Follow the Soapbox
 
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by Cindy Sheehan

August 6th is certainly a day that has gone down in infamy.

Undoubtedly, the most notorious event that occurred on 8/6 was the 1945 US a-bombing of Hiroshima followed closely by the bombing of Nagasaki. The tragedy of those war crimes still has have many repercussions to this day. 

I was honored to be invited to visit Japan on the anniversaries and I met survivors and the family members of those that were obliterated. I met a Japanese woman who was in Havana and she had lost a young daughter to cancer because of the never-ending after effects of radiation. What the US did on that day was beyond shameful, but what is even more shameful is the vast number of USAians who still consider those bombings justified.

Now, let’s jump over about 56 August 6ths to the year 2001. Remember this is one month and five days before the terrible events of September 11, 2001.
A little known, or remembered event happened on 8/6/2001 in teeny, tiny Crawford, Texas—a place I was to become very familiar with in a few more years.

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On that day, Bush was on the longest recorded vacation of any POTUS in US history and he was handed a PDB (Presidential Daily Briefing) titled: Bin Laden Determined to Strike in the US. This, according to The History Commons:


“According to journalist and author Ron Suskind, just after a CIA briefer presents President Bush with the later infamous PDB (Presidential Daily Briefing) item entitled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US” Bush tells the briefer, “You’ve covered your ass, now.” This account is from Suskind’s 2006 book The One Percent Doctrine, which is based largely on anonymous accounts from political insiders. In the book, after describing the presentation of the PDB, Suskind will write: “And, at an eyeball-to-eyeball intelligence briefing during this urgent summer, George W. Bush seems to have made the wrong choice. He looked hard at the panicked CIA briefer. ‘All right,’ he said. ‘You’ve covered your ass, now.’”

Like I said, today, there will be commemorations that get it right, or get it wrong about Hiroshima, but I bet none will mention the PDB in 2001, or my little contribution to that day’s history in 2005 that came to be known as “Camp Casey.”

On August 3 of that year, I was at my home in Vacaville, Ca (still in deep pain from the murder of my son Casey in Iraq) watching some news broadcast, or the other, and my nemesis George Bush came on. He was, once again, on vacation at his pig ranch in Crawford, but this day he was somewhere in Texas doing something. That day, 11 Marines from the same reserve unit in Ohio were killed in the same incident in Iraq. Bush was asked about that and he said, “The families of the fallen can rest assured their loved ones died for a noble cause.”

Of course, since my son Casey died in Iraq in another long line of Imperial wars based on lies and for profit, my ears pricked up at this “Noble Cause” bullshit! At the time George was clearly at a press availability, so I waited for someone from the “press” (really, White House stenographers) to ask him what the “Noble Cause” was, since the mission-lie had already changed several times by then. Predictably, not one of the stenographers asked George that question.

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This was the first in a string of coincidences that led me to Crawford that year—well, really the second. The first one was that I was supposed to be in London the following week to go to an impeachment conference with Congressman John Conyers—my plane ticket had already been purchased by the London activists. I was very excited because I had never been anywhere in Europe before, but Conyers’ (he of impeachment fame before he became chair of the House Judiciary Committee in 2007) plans changed and the event was postponed, so I had my entire August free.

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That was, I had my August free AFTER I went to Dallas, Texas on
August 4th to participate in the annual Veterans for Peace convention. So, the day after George openly told another lie he was not held accountable for (except for by the people), I was scheduled to go to Texas. At that point, I had a brainstorm. After I give my speech in Dallas at the VFP conference on August 5, why don’t I drive to Crawford (at that point I didn’t even know where Crawford was in relation to Dallas—Texas is one big-ass state) and try to demand a meeting with George to ask him “What Noble Cause” myself?

I had scheduled an event in Sacramento that night, so I wrote a quick email to my email list at the time (probably about 300-400 people. There was no Twitter, Facebook, or even Myspace back then) telling my contacts about my plan, and I left for Sacramento. On the way, I called my sister Dede Miller who was meeting me in Dallas the next day to tell her that we were driving to Crawford from Dallas on Saturday to ask Bush “What Noble Cause” and she said, “okay.” Then I called Andrea Buffa who was working PR for CODEPINK at the time and asked her if she would help me spread the word and she said, “Okay.” By the time I arrived back home that evening, my AOL (remember AOL?) inbox had overflowed. Apparently
, my email had traveled around the world and many people were excited about the impending action.

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The so-called right-wing in this country wanted to paint Camp Casey as a long planned out and well-funded venture and me as the "front person" in an effort that was politically motivated. Gasbag Rush Limbaugh claimed that my "story" was contrived and based on "false documents" like that of Bill Burkett who accused George Bush of being AWOL from the Texas National Guard. Of course, that's true and what did I do? Bury an empty coffin just so I could camp in 110 degree weather in Crawford 16 months later? Hell, even my own in-laws accused my protest of being motivated by my political leanings even though I had always been against wars in general and Iraq in particular. However, I don't think one brainstorm, no endless stream of conference calls/emails, and three days planning can truthfully be construed by anyone with any intellectual integrity as being nothing but completely spontaneous. And, NO George Soros did not personally fund Camp Casey. It was funded by people from all over sending us their contributions and other kinds of donations.

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On Saturday morning, August 6th, we loaded up a bus owned by a member of VFP that had "IMPEACH BUSH" painted in huge letters on its side, and had a caravan of cars follow us to make the approximately three hour drive from Dallas down to Crawford.

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Joining me on the bus were members of Vietnam Vets Against War, Vets for Peace, and Iraq Vets Against the War and another Gold Star Families for Peace (GSFP) who had come up from Houston to support us, Amy Branham. We were giddily apprehensive and we had no idea what to expect. The day before one of the founders of the Crawford Peace House, Hadi Jawad had asked me what I had planned to do if Bush refused to meet with me. I answered, "I hadn't thought about that, but I guess I will just sit on the side of the road and refuse to move until he agrees to meet with me." I will never forget Hadi's response to me: "Wow, that's an action." And it did turn out to be quite an "action." When I look back on that summer, I have many, many, many fond memories. It was the first major post-9/11 "occupy" after all. People flocked from all over the country (and world) to come to that bump in the road to be in solidarity with us. If they couldn't come, they held rallies and camps in their own neck of the woods. One couple drove down from Wisconsin just to meet me, give us a donation and they turned around and went right back.

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Of course, we had many celebrities come and join us. Hunky Viggo Mortensen came for a few minutes to kiss my hand and bring me some California produce (greatly appreciated). Joan Baez came when I had to go back home to California to take care of my mother who had suffered a massive stroke one day (she sadly ended up passing away in February, 2007) when I was in Crawford. Joan stayed for awhile and was a great presence.

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I made many friends who became my family, but some who have since abandoned the idea of peace in favor of the Democrat party. When I look back on the experience from a perspective of nine years and millions of gallons of water under the bridge, the one thing I regret is that I did not recognize then that some of the prominent people and big organizations that came to Camp Casey that summer did not come to support peace, but came to only support Democrats.

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That summer, Camp Casey was a powerful movement that could have affected real systemic change if the devious Democrats and their minions hadn't co-opted the struggle to regain political power, and look what that has achieved as the world tilts on the brink of total global conflict via the Drone Bomber and ever present War Machine.

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Also, while I met lifelong friends in Crawford, also I lost some  friends due to jealousy at my sudden prominence. I guess in this day and age of the "15 minutes of fame" soundbite culture, many people would think that being "famous" or infamous, or a cause celebré is exciting and/or glamorous. It is not, it's mostly awful, especially if one never sought out, or wanted that celebrity.

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I was either viciously attacked for example, Glen Beck called me a "tragedy pimp", or put on a pedestal, for example, Maureen Dowd wrote in the NY Times that I had the "absolute moral authority." Both of these extremes were undeserved. I was simply a mom from California who wanted a simple question answered. I wanted the truth, and here in the US, that is extra-ordinary, but I wasn't an extra-ordinary person. I hated having my life being put under a microscope, especially when another coincidence was that I was going through a separation and eventual divorce at the time, which was a deeply personal thing and never should have been fodder used to demonize me. If every woman going through a divorce was demonized in this country, that would be a profitable industry, wouldn't it?

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I would hate to think the only thing Camp Casey accomplished was getting the left-wing of the war party back in political power. I think we did re-shape the dialogue and perceptions of war. With many vets and other family members joining me that summer, people in the US were seeing, for the first time this generation, active family opposition to the institutions that steal our young people to kill and die in the wars for profit of today's Military Industrial Complex. 

For the 10th anniversary next year of Camp Casey, we'd like to present a documentary to not just relive the magic and the trials of the experience, but to re-inspire some principled activism against the Empire that is completely outside the sphere of partisan politics. 

Please donate to the project as an anniversary present:

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Prairie Fire, the Camp Casey Story



We're still trying to make that difference and tip the scales towards peace and justice!

 


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