As support for the war in Iraq plummets, the anti-war movement has a new spokesperson, someone who is not a celebrity or politician. Instead, the peace movement’s new leader is a grieving mother who lost her son in Iraq and wants the troops to come home immediately. After losing her 24-year old son, Casey, in Iraq in April 2004, Cindy Sheehan turned against the war. Over the summer, the media swarmed around the heartbroken mother because she camped in protest near President Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas through the month of August, hoping for a meeting with the commander-inchief. In August, Sheehan told the Associated Press that if she had the opportunity she would ask President Bush: “What is the noble cause my son died for?” After Casey died in combat, his mother did have the chance to meet with President Bush. A few months after Casey died, President Bush finally met with the family. However, Sheehan found the meeting to be uncomfortable. She told the Associated Press in August that she felt President Bush was “totally disconnected from humanity and reality.”
Sheehan’s bold statements against the war and the Bush administration have earned her the support of several peace activists across the country. In both small American towns and in major cities, peace groups have held candlelight vigils in honor of Sheehan. Last month, people from across the country joined her protest in Crawford, Texas. Despite her busy schedule, Sheehan co-founded the organization Gold Star Families for Peace. The group, which is composed of family members who have lost loved ones in Iraq, is demanding a complete withdrawal from Iraq.
“We as families of soldiers who have died as a result of war are organizing to be a positive force in our world to bring our country’s sons and daughters home from Iraq, to minimize the “human cost” of this war and to prevent other families from the pain we are feeling as the result of our losses,” the group’s web site, www. gsfp.org, says. So far, the group has aired a television advertisement featuring Sheehan requesting to meet with President Bush about the war.
Currently, Sheehan is traveling across the country on a bus tour and challenging the administration. On Sept. 24, Cindy will be in Washington, D.C. to speak at a massive peace demonstration. Despite Sheehan’s personal loss and her peaceful means of protesting, some conservatives have stooped low and attacked her character. “She has a political agenda that goes way beyond her son’s death in combat,” Kristin Taylor, co-leader of the Washington, D.C. chapter of www.freerepublic.com, told MSNBC.com in August.
Taylor’s conservative organization often holds counterprotests at anti-war demonstrations. O ther conservative bigwigs have claimed that Sheehan is exploiting her son’s death, and some argue she is nothing more than a mouthpiece for liberal groups like www.moveon.org. Yet, it seems as though Sheehan’s personal loss has sparked her activism against the war in Iraq more than personal ambitions or influence from an outside group could have. Cindy Sheehan represents several grieving family members across the country who want answers and an end to the war.
Along with Sheehan, many people are going to continue to protest on the streets and hold candlelight vigils until every troop is brought home from Iraq. As the conflict drags on, the peace movement will only grow and defy a war that continues to be unpopular among the American people.
Brian Fanelli is a senior majoring in comparative literature with minors in creative writing and journalism.