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 took that stand, she returned as a full-blown celebrity.
She promoted her new book, “Not One More Mother’s Child,” and was the chief honoree 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. “We won’t be sitting around in 20 and 30 years saying, ‘Wow, we never thought this would happen again after Iraq,’ because we’re going to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Sheehan’s return to Crawford, captured by a full bank of network television cameras, was part of an active Thanksgiving week outside the president’s home.
On Thanksgiving, war protesters treated themselves to a traditional Iraq feast of tabouli, fish and lentils, saying they were expressing “solidarity” with Iraqis who have been killed since the United States invaded the country in March 2003.
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 new county ordinances designed to limit parking and crowds around the Bushes’ Prairie Chapel ranch.
Lawyers for the protesters are challenging the constitutionality of the ordinances, which were approved in September just weeks after Sheehan left the area.
Ellsberg, who lives in Berkeley, Calif., and the others – including Sheehan’s sister – were arrested as they stood near the encampment dubbed “Camp Casey II,” named for Sheehan’s son.
That encampment, located outside the Bush home, was buzzing with activity in August as hundreds arrived from across the nation to join Sheehan and other parents of soldiers killed in Iraq.
Within weeks of her arrival in early August, the crowds had outgrown the nearby site Sheehan first picked for her protest, known as Camp Casey I. Her efforts gained worldwide attention and attracted anti-war stalwarts such as folk singer Joan Baez and the Rev. Al Sharpton.
Since August, controversy has grown 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 dictator Saddam Hussein.
The White House has ignored Sheehan this week, as Bush and his family have enjoyed a quiet Thanksgiving ensconced 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.
Sheehan said she plans to remain in the Crawford area until Sunday.
She will sign copies of her book, which is 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.