August 13, 2005 by Lisa Ghariani
Monday, August 15, 2005 - A colleague of mine - Chris Emery - and I drove very early this past Saturday morning to Camp Casey, which is anti-war protestor Cindy Sheehan's rallying point. The trek from Oklahoma City took about seven hours, including meal and fuel stops. We arrived in the small hamlet of Crawford, TX - a 90 mile drive south of the DFW metro area and located just west of IH 35 - a little after 2:00 PM to find hundreds of Cindy's supporters driving over three hundred vehicles; cars, vans, airport shuttles and RV's - moving at a snail's pace, bumper-to-bumper to the site where Cindy is camping about two miles from George Bush's ranch.
I estimated the head count at the rally to be at least 500. Chris overheard the local law enforcement radio traffic and their estimate was 420. The camp site has been turned into a make-shift shrine to honor Casey, Ms. Sheehan's 24 year old son who died in Iraq on April 4, 2004. In addition, nearly 60 other families displayed photos of their deceased loved ones throughout the campsite area. Small white crosses with the names of 842 of the fallen 1800+ soldiers in Iraq lined the final quarter mile mark of our destination.
Please note: This number - 1800 - reflects ONLY the military-conflict related deaths. We discovered from recently retired Iraqi war veterans - the actual number of deceased from the 2003 - 2005 Iraqi / Afghanistan conflicts is "well over" 6,000. This larger number includes deaths from friendly-fire combat accidents and non-combat / urban terrorist related deaths. This clearly emphasizes the point that our military hierarchy chooses to mislead us on several dozen aspects of this illegal war.
We were fortunate to find a parking place fairly close to the hub of activity. A truck bed had been set up as a stage with electric generators and audio equipment to facilitate short empowering speeches by Cindy and other family members who have suffered loss in this war. They are the diligent few who are leading the call to end this quagmire which is commercially packaged by the current administration as "The War on Terror."
We unloaded our gear, which consisted of a camera, water bottles, and a bright red and white sign that read "1,800+ Killed In Action / 0 - WMD's". We were greeted by an onslaught of camera's snapping photos of our sign. It was very hot and humid as we maneuvered our way through the crowd towards the platform stage set-up on the back of a pick-up truck.
Chris immediately noticed a friendly face. It was Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst whom Chris had met on his recent trip to the Washington, DC Truth convergence. Ray is one of the growing number of former intelligence officers who has pledged his alliance to the truth movement while calling for an end to the Iraqi war. I told Ray that he was one of my newfound heroes. He didn't have much time to chat because he was due on stage to speak to the crowd of diverse activists. The first question he asked the group was, "How many of you are over 50?" Several hands went up. He then read a recent quote by GW stating coldly that "pulling our troops out of Iraq at this time was not wise" and then Ray paralleled it with almost identical quotes by Nixon during the tail end of the Vietnam war. The comparisons that he drew were uncanny, and then he triumphantly ended with "We had to work hard to end the war back then, and we must work together today to end this war too".
The wife of an active duty soldier and her teenage daughter came next and rendered heartfelt pleas to end this war so their loved one could finally come home and return to his role as a father and husband. The teenage daughter's voice wavered softly as she attempted to read a prepared statement. She then broke into tears as she expressed her deep sentiment about how hard it was to be without her father for months and months on end. The group was brought to tears while the young girl struggled to read her notes. Her mother read an email that her husband had sent from Iraq wherein he praised his family's efforts to voice their opinions openly about ending this war. The cryptic email's message supported Cindy's efforts, yet the soldier simply had to refer to Cindy Sheehan as "that lady" for fear of reprisal. He reminded his wife that it was her right as an American to speak out, and urged her to do so.
The next speaker was Cindy, who donned a floppy hat covering most of her sun-weathered face as she climbed upon the make-shift stage. Just as she began to speak a security helicopter circled above the stage, almost drowning out Cindy's words. She joked about the timing of the helicopter coinciding with the exact moment she was to speak, then went on to deliver her message to the applauding crowd. She began with, "This one of the happiest days of my life" and thanked everyone for their support. She also compared this day to one of the worst days of her life: when she found out that her son Casey had been KIA in Iraq. On a personal note she told us who Casey was; he was a very loving and bright 24 year old kid that had a lot going for him. Unfortunately his future was wiped out by George Bush's war, which was based on nothing but lies.
She spoke in a raspy voice as she recounted the first few months following Casey's death on April 4, 2004. "I lost the will to go on and felt like my world ended when Casey's life ended". Then something impelled her to stand up and demand the truth about Casey's death. She paused,then said whimsically, "Who would have ever thought that a revolution would begin last Thursday in Crawford, Texas? And if George was a truly man he would come out here and talk face-to-face with me. I will be here for the five weeks he is on vacation until Sept 1. If he won't talk to me I will follow him to the White house, then I will come back to Crawford for his next vacation, which we know will be very soon!"
She ended her empowering speech with a very simple and poignant statement that sent the group into a frenzy. She said, "I just want George Bush to know how sick and tired we all are of his shit!"
I thought to myself ... journalists, authors, former staff members and economists have written volumes about the Bush DyNASTY ,and Cindy is able to sum it up so eloquently - "George Bush, we are sick and tired of all of your shit!" Well said Cindy.
A few seconds later, I noticed something brewing to the north of the group and moved in closer to see what the hoopla was all about. A small group of Bush supporters, led by a plump man wearing a Hawaiian shirt, sunglasses, and a Panama straw hat reminiscent of the CIA outfit cloned from the movie "Ishtar" was yelling, "Talk to the troops Cindy! We support our president and the troops! Talk to the troops who have done three tours of Iraq!" He was carrying a sign that read "Sheehanism: America haters welcome."
Another skinny guy struggling with a giant American flag was taunting the group yelling, "We support Bush and our troops." Then a baby-faced poster boy for the war appeared in Wal-Mart bought fatigues [no ID's name tags nor US Army insignias were attached to the uniform] holding up a sign that said, "Don't be Michael Moore's Puppets." It was a dwindling motley crew, so they forced some five or six young children to stand in the blistering sun with bewildered expressions holding up flags and "We Love Bush" signs. At one point a veteran who had just lost his son in the war lunged at one of the brain-dead across the street who was jeering at him. The Bush's dirty dozen almost achieved a photo-op of a peace activist pummeling the guy with a flag bigger than Dallas, but then the bereaved man walked away shaking his head in disgust. In the midst of all this orchestrated drama, a helicopter flew low overhead with an Imax-type camera, circling the area like a vulture almost clipping trees and power lines. More ocal police and sheriff's units showed up to bring the tally to about 30 vehicles. SUV's drove by slow with shoe polish-laden windows that said "Cindy go home". We were told that the Bush supporters had been driven to the site in buses and that the original 100+ group by 3:00 had withered to about 16. This count includes the five children forced to stand alongside their parents shouting "We support Bush" in the blazing sun without water. Someone from Cindy's group started to take the kids some water, but local law enforcement announced over a bullhorn that any of Cindy's supporters found standing on the grass would be arrested. As far as I know there is no recognized law against standing on grass to the side of a public road in the boondocks of Texas, but this was a simple way to separate the opposing sides without incident, and it worked quite well.
A Vietnam vet with PTSD began to have some sort of breakdown due to the relentless circling of the choppers and had to be taken to a tent for medical treatment. Chris and I chatted briefly with the man who was holding up an American flag in front of the tent to shield the view of the vet flailing about in torment. They kept reassuring me, "He'll be alright" and asked me to step back. I started to take a photo, but then lowered the camera. There comes a point in journalism when a human being's privacy super cedes the story, and this was that time.
Black storm clouds began to roll in from the western horizon, and an eminent rain began to quiet the scene as the crowd began to leave peacefully. As Chris and I walked to the car, a lone protester wearing a mock Bush T-shirt played soothing jazz music in the rain. The secret service agents dressed incognito as protesters gave a sigh of relief as the crowds dispersed. Many others, who had come from all parts of the U.S. to support Cindy for the duration, settled in by putting up their tents.
I tuned-in to the fake news when I finally got home and Fox was estimating the crowd in Crawford today at around 100. This must be the same math they use to count the dead and injured in this ungodly war.
Lisa Ghariani is a film production assistant and freelance journalist living in Oklahoma City, OK
Chris Emery is a documentary film producer / director and freelance journalist living in Oklahoma City.
They may be contacted at: email@example.com
Starmail - 22. Aug, 10:04