At last count, at least, 1449 "Vigils" were being planned around the country the night of August 17. For example, Melanie House's husband, Petty Officer 3rd Class John House, who was deployed to Iraq as a Navy medical corpsman, was killed on January 26. After learning about Sheehan's gallant stand against the Iraqi war, House signed up to organize a vigil, too, to honor her husband's memory, along with "the sacrifices of all who have died in Iraq." House, age 26, lives in Simi Valley, CA. As of this date, 1,848 brave Americans have died in the Iraqi bloodbath, 1,721 of them after Bush made his infamous boast on the deck of a US Navy aircraft that the "mission" in Iraq had been accomplished.
One of the groups sponsoring the protest action in Baltimore was the "All Peoples Congress." Its spokeswoman is Sharon Ceci. She told me, "We're here tonight to basically shut the war down, to end the occupations of Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine." She added, "Cindy Sheehan has touched a nerve in this country with a majority of the people who are opposed to this war." Renée Washington's daughter, Olivia King, age 28, is in the US Army, although she is presently stationed in the states. Washington said, "I want to bring all our troops home. Bush should have tried peace first. I pray my daughter doesn't have to go to Iraq. I didn't bring her up to kill anyone."
Sheehan, age 44, is demanding a face-to-face meeting with Bush. She wants him to come clean about the real reasons for the war, including the role played in it by the notorious Neocons, like Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith. Her son, Army Specialist, Casey Sheehan, age 24, was killed in Iraq on April 4, 2004, in Baghdad's Sadr City.
As a result of harassment from some of the locals near Crawford, however, "Camp Casey" was recently moved closer to Bush's ranch onto the land of an anti-war activist. Just the other night, a supposed Bush sympathizer, mowed down at "Camp Casey" with his pickup truck, crosses bearing the names of American war dead. Sheehan's vigil is now 10 days old. Meanwhile, Bush's popularity continues to decline in the polls. It dropped by five percentage points this last week alone, down to a low of 43 percent.
Lee Paterson, at the Baltimore rally, charged, "This war is about the 'Oilgarchy' and that 'thief' in the White House, George Bush, and that 'pig' VP, Dick Cheney from 'Hallibacon!' The Bush-Cheney gang is doing the same thing that Enron was doing--stealing from the people!" Eddie Boyd, a veteran, thundered against the social evils of our day: "I'll tell you what terrorism is! Terrorism is having 43 million people without health care. It's having nine million children going to bed hungry every night. It's having elected officials turning their backs on the poor and on people of color."
Located near the rally site is the Fifth Regiment Armory, home to the 29th Infantry Div. of the Army National Guard. It is also the very same building where, in 1912, the Democratic National Convention was held. It nominated a closet racist, Woodrow Wilson, who was soft on the KKK, for the presidency. He won that election and went on to serve two terms in office. Although he had pledged to keep the US neutral during WWI, he recklessly took the country into that conflict under a dubious banner that read, “Making the World Safe for Democracy!” Doesn't that sound familiar? H.L. Mencken, the Baltimore Iconoclast, considered Wilson, who was also an adulterer, "a pompous fraud and a hypocrite.” A psychological study of Wilson completed after his death, and co-authored by Dr. Sigmund Freud, concluded that the highly-delusional Wilson suffered from a "Christ/Crucifixion Complex." I wonder what a comparable psychological study on Bush will show?
Tia Steele's stepson David, 21, a US Marine, was recently killed in Iraq. "I don't want him to have died in vain. I don't want him to be forgotten. This war is a lie. It is a needless war. It must be stopped," she told me. Her son was killed in a fire fight in the city of Fallujah. Steele is active with both the Gold Star Families for Peace and the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). The latter group is sponsoring an exhibit called "Eyes Wide Open: Beyond Fear—Towards Hope." It is a memorial to those who have fallen in the Iraqi War. It is set for the Johns Hopkins U.'s Homewood Campus, in Baltimore City, for the weekend of September 9-11, 2005.
Maryland's popular Green Party activist, Virginia Rodino, was also at the rally. "The Downing St. Memos show," she said, "that the reasons for the war were all a pack of lies. I'm here tonight to show solidarity with Cindy Sheehan and with all the military families that have come out against the war." Kay Dellinger, a longtime veteran of the Anti-War Movement, said, "I'm here to protest this terrible, illegal war which has been a disaster for America and its people and the for the peoples of Iraq and the world." She labeled Bush and Cheney "as those chicken hawks," who had not only not served in the military themselves, but had not put their own children "in harm's way."
The spirited rally ended on a very high note, with Eric Easton reading a poem dedicated to Cindy Sheehan. It was entitled "A Real American Mom!"
This story was published on August 19, 2005.