On August 3, 2005, fourteen Marines from a reserve unit in Ohio were killed in Iraq--then president, George Bush, said that they, and all of the war dead, died for a "Noble Cause." I was sitting in my home in Vacaville, California watching the press conference where George said this, and when none of the reporters present asked him exactly what that "Noble Cause" was, I decided to go to Crawford and ask him myself.
I sent out an email stating my intention to go to Crawford, and a few hours later I received an email from one of the founders of the Crawford Peace House, Hadi Jawad, telling me that the Peace House would be at my disposal for that action. Well, that action turned into a movement. And even though on August 3rd, I had never even heard of the Crawford Peace House, the owner, Johnny Wolf, and its staff became an integral and indispensable part of the Camp Casey protests.
During the protests, the Crawford Peace House welcomed and fed literally thousands of people and managed a large team of volunteers. It took tens of thousands of dollars to keep the protests going while Bush was president.
Even though the wars haven't ended and Bush is out of office, the "action" that turned into a movement is what changed the perceptions and attitudes of a nation.
Our vision for the Peace House would be for a Peace Museum and visitor center for people who want to come to Crawford and visit the historic sites of Camp Casey 1, 2, and 3, and store the vast amount of memorabilia, photos, and cherished mementos.
Now, my friends need help--I am copying a letter from the founder of the Crawford Peace House, Johnny Wolf.
Seven years ago, I made a down payment on a house in Crawford Texas. On Easter Sunday 2003, it became the Crawford Texas Peace House.
We committed to being there until Bush was out of the White House, and we kept that commitment. Those years were important years for me and for the peace movement.
For a little over a year we have had a new administration and the wars we set out to stop continue and have to spread to Pakistan and still threaten Iran. The relevance of Crawford's Western White House and our resistance has all become a significant part of history.
No, the mortgage did not get paid. I have not been able to meet my financial obligations on the Peace House, and I am five payments behind.
The Peace House is scheduled for a Foreclosure Auction on Tuesday morning on the steps of McLennan County Court House, April 6,
There is an offer to purchase the house for 10,000.00 less than what is owed. My personal situation will not allow me to take the offer. It needs a new owner 48,000.00 is owed on the mortgage .4,000.00 will bring it current and cover legal fees.
If you are interested in a future for the Peace House please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
If an unfriendly entity purchases the house we will be served an eviction notice and must vacate the premises
Thanks for all the Brave Souls that came here to make a difference.
Six years ago, I woke up on Palm Sunday listening to the birds sing and already feeling that it was going to turn out to be a warm one.
I got up and was surprised that the constant anguish that I had been feeling for two weeks since my oldest son, Casey, was deployed to Iraq wasn’t that bad. I chalked it up to the beautiful spring day and the fact that my other children were safe and sound in their beds.
I went about my day doing laundry, shopping, going to brunch with my best friend at the time, and getting things ready for my impending workweek as a benefit’s analyst for the County of Napa. It was also the first Sunday in over two decades that our family didn’t go to mass on a Palm Sunday. Our separation from the church had already begun.
That idyllic day began to shatter to pieces at dinner time when I was watching the news with my husband, Casey’s father, and we saw a humvee burning and learned that eight soldiers had been killed in Iraq that day. The delicious dinner I was enjoying turned to lumps of crap in my mouth and I spit it on my plate and said, “One of them was Casey.” My husband, who probably knew as well, got very upset with me, but I knew. I just knew.
A few hours later, I was walking our dogs and sobbing all the way around our nightly route. I knew if Casey wasn’t dead that he was horribly wounded and our family was in for a lot of heartache.
When I rounded the corner, I saw that my oldest daughter, Carly, was already home from work—I was happy that she was home, but when I rounded the corner of the garage, I could see into my house, and what I saw was going to inalterably change my life forever: three Army officers standing in my living room—I ran into the house and saw the shocked looks on Carly and Pat’s faces, and I collapsed on the floor screaming hoping I could scream loud enough and long enough that my heart would physically shatter and I would die, too.
I obviously didn’t die, but I have never been the same. How can one go on the same when a very important part of ones life has been violently stolen?
My life will never be able to achieve April 3, 2004 status, again. Before I even camped out in Crawford and my life changed, it had already been turned upside down.
Palm Sunday was on April 04, 2004 that year—04/04/04—the date that will live in infamy to our family—and to the other families, American and Iraqi that were killed that day.
Six years and hundreds of antiwar events later, the wars rage on and people’s lives are still being destroyed.
My question was then, and will always be the same: “For what noble cause?”
Today, the new War Criminal in Chief call the war in Afghanistan, “absolutely essential,” when he was there on a surprise visit.
It’s absolutely essential for the war machine, but since US casualties have doubled in 2010, there have been and will continue to be mothers, fathers, and other loved ones all over this world who will marvel at how its possible to live with a heart that is so irreparably crushed.
I know it’s not Palm Sunday’s fault that Casey was killed. It is just another day that brings extra pain to my life where every day is filled with the pain of losing Casey.
Easter time is supposed to symbolize rebirth and new life. I was reborn on Palm Sunday in 2004, but the price was too steep. A price no parent should have to pay.
Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.” Henry David Thoreau
A week ago today, I was literally cooling my jets in a freezing cold DC jail for protesting the continuation of the illegal and immoral wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. For an offense (crossing a police line) that doesn’t even have any jail time associated with the penalty, if convicted, I stayed in jail for 50 hours. I was arrested with seven others and six of us had the similar fate of spending an unreasonable amount of time in jail for standing up for peace and justice.
After spending two nights in jail, we were taken to the court building where we spent another eight hours in a holding cell in leg shackles. When we were finally summoned to the traffic courtroom our wrists were shackled to chains wrapped around our waists.
During our unfortunate incarceration, two male members of the group had to go to the hospital for numbness in their hands and fingers because of the tightness of the handcuffs. After sleeping on cold concrete for 50 hours, Elaine Brower and I were cramping up in pain.
For minor infractions, we have to return to DC for a hearing on June 9th—since my charges don’t require jail time, and since I have already done 50 hours, I wonder what penalty will be imposed for my inevitable verdict of “guilty.”
While we were standing before the judge, we were also ordered to stay away from the White House as a condition of our release and the parameters were clearly defined and we were told that if we violated that “stay away order,” we would spend a mandatory “six months in jail.”
Six months in jail for walking on a sidewalk near the White House? Three of the people who were jailed for 50 hours had never even been arrested in DC before—and the other three of us have been arrested multiple times in front of the White House when George Bush was president and never had a stay away order imposed. As a matter of fact, activists in the DC area can’t even recall when a stay away order from the White House has ever been imposed.
Stay away orders from Capitol Hill have been liberally applied. My own daughter, Carly, had one for once interrupting a hearing with General Petraeus. Stay away orders seem on the surface to be as un-Constitutional as “free speech” zones, but our soft-core fascist state has continually ruled in favor of these limits on free speech saying that what we say can’t be limited, but where and when we say it, can. Consequently, protesting seems very futile if we can’t even get near the people or things we are protesting. Limiting the “where and when,” does severely limit our “what,” if no one can hear.
The day after I got out of jail, I decided to go to the Hill to attend a robotic warfare hearing and I quickly made a small sign that said: “Drones Kill Kids,” and I was holding it quietly in my lap as I listened to the testimony. Holding small signs is generally tolerated, if you don’t wave it, or hold it up and block anybody’s view. Having no intention of interrupting the hearing since I was interested in the topic, I was surprised when a staffer of the Chairman, John Tierney, approached me and told me to put the sign away, or I would be kicked out, along with my colleague, Josh Smith who was sitting next to me and also holding a sign.
I patiently explained to her that holding a sign was my right and I was being quiet and respectful. Sure enough, during the break, the Capital Hill police came to eject us from the hearing.
The next day, we found out that Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates were testifying on the 33 billion dollar supplemental war-funding bill. The hearing was changed from a Senate office building to the Capitol building and put into a small, small room. We decided that we would try to at least get close to the closed hearing to express our freedom of speech, so we headed to the Capitol and got in line at the visitor center.
About eight of us were in line for about three minutes when a phalanx of Capitol Hill police (including motorcycle and bike cops) approached us and asked what our “intentions” were. I said that if they didn’t ask everyone in line that same question, their presence and interrogation bordered on “harassment.” A female cop averred that she didn’t think it was “harassment”—isn’t that nice, a harasser doesn’t think she’s harassing?
After standing in line to get in, then standing in line to get a ticket for the Capitol Hill tour, and then watching a movie about our wonderful Congress and the wonderful things it does and has done, (even bragging about the brutal Indian Removal Act of 1830) we got into the Capitol and were followed by the same phalanx of cops. At one point, I peeled off and went up a staircase and a member of our group heard a cop say: “oh, oh, we lost Cindy.” Needless to say, we were all promptly rounded up and escorted out of the building.
I was told in the Park Police station by a cop that if I “stopped protesting, I wouldn’t have to keep going through this.” A member of the group that spent two days in jail was told that by one of the cops that he didn’t “like protesters.” I was told in the Capitol building—our House—that our freedoms were just “bullshit.”
As dissent is being more and more criminalized, we have to dissent more.
People, who support the establishment’s wars, whether on the fake right or the fake left, often tell me that my son was a hero who died for “our freedom and democracy.” Yet, his mother can’t even walk down the streets of the Empire’s capital without being arrested, or at the very least, harassed.
The laws that are imposed on us are imposed from an illegitimate government that has lost its mind and like Henry David Thoreau said:
“Any fool can make a rule and any fool will mind it.”
When the laws are so limiting and arbitrarily applied, it is our duty to become Outlaws.
On Saturday, March 20th (before we were arrested for protesting the wars), my good friends, Mathis Chiroux from Iraq Veterans Against the War and Elaine Brower from Military Families Speak Out, burned an American flag on the stage at the protest rally in Lafayette Park.
Not only do I support this action along First Amendment lines, I also believe that the American flag represents nothing good right now.
Mathis is a war resister and Elaine's own son had three tours in Iraq. Now, both Mathis and Elaine, spend their lives trying to right the wrongs this nation has perpetrated against others in the name of imperial greed and power.
To me, the American flag represents the flag draped coffin that was my son, Casey's, last container home from Iraq when he was killed on April 04, 2004 in a war that has been proven to have been based on lies and one which has killed over one-million people in the seven years it has been immorally and illegally waged.
After burning the flag, Elaine and Mathis took their desire for peace even further and lay on the sidewalk of the White House and were arrested and spent two nights in DC jail.
Anyone who has a problem with burning an American flag has no concept of the human and civil rights that flag is supposed to represent.
If I knew about it, I would have been on that stage with them.
In peace and solidarity for a peaceful future, Cindy Sheehan Mother of Spc. Casey Sheehan, KIA in Iraq 04 April, 2004 Executive Director of Peace of the Action (For identification purposes only)
Transcript of Cindy Sheehan’s Soapbox Interview with President Hugo Chavez
Transcribed by Regina Freitag
Original Translation by Eva Golinger
Interviewer: Cindy Sheehan
Cindy Sheehan: Welcome to this video and audio audition of Cindy Sheehan’s SoapBox.
Presidente Chavez, thank you for being on the show, thank you for this interview and thank you for allowing me to bring the truth about Venezuela and about you and about your revolution to the people of the United States.
Before the revolution, Venezuela was a nation that was ruled and used up by the oligarchy, the elite. How did your revolution begin, how did it manage to remain relatively peaceful?
Hugo Chavez: Thank you Cindy, for this interview, for your efforts, that are so honorable and notable, to try to find out our truth and to contribute to its diffusion. And we wish you much luck in your struggles, which are ours as well, against war, for peace, for freedom and equality and against imperialism. We accompany you in your struggles. You and the people of the United States. We love them the same. The bourgeoisie of Venezuela has always dominated the country, for more than a hundred years. And they dominated it with force, using violence, persecution, assassination and disappearances. Unfortunately, the Venezuelan history is a history full of a lot of violence, violence from the strong against the weak. In the 20th century, Venezuela, which was dominated by the oligarchy and the bourgeois state, the rich, the wealthy, produced a reversed type of miracle, we could say. Venezuela was the first exporter of oil from the beginning of the 1920s until the 1970s. One of the largest producers of petroleum in the world throughout all the 20th century. And when the 20th century ended, with the domination of the bourgeoisie, despite all the wealth, Venezuela had more than 70% poverty and 40% extreme poverty, misery, misery, misery. So that generated an explosion, a violent one. All explosions are violent. An explosion of the poor, to liberate themselves. We were remembering just 2 days ago in Caracas. You were there with us, with our people. 21 years ago, the people woke, arose in a big explosion. And as military we were used by the bourgeoisie to massacre the people, children, women, and older people. And then that awoke something in the young military folks, a consciousness of pain and then we joined with the people. We had two rebellions, military rebellions, popular (inaudible ). A revolution isn’t exactly peaceful. As you said it was relatively peaceful.
Cindy Sheehan: Yes, relatively, yeah
Hugo Chavez: Just like all true revolutions.
Cindy Sheehan: But doesn’t the violence of revolutions sometimes come from the counter-revolution? And the Bolivarian revolution that has transferred power and wealth to the people is an inspiration and has remained relatively peaceful.
Hugo Chavez: Yes, we got the power in a peaceful way.
Cindy Sheehan: Right.
Hugo Chavez: Exactly, and we have been able to maintain it relatively peaceful. We’ve never used violence. They’ve used it against us. The counter-revolution. So the central strategy of our peaceful and socialist revolution is to transfer the power to the people. I’m sure you have been able to see some of it with your own eyes, in the neighborhoods of Caracas.
Cindy Sheehan: Yes I have.
Hugo Chavez: We have made efforts were to help the people to be sovereign. When we talk about power, what are we talking about, Cindy? The first power that we all have is knowledge. So we’ve made efforts first in education, against illiteracy, for the development of thinking, studying, analysis. In a way, that has never happened before. Today, Venezuela is a giant school, it’s all a school. From children of one year old until old age, all of us are studying and learning.
And then political power, the capacity to make decisions, the community councils, communes, the people’s power, the popular assemblies.
And then there is the economic power. Transferring economic power to the people, the wealth of the people distributed throughout the nation. I believe that is the principal force that precisely guarantees that the Bolivarian revolution continues to be peaceful.
Cindy Sheehan: Wonderful. In a speech the other day, you said that the United States demonizes you, demonizes Venezuela and the revolution. I of course have seen it with my own eyes and have been a defender of you and Venezuela and the revolution. Why do you think the Empire makes such a concerted effort to demonize you?
Hugo Chavez: I think for different reasons. But I came to the conclusion there is one particular strong reason, a big reason. They are afraid, the Empire is afraid. The Empire is afraid that the people of the United States might find out about the truth, they are afraid that something like that could erupt on their own territory. A Bolivarian movement. Or a Lincoln movement. A movement of citizens, conscious citizens with the goal to transform the system. Imperial fear killed Martin Luther King. The only way to stop him was to kill him and repressing the people of the United States. So, why do they demonize us? They know - those who direct the Empire – they know the truth. But they fear the truth. They fear the contagious effect. They fear a revolution in the United States. They fear an awakening of the people in the United States. And so that’s why they do everything they can. And they achieve it, relatively, that a lot of sectors in the United States see us as devils. No one wants to copy the devil.
Cindy Sheehan: Right.
Hugo Chavez: Unless they are devils too. And the people aren’t devils. The people are the voice of God.
Cindy Sheehan: Well, one of the biggest names they call you in the United States is dictator. Can you explain to my listeners and the people, for the benefit of this documentary why you are not a dictator?
Hugo Chavez: In the first place, personally, I am against dictatorships. I’m an anti-dictator. We are here in Uruguay, in Montevideo. You know how many dictatorships were in this country. The Guerilla army. I’m an anti-Guerilla. In addition to that, from a political point of view, I’ve been elected one, two, three, four times, by popular vote. In Venezuela, we have elections all the time. Every year, we have elections in Venezuela. One time, Lula, the president of Brazil… when he was in Europe, someone asked him “Why are you friends with that dictator Chavez?” And Lula said a big truth: “In Venezuela, there is an excess of democracy. Every year there are elections. And if there aren’t any, Chavez invents them. Referendums, popular consultations, elections for governors, mayors. Right now, soon we are starting national assembly elections, this year. In 2012 there is going to be a presidential election again. What dictator is elected so many times? What dictator convenes referendums? I’m an anti-dictator. I am a revolutionary. A democratic revolutionary.
Cindy Sheehan: Well, I have witnessed this revolution. I’ve witnessed the empowerment of the people of Venezuela, which is very inspiring, because the people in the United States don’t feel this empowerment. I even rode the Metrocable, and I’m afraid of heights. But I went out to San Augustin and then walked down the steps and saw how that so-called dictatorship has made the life of the people much better here in Venezuela. Also in the commemoration of the Caracazo you announced that you will again going to run for president in 2012. You’ve come a long way, but there is still a long way to go. What do you still think needs to be accomplished as far as infrastructure and the needs of the people in Venezuela?
Hugo Chavez: To tell you in a mathematical way, despite everything we’ve done in education, healthcare, infrastructure, housing, employment, social security, etc., mathematically, I believe, of everything we’ve done and we have to achieve for the people, we have achieved about 10%. It’s been 200 years of abandonment. The people have been abandoned. All the wealth of the country was in the hands of the elite. We talk about the bicentennial cycle, 2010 to 2030, we have to work really hard. In every aspect, infrastructure etc. I hope that you, in a few years, won’t just go up in the metrocable in San Augustin, but all of Caracas is going to have metrocables, and everywhere, every place, housing, reconstruction in poor neighborhoods, the construction of new cities for the people and dignified housing, there is still a lot to do, to achieve what Simon Bolivar said. Bolivar taught us...
(Pres. Evo Morales comes in)
Hugo Chavez: Oh look! Evo is here. Evo, come and sit down! Bolivar taught us that the best government is the one that gives the people the best amount of happiness. That’s our goal. The best, the largest amount of happiness.
My friend Evo, the president of Bolivia, who just got here, he is an indigenous leader! Brother how are you?
Evo Morales: Good, good.
Cindy Sheehan: Presidente Morales. Mucho gusto. So nice to meet you.
Hugo Chavez (introduces Cindy): Cindy Sheehan. She is a fighter for peace, against the war. She is a US citizen. One of her sons died in Iraq. So, she’s interviewing us. And maybe you want to answer a question.
Evo Morales: (gives Indian blessing)
Hugo Chavez: To live well. It’s a Mala Indian philosophy. To live well, a good live. To live well, spiritually, intellectually, physically, that’s what it’s about.
Cindy Sheehan: Thank you, that’s what it should be about. I have one final question.
Thank you for your generosity. This has been really wonderful. Maybe Presidente Morales could have some input about this too. We see your rise to power in Venezuela as kind of a grassroots movement that has been spreading and has helped President Morales in Bolivia, and we see people all over South America taking back the power. Because the power belongs in the hands of the people. A couple of weeks ago in the United States, a man flew his airplane into the tax building in Austin, Texas. Did you hear about that?
Evo Morales/ Hugo Chavez: Yes.
Cindy Sheehan: There is much frustration with the system. And there is a lot of that frustration in the United States. But instead of flying planes into buildings we should find each other and organize. In the United States of course, we are now a system that is also for the elite, ruled by the elite, it’s a “corporatocracy”, it’s for the corporate elite. Of course, in my opinion, I believe the United States need the same grassroots revolution, power back to the people, that you’ve all had here in South America. Can you give us some words of inspiration to encourage us, to give us the courage and heart for a true revolutionary change?
Hugo Chavez: We were the same, dominated, persecuted, and also there was a lot of desperation, just like that man who flew the plane into the building. There is a lot of that, of lot of those impulses, suicidal tendencies. Now, that’s NOT the path. The path is consciousness, a conscious awakening. Evo was persecuted, from very young, I met him when he was an Assembly member, and they threw him out of Congress, and they persecuted him, they jailed him, a lot of his fellow strugglers died. And us too, we had our own experiences. A lot of our brothers died as well, a lot of us went to prison. But consciousness. That’s why you’re doing the right thing. The path is not to fly a plane into a building. It’s to create consciousness. And then the rest will come on its own. I’d like to take this moment to say hello to people of the United States. And us here in the South, we have a lot of faith. And the people in the North are going to wake up. Just like you have woken. Just like many have had an awakening. You can do great changes in the United States, and in a peaceful way, I hope. Because, what happens in the United States, those changes in the United States depend a lot...the future of the world depends on that a lot.
(Pres. Chavez addresses Pres. Morales) Evo, would you like to say something?
Cindy Sheehan: Please!
Evo Morales: I just finished a meeting with Eduardo Galliano.
Cindy Sheehan: Oh, I know him.
Evo Morales: He’s so inspirational with the people, about nature. Galliano is also going to the inauguration of Pepe Mujica. (Pres. Morales and Pres. Chavez talk to each other.) And he’s going to bring some strategies, proposals, and we’re going to have a meeting with Galliano and the cocoa workers ...
Cindy Sheehan: Oh. Very wonderful.
Evo Morales: To talk about equality and our experiences. The difficult things, how to unite us and to raise our consciousness. What you’re talking about. The power resides with the people. I was just with Commandante Borhez, Thomas Borhez from Nicaragua. We were talking about issues of consciousness in Peru, in Colombia, on how to build a big political movement. But the issue is unity. In my experience, first the (inaudible), the marginalized, we united first, the farmers and the indigenous. And from that it went on. Just like that unity, we need to do that with the political parties on the left and then the workers unite. Those are the forces that we have, the power that the people have. To get there is hard, you have to raise consciousness.
Cindy Sheehan: My documentary is called “We are all Americans”. It comes from when I was being interviewed on Fox News and Sean Hannity told me how could I meet with the anti-American dictator Hugo Chavez. And I said: ”But Sean, he is an American”. We are all Americans and that’s where the consciousness has to be raised and the unity has to come from in realizing that.
And so, it’s been my highest honor to sit with you, Presidente, thank you for your hospitality and that of Venezuela and to finally meet you. I was invited to Bolivia to help to support you for your recall, but I was running for Congress against Nazi policy in the United States. It was a bad time. I lost. (laughs) I didn’t win.
Hugo Chavez: But we will prevail.
Cindy Sheehan: We will be victorious. Thank you so much.
Hugo Chavez: We have to end, but I want to say something to you. Just about 5 days ago, we were in Cancun. We were on our way out from the hotel and the press was there, and there were some tourists - from California. So I went up to them and I said hi to a woman and her child and another woman. A lot of affection. It was spontaneous. And then I told my friends. I found tourists. I found US tourists. Older adults, young women, men, adolescents. I’ve met with them in Japan, Moscow, Beijing, in the Caribbean, everywhere in the world, in Buenos Aires. I’ve never felt one look of hate, but rather affection, so I think that despite everything, I believe the people of the United States in the depths of their hearts, they know how to appreciate where lies are and where the truth is. That’s why we have such hope. And here is my heart for those people of the United States. They call us anti-US-leaders, anti-American leaders, but we are not. We are anti-imperialist. But we love the people of the United States. We love humanity.
Well, our great experiment didn’t go as well as we planned here in DC. My vision was a Peace Camp that would serve the needs of the campers as far as housing and food were concerned (that part worked) and the campers would then commit aggressive acts of civil resistance (that part didn’t) in the nation’s capital to shut down the violent military-corporate empire that we live in. In the opinion of members of Peace of the Action, living here in the US gives us special responsibilities for stopping it.
Anyway, we had hundreds of people come through camp over the week that we were allowed to keep it up. Dozens were college students that worked very hard while they were here and we were sorry to see them go back to their schools after break. The thing that we were hoping that would happen and never did—was that hundreds of people would stay and help us claim the camp as a permanent presence on the mall.
It’s true that the Park Police thwarted us and watched (and photographed) every move we made. However, if we had the numbers, we could have taken a more credible stand against the repression of our rights. When the Park Police came out and shut down camping on the first day—part of our name “Camp” was shut down, too.
We have wonderful organizers and I know I worked as much as is possible for one person, but we had to face facts that the will is just not in our fellow Americans to sacrifice a few creature comforts to create true and lasting change. It’s so much easier to vote for a smooth-talking snake oil salesman than to roll up ones sleeves and do the dirty, hard, yet gratifying work of empire change.
Even though we had some rough times in DC with the Police State and Camp OUT NOW is physically gone (for the time being), we are not giving up the spirit of shutting down this town for Peace.
Congress is once again taking up war supplemental funding. We can’t just make phone calls and write petitions—we must organize and be in their faces here and in our home districts demanding that not one more penny be spent on killing and maiming people.
By the way, not only was our demand to meet with President Obama not granted—three of our Camp OUT NOW volunteers (including myself) have been given stay away orders from the White House.
We tried to get into the Senate Appropriation’s Committee meeting today at the Capitol and we were followed and harassed the entire time and in the transparent age of Obama, the hearing was closed to us citizens, anyway. I was able to watch the rerun on C-SPAN 3 and I can tell you all one thing, these wars are planned to continue indefinitely. I am not okay with that.
To take advantage of the energy and enthusiasm of our young people, we are planning on returning in June to set up Camp and start our actions again.
So we will be keeping the spirit of the Camp alive until the students get out of school and, hopefully, we can make a go of it in the summer.
It’s really up to you—we have laid the foundation, now it’s your turn to be the builders.
On the 7th commemoration of the illegal and immoral invasion of Iraq, there was a rally and march in DC sponsored by the A.N.S.W.E.R. coalition that was attended by about eight thousand people.
For quite awhile, I have been having problems with marches on Saturday, anyway. It seems like we march past empty buildings and shake our fists at them and promise that if those empty buildings don’t change their ways, we will be back next year to do the same thing. The arrests are symbolic and don’t shut down anything, except in the case of large arrests, where the police stations are busy for a few hours.
As far as I know, there were no large civil disobediences scheduled for last Saturday’s rally, but some coffins were built on the sidewalk in front of the White House and four protesters decided to lie down near them and not move. Two of these protesters were good friends of mine: Elaine Brower of Military Families Speak Out and Matthis Chiroux of Iraq Vets Against the War. When I went over to check the action out, the four were begging the hundreds of others surrounding the protest to join them. The four were cordoned off with barriers and crime scene tape.
I began to plan a way to join Matthis and Elaine when I went to the front of the barrier and saw my dear friends, who have always been there for me, lying on the sidewalk by themselves. Just as I was figuring out how to get over the barriers, the section I was at collapsed onto the sidewalk and I took the opportunity to step over hoping that dozens, if not hundreds, would follow.
As soon as I crossed the barrier, I was slammed by a couple of cops, handcuffed and then actually run around the front of the White House while the cops tried to find a paddy wagon to stick me in—about 50 people were running with the cop and I, yelling: “Let her go, let her go.” When the officer and I finally got to the paddy wagon, I was surprised to find that only two others had followed me. One other crossed the line to bring our detained numbers up to eight.
During my speech at the rally, I iterated the importance of “throwing our bodies upon the gears” of the machine, as well as marching—I got a huge cheer and during the march the participants chanted: “Whose streets, our streets.” Eight detainees? Apparently the streets are only "ours" when we have a permit--god forbid we take them when the event is not permitted by the Police State!
Why, when the barrier was compromised, did more people not follow us to actually put their beliefs into higher relief than merely marching in a circle on Saturday? While we were being (tightly) handcuffed and loaded onto the hot paddy wagon, the crowd of on-lookers chanted, “This is what hypocrisy looks like.”
I was, to say the least, very disheartened that hundreds of people didn’t join us. Watching the video of my “crossing over,” you can see a couple of people go over and then run back when the police come—but most of the people step back like the downed barrier is a livewire.
After a bumpy and sweaty ride, we eight arrive at the Park Police Station in Anacostia. As we were being processed, it started to become very clear that some of us were going to be detained until Monday. Ultimately, two of us were released and six of us were held. The two that were released were from DC and those of us held were out-of-towners. Immediately, we knew this explanation was total b.s. because I have been arrested in DC about 13 times now and I have always been from “out-of-town,” and have never even been held overnight, let alone two nights.
Was it a coincidence that Camp OUT NOW had two major actions over the weekend to try and hold our campsite that I missed due to being jailed? I don’t think so
Well, those two days were some of the most miserable days of my life! We were taken to a lock-up and Elaine and I were put into a freezing room and I had a t-shirt and flip-flops on, being unprepared to be arrested. For four women, our cell had one cement block bench that was about 7-8 feet long, so at least one of us always had to be on the stone-cold floor. Sleeping was fitful as it was very chilly all night—and very noisy!
Thirty-six hours, and eight bologna-like and cheese-substitute sandwiches later, we were taken to the court for our arraignment and stayed in that cell for seven hours and were finally released at 5pm after we all pled “not-guilty” and were scheduled for a trial on June 9th.
Basically, six of us stayed in jail for 50 hours for an offense that ends up to be the equivalent of a traffic ticket and we even had to go to traffic court to be arraigned. I am positive that everyone in DC who gets a traffic ticket and is from “out-of-town” does not have to stay over night. Then, I found out that the penalty for my charge “Crossing a police line” doesn’t even carry any jail time. I spent two nights in jail on an offense with no jail time! The maximum penalty is $300! Boy, I will be even more pissed if I go through a trial and have to pay $300 dollars after I have already spent two nights in jail.
To make matters even worse, I was the only one who was forced to come back for a trial even though Elaine has more DC arrests than I do. The other seven have chosen to go to trial with me, but they were given the option to “pay and forfeit” which means to pay the fine and forfeit your right to a trial.
The icing on the entire crappy cake came when the eight of us were given a “stay away order” from the White House—I asked the Judge how could that be legal because we weren’t convicted of anything, but the Judge assured me that conditions could be placed on our release. I also think this is very suspicious considering our Camp OUT NOW actions were focusing on the White House.
Many times during the 50 hour ordeal, Elaine and I were asked if we thought it was “worth it,” to go through so much hardship for so little gain.
My answer is, first of all, if more people crossed the line with me, we wouldn’t have had to stay 50 hours in jail and I was very upset that we were left to hang out to dry like that. Secondly, the war didn’t end while we were suffering—but knowing how awful it is to spend so much time in jail and be treated like one is a serial killer and not a protester—I would do it again and again, as I have.
There are literally billions of people suffering all over this planet due to my nation’s militarism and greed and I know many people would have traded places with me in a heartbeat and think the conditions were pretty damn good.
AND this never happened to me when Bush was president.
UPDATE: Three of us went to pick up our property this morning at the Park Police station and as we were being jacked around, an officer named Thomas (Badge number 628) told me that if I “stopped getting arrested” I wouldn’t have to go through all of this.
I said: “when the wars stop, I will stop.” He actually then told me: “The wars will stop when we nuke them and take their oil.”
Joshua Smith: 817 751 5890 (National Operation’s Director, Peace of the Action)
Cindy Sheehan: 707 301 6177
March 20th, 2010
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
On Monday, March 15th, Camp OUT NOW, a Peace Camp erected by US Citizens on the lawn of the Washington Monument, was denied by the National Park Service its legal rights (based on National Park Service regulation 7.96) to erect temporary tents.
According to case law, tents are able to be erected as long as there is no sleeping—the Park Service forced the campers to take down the tents Monday afternoon immediately after they were set-up.
“On the 7th anniversary of an illegal war that has killed over a million people and in the shadow of the government that commits crimes on a daily basis, we will claim our legal rights to establishment an anti-war camp, and we expect to do so unmolested by law enforcement,” said Cindy Sheehan, National Director of Peace of the Action.
Peace of the Action is inviting all concerned citizens to join us at Camp this evening to help us fight the arbitrary enforcement of national law.
The action will take place Saturday night, March 20th beginning at 8pm.
CINDY SHEEHAN IS THE MOTHER OF SPC. CASEY SHEEHAN WHO WAS KILLED IN IRAQ ON 04 APRIL 2004. SHE IS THE NATIONAL DIRECTOR OF PEACE OF THE ACTION AND THE AUTHOR OF FIVE BOOKS AND HOST OF HER OWN RADIO SHOW: CINDY SHEEHAN'S SOAPBOX.
Almost everywhere I go to speak, during the Q and A portion, someone asks me where are “The Youth?”
Well, I have good news for all these people who have been lamenting over the lack of young people in our Peace Movement: they are out here at Camp OUT NOW on the lawn of the Washington Monument.
We set up our Peace Camp today (Obama flew over us in his helicopter twice) with very little glitches, except a few involving our permit and the Park Police. For the very first, very cold day, we had a solid 50 people, and the best news is, 25 of them are college students, and one of my organizers is a senior at Catholic University.
Today as I observed the young people interacting with each other and the other activists, I felt such energy and a renewed sense of real hope. For some people, the struggle for peace has lasted decades, even for me. I have been working so hard for almost six years now.
Besides a lot of peace energy being co-opted and diffused by the Obama campaign, a lot of us older activists are tired and in some cases cynical and almost bitter that our years of struggle have not produced our ultimate goal of peace—but it almost hurts to watch these young people burn with the fire of desire to make this world a better place.
I listened to them strategize and have discussions about the signs they wanted to make. Their discussions were deep and sophisticated as they struggled to get the wording just right so they could convey not just words, but engender feelings.
Camp OUT NOW started out great and it’s just going to get greater! Our “Dining with a Dose of Reality” kicked off in a very chilly evening with a yummy dinner delivered by Food Not Bombs and our talk from Kevin Zeese of Voters for Peace and Dr. Margaret Flowers who is a single-payer healthcare advocate (videos will be posted tomorrow).
I miss my grandbabies and kids in California, but I am very excited to be holding Camp again (with many Camp Casey friends) and I am going to draw as much wisdom and energy from “The Youth” as I can.
“Change doesn't come from Washington. Change comes to Washington.”
Last summer, we here in the news-o-tainment capital of the world, were distracted with the shiny spectacle of the “Beer Affair.”
You remember that one, right? In July, in Cambridge, Mass—police in something that was a racially charged misunderstanding—confronted a college professor named Henry Louis Gates in his own home.
Then, our president—a legend in his own mind—said that the PD and police officer, Sgt. James Crowley, “acted stupidly.” They did "act stupidly," but, of course, that's all beside the point.
There was a lot of unnecessary hoopla over the entire incident and after the dust settled, Obama had invited both men to the White House to settle all differences and hurt feelings in the time-honored, manly way—over beer. I like to call this little incident: “Duff-Man Diplomacy.”
We even found out which beer each man was drinking—I am not going to rehash this further, because it has already been done to death and it never should have reached such Paul Bunyanesque proportions, anyway.
Tomorrow, March 15th, a few dozen intrepid souls will be setting up a Peace Camp (Camp OUT NOW) across the street from the White House because there appears that there was another misunderstanding, even more profoundly tragic than the Beer-scapades.
I think the misunderstanding of such catastrophic proportions is that Barack Obama is a “peace president.” Many, many, many people voted for Obama thinking that he was going to take this nation in a direction diametrically opposed to the previous administration, but the reality has not matched the rhetoric in the least—unless you count the fact that he promised to send more troops to Afghanistan.
Well, we will have a big tent with red awnings that will have “WAR SUX” in big white lettering so the Obamas, tourists who are up in the Washington Monument, and travelers flying into National Airport, can’t miss us.
It is really sad that as we near the seventh anniversary of the “dumb war,” that the wars have all but fallen out of the consciousness of many Americans as we all struggle with keeping our noses above water. Our troops feel abandoned and the people of our occupied countries must be feeling that they have all but dropped off the proverbial radar screen.
During the month of March, Camp OUT NOW will be asking for a meeting with Obama to set up a fully-funded and grassroots Peace Council that will have a seat at the table when any matters of War are being discussed in the ubiquitous War Council.
Clearly, Obama WAS NOT the “change” that had been so eagerly anticipated. Obama and his team ARE the Washington insider elite—We the People are coming TO Washington to force the change we want to see.
And, we like beer, too—we will drink anything, Barack—and if you agree to meet with us, we’ll even bring our own bottle openers
Recently, I was given the honor of going to Venezuela to interview its President, Hugo Chavez, and I also had some extraordinary experiences and interviews along the way.
I was able to travel to Uruguay with Chavez and his team to attend the inauguration activities of President Jose Mujica. I traveled with and got to know some amazing revolutionaries and dedicated public servants.
Trust me, these people work hard and they are extremely dedicated to the revolution and devoted to President Hugo Chavez. We were constantly on the move and things changed by the minute. Spending two days traveling with this crew was exhilarating but also extremely fatiguing—I can’t even imagine doing it everyday!
Anyway, one of the people we traveled with was Temir Porras, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs in charge of Asia and the Middle East. I asked Temir if he would sit down with us for an interview. When I made the request I said, “Temir, I would love to interview you to ask you what you would do differently in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Palestine if you were president of the United States.” He agreed to the interview but said the answer to that question was easy, “Everything!”
Temir speaks perfect English, so no interpreter was required and we sat down with him for about 40 minutes in my hotel room in Caracas.
The entire, wonderful interview will be broadcast on my radio show: Cindy Sheehan’s Soapbox soon, but I wanted to write about the highlights.
I asked him some easy questions to begin the interview to highlight the difference between an aggressive and violent foreign policy, like the US has, and the foreign policies of a so-called Dictatorship.
ME: Temir, how many illegal foreign wars of aggression is Venezuela currently involved in?
ME: Thank you. Temir, how many countries has Venezuela invaded lately?
ME: Temir, how many wars of any kind is Venezuela involved in?
In stark contrast to the Empire where I was born and currently reside—the US is presently in the midst of two very illegal and immoral invasions and is regularly bombing in Pakistan and Yemen—Venezuela has a foreign policy based on “respect for sovereignty.” The only time the US Empire respects a nation’s sovereignty is if that nation carries water for the corporations, IMF or World Bank.
Not only is the US involved in its own military misadventures, but it is also the foundation and support for Israeli aggression and occupation against Palestine. Again, Venezuelan policy on this issue is, in my opinion, the more principled one.
In 2006 when Israeli invaded Lebanon, (with military hardware purchased by and through the US), Venezuela recalled its Ambassador in Tel Aviv. Then when Israel slaughtered Gazans at the end of 2008, Venezuela expelled Israel’s Ambassador and totally closed its embassy in Tel Aviv. There was not even a peep from official US channels against this aggression—as a matter of fact, we have officially supported the atrocities with giving trite li-service to “human rights.”
Vice Minister Porras was very generous with his time and very articulate in explaining Venezuelan foreign policy to us, but I was particularly interested in its Middle Eastern views.
The policies of Venezuela and my own are very similar—Nations should completely honor and respect the sovereignty of other nations.
Troops and independent contractors should be immediately and totally withdrawn from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan and the Palestinians deserve their own sovereign state within Palestine.
Temir was also very concerned with US aggression towards Iran and did not support sanctioning Iran saying that it is up to the government of Iran whether it should have nuclear power and even a nuclear bomb. No one likes nukes, but Iran’s close regional neighbor is Israel, and everyone knows that Israel has many nuclear bombs—the only way to forestall that problem would be if every nation disarmed and conformed to IAEA regulations, inspections and controls.
Towards the end of the interview, I asked Temir if he felt that the US occupations all over the world, but especially in Afghanistan, would cause the collapse of the US Military Empire as it did the Soviet Union’s—his answer was immediate and brief:
“I hope so.”
I hope so, too—the only unfortunate thing is that when the Empire collapses it will cause turmoil and sorrow all over the world.
Temir had (in my opinion) unfounded optimism in the people of the United States that we will be able to turn this trend around before the collapse of the Empire takes the rest of the world down with it.
In solidarity with our children and the children of the world—I HOPE that Temir is correct.
“We are not anti-American, we are anti-Imperialism”
My request to interview President Hugo Chavez Frias of Venezuela was finally granted on March 2nd while we were down in Montevideo, Uruguay with President Chavez for the inauguration of the new left-ish president and freedom fighter, Jose Mujica.
The reasons I went down to Venezuela with my team of two cameramen were two-fold.
First of all, I just got tired of all the misinformation that is spread in the US about President Chavez and the people’s Bolivarian Revolution. In only one example, the National Endowment for Democracy (another Orwellian named agency that receives federal money to supplant democracy) spends millions of dollars every year in Venezuela trying to destabilize Chavez’s democratically elected government.
The other reason we went to Venezuela was to be inspired and energized by the revolution and try to inspire and energize others in the states to rise up against the oppressive ruling class here and take power back into our own hands.
Empowerment of the poorest or least educated citizens of Venezuela is the goal of the Bolivarian Revolution. President Chavez said in the interview that “Power has five principles” and the first one is Education and he calls Venezuela a “big school.” Indeed since the revolution began 11 years ago, literacy rate has risen significantly to where now 99% of the population is now literate.
People Power is another principle of power and we witnessed this in a very dramatic fashion in the barrio of San Agustin in Caracas. San Agustin was a shantytown built on the sides of some very steep and tall hills—the only way the citizens could get to and from their homes was to climb up and down some very steep and treacherous stairs. Well, two years ago, the neighborhood formed a committee and proposed that the government build a tram through the hills and on January 20th, the dreams of the citizens of San Agustin became a reality and the Metro Cable was christened. Not only did the residents get a new tram, but many of the shacks were torn down and new apartments were built. Residents had priority for low, or no, interest loans to buy the apartments.
Even though I am very afraid of heights, I rode the Metro Cable to the top of the hill and we were awarded with amazing views of Caracas and the distant mountains. All the red, gleaming tramcars are given names of places in Venezuela or revolutionary slogans. But our “treat” was still ahead of us when we made our way down the side of the hill by those steep and treacherous stairs. In combination with the stairs and the heat, by the time we were at the bottom, my legs were shaking like Jello and my heart was thumping. I could not even imagine walking up those stairs! Young children, pregnant women, pregnant women with young children, old people, etc, had to go up and down the stairs to get to an from their homes! With the installation of the tram, the lives of the people of San Agustin were improved immeasurably and it is all due to the education and sense of empowerment that comes from organizing and ultimate victory.
The Metro Cable serves about 12,000 people per day at a cost of ten cents per round trip ticket—and all of the employees come from the barrio.
After the trip up the hill and steep climb down, we met with the community organizers after a traditional Venezuelan lunch of beans, rice, fried plantains and a little bit of meat for the meat eaters. Note: the “traditional” Venezuelan lunch is identical to the traditional Venezuelan breakfast and is very yummy.
About 98% of the organizers were women who spoke very articulately and passionately about how their lives have improved since Chavez arose to power from the people’s revolution and how they would defend Chavez and the revolution with their very lives.
Knowledge is power and perhaps that’s why before the Revolution, only primary school was free and fees were charged for secondary education. Now in Venezuela, school is free all the way through doctoral studies. We see how the ruling class in our own country is gutting education and are tying to make it as difficult as possible to get a University education. A smart and thinking public is a dangerous public.
There is so much to write about our trip and about the Bolivarian Revolution that this will have to be a series of articles by necessity. We learned so much!
Also, my complete interview with President Chavez will be available soon in audio and video and then a full-length documentary entitled: TODOS SOMOS AMERICANOS (We are all Americans) will hopefully be available and premiere by June 1st.
There is a very touching scene at the end of my interview with President Chavez when President Evo Morales of Bolivia comes in the room. President Morales was also in Montevideo for Mujica’s inauguration.
I asked both the presidents if they had any words of inspiration for the people of the US. They both emphasized the need for grassroots unity, but they especially wanted to stress their affection for the people of the US.
With President Morales standing by his side and nodding vigorously, President Chavez said: “We are NOT anti-American, we ARE anti-Imperialism.”