Sheehan vs. Bush: propaganda war escalates

The standoff between President Bush and Cindy Sheehan is escalating again, with emotional appeals from both sides, each invoking sacrifices made by Americans after 9-11, the Washington Post reports Aug. 26. In a briefing for reporters after her return to Crawford, TX, Sheehan said she is planning an antiwar bus tour of the country next month, ending Sept. 24 in Washington, where she plans to set up a permanent vigil until Bush agrees to meet with her, as she has sought in Texas. “There’s the people standing behind me here, but there’s thousands of military families…who want the same answers to the same questions,” she said.

Both Sheehan and Bush returned to Crawford Aug. 24 to find the protests larger and more organized than when they left. The focus of anti-war activity has moved to “Camp Casey 2,” named after Sheehan’s 24-year-old son, Army Spec. Casey Sheehan, who was killed last year in Iraq. It is a tent city erected in Sheehan’s absence on private land, with several portable toilets, a stage, a hot buffet and parking attendants.

Meanwhile, dozens of Bush supporters are camping along the perimeter of the president’s ranch, opposite the tent Sheehan used when she first arrived. More supporters of the “You Don’t Speak for Me, Cindy” tour are expected to arrive in the next few days.

Both camps are planning rallies this weekend. Anti-war protesters said their demonstration will be themed “How Many More?”—as in “How many more will die?” Conservative activists with Move America Forward plan a rally in Crawford’s town center.

Questioned about the Sheehan protest, White House officials invoked words Bush used after Sept. 11 to stress the importance of current military campaigns. “On September 14, 2001, [the president] stood at the National Cathedral and told all of America that this was going to be a very long and difficult war, and that there were going to be some very trying moments, but that because of what happened on 9/11, that we had to view the world in a different way,” White House spokesman Trent Duffy said.

He added that the 9-11 commission had concluded that the nation cannot take any steps backward in its anti-terrorism efforts without risking the terrorists coming “50 steps closer to our own shores.” This echoes Bush’s words earlier this week, in which he said any withdrawal from Iraq would “embolden” terrorists.

The president stepped up the strategy to divert attention from Sheehan as she arrived back in Crawford, with a speech to the Idaho National Guard in which he praised Tammy Pruett, whose husband and five sons have served or are serving in Iraq. Providing an unmistakable counterpoint to Sheehan, Bush declared: “America lives in freedom because of families like the Pruetts.”

The anti-war protesters responded the following day with an emotional ceremony, broadcast live on national television, in which Sheehan was presented with the boots worn by her son before he was killed. She tearfully laid them before a small cross bearing her son’s name, surrounded by dozens of supporters. There were sobs from other women whose sons were killed in Iraq.

Sheehan said that she realizes Bush has no intention of meeting with the protesters, but that her vigil has accomplished other things. “We’ve started people talking about the war again,” she said. (Via TruthOut)

See our last post on the war of perceptions over Iraq.

  1. Dueling rallies in Crawford
    Several thousand people descended on Crawford over the weekend, attending dueling rallies for and against him.

    The pro-Bush rally Aug. 27 by the school football stadium was the culmination of the “You don’t speak for me, Cindy!” tour that started last week in California. Several times the crowd of about 1,500 chanted, “Cindy, go home!”

    “You are giving hope and encouragement to the enemies of America,” said former California assemblyman Howard Kaloogian, a Republican who co-founded Move America Forward, the group that coordinated the rally.

    Meanwhile, busloads of war protesters gathered at Camp Casey for a bell-ringing ceremony to honor soldiers serving in Iraq.

    “I know that the Camp Casey movement is going to end the war in Iraq,” Sheehan said, adding that no other families should have to suffer the loss of a relative. She led the crowd in chanting “Not one more!”

    At the pro-Bush rally, there was a heated moment when two members of Protest Warrior, a group that frequently holds counter-protests at anti-war rallies, walked in with a sign reading “Say No to War—Unless a Democrat is President.”

    Many Bush supporters only saw the top of the sign and believed the men were war protesters, so they began shouting and chasing the pair out. One Bush-supporter tore up their signs.

    Later, a few Bush supporters went to the edge of Camp Casey and tried to remove some of the hundreds of white crosses bearing fallen soldiers’ names. They said they had a list from families who didn’t want their sons’ or daughters’ names associated with Sheehan’s group. Sheriff’s deputies said they could remove the name tags but not the crosses. The group removed a few tags and left.

    Several families of fallen US soldiers attended the pro-Bush rally.

    Deena Burnett, whose husband Tom was on the fourth plane hijacked on 9-11, said he and the other passengers fought the terrorists before their plane crashed in a Pennsylvania field. “Now it’s up to us to continue what he started,” Burnett said to cheers from those at the pro-Bush rally.

    It was the largest counter-protest since Sheehan started camping out off the road leading to Bush’s ranch after his Texas vacation began.

    A handful of Bush supporters have set up a small camp in a ditch across the road from Sheehan’s site, and another pro-Bush camp opened beside a downtown souvenir store last weekend.

    Sheehan has vowed to remain in Crawford unless Bush talks to her about the war with Iraq that claimed the life of her son and more than 1,870 other US soldiers.

    Camp Casey has swelled from dozens on weekdays to about 1,000 on weekends. (AP, Aug. 29)