FLORIDA, December 20, 2012 — The words “controversy” and “Cindy Sheehan” often find themselves in the same sentence.
One of America’s most famous antiwar activists, Sheehan gained widespread notoriety after she launched a series of protests against the Iraq War. This came in the wake of the death of her son, Casey, who was an Army specialist, killed in action outside of Baghdad in 2004.
Over the last several years, Sheehan has branched her activism into the realms of writing and politics. There is far more to her views than we typically hear about.
She shares her opinions about the antiwar movement, social justice, and more in a forthright discussion.
Joseph F. Cotto: This is surely one of the most polarized eras in American politics. Do you believe that the antiwar movement has been a major contributing factor to this?
Cindy Sheehan: First of all, I am not sure your statement is valid, at least we aren't killing each other in a Civil War.
I believe that the Democrats and Republicans in the top echelons of our government are very similar in ideology and they play act at being in opposition to each other and only their tactics and empty political rhetoric are dissimilar.
No, I don't think the antiwar movement has been a major contributing factor to any policy change or polarization.
Cotto: Since Barack Obama was elected president, the antiwar movement seems to have quieted down a bit. Is this actually the case, or simply a matter of inadequate media coverage?
Sheehan: I think the antiwar movement that I was involved in from 2004-2008 was mostly an anti-Bush or anti-Republican movement, so when Obama came into office, (or in 2007 when the Democrats regained the majority in the House), the movement greatly dissipated. So, it is far smaller, but I also think media coverage is very inadequate.
For example, I have been to Martha's Vineyard in the Summer of 2009 to protest Obama on his vacation and there was no media coverage; then I held two antiwar camps in DC in 2010 and there was very little coverage. Consequently, I am still being falsely hammered from the right about not protesting Obama when nothing could be farther from the truth.
Cotto: What would you say are the goals of the modern American antiwar movement?
Sheehan: To oppose Republican waged wars and be silent on Democratic waged wars?
The above sentence is only 1/2 way sarcastic. I differentiate between a "antiwar" movement and a "peace" movement. I prefer to be a member of the peace movement. The peace movement is not partisan and calls for an end to all wars and the empire. We oppose nukes in all forms and not only war, but sanctions and preparations for war.
Cotto: Many antiwar activists speak about pacifism as a viable alternative to all forms of combat. In your opinion, is this a practical viewpoint?
Sheehan: I think the only justification for any kind of violence is self-defense. It's been a long time since the US has used its military in this way.
Cotto: During the years ahead, do you expect the antiwar movement to gain popular support? Why or why not?
Sheehan: I thought if Romney was selected in 2012 that the antiwar movement would grow among the Democrats, but our society is profoundly and fundamentally militaristic and hegemonic. To have popular support for an antiwar movement, our society would have to have a paradigm shift to be antiwar. I hope I am wrong, but sadly, I don't see that happening in the near future.
Cotto: Your son, U.S. Army Specialist Casey Sheehan, was killed in action outside of Baghdad during 2004. How did his death change your perspective about the Iraq War?
Sheehan: It didn't. I was always against the war.
Cotto: The term "social justice" is used quite often. How would you define it?
Sheehan: Economic, social, racial, and gender equality.
Cotto: What has been the greatest reward of being an activist?
Sheehan: Being able in all things to retain my integrity. I have also met some extraordinary people all over the world.
Cotto: This year, you ran for vice president as the nominee of the Peace and Freedom Party. Running for national office is an undertaking so massive that few of us can fully comprehend it. What did you learn from your candidacy? Overall, was it a positive experience?
Sheehan: I didn't learn much from this campaign. I learned a lot when I ran against Pelosi for Congress in 2008, though, and the biggest thing I learned was that the system is stacked against the 99 percent and the voice of the working-class is almost totally silenced.
My experience in 2012 running for VP was not really positive, but I am writing a book about it right now and don't want to give away too much.
Cotto: Now that our discussion is at its end, many readers are probably wondering how you came to be one of America's foremost antiwar activists. What inspires you to continue on in your work each day?
Sheehan: My surviving children and my four grandchildren give me my inspiration to continue everyday. I love everyone on this planet, not just Americans, and I work towards a day when war is obsolete and everyone on earth has equal access to basic human rights. If that vision is not realized before I can't go on anymore, I know that we will be closer because of my work and the work of the wonderful people I have been fortunate enough to associate with.