch, how she very well could have wound up sitting with a handful of supporters in that hot, summer heat in Crawford, Texas, and how instead people seemed quite taken with the concept of a lone mother of a fallen soldier with the courage to go to the President and ask 'what is the noble cause' .

I was there in that first week to see people from so many walks of life, and not affiliated with any organization begin showing up, sending support, sending supplies, sending money because they said they were compelled, inspired and taken by the concept of Cindy's action to meet with the President and ask him three questions;

What's the noble cause our children are dying for?
What's the noble cause our children have died for?
And our children are fighting for right now?

Of course, yes, the peace/activist movement organizations showed up - such is the culture within the peace/activist movement - and the political culture was already aware of Cindy as she was one of those testifying at John Conyers investigative commission (held in a small basement room as that was supposedly the 'only room available' in the whole of the DC Legislative buildings ) of the fabricated intelligence maneuvered to fit the policy the Bush Administration had already subscribed to and initiated in the invasion/occupation of Iraq. But what remains the stand out feature to me will always be that it was ordinary America and Americans that were captured by the Mother of a Fallen Soldier, killed in Iraq who went to confront the President with those three questions.

The rest is history and fairly well documented, but I will always remember the origins and the beginnings, before Cindy was the Cindy Sheehan face on the anti-war movement. And now I will remember this young person's comments about why people need their heros, why this younger generation needed Cindy to be one of their heros. Since most human heros are exactly that - humans, they don't and can't measure up on the 'perfect' or 'sainthood' scale. Hero worship begs disappointment, for few humans can measure up quite that high on the hero scale. We all do though, need our heros, and however Cindy did or did not measure up, she became a hero to many who feel this time of her resignation as a time of mourning a loss.

Peace Cindy - and Imagine

Video of Camp Casey, August 9 - 15, 2005
by Peter Dudar and Sally Marr of Arlingtonwestfilm.com

(the first week of Aug 9 thru Aug 15 at Camp Casey, when I was there, I met Peter and Sally as they filmed this and I regret that I declined his offer to be included in an interview for this film, although Sally did get some footage of my swollen feet and legs = fireants allergic reaction. This film still brings me to tears, in memory of the early nugget of hope of end to Iraq war that sprang forth and flowered...)

What I wrote the day I learned of Cindy's resignation;

Making History in 2005; Cindy Sheehan Resigns as 'face' of anti-war movement in 2007

By Lietta Ruger posted as front page story to Washblog
Mon May 28, 2007 at 03:18:05 PM PST

left to right; Lietta Ruger, Cindy Sheehan & Juan Torres in the first week of Camp Casey, at Crawford, Texas outside the President Bush ranch.

I sent her an email this morning after reading her 'open' letter of resignation. I received a 'heads up' from among my activist networking of Cindy's letter this morning. I do consider her a hero, even though I did not indulge in hero worship of her. What Cindy Sheehan did in that early week of August in 2005 galvanized this nation; and that will not become revisionist history while I'm alive. I was there that first week of Crawford. I know what I witnessed, experienced, saw and felt. I went down to Crawford, Texas to stand with her - military family supporting another military family; supporting a grieving mother, a courageous woman. There was no way to know how many would turn out in support of Cindy. I only knew I was resolved that this woman, this mother, this military family would not stand alone.

Cindy had the courage to do what few to none others would do - she more than stood up to President Bush, she sought him out, chased him down and forced him, if even for a moment, to deal with reality of loss of life - the human cost if you will - of his Iraq invasion and occupation.

Posting a tribute to Cindy Sheehan here today. My respect, my hat remains off to you Cindy and I'm proud to have been with you at that historic moment in time.

Many may disagree with the directions that Cindy went after that time of August 2005, and I am among those who could not always be comfortable with some of her choices. But my respect for her was never diminished. Her letter (copy and paste below) is not her most elegant writing, and it surely does reflect her weariness and deep disappointment that despite her ongoing, intense, and best efforts Memorial Day next year will continue to have more fallen to honor.

I guess, in a round about way, I could say that Cindy with her own actions has galvanized me one more time. I'm weary too, and I've given it my all for three to four years. A lot of people I know are weary and I have thought to take some down time - my own sabbatical. Perhaps, because I so respect that what Cindy is doing is needful, I can recognize it as needful for myself as well. Perhaps I can find some other venues to give voice to the concerns of military families and the troops that are their loved ones whose lives are on the line daily. As are the lives of families who have the misfortune to be living, no make that residing in Iraq, for certainly this can't be called 'living' for them; more like surviving or survival.

As Cindy once said and it applies, she has skin in the game. It's hard to listen now to people who don't have skin in the game weigh in on what should be done in Iraq. It's hard to watch Congress move with such cumbersome heaviness so lacking in inspirational leadership.

Cindy says she's not giving up, she's resigning from being the whipping woman for the anti-war movement. I'm not giving up either, but I've stood by two amazingly courageous people now in Cindy Sheehan and Lt. Ehren Watada. Still the war goes on without abate. The casualties come from so many levels than the concreteness of lives taken in combat. The war weighs so heavily in the laps of military families whether they are speaking out or not.

What our two U.S. Senators, Cantwell and Murray did in their voting for an appropriation bill to continue to fund a killing war in Iraq is a devastation to me personally. What others of our WA Representatives have done in voting yes consigns one of the returning Iraq veterans in our family (if not both) to a sentence of another 15 month extended stop-lossed deployment to Iraq.

I have returned from spending a few days with my military daughter's family at the base where he is stationed. We shared some precious and valued family time sprinkled with occasional references and conversation about Iraq, about his second deployment. He showed me his new plated armour. I was among families on a military base and felt acutely their 'norm' of daily life as they face deployment after deployment. I met several of my daughter's friends, young military wives with children, and it broke my heart to hear that all of them have husbands in Iraq now, one on a third deployment.

My son-in-law would also have been on a third deployment if he had remained with his original unit. He was able to navigate something of 'breathing room' when he was in the 'stop loss' forced choice of re-enlist while he was in Iraq the first time.

Readers here well know that I have written repeatedly that this is personal for my family and not an abstraction of political jujitsu. I've followed the stories, diaries, blogs here at Washblog and in the NW Portal of Progressive blogs. I've read the disappointment many of the progressives are feeling about the recent vote which is difficult to interpret any other way than the Democrats did not stand with the kind of integrity we expect from our young military troops. My God, the President vetoed - that could well have been the end of the funding right there, or what am I missing that doesn't make that an obvious fact?

I've seen the convoluted explanations about why the Dems felt they had to take it along this course, the lack of votes to overturn a veto, some garblygook about positioning and need for repetitious attempts to obtain that positioning with more Dems and Repubs votes in their favor. It makes no sense and it has no feel of honor.

Well, I doubt that will be the last heard from Cindy Sheehan, but I sent her my wishes for a restorative, restful, retrospective and rejuvenating sabbatical. She gave so much, right, wrong or all the places in between - she gave all she had to give in an earnest hope that she could make a difference and end a war. So did so many others, and I know her efforts weren't singular but it was her amazing stand at Crawford that overturned something cementing dangerously in the national conscience and dialogue in 2005. There is no question that she did make a difference and opened a national dialogue, moved a nation to get on their feet, use their voice, use their citizen rights and responsibilities and practice democracy.

Where does it go from here?

Cindy's open resignation letter today, May 28,2007

"Good Riddance Attention Whore"
Cindy Sheehan

I have endured a lot of smear and hatred since Casey was killed and especially since I became the so-called "Face" of the American anti-war movement. Especially since I renounced any tie I have remaining with the Democratic Party, I have been further trashed on such "liberal blogs" as the Democratic Underground. Being called an "attention whore" and being told "good riddance" are some of the more milder rebukes.

I have come to some heartbreaking conclusions this Memorial Day Morning. These are not spur of the moment reflections, but things I have been meditating on for about a year now. The conclusions that I have slowly and very reluctantly come to are very heartbreaking to me.

The first conclusion is that I was the darling of the so-called left as long as I limited my protests to George Bush and the Republican Party. Of course, I was slandered and libeled by the right as a "tool" of the Democratic Party. This label was to marginalize me and my message. How could a woman have an original thought, or be working outside of our "two-party" system?

However, 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."

I am deemed a radical because I believe that partisan politics should be left to the wayside when hundreds of thousands of people are dying for a war based on lies that is supported by Democrats and Republican alike. It amazes me that people who are sharp on the issues and can zero in like a laser beam on lies, misrepresentations, and political expediency when it comes to one party refuse to recognize it in their own party. Blind party loyalty is dangerous whatever side it occurs on. People of the world look on us Americans as jokes because we allow our political leaders so much murderous latitude and if we don't find alternatives to this corrupt "two" party system our Representative Republic will die and be replaced with what we are rapidly descending into with nary a check or balance: a fascist corporate wasteland. I am demonized because I don't see party affiliation or nationality when I look at a person, I see that person's heart. If someone looks, dresses, acts, talks and votes like a Republican, then why do they deserve support just because he/she calls him/herself a Democrat?

I have also reached the conclusion that if I am doing what I am doing because I am an "attention whore" then I really need to be committed. I have invested everything I have into trying to bring peace with justice to a country that wants neither. If an individual wants both, then normally he/she is not willing to do more than walk in a protest march or sit behind his/her computer criticizing others. I have spent every available cent I got from the money a "grateful" country gave me when they killed my son and every penny that I have received in speaking or book fees since then. I have sacrificed a 29 year marriage and have traveled for extended periods of time away from Casey's brother and sisters and my health has suffered and my hospital bills from last summer (when I almost died) are in collection because I have used all my energy trying to stop this country from slaughtering innocent human beings. I have been called every despicable name that small minds can think of and have had my life threatened many times.

The most devastating conclusion that I reached this morning, however, was that Casey did indeed die for nothing. His precious lifeblood drained out in a country far away from his family who loves him, killed by his own country which is beholden to and run by a war machine that even controls what we think. I have tried every since he died to make his sacrifice meaningful. Casey died for a country which cares more about who will be the next American Idol than how many people will be killed in the next few months while Democrats and Republicans play politics with human lives. It is so painful to me to know that I bought into this system for so many years and Casey paid the price for that allegiance. I failed my boy and that hurts the most.

I have also tried to work within a peace movement that often puts personal egos above peace and human life. This group won't work with that group; he won't attend an event if she is going to be there; and why does Cindy Sheehan get all the attention anyway? It is hard to work for peace when the very movement that is named after it has so many divisions.

Our brave young men and women in Iraq have been abandoned there indefinitely by their cowardly leaders who move them around like pawns on a chessboard of destruction and the people of Iraq have been doomed to death and fates worse than death by people worried more about elections than people. However, in five, ten, or fifteen years, our troops will come limping home in another abject defeat and ten or twenty years from then, our children's children will be seeing their loved ones die for no reason, because their grandparents also bought into this corrupt system. George Bush will never be impeached because if the Democrats dig too deeply, they may unearth a few skeletons in their own graves and the system will perpetuate itself in perpetuity.

I am going to take whatever I have left and go home. I am going to go home and be a mother to my surviving children and try to regain some of what I have lost. I will try to maintain and nurture some very positive relationships that I have found in the journey that I was forced into when Casey died and try to repair some of the ones that have fallen apart since I began this single-minded crusade to try and change a paradigm that is now, I am afraid, carved in immovable, unbendable and rigidly mendacious marble.

Camp Casey has served its purpose. It's for sale. Anyone want to buy five beautiful acres in Crawford , Texas ? I will consider any reasonable offer. I hear George Bush will be moving out soon, too...which makes the property even more valuable.

This is my resignation letter as the "face" of the American anti-war movement. This is not my "Checkers" moment, because I will never give up trying to help people in the world who are harmed by the empire of the good old US of A, but I am finished working in, or outside of this system. This system forcefully resists being helped and eats up the people who try to help it. I am getting out before it totally consumes me or anymore people that I love and the rest of my resources.

Good-bye America ...you are not the country that I love and I finally realized no matter how much I sacrifice, I can't make you be that country unless you want it.

It's up to you now.

From the days before Cindy was known to the country the video below:

A Nation Rocked To Sleep

Carly Sheehan, daughter of Peace Mother Cindy and sister to fallen soldier Casey, recites her poem to her fallen brother and the apathy of this country. The pain and pathos are seen in the faces of her family and other parents of fallen soldiers at a temporary cemetery at the beach called "Arlington West." A procession of flag-draped coffins descends the steps of the Santa Monica Pier by "Veterans For Peace" to the 3,100+ wooden crosses, all set to the original symphonic score of Composer Michael McClean.

(my note; also shown in the video is Bill Mitchell, father of Michael Mitchell, 1st Armored, killed in Iraq on the same day as Casey Sheehan - April 4, 2004. I met Bill at Camp Casey and we became friends. It was then that I learned about his son, and that is when I learned of his and Cindy's connection to the 1st Armored being stop-lossed - extended in April 2004, due to the Sadr City uprising. Michael Mitchell, being with 1st Armored, was extended and was killed. We have two in our family who were deployed to Iraq with 1st Armored and were caught up in that stop-loss extension in April 2004. At the time, the last moment stop-loss extension was very much a last minute notification to the families and we already had homecoming plans underway. At the time, we did not know of Bill Mitchell, and his son Michael, or of Cindy Sheehan and her son, Casey.)

(another note; Fernando Suarez is shown in the video. Jesus, Fernando's only son, was the first U.S. Marine killed in Iraq. Jesus had lost his Mexican citizenship for enlisting in the military. The U.S. Military promised him American citizenship which he did not yet have when he died "a soldier without a country'.)

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President George W. Bush's statement in March 2006 after 3 yrs of war "a future President will have to resolve war in Iraq"


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