Peace Mom's Easter Stand

Cindy Sheehan on the meaning of Easter in Crawford, and New York's lousy jails

Cindy Sheehan and her supporters are back in Crawford, Texas, for Easter, pitching their tents outside Bush's ranch to demand, once again: For what noble cause are our troops fighting and dying in Iraq? It doesn't matter to them that Bush and his family are spending the holiday at Camp David this year. In fact, Sheehan takes credit for driving Bush away.

Still, she insists she doesn't hate the man who took her son to war. She just wants answers. And a withdrawal date. Sheehan will be back in New York on April 26 for her arrest trial, then speaking out at the big antiwar demo on April 29.

Easter is the time for forgiveness. Can you forgive the president for sending your son to Iraq? I already have forgiven him. I learned a long time ago that you don't get anywhere holding on to hate because that just hurts the person who hates. So I don't hate him; I want justice. I just want him to be held accountable for what he's done, and to get the troops out of Iraq. Peace and love are the things that motivate me.

Cindy Sheehan speaking last fall at a "Camp Casey" set up on the Washington Mall.
Sarah Ferguson
Cindy Sheehan speaking last fall at a "Camp Casey" set up on the Washington Mall.

Is there a larger meaning in Casey's death? I hope so. He was killed on Palm Sunday, and it was also the day that Martin Luther King was killed. Casey sacrificed his life. He went into battle to save his buddies' lives, and he died doing that. There's not many people who die saving the lives of anybody, and I think that's really sacred. I think by his sacrifice we will all benefit by realizing we need to bring the troops home, so that no one else needs to die for a war without just cause. That's what I'm trying to do, to make his death count for peace.

If Bush is not there, what do you accomplish by being in Crawford? We promised we'd be here every time he comes on a vacation. Since he took office, that's been every Thanksgiving, Easter, and in August. This is the first time he's not coming. But for everyone who comes to [Camp Casey], it's important we be here. We feel like this is our home away from home. It's like celebrating the holiday with my family.

Susan Sarandon is slated to play you in a movie. Do you ever feel like there's too much attention placed on you as a personality? No, it's a story that needs to be told, to make sure we never go to war like this again. But I try to keep the focus on the issue. It's almost like I'm a brand name. No matter what, when you hear the name Cindy Sheehan, you know that stands for antiwar and pro-peace.

Conservative pundit Cal Thomas called the notion of a movie about you "liberal porn." I buried my son, and I can't think of anything that can be worse than that. Them calling me names or whatever doesn't bother me. I think it says more about where they're at.

Scott Ritter, the former U.N. weapons inspector turned Bush critic, says the antiwar movement is on the verge of collapse. Do you believe that? Absolutely not. It's been a catalyst for change. When we were here last August, 53 percent of the American public was questioning the war in Iraq. Now it's two thirds opposed to the war, and Bush's approval ratings are way down. You've got more people calling for Rumsfeld's resignation, and now senior Pentagon officials are saying that if we attack Iran [with nuclear weapons], they'll resign. And there's more people in Congress like John Kerry and Jack Murtha who are calling for the troops to come home. So I think we're being very effective.

What does the antiwar movement need to do now? I think we need nonviolent resistance on a massive scale. I think it has to be millions of us shutting down D.C., shutting down the war machine. It has to be done on a Gandhi-like scale.

Are people really up for that? We know that two thirds of the country is with us, but they are not out protesting with us. You look at all these immigrants out on the streets. They're out there because they have a personal stake in it. We just have to convince everybody in America that we all have a personal stake in what our country is doing in Iraq. We have palpable stakes, like the deficit and George Bush making our country less secure. But also the longer it goes on, the more it hurts our humanity and our souls.

The last time you were in New York you spent the night in jail. What was that like? There were 20 of us in one cell with three mats to sleep on that were filthy, and hard, tiny narrow benches. It was freezing because they leave the window open. They said it was for germs, so the germs can't live. There were feces on the toilet. But I don't regret it, not at all. Before my son was killed, I never broke a law in my whole life. I was never arrested. And then to see how it is—Most of the women were in there for just petty theft. They think that their only recourse to survive is to break the law. And then to see how they get treated—It's wrong, it's just wrong. Our system needs to be changed.

You were arrested for trying to deliver a petition to U.N. Ambassador John Bolton. State Department officials said they didn't let you in because you insisted on bringing a media crew. That was a bunch of bullshit. We even said, just take this piece of paper and we'll leave. We said come on, we have events in D.C. that we need to be at tonight, we don't want to be arrested. Just anybody, take the paper and we'll go, and they wouldn't even take the paper. I think that's one reason I was kept in jail. So they could lie about it. It was the same thing with [my arrest] at the State of the Union Address. They said that I unfurled a banner, that I refused to leave, that I was being loud. It was just all bullshit, and then I was in jail so I couldn't say no, that's not right.

Are you willing to be arrested again? If they try to violate my rights, then, yes. But I'm not really into these planned arrests any more. You know, you have your permit zone here and then you step out of it, get a slap on the wrist and then get let out—I don't know how much good that does. But if they want to arrest me for exercising my freedom of speech, I'll do it over and over again.

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