E-Mail Heart to Heart: An Interview With Cindy Sheehan
by Rebecca Snow Landa
ETS!: First of all, what prompted your decision to run for Congress, and what will you work to accomplish if elected?
Cindy Sheehan: I had "retired" from being the "face of the peace movement" in May of 2006--I was broke, sick, and I was tired of being attacked by the right and the "left" for what I was doing. During my very brief retirement, BushCo did a couple of things to spur me back into the movement: First of all Dick Cheney declared that he did not have to be held accountable for any of his crimes because, as President of the Senate, he was not in the executive branch! I heard not one peep from Congress. Then George Bush commuted Scooter Libbyâ€™s sentence, which I consider treason since George Bushâ€™s very office was complicit in the outing of Valerie Plame--that was the last straw! I decided to get back into activism sooner than planned and make the impeachment of George Bush and Dick Cheney my main goal. We were in Crawford, Texas to celebrate my 50th birthday, and we decided to take a "Journey for Humanity" to New York City and stop in Washington, DC and demand that Nancy Pelosi put impeachment "on the table" or I would run against her. Not only did she not put impeachment back on the table, but I was arrested with 46 other activists in Conyersâ€™ office. So, thatâ€™s why I'm running.
ETS!: I was pregnant during the bombing of Baghdad in 2003, and watching my baby boy learn to run and jump when I heard on the radio of your brave work at Camp Casey. For many of us, especially mothers, you embody the â€œpersonal as political.â€ How does your job as mom and grandma continue to shape your political choices and motivate your activism?
CS: Well, I'm doing what I do, not for just my children, but for all the children of the world. I love them all. I first started to do this to make sense and meaning from Caseyâ€™s needless death--I knew he would want me to. But then I saw how urgent the need for peace was for everyone. I want my children and grandchildren to live in a better world than Casey lived and died violently in.
I'm not a grandma yet, but my first grandbaby is expected in May 2008. Our entire family is so excited! But it also reinforces what I am doing as so important!
ETS!: Camp Casey was a remarkably innovative and completely original media event that reached out to the hearts and mind of millions of people worldwide. Rather than preaching a message, you showed the world that women who give life from their bodies will no longer sit back and allow these lives to be sacrificed in pointless war. Do you have a background in theater, performance art, or media studies? How exactly did the idea of Camp Casey come to you, and how did you put it all together?
CS: I donâ€™t have a background in any of those things. I studied history at UCLA. The idea came to me one day when I was watching the news and I saw that 14 Marines from a reserve unit in Ohio had been killed in the same incident, and seven the day before! I was so upset that my efforts up to then had seemed so in vain, when George Bush came on the TV and told me that Caseyâ€™s sacrifice was for a "Noble Cause." Well, he didnâ€™t say: "Cindy, Caseyâ€™s sacrifice was for a noble cause." He said that "the families of the fallen can rest assured that their loved ones died for a noble cause." I was waiting for someone from the lackey corporate media to ask, "What is the noble cause?" When no one did, I thought: I have a voice, I am going to Crawford and I am going to try and ask him what noble cause killed my son. So I was there on August 6th and stayed for the rest of the month (except when I went home when my mom had a stroke).
Camp Casey was a truly organic entity that grew from the first day into what it became, and every day brought new miracles and surprises.
ETS!: How can activists best deal with the police when staging a street demonstration like you did, in front of Mr. Bushâ€™s ranch no less? Many of us are discouraged by the riot gear and tear gas. Are there better alternatives to street marches? Or do you feel large demonstrations in the streets can be as effective in 2008 as more targeted media events like Camp Casey?
CS: I think the best way to deal with law enforcement is to first of all tell them that we understand they are just doing their jobs (even though their jobs include enforcement for war criminals), but they need to understand that we are doing what we feel in our hearts and souls is the right thing. Also, that if there is any violence, that it wonâ€™t be coming from us peace activists. Then you do what you have to do. Whether it is sitting in a ditch or holding a march with 500 people through the streets of DC without a permit. I refuse to get permits because it doesnâ€™t say anywhere in the First Amendment that one needs one.
I think that all strategies from things like Camp Casey (that one was unique) to small vigils, lobbying congress, non-violent civil disobedience, and large marches are needed--by the way, Camp Casey became a media event purely by accident. I didnâ€™t know when I went down to Crawford that the White House Press Corps is always with the President and in August they had very little to do.
ETS!: What victories have you seen in your own activism, and in the larger peace movement in recent years that we can celebrate and emulate? What keeps you going when the critics attack and the war machine seems unstoppable?
CS: I think the Democrats regaining majorities in both Houses of Congress was in direct response to the actions and organization of grass roots movements, especially the peace movement that is so opposed to the occupation of Iraq. As most people now know--and as I predicted--the Democrats have betrayed us and the war keeps raging, even worse, and BushCo have not been impeached. That was a victory that has turned out to be a curse.
I think no effort is wasted though. The fact that there are millions of people in harmâ€™s way for the crimes and greed of my country are what keeps me going. It is loveâ€¦
ETS!: We have several ports, a vibrant activist community, liberal values, and economic strength here in the Puget Sound Region. What does the rest of the nation need from Seattleâ€™s peace activists? What could be the role of our city in the larger struggle to stop this war in Iraq and prevent an invasion of Iran?
CS: I love Seattle and have been there several times. I know that you all are very committed activists there!
We need Seattle be a leader in the greening of our planet and show us how sustainable and renewable sources of energy can work for us all to break our addiction and dependence on foreign oil. We also need to target any aspect of the Military Industrial Complex from the military to the war profiteers. Show the world that these ports can be shut down and prevent (at least temporarily) our soldiers from heading out to Iraqâ€¦
We received dozens of letters from Washington State for Pelosi to put impeachment back on the table for Cheney, at least--Seattle can just be in solidarity and partnership with the global peace community.
ETS!: Do you have a favorite candidate for the 2008 presidential election, and if so, why is that person your first choice?
CS: I like Cynthia McKinney, who is seeking the Green Party nomination. She has always fought against the establishment (and that is why she is not in Congress now, in fact) and she has fought for legitimate voting and for the people of New Orleans. She introduced Articles of Impeachment on her last day as a Congressperson in 2006.
Right now, absent Cynthia being in the race, I like Dennis Kucinich, who always represents progressive values.
I really like your Congressman, Jim McDermott, who has most always represented true progressive values.
--Interview by Rebecca Snow Landa. Got a question for Cindy Sheehan? Send it to email@example.com and we'll ask it in Part Two of this interview.