Cindy Sheehan Attends Anti-War Meeting
Iconic voice of the opposition in the US to Bush administrations occupation of Iraq, Sheehan urges everybody to take to the streets on March 17 Global Day of Action. We need millions of people she said.
She’s facing me, tired of exhausting press conferences and interviews, which covered the first two days of her Istanbul trip. Repeating the same answers over and over again, she’s so determined while talking about life, the perseverance to build and keep life. Her eyes shine with excitement each time she reveals the functioning of the “war machine” that she knows only too well. With a slight hint of solidarity towards defending life, a humble smile appears on her face.
I’m facing a mother, never giving up calling that war machine to account for her son, who enlisted to the US army to earn his college tuition, sent to Iraq from where he never came back, as well as others who lost their lives: It’s Cindy Sheehan. One can only once too often meet someone with a stance of a sagacious yet unpretending stance in life, I wonder talking to her.
Sheehan arrived in Istanbul to participate in Global Coalition of Peace and Justice’s (Küresel-BAK) fourth “International Meeting for a World without Wars”. “Bush must be held accountable for his actions. He must be condemned, abdicated, judged and imprisoned. But we should remember that Bush is only a puppet”, she said in her speech during the meeting on Saturday. Now, in a relatively quiet Sunday morning, we chat.
You’ve mentioned a massive part of the population, “potentially dissident” in face with the Bush administration’s policies, which doesn’t take it to the streets. How would you persuade them; what do you tell them?
Apart from those whose children, relatives or friends are in Iraq, there’re a lot of people who are indirectly affected by this policy of war. Bush administration affected everybody’s lives. Around the world. Even if they don’t look at the human side of things, we tell them that the Bush administration spends 10 million dollars a day for the war, empties the treasury, destroys social services; I tell them the consequences of the Hurricane Katrina.
Yet they don’t take to the streets. This is the same all around the world. What’s the threshold then?
I don’t know where the threshold stands. They listen to me when I say that by launching a offensive war the Bush administration committed crimes not only against humanity but against the constitution; that our telephone calls, e-mails are under surveillance; that they kidnap people and torture them.
I also ask myself the question: Do they wait for it to become too late for everything? Do they wait for a nuclear assault to Iran, for example? And this is true for the entire world.
Taking to the streets is important because we saw the positive effects of the demonstrations. In 2003 millions marched in Italy or Spain; governments fell; they withdrew troops from Iraq. Anti-war demonstrators marched in Turkey and kept the country from participated in the occupation.
But we need to expand these demonstrations. We need millions of people. That’s why I say take to the streets on the March 17, Global Day of Action.
Number of people opposing to the Bush administration and its war in Iraq have risen. But still Bush wants to send 20 thousand more troops to Iraq. What tactics do they employ to enlist new soldiers?
They take the reserve marines into active duty and keep them longer than predestined. The period of duty of marine already on ground is prolonged as well. There are those who go to Iraq for the fourth time.
And then there are tactics to enlist the poor and the excluded, as we saw in Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11.
This economy of war exhausted lives. My son Casey enlisted to the army to pay for his college tuition. Because college education is so expensive. In that case, the poor and the African Americans are chosen first as marines and they accept to stay alive. Even they lie to them, as “you won’t go to Iraq if you enlist”.
Then there are quotas for those who enlist people into the army. They are threatened to be sent to Iraq if they don’t meet their quotas.
What about conscientious objectors? People like Watada who refuse to go to Iraq?
Watada isn’t a conscientious objector because he doesn’t object to war; he refuses to go to Iraq. But there are conscientious objectors and I support them. Both financially and morally.
How do you support them financially?
I provide them money for court expenses of to run away to Canada.
You said “We should remember that Bush is only a puppet. Strings are in others’ hands”. Who’s holding the strings?
Big corporations, those who profit from war. Lobbyists in Washington.
In this case, isn’t the anti-war movement suppose to struggle against those who hold the strings?
Right. But it’s difficult to struggle with them, this war machine. We can’t say, “We won’t buy those bombs or tanks”. Or I can’t say, “I won’t buy, Halliburton’s dams”. They play in a bigger scale.
So the best option is to impede people from going to war in order to exhaust the human resources of the war machine. And also to boycott supporters of war like Fox and its financial backers.
What would you say to journalists who want to do something against this war?
I always say the same thing to the journalists: Go back to your roots; function as the fourth power again. Check on the administrations’ practices and provide a balance. But this doesn’t realize. Journalists are so tied to the establishment.
Journalist have to ask questions rather them telling people what to think.
There are those who practice journalism as you describe, like Gregory Palast.
Yes, there are progressive, alternative media and journalists like Palast or Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman. Palast did a great job and unveiled how Bush stole the elections.
But you know, I’ve never saw Palast on TV. Because they don’t let him. Existence of these journalists and alternative media is unknown to many but their contribution is so big.