To honor those who have died in Iraq, Democracy Rising interviewed the founder of Gold Star Families for Peace an organization made up of families who have lost members to the Iraq War. Cindy Sheehan lost her son, Casey, to the war/occupation and founded Gold Star Families for Peace. To learn more about their organization and get involved, visit http://www.gsfp.org.
Zeese: What is Gold Star Families for Peace? Where does the name come from?
Sheehan: Gold Star Families for Peace is an organization I founded in January 2005. When a mom has a child killed in a war, she becomes a Gold Star Mom well, we expanded the idea to include all family members because an entire family is affected because of the death. Our group includes every type of relative to a soldier.
Zeese: How many Gold Star Families for Peace are there?
Sheehan: We currently have 70 members. They are all important to me. Some that are particularly notable include Lila Lipscomb of Fahrenheit 9/11 fame and Sue Niederer, who challenged Laura Bush to send her daughters to Iraq and was arrested by secret service agents.
Zeese: Tell us about your son.
Sheehan: Casey was born on May 29, 1979, and was killed on April 4, 2005. He was my firstborn. He was an amazing kid who was very easygoing. He had a deep faith in God, and he was the one my family would look to for moral guidance: he never wavered.
He was an altar boy for 10 years and an Eagle Scout. He was a brave and honest man full of love for his family and friends. He loved being in the drama club, Nintendo, WWE [professional wrestling], and helping people.
The official story of his death was that Casey was killed in an ambush in Sadr City by hostile fire. I have some speculative evidence that he was actually killed by friendly fire. The military lied to us and has told us conflicting stories. My friend Fernando del Solar Suarez was lied to and told that his son was shot in the head, when he stepped on a U.S. cluster bomb.
Casey’s death has devastated our family.
Zeese: What is the purpose of Gold Star Families for Peace?
Sheehan: We formed to be a unique voice to spread the word about the lies and betrayals that killed our children and to put a human face on the suffering of Iraq. Also, to be a support group for each other. We want to end the occupation of Iraq to minimize the human costs. We don’t want one other family member to suffer as we are and every death, American or Iraqi, is another stab in our hearts.
Zeese: What are some of the lies and betrayals that killed your children?
Sheehan: They were sent to invade and occupy a country that posed no threat to the United States. They were used recklessly and ignorantly by their commander-in-chief, who should exercise more caution when he misuses our young people. They were all lied to by their recruiters, who will tell young people anything to get them to enlist, then deliver nothing. They were all killed performing duties that they were inadequately or not trained for at all. Evan Ashcraft was suffering from dysentery before he died. He lost 25 pounds because of dirty drinking water and bad food. Sometimes they are rationed to one bottle [of water] a day. Many times they have been killed guarding private contractor convoys, people who make many times more money than they do. Sgt. Sherwood Baker was killed searching for weapons of mass destruction that didn’t exist.
Zeese: Describe some of the projects you have pursued?
Sheehan: We are lobbying Congress to have an inquiry into the lies that caused Iraq. We are trying to meet with the secretary of defense to hold him accountable for the lies. We campaigned against George Bush during the elections. We are working on counter-recruitment. We work closely with the AFSC’s Eyes Wide Open exhibit and the VFP’s Arlington West.
Zeese: What are some upcoming events?
Sheehan: We are walking the halls of Congress on June 15 to push the resolution of inquiry into the AfterDowningStreet.org request and an inquiry into the lies and betrayals that killed our sons and daughters.
Zeese: DemocracyRising will be sending a letter to President Bush on Memorial Day concerning the lack of body armor and armor for vehicles in Iraq. What are your thoughts on that?
Sheehan: All of our children were killed because of lack of proper equipment or doing jobs that they weren’t trained for, and it is so hurtful to us that with all the money being wasted and stolen in the Pentagon and in the Provisional Authority in Iraq, that our children over in harm’s way are still inadequately protected.
Zeese: Do you have a Memorial Day message from GSFP?
Sheehan: We at GSFP are insulted when people like Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney say that America has to "stay the course" in Iraq to "honor our children’s sacrifices." Our position is that no one, Iraqi or American, should have died for the lies and to make evil people fabulously wealthy. Just because our children were unjustly murdered, why would we want any more bloodshed? Not one more drop of blood should be shed for the lies and deceptions.
Honor our children’s and our family’s sacrifices by bringing the troops home as soon as humanly possible. Honor our men and women in the armed forces by using them only when America is threatened, not to invade countries that pose no threat to the USA. Honor the vets who have served America by meeting their every need. Honor the families of needlessly slain children by realizing that America is a country at war. Look in your hearts, look at the truth about this immoral war, and work for peace. Our children died for peace; make it so.