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Indy Bay - Cindy Sheehan Knows Her Power: Dreams Compel Peace Mom's Election

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Indy Bay - Cindy Sheehan Knows Her Power: Dreams Compel Peace Mom's Election

by Joyce Lynn

Cindy Sheehan is challenging Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in the November 4 election for the San Francisco Congressional seat Pelosi has held for 20 years. This unique profile reveals how political dreaming unwittingly impels Cindy's activism and her campaign -- and how it can compel our own positive action agenda.

Before September 11, Cindy Sheehan worried a "serious disturbance of the energy of the universe" was about to occur. Surges in domestic violence murders in the U.S. and shark attacks in the Gulf of Mexico signaled a catastrophe ahead. Then, premonition of an event, possibly a natural disaster in New York City, beset Cindy.

"A kind of pressure" intermingled with foreboding.

Cindy, a former history major, witnessed the ways political waves influence the news, but she also bore a profound personal interest in political events. In May, 2000, Casey, the oldest of her four children, had enlisted in the U.S. Army.

Cindy, youth ministry coordinator at her church, on the morning of September 11, woke from a jarring dream:

I had just washed a delicate crystal vase and was putting it on the back of the toilet. I was careful, but it slipped out of my hands and fell into the toilet and broke and glass shattered all over my face. I thought, "Oh, no! Now I'm going to waste the whole day at Kaiser . . . ."

In the next scene, I was escorted out of my office by a firefighter. I was covered with soot, and so was he. I wondered, "What's the big deal," since my office was on the first floor.

Confused, Cindy walked into the living room as her daughter shouted, "Mom, a plane just crashed into the World Trade Center." They watched another plane hit a second Tower. Cindy gasped at firemen evacuating workers from the fiery buildings, a mirror of her dream.

A "horrible feeling" snaked through Cindy -- a fear the events of September 11 would lead to Casey's death. Like the soot covering the firemen, the fallout from September 11 would blanket her, too.

The Sheehans lived in Vacaville, California, populated with military recruiters because of its proximity to Travis Air Force Base. Still, Casey surprised his family when he enlisted and chose the Army. He was a Boy Scout at age six, an altar server two years later, an Eagle Scout, and "faithful to Church and God," Cindy said. "He talked about being a priest, but wanted a wife and family, so he became a deacon."

The Army recruiter promised Casey a $20,000 signing bonus, a chaplain's assistant post, and exclusion from combat because of his high score on the military competency test. The Pentagon would break every pledge.

Cindy wrote in her book Peace Mom Casey's enlistment was "a fact" before she could dissuade him. "He thought he was suppose to," she explained.

Immediately after September 11 and then in the wake of the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan a month later, the dream's memory haunted Cindy. She feared the military would deploy Casey. Instead, he was stationed at Ft. Hood, Texas, with the 82nd Field Artillery Regiment of the 1st Cavalry Division.

As Casey's tour of duty neared its end, the U.S. invaded Iraq, and Casey reenlisted. The Sheehans were relieved when Casey, by then a light-wheeled vehicle mechanic, remained in the U.S. But less than a year later, his unit was called up and on March 30, 2004, C Battery arrived at Camp War Eagle outside Baghdad. Its mission -- to secure Sadr City, an 8-mile square section of Baghdad, crowded with 2 million poverty-stricken Iraqis.

Cindy's dream on the morning of September 11, 2001, the shattering of her precious vase, would soon mutate into a real nightmare.

After the fall of Saddam Hussein, Muqtada al-Sadr, a Shi'ite cleric, whose family fought oppression in Iraq for generations, controlled the city named for his father. The cleric provided humanitarian aid and attempted to maintain peace despite the U.S. occupation. But the Bush administration provoked al-Sadr. On April 4, he released his forces, and the Mehdi Army ambushed a U.S. Army patrol in Sadr City.

That morning, Palm Sunday, Casey was an altar server during Mass at Camp Eagle. By dark, Specialist Casey Sheehan was dead.

Casey's lieutenant told Cindy her son volunteered to rescue U.S. troops caught in the ambush. An Associated Press story of April 13, the day of Casey's memorial service, related the Pentagon account: "Sheehan and seven soldiers were killed when their units were attacked by rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire south of Baghdad." More than 50 U.S. soldiers were wounded and at least 75 Iraqis died. The battle of Sadr City was the bloodiest fight since the fall of Baghdad a year before.

The Army posthumously awarded Casey, who was 24-years old, a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star.

After Casey's death, the pressure Cindy felt since the months before September 11 vanished. Her body's intuitive warning system had relayed its terrible omen.

"We were super close," Cindy said about a bond the shattered vase dream portrayed more vividly than her words.

On Mother's Day, five weeks after Casey died, another dream startled Cindy. She and her husband Patrick were visiting Santa Barbara and the Veterans for Peace exhibit of combat boots, symbolizing U.S. war casualties.

I am sitting in the audience in a big theater. Casey walked onto the stage, wearing only his underwear and casually holding a Diet 7UP in one hand and carrying his M16 in the other. I heard his name called. Then, he put the rifle to his head and pulled the trigger.

When Cindy woke from the shocking dream, she knew Casey, a drama major in college, was sending her a message. "He would not just leave me without the support I needed," she said.

In June, Cindy, still in shock and grieving, and 27 other military families met with G.W. Bush at Ft. Lewis near Tacoma, Washington. He expressed sympathy for their losses.

Five weeks after the Mother's Day dream, Cindy quietly began her protestations for peace. In a newspaper interview, she criticized Bush's conduct of the war and his shifting reasons for the invasion. Then, Cindy joined a demonstration against the U.S. attack on Iraq. Two days later, in another newspaper interview, Cindy said she had doubted Bush's claim Saddam posed an immediate threat to the U.S.

In early 2005, she addressed the D.C. opening of the Veterans for Peace exhibit and with nine other military families founded Gold Star Families for Peace.

Then, on a hot August day, Cindy pitched a tent in a ditch near Bush's Crawford, Texas, compound, and with two other women held a simple vigil by the gate. She requested another meeting with Bush and "an explanation for what noble cause my son died."

Bush shunned Cindy during his five-week vacation, but thousands of veterans, returning soldiers, peace activists, and celebrities visited "Camp Casey." Cindy received international attention, and the media called her "Peace Mom."

Bush argued he had already met with Cindy and other suffering families. By then, however, a few media accounts had disclosed Bush's fraudulent claims Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and ties to al-Qaeda and 9/11. "Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oil Field Contracts," part of secret energy papers the administration released under court order in July, 2003, showed Saddam had negotiated contracts with Russian, Chinese, and French oil companies. The U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, Congressional benchmarks, and troop surges were contrived to force Iraqis to relinquish their oil revenues to ExxonMobil, Chevron, and other U.S.-based multinational companies.

After Camp Casey, the D.C. Police arrested Cindy and other peace activists demonstrating in front of the White House. The Capitol Police detained her for "unlawful conduct" -- wearing a T-shirt imprinted with the number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq -- at Bush's January, 2006, State of the Union address.

The U.S. government's abuse of the Constitutional rights of the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq, ostensibly fighting to protect Americans and bring democracy to a foreign country, became a painful tableau and a warning to other opponents of Bush administration policies.

As Americans learned how Bush's lies precipitated the Iraq war, the Pentagon's story about Casey's death also unraveled. Five months after Casey died, another military representative visited Cindy to augment the Army's account Casey volunteered for the Sadr City rescue. The story had troubled Cindy since she first heard it. After her Mother's Day dream, the Pentagon's explanation rang hollow.

Journalists returning from Iraq told Cindy friendly fire killed Casey. Although she lacks conformation of the report, Cindy is certain the military commanders used the 1st Cavalry as "rabbits to draw fire."

"Then, I was so naive and unaware about what happens in the military. Now, from friends, who are Iraq vets, I have learned it happens so many times -- they tell you how (your loved ones) were good soldiers, how brave they were. There is no doubt about that, Casey was, but you don't volunteer for these missions, you are told, 'You and you and you and you are going.'

"That day, (the U.S. troops) did not even have armored vehicles. They sent them out on the back of Humvees and trailers with no protection."

Finally, Cindy understood the Mother's Day dream. "Casey was trying to tell me the Army made him kill himself," Cindy said. The Army sent Casey on a suicide mission.

After Cindy's ascent as the voice of the grassroots international peace movement, war proponents excoriated the soft-spoken mother in blistering terms for "failed patriotism."

Yet, it was Bush who mocked U.S. troops and belittled Americans about his own deliberately false premise for war. Less than two weeks before Casey died in the slums of Baghdad, Bush in a skit at the black-tie White House Correspondents' dinner in Washington D.C., pretending to look under and around furniture, quipped: "Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere. Nope, no weapons over there . . . Maybe under here." The Washington media and their guests in the Bush administration chortled and laughed.

Before the 2006 Congressional election, when the Democrats were the minority party, Cindy collaborated with Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) to craft a road map to impeach Bush for his deceptions about the war. But Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), then House minority leader, told colleagues in early 2006, she did not believe Bush had committed any crimes.

In November, 2006, voters put Democrats in the majority in Congress to end the occupation and hold Bush responsible for the war. But even before she became House Speaker, Pelosi took impeachment off the table, giving Bush a blank check to wage the Iraq war for two more years. When Pelosi shunned peace demonstrators outside her San Francisco home, she morphed into Bush refusing to meet Cindy in Crawford.

Cindy criticized leaders of both parties, including Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Hillary Clinton (D-NY), and John Kerry (D-MA) for their votes authorizing the invasion of Iraq and funding the occupation.

Cindy called for Bush's impeachment in early 2007 and said she would challenge Pelosi for her San Francisco Congressional seat in the 2008 election unless the House Speaker moved to impeach Bush.

Pelosi refused to sanction hearings to collect evidence about impeachable offenses, and she quashed others' impeachment efforts. She consigned Conyers, by then chair of the Judiciary Committee where impeachment hearings originate, to writing a white paper on the Unitary Executive. Democrats backed down on efforts to end the war in the face of Bush and Republican opposition.

So, in July. 2007, as she turned 50, Cindy, with a photograph of Casey taped to the podium, announced her candidacy for California's 8th Congressional District, the San Francisco seat Pelosi has held since 1987. (Cindy is running for Pelosi's Congressional seat, not for Speaker of the House. Democrats in the House select their leaders at the beginning of each new session of Congress.)

Betrayed by both political parties, Cindy, a life-long Democrat, would run as an independent. "Here, in the USA," she explained, "most of us put our faith in a two-party system that has failed peace and justice consistently and repeatedly."

Cindy issued a campaign-like manifesto in May 2008: "Blood is being poured into the bank accounts of the ruling elite while it is being drained out of our soldiers, families, and communities..."

She charged under Pelosi's leadership, Congress gave Bush "more than a 1⁄2 trillion dollars for the Iraq war Pelosi said she wanted to stop" and more than 1,200 U.S and thousands of Iraqis have died.

Under Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), public approval of Congress sank in July to 9%, an all time low.

Despite a corporate media blackout of Cindy's candidacy in San Francisco, she qualified August 8 for the November ballot, one of only a half dozen candidates to gain ballot access as an Independent in California.

Around the same time, Pelosi, the first female Speaker of the House, appeared on ABC's The View promoting her book, ironically titled Know Your Power {italics}.

Outside a Pelosi San Francisco book event on a chilly August evening, activists distributed mustard-colored flyers itemizing 35 articles of impeachment for G.W. Bush introduced by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) in June. The first 16 articles are allegations against Bush relating to the Iraq war: for secret propaganda; deception about 9/11; weapons of mass destruction, and illegal misspending in an unauthorized and undeclared war.
Article 9, Endangering Troops, pays homage to Casey, the seven U.S. soldiers who died with him in Sadr City, and the hundreds of other U.S. men and women Bush sent into battle without protective gear. It alleges Bush "knowingly endangered U.S. troops by failing to provide available body and vehicle armor."

During her personal peace pilgrimage, Cindy recalled another dream, a poignant message from her son:

The dream showed me a flip phone and all kinds of brilliant lights emitted from it.

Before he died, Casey called his mother several times a day. Cindy believes her son was telling her in this dream: We can still communicate, but in another way.

Tragedy evokes different reactions -- sometimes denial, repression, anger. Dreams, especially nightmares, prompt different responses-- often dismissal of their message, disregard of their guidance.

But Cindy, compelled by her son's death and buttressed with nocturnal messages of prophecy, truth-telling, and healing, turned Black Sunday, April 4, 2004, into a peace pilgrimage. She transformed personal tragedy into combat against the War Machine and its manifestations -- perpetual strife, decimation of the Constitution, ruin of the economy, and dissolution of the democratic process. Her tools -- political activism and personal power -- belong to the arsenal of a courageous citizen illuminating how to take back her country.


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