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    Sheehan assails Bush in calling for end to Iraq war

    BY CARLOS SANTOS
    TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER
    May 18, 2006

    CHARLOTTESVILLE — Cindy Sheehan, one of the country’s best-known war protesters, pleaded for an end to the Iraq war, excoriating President Bush and blaming him for her son’s death.

    “I wrote Barbara Bush and told her that your son might as well have pulled the trigger,” Sheehan said last night in a speech to an audience of about 350 people, many of them peace activists from the Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice.

    Army Spc. Casey Sheehan was 24 when he was killed outside Baghdad by Iraqi insurgents while trying to rescue other soldiers under fire. He died in April 2004.

    Sheehan, 48, attracted national attention after she held a demonstration outside Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas, in August 2005 to protest the war.

    Anti-war activists have said they believe the death of Sheehan’s son gives her the moral authority to serve as a force for the anti-war movement. But supporters of Bush and the war have said that Sheehan is dishonoring her son, who volunteered to fight and that her actions are only helping the enemy.

    She spoke at length last night about the grief she still carries for her son’s death, which she called “cold-blooded murder by an administration that used my son as cannon fodder to enrich the war machine.”

    On Casey Sheehan’s birthday, Memorial Day, “I’ll be at my son’s grave and have a dedication for his tombstone,” she said. “Memorial Day will never be a day of barbecues or being with people to celebrate ever again. It will always be the day I grieve for my son’s death.”

    Sheehan, the mother of four children, received a standing ovation from the crowd, which often interrupted her 30-minute speech with applause.

    She spends her time traveling the globe, rallying to end the war and to drive Bush out of office. She said she often feels embarrassed to be an American when in other countries.

    Sheehan also said she is not paying taxes because the money is being used to fund the war.

    Ann Wright, an Army colonel who resigned from the U.S. State Department in protest the day the war began, also spoke.

    “We have a real mess on our hands,” she told the audience. “I resigned because I totally disagreed with us going to war in Iraq. We all have an obligation to stand up and speak out when we see our government doing something wrong. Keeping silent is not something we can do these days.”

    George Leaman of Charlottesville was one of those attending the speeches. He has occasionally held placards in front of the federal courthouse building in downtown Charlottesville to protest the war. The demonstrations, though small, are held every Thursday and sponsored by the Center for Peace and Justice.

    “I’m a strong believer that the war in Iraq is a fraud,” he said. “It’s criminal.”

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