One Person Can Make A Difference: Cindy Sheehan in Urbana-Champaign

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The following is excerpted from a talk given by Cindy Sheehan at the University of Illinois
on March 1, 2007. It was recorded and transcribed by Shara Esbenshade.

Before my son was killed, I disagreed with the war and I disagreed with George Bush—I
never voted for him. My son was not for the war. But he knew his duty. Not like George
Bush, who went AWOL from the Texas Air National Guard. Not like Dick Cheney, who got
five deferments from going to Vietnam. And I don’t think it’s wrong for anybody to have gotten
out of Vietnam. But when you get to be in power and you start your own illegal and
immoral war and then other people’s children are dying—that’s what I have a problem with.
Casey knew his duty. He went over there and he was there five days and he was killed.
When Casey was killed in a war that I disagreed with, in a war that his father disagreed
with, in a war that his brothers and sisters disagreed with and that he disagreed with, I
knew that I had to do something. It was too late for Casey but it was not too late for millions
of other people in harm’s way. It was not too late for our soldiers. It was not too late
for the people of Iraq.
The Iraqis did not have weapons of mass destruction. They did not have anything to
do with 9/11. Iraq was devastated by twelve years of sanctions. Some of our soldiers told
me they met Iraqi soldiers that were wearing flip-flops and had rusty weapons. This is the
country that George Bush lied us into an invasion of and the occupation of. I want to tell
you something: it has not proven how strong America is; it has proven how weak America
is. An insurgency in a small country that was already harmed by twelve years of sanctions
is holding off the US Army, the US Air Force, the US Navy.
I just got back from Turkey yesterday. I travel around the world and I want to tell you
one other thing George Bush has done to us. He has made us pariahs in the world. The
world hates us. They do not only hate George Bush but they hate Americans and I say,
“You know we are trying to get him out of office, we are trying to end the war.” They say,
“Why did you vote for him in 2004? Why did you elect him again? It was bad enough in
2000, but why did you elect him again?” We have to end this war and the Bush presidency
to get some credibility back in the world.
I was appalled at a meeting with two Iraqi gentlemen who were telling what was going
on in Iraq. Turk after Turk got up and said, “We are proud of the insurgency. We are proud
and you people in Iraq give us hope.” And that broke my heart because we are so hated
and our soldiers are so hated and the only reason they are is because of George Bush,
because we invaded an innocent country.
Dick Cheney, “Doomsday Dick,” went all over the world saying, “No options off the
table.” So they’re saying to stop Iran from getting one nuclear bomb, they might nuke
them! And who has the most nukes out of anyone in the world? And who is the only
country that has ever used a nuclear bomb on innocent people? America. And now we are
talking about it again. We are a rogue state.
Some say “Well if you don’t love America why don’t you leave it.” I don’t leave America
because I love it. That’s why I travel 27 days out of the month to motivate people.
About 70 percent of this country disagrees with the war and wants the troops to come
home. When I sat down in Crawford, Texas, it wasn’t even 50 percent. But what we don’t
see is 70 percent of America out on the streets. If just one percent of those people got out
on the street demanding all of those troops home, Congress would have to listen to us.
George Bush will never listen to us. We told him on November 7, “We disagree with you
and we disagree with your war.” And what did he do? He turned around and sent more
troops. He will not ever listen to us. That is why you and your congressional district
should demand that Congress end the war by cutting the funding.
Everyone says, “you have to vote for funding to support the troops.” The 21,500
troops they’re sending for the surge will not have body armor until summer. What are
they supposed to do? Dodge the bullets and the shrapnel until summer? Is this supporting
the troups? Is it supporting the troops when we pay Halliburton to clean their water
and Halliburton does not clean their water? Is it supporting the troops when Walter Reed
is falling apart? Is it supporting the troops when you cut back on VA benefits? The ultimate
not-supporting-the-troops is sending them to Iraq in the first place. The only way
we can support them is to bring them home.
I also care about the people in the Middle East. Every day our troops stay in Iraq it
becomes more unstable and the hope for putting it back together again gets farther and
farther away. It’s not going to happen when our troops are there. 87% of the people of Iraq
in the last poll said they wanted the troops out. I want to tell you something: it is their
country. It is not our country. People always ask me, “What would you do with Iraq?” It
does not matter what I would do with it, I am not an Iraqi.
Before my son was killed, on February 15, 2003, I saw millions of people all over the
world go out and protest the invasion of Iraq. And what did George Bush say? “Well that’s
nice but I don’t have to listen to ‘focus groups.’” I thought if he calls millions of people a
focus group, what is he going to call me? A flea on his butt? So I thought my voice was not
going to make a difference. Why should I go out? Why should I go out and hold signs in
the rain and the cold? Why should I go out of my little sphere of influence? Because I did
not believe that one person could make a difference.
But when Casey was killed, I thought to myself, I have to try to make a difference. And
if I do not make a difference, at least I can die trying. And I just thought how could I face
my grandchildren, Casey’s nieces and nephews, and say, “You know your grandma she
just gave up, she didn’t try.” I want to be able to say, “Your grandma did everything she
could to rectify the problem that killed your uncle Casey.”
After that point, I couldn’t not do something. So I started working soon after Casey was
killed and that was about sixteen months before I went to Crawford, Texas. I decided on
August 3, 2005 that I had had enough. Fourteen marines were killed in one incident. I often think, what is everybody’s breaking
point? After the wire tapping, torture in
Guantanamo, torture in Abu Ghraib, taking
away our right to habeas corpus, the troop
surge, hundreds of billions of more money.
Now we find out they are funneling money
to Sunni groups connected with Al Qaeda
in Iran. What is going to make you say, “I
can’t take this anymore. I am going to get
out on the street.” I do not want it to be the
same breaking point that I had. That’s why I
am doing this. I don’t want another mother
to have to fall on the floor screaming for her
son before she decides she is going to get
out on the street. When the fourteen
marines were killed, George Bush said they
died for a noble cause and everybody has
died for a noble cause. And I thought, “You
know what, I am going to drive down to
Crawford, Texas and I am going to ask him
what noble cause.” And I did not even have
a plan after that.
I was at the Dallas Veterans For Peace
convention the day before I went and
someone said, “Cindy, what if he doesn’t
meet with you, what are you going to do?”
I said, “Well I guess I’ll just sit there until
he does meet with me.” And that spurred
the anti-war movement in America. After
all the hard work, Bush invaded anyway,
and after the elections in 2004 when we
worked so hard to beat him with the
power of the voting machine, (and like a
vampire he can’t be defeated) the movement
really deflated. I think that sitting
down did spur the movement. It was such
a simple thing to do. Anybody knows how
to sit down. That’s what I did—I just went
there and sat down.
When my son was killed I found my
passion. I would give anything to go back
to April 3 and have my son back, but I
can’t. I think my great-grandchildren are
going to have to be paying for Bush’s mistakes.
So it is time. The tipping point has
occurred and it is time that we get out of
our comfort zone, and get off of our couches,
turn off Fox news or American Idol, or
Dancing With the Stars or whatever else
and get out. In fact, know what? Just
unplug that TV. Take it out in the backyard
and take an axe to it.
I’ve met a lot of people from Iraq, I’ve
been to Jordan and met with parliamentarians
from all different sects: female, male,
Sunni, Shia, secular, religious—they all
have the same thing to say: Get the troops
out of Iraq. When I met with them, they
said, “What is wrong with the world? It is
like the world does not care. It is like the
world does not care that hundreds of thousands
of us are being killed. It is like the
world does not care that we have no clean
water, that we do not have electricity. It is
like the world does not care that we are
being oppressed.” It is time the world starts
caring, but the world has to start with you.

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