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Sheehan Renews Protest in Texas

The antiwar mother is back outside Bush's ranch to lead a rally and promote her book.

November 26, 2005|Peter Wallsten | Times Staff Writer

CRAWFORD, Texas — Cindy Sheehan arrived here last summer as an obscure, grieving mother to protest the war that killed her son. On Friday, with President Bush back at his vacation home for the first time since Sheehan emerged as one of his most visible critics, she returned as a full-blown celebrity.

She promoted her book, "Not One More Mother's Child," and was honored at an unveiling of a monument chiseled with the words, "Sheehan's Stand." The monument also lists the names of about 25 soldiers killed in Iraq, including her son, Casey.

"I'm here to say that the troops will come home" from Iraq, Sheehan told about 80 activists at the ceremony in a garden outside the Crawford Peace House, a gathering place for war protesters about eight miles from Bush's property.

"We're here to say that this war is going to be over, and we're going to ... make sure that this never happens again," Sheehan said.

Sheehan's return to Crawford, captured by a bank of network television cameras, was part of an active week outside the president's home.

On Wednesday, local law enforcement officials arrested a dozen protesters, including Daniel Ellsberg, the former Defense Department official who leaked the Pentagon Papers to the media during the Vietnam War. They were charged with violating county ordinances designed to limit parking and crowds around the Bushes' ranch.

Lawyers for the protesters are challenging the constitutionality of the ordinances, which were approved in September after Sheehan left the area.

Ellsberg, who lives in Berkeley, and the others, including Sheehan's sister, were arrested as they stood near the encampment dubbed "Camp Casey II."

That encampment was buzzing with activity in August as hundreds from across the country joined Sheehan and other parents of soldiers killed in Iraq.

Within weeks of her arrival in early August, the crowds had outgrown the nearby site, the original Camp Casey. Her efforts gained worldwide attention.

Since August, controversy has intensified over the war in Iraq. The death toll of U.S. soldiers in Iraq topped 2,000 in October, and debate in Washington has raged anew about whether the White House manipulated intelligence to justify the ouster of President Saddam Hussein.

This month, Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), a longtime supporter of the military, called for the withdrawal of U.S. troops to start in Iraq. And Bush's approval ratings, particularly on the war, have fallen steadily, reaching the lowest points of his presidency.

The White House has ignored Sheehan this week, as Bush and his family spent Thanksgiving at the 1,600-acre property near Waco. Earlier this week, spokeswoman Nicolle Wallace issued a statement saying that the U.S. troop deployment would decrease as Iraqi forces gain strength, but that setting any timetable for withdrawal now would be a mistake.

"Leaving prematurely would have terrible consequences, for our own security and for the Iraqi people," Wallace said.

Sheehan said she planned to remain in the Crawford area until Sunday, sleeping in a trailer at Camp Casey II. She plans to sign copies of her book, a compilation of her essays, letters and blog entries from the summer, and lead a peace rally today.

Supporters of Bush's Iraq policies also plan a rally.

This week's gathering has been far less heated than the one in August, during which opponents and supporters of the U.S. presence in Iraq hurled epithets at each other.

Ellsberg described his arrest as "a very nice experience." He said sheriff's deputies kept the air conditioning running as they drove him to be booked and inquired about his bad back.

On Thanksgiving, war protesters ate a traditional Iraqi feast of tabbouleh, fish and lentils, saying they were expressing "solidarity" with Iraqis who have been killed since the U.S. invaded the country in March 2003.

Sheehan spoke Friday about Crawford and the area's sunsets.

"I understand why George Bush loves it here," she said.

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