Why Casey Sheehan Was Killed
DENVER, Colorado, Aug 19 (IPS) - For nearly two weeks, Cindy Sheehan has been camped outside George W. Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, demanding a meeting with the U.S. president.
Her son, Army Specialist Casey Sheehan, was killed in Iraq last April. Since no weapons of mass destruction have been found there, she thinks Bush owes her an explanation.
Sheehan's protest has become a lightning rod for antiwar sentiment, with more than 1,000 vigils organised across the United States this week in support of her demand.
Bush has largely ignored Sheehan's protest.
When asked last week about Sheehan's demand for a meeting, Bush refused to answer directly: "And so, you know, listen, I sympathise with Mrs. Sheehan. She feels strongly about her -- about her position. And I am -- she has every right in the world to say what she believes. This is America."
On Wednesday, his motorcade sped by her encampment on his way to a fundraiser.
Since Pres. Bush won't meet with Cindy Sheehan to explain why her son Casey died in Iraq, I thought I would put forward the information I have. Like Army Specialist Casey Sheehan, I was in Baghdad's Sadr City on Apr. 4, 2004. I was there as an unembedded journalist. Unlike Casey Sheehan, I came out alive.
I had traveled to Sadr City to cover the Bush administration's attack on the movement of Shi'ite cleric Muqtada Sadr. It didn't matter that the cleric had millions of followers or that he was the scion of an important political family with a history of standing up to tyranny. (His father was killed by Saddam's regime for fomenting revolution in 1999. His uncle, Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Sadr, was killed for leading an insurrection against Ba'ath rule in 1980.)
It didn't matter that Sadr's forces were providing food aid to the poor, or organising traffic patrol and garbage duty in an atmosphere with no basic services. The problem for Bush and his Iraq Administrator L. Paul Bremer was that Sadr was against the U.S. occupation.
So he had to be dealt with. First his newspaper was closed. Then his top advisor was arrested. Then Bremer announced an unnamed judge was demanding that Sadr be arrested on charges of murder.
"He's effectively attempting to establish his authority in place of the legitimate Iraqi government," Bremer told reporters. "We will not tolerate that."
That was the last straw. Until Apr. 4, 2004 Muqtada Sadr had urged his followers to protest peacefully against the occupation. But the U.S. assault led him to urge his followers to "terrorise the enemy."
In the first 48 hours of fighting, Sadr's followers seized police stations and government buildings across the country, including the governor's office in Basra.
At least 75 Iraqis and 10 U.S. servicemen were killed, among them Army Specialist Casey Sheehan. As an unembedded journalist, I saw only the Iraqi casualties (the U.S. casualties being taken away to military hospitals). My translator Waseem and I weaved through roads closed by U.S. tanks until we arrived at Sadr City's al-Ubaidi Hospital.
There, I interviewed 15-year-old Ali Hussein. He lay in the hospital, a U.S. bullet lodged in his gut. He was barely able to lift his head, but he wanted to say a few words to the Western reporter: "I was standing in my doorway and I was shot," he said. "I don't have anything to say to the Americans. It's just between them and God."
A few miles away at Baghdad's Mustansuriye University, hundreds of students marched through the center of campus. They chanted: "The dead want a brave people so we won't follow the law of Bremer."
"We will act according to the situation that we face," said Wassam Mehdi Hussein, head of the Islamic Union of Iraqi Students, standing by al-Sadr's declaration of jihad against the occupation. "We will use any means peaceful and violent."
Another Mustansuriye student, Ali Mohammed, noted the violence started when the U.S. military closed Sadr's newspaper and arrested his top advisor.
"We don't want to fight the Americans," he told me. "We are very grateful to them. They are very dear to us because they released us from Saddam. But at the same time we want them to do something for humanity. A lot of people are suffering from hunger and sitting at home having no work."
"These things make the situation bad and then we turn to explosions. We want to respect them and we want them to respect us."
A year on, such respect still isn't forthcoming -- even to U.S. citizens like Cindy Sheehan, who deserve to know the truth of why their sons have been killed in Iraq.
*IPS reporter Aaron Glantz is author of the book "How America Lost Iraq" (Tarcher/Penguin). (END/2005)