Posted on Wednesday, May 3, 2006

Cindy Sheehan’s anti-war tour at the Aud Wednesday

By Bill King

EUREKA SPRINGS – Cindy Sheehan, the grieving, angry mother who became a household name last year when she set up camp outside President Bush’s Crawford, Texas, ranch, will speak at the City Auditorium on Wednesday, May 10.

Also speaking will be Ann Wright, a former U.S. diplomat who publicly resigned from the foreign service in protest of the impending invasion of Iraq.

Rick Burnley, who was dubbed poet laureate of Camp Casey, will also be on stage sharing his poetry and music.

Sheehan’s son, Casey, a specialist with the 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, was killed April 4, 2004, in Baghdad, Iraq, within weeks of arriving there. Cindy Sheehan established Camp Casey in honor of her oldest child last August, to coincide with Bush’s scheduled five week vacation. She demanded the president meet with her and explain for what noble cause her son was killed and also called for all American troops to be removed from Iraq so no other mothers had to lose their children to “a war based on lies.”

Sheehan was a co-founder of Gold Star Families for Peace, a group comprised of families who lost members in the war and who oppose the war in Iraq.

In Crawford, Sheehan was joined by hundreds of anti-war activists, and garnered world-wide media attention. She became the face of the anti-war movement and her protest sparked a rise in anti-war sentiment in this country.

Since August, Sheehan has traveled the nation and the world speaking out against the president, whom she has called the greatest terrorist in the world. In January, she appeared with Hugo Chavez, the leftist president of Venezuela and outspoken Bush critic.

A new book by Sheehan, Dear Mr. President, was released Monday. She also writes regularly on Internet blogs.

Sheehan has been lambasted by right-leaning pundits, who have called her a liar and a traitor, among other things.

Ann Wright joined Sheehan in Crawford and is credited with running Camp Casey. When Sheehan had to return to California for several days to be with her ailing mother, Wright became the person most frequently interviewed in the media.

In an interview from Crawford last August, Wright spoke of Camp Casey’s inception: She [Sheehan] and I were both speaking at the Veterans for Peace conference in Dallas when she said she was so mad about President Bush saying that the war is a noble cause and people were dying for noble things, that she said, ‘I’m going to have to tell the President. I’m going to Crawford. Who wants to go?’ Well, overnight we organized a convoy of ten vehicles, 70 people came up here, and we were met by 50 people that had heard on the Internet that she was going to be up here.”

Running the Camp Casey field operation was small potatoes compared to some of Wright‘s previous diplomatic assignments. As deputy chief of mission of U.S. Embassies in Sierra Leone ,she received the State Department’s Award for Heroism for her actions during the evacuation of 2,500 persons from the civil war there. In December 2001, she was part of the team that reopened the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, after the U.S. ousted the Taliban government. That embassy had been shut down for 12 years.

Wright was also assigned to the U.S. mission in Somalia and during her career served in embassies in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Grenada, Micronesia and Nicaragua. Previously she served in the army and army reserves for 29 years, rising to the rank of colonel.

In her letter of resignation to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, Wright wrote: “This is the only time in my many years serving America that I have felt I cannot represent the policies of an administration of the United States. I disagree with the administration’s policies on Iraq, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, North Korea and curtailment of civil liberties in the U.S. itself. I believe the administration’s policies are making the world a more dangerous, not a safer, place. I feel obligated morally and professionally to set out my very deep and firm concerns on these policies and to resign from government service as I cannot defend or implement them.”

Though she lives in Hawaii, Wright hales from Bentonville and holds masters and law degrees from the U of A in Fayetteville.

Both Sheehan and Wright have been arrested several times for protesting activities since last August, Sheehan most famously for wearing an “antiwar t-shirt” which read “2,245 Dead. How many more?” to the State of the Union address in January. The following day charges were dropped and she received an apology from the Capitol Police.

Camp Casey was re-established in Washington, D.C., last September during a four-day antiwar protest, and again in Crawford at Easter.

Admission to Wednesday’s Auditorium appearance is free, but donations will be accepted to benefit Veterans for Peace to offset travel and production costs, and Gold Star Families for Peace.

At 7 p.m., Gerry Forensca, a Veteran of Peace, Vietnam and Camp Casey veteran from Golden, Mo., will speak briefly and introduce Wright. Wright will speak for approximately 15 minutes, after which the film Aftershock – a 56 minute documentary of Arlington West, a traveling memorial of crosses dedicated to soldiers lost in Iraq, and the responses by Iraq veterans to the display – will be shown.

Next, Burnley will read from his anthology, followed by a short film about Camp Casey.

Sheehan will then speak and take questions.