Cindy Sheehan‘s brave protest encampment down the road from the Bush ranch in Crawford, TX, where the commander-in-chief is vacationing as the corpses pile up in Iraq, has succeeded in grabbing national attention in a way that countless of unimaginative anti-war rallies never have. All too predictably, this success is being met with violent harassment–including intentional desecration of the “Arlington West” cemetery activists have established, made up of hundreds of white crosses emblazed with the names of soldiers killed in Iraq (including, of course, Cindy’s son Casey). Reports William Rivers Pitt in an on-the-scene Aug. 16 account for TruthOut:
Some time around 10:00 p.m. on Monday night, Larry Northern of Waco, Texas, drove his pickup truck down to the Crawford protest site. He got out, went around back to the tailgate, and attached a pipe and a chain to the rear of the truck. He got back in and proceeded to drive his truck through the Arlington West cemetery, grinding and smashing through the grave markers. Five hundred of them were knocked down, and 100 of them were totally destroyed.
The harassment of the activists in Crawford has been growing by the day. Last Thursday, I watched a guy on a motorcycle, wrapped from head to boot in black leather and helmet, with a Rebel flag handkerchief tied around his neck, roar into camp and yell something at the people setting up the grave markers before fleeing down the road. That morning, a caravan of Secret Service SUVs blasted through camp at high speed, leaning on their horns the whole way. One local guy in a pickup truck roared down the road and sideswiped a parked car, narrowly missing a couple of people. And then, of course, there was Larry Mattlage, who got sauced on Keystone beer before firing his shotgun into the air a few times near the demonstration.
The good news is that some locals are offering Sheehan and her encampemnt support–including at least one relative of one of the attackers! From the New York Times Aug. 17, via TruthOut:
Ms. Sheehan…said she would soon be moving her increasingly crowded roadside encampment, named Camp Casey after her son, to a large tract even closer to the president’s ranch. “A kind gentleman from down the road offered us the use of his property,” Ms. Sheehan told reporters on Tuesday night. Ms. Sheehan identified the man as Fred Mattlage, whom she described as a distant cousin of Larry Mattlage, a local resident who fired a shotgun across the road from the encampment on Sunday afternoon.
Just in time too, as the McLellan County commissioners are considering a resolution to ban protests along the Prairie Chapel Rd., where Sheehan and entourage are camped out. However, on Aug. 16, finding themsleves divided about this desecration of the First Amendment, they decided to put off the vote–and they may not meet again until after Bush decamps for Washington, with Sheehan presumably on his heels, Todd Hill of the Campus Progress blog reports. It seems that even in the very heart of Bush country, Sheehan is sparking something of a democratic renewal!
A propaganda barrage is also being hurled at Sheehan, of course. One of the most egregious offendors is the conservative New York Sun , which ran an editorial Aug. 11 saying that Sheehan “has put herself in league with some extreme groups and individuals.”
For starters, Ms. Sheehan has been posting on Michael Moore’s Web site, writing, “We have such a strong coalition of groups. GSFP, Code Pink, Veterans for Peace, Military Families Speak Out and the Crawford Peace House. I talked with John Conyers today and he wrote a letter to George signed by about 18 other Congress members to request that he meet with me. I also talked to Maxine Waters tonight and she is probably going to be here tomorrow.”
Michael Moore, Code Pink, Veterans for Peace, John Conyers and Maxine Waters are “extremists”? Huh? Well, the editorial does go on to explain itself, sort of:
Code Pink, Veterans for Peace, and Military Families Speak Out all have representatives on the steering committee of United for Peace and Justice, an anti-war umbrella group. They share that distinction with the Communist Party USA. UPJ organized the march during the 2004 Republican Convention in New York, at which a New York Sun poll of 253 of the protesters found that fully 67% of those surveyed said they agreed with the statement “Iraqi attacks on American troops occupying Iraq are legitimate resistance.” In other words, Ms. Sheehan’s “coalition” includes a lot of people who think the persons who killed her son were justified.
Nonsense. This is patently dishonest reporting. UFPJ is the moderate wing of the anti-war movement. The tiny and moribund CP-USA is one of hundreds of groups on its list of member organizations, which also includes plenty of churches and other religious organizations and grassroots community groups. One of the central issues behind UFPJ’s ongoing tensions with the more hard-left anti-war grouping ANSWER is precisely over the latter’s stated position in support of Iraq’s “legitimate resistance,” as we have pointed out. UFPJ has explicitly refused to take such a position.
The editorial goes on:
It turns out that the Crawford Peace House Web site includes a photo depicting the entire state of Israel as “Palestine,” and it carries a link to a report that when Prime Minister Sharon visited Crawford, the “peace house” greeted him with an “800-foot-long banner containing all of the United Nations resolutions that Israel is in violation of.” The Crawford Peace House site also features a photo of Eugene Bird, who has suggested that Israeli intelligence was responsible for the abuses at Abu Ghraib.
If there ever was such a photo on the Crawford Peace House website, that would admittedly be a faux pas, but it isn’t there now. (Although a secular, democratic, unified Palestine with equal rights for all citizens regardless of religion may not be such a bad idea, actually.) We have no problem with reminding Sharon of the UN resolutions he is violating. Bush invoked UN resolutions for his Iraq campaign, didn’t he? The Sun wants to have it both ways, it seems. And while Eugene Bird, an ex-diplomat-turned-policy-wonk who runs an outfit called the Council for the National Interest, isn’t our favorite kind of animal, he may have a point about Israeli complicity in US atrocities in Iraq. In fact, the Pentagon has worked closely with Israeli intelligence to develop counter-insurgency strategies for Iraq, as we have pointed out. Seymour Hersh has reported in the New Yorker that Israeli intelligence is training militias in Iraq, as we have pointed out.
The editorial reeks of sore-loserism that the peace movement has finally found a sympathetic, morally unassailable voice.
Among the dirty tricks being used against Sheehan are possible COINTELPRO-style poison-pen letters circulated in her name on the Internet. Writes Joe Garofoli for the San Francisco Chronicle Aug. 18:
The pundit class has piled on Sheehan in recent days. Making the blogosphere rounds is a letter Sheehan allegedly wrote to a producer of ABC’s Nightline show that said her son died for a war to protect Israel. In her online diary Tuesday, Sheehan wrote, “I never said that. I never wrote that.”
More details on the affair from Sheehan’s original text:
Another “big deal” today was the lie that I had said that Casey died for Israel. I never said that, I never wrote that. I had supposedly said it in a letter that I wrote to Ted Koppel’s producer in March. I wrote the letter because I was upset at the way Ted treated me when I appeared at a Nightline Town Hall meeting in January right after the inauguration. I felt that Ted had totally disrespected me. I wrote the letter to Ted Bettag and cc’d a copy to the person who gave me Ted’s address. I believe he (the person who gave me the address) changed the email and sent it out to capitalize on my new found notoriety by promoting his own agenda. Enough about that.
A “Camp Casey NYC” has also been established at the southwest corner of Union Square Park since Aug. 15, which supporters are calling “non-sectarian,” despite the unfortunate presence of the noxious International Action Center, the extremely sectarian group behind the ANSWER coalition. Also involved are other more savory groups, including United for Peace and Justice.
See our last post on Cindy Sheehan.