Cindy Sheehan was born Cindy Lee Miller in Inglewood, California, in 1957. She graduated from Cerritos College, studied history at UCLA, and worked for eight years as a youth minister at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Vacaville, California. In 1977 she married a young man named Patrick Sheehan, and the couple went on to have four children including a son named Casey (born in 1979), who joined the U.S. Army and was killed in action in Iraq on April 4, 2004.
In June 2004, two months after Casey’s death, Mrs. Sheehan was part of a delegation of grieving military families who met with President George W. Bush in Fort Lewis, Washington. After that meeting, Sheehan initially stated that the president had shown himself to be a caring individual of deep religious convictions. “I now know he’s sincere about wanting freedom for the Iraqis,” Sheehan declared at the time. “I know he’s sorry and feels some pain for our loss. And I know he’s a man of faith.” She concluded by saying, “That was the gift the President gave us, the gift of happiness, of being together.”
Before long, however, Mrs. Sheehan would change her story entirely. As she stated in an August 2005 radio interview: “Looking back, all I can say is that the meeting with Bush was one of the most disgusting experiences in my life.” She referred to the president as the “Führer” and characterized America’s invasion of Iraq as “blatant genocide.”
When she was subsequently asked to reconcile her extremely dissimilar recollections of that June 2004 meeting with President Bush, Sheehan replied that she had been “still in shock” at that time. But now (in August 2005), she said, she wished to speak to Bush and ask him, “Why did you kill my son? What did my son die for”
Sheehan’s antipathy for Bush dated back at least to the latter part of 2004, when, shortly after the November presidential election, she penned “An Open Letter to President George Bush” which was published in the newsletter of Not In Our Name, an organization controlled by the Revolutionary Communist Party. There, she wrote that Bush had “stole[n]” the presidency from the rightful winner, John Kerry.
In an antiwar speech in April 2005, Sheehan described President Bush’s Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz as a “murderous liar.”
In April 2005 as well, Sheehan spoke at a San Francisco State University (SFSU) rally in support of Lynne Stewart, the self-described “radical activist attorney” who had been convicted two months earlier of illegally providing material aid to her incarcerated client, Omar Abdel Rahman, mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Sheehan depicted Ms. Stewart as “my human Atticus Finch,” a reference to the heroic attorney in the book To Kill a Mockingbird. Explained Sheehan: “He [Finch] did what he knew was right, but wasn’t popular. And that’s what Lynne [Stewart] is doing.” “We are not waging a war on terror in this country,” Sheehan told her SFSU audience that day. “We’re waging a war of terror. The biggest terrorist in the world is George W. Bush,” whose “band of neo-cons and their neo-con agenda killed my son.”
Sheehan’s comments at SFSU also included the following:
In June 2005, Sheehan testified at the so-called “impeachment hearings” where Representative John Conyers led Congressional Democrats in trying to make a case for President Bush’s removal from office. Said Sheehan:
“The so-called Downing Street Memo dated 23 July, 2003, only confirms what I already suspected: The leadership of this country rushed us into an illegal invasion of another sovereign country on prefabricated and cherry picked intelligence…. I believed before our leaders invaded Iraq in March, 2003, and I am even more convinced now, that this aggression on Iraq was based on a lie of historic proportions and was blatantly unnecessary.”
Also in 2005, Sheehan endorsed the “College Not Combat” campaign in San Francisco, which encouraged the city’s high schools to deny military recruiters access to their student directories. The “College Not Combat” coalition included such member organizations as Code Pink, International ANSWER, International Socialist Organization, the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, the National Lawyers Guild, and Socialist Organizer. These groups shared the view that in order to frustrate “imperialist” U.S. foreign policy, it was imperative to reduce the number of young people joining the armed forces.
Sheehan became a household name in August 2005, when she and a group of her supporters camped out in front of the Crawford, Texas ranch where President George W. Bush was spending a five-week summer vacation. Dubbing the location of her protest “Camp Casey” (in memory of her son), Sheehan demanded that Bush meet with her to discuss the young man’s death.
On August 5, 2005, Sheehan called President Bush a “lying bastard,” a “chickenhawk,” a “filth-spewer,” and a “warmonger.” Seventeen days later, she denounced members of the Bush administration as “f—ing hypocrites,” and she condemned both the U.S. and Israel for their respective “occupations” of Iraq and Palestine. On another occasion, she depicted Bush’s foreign policy as “insane, arrogant, and callous.”
Before the end of August 2005, Sheehan had been quoted declaring that President Bush was an “evil maniac” who headed “the biggest terrorist outfit in the world”; that “my son died for oil … to make [Bush’s] friends rich” and “to spread the cancer of Pax Americana, imperialism in the Middle East”; that the Bush administration was composed of “war criminals” who “need to go to prison for what they’ve done in this world”; that Bush “needs to sign up his two little party-animal girls … to go to this war”; that the U.S. “has been overtaken by murderous thugs … gangsters who lust after fortunes and power, never caring that their addictions are at the expense of our loved ones, and the blood of innocent people near and far”; that Republicans “are now putting in place, all across this country, a system of voting that provides no way to validate the accuracy of the counting of the votes … and … by its very design, prohibits recounting the votes”; that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld “is a liar” who, “as with Hitler and Stalin, will say anything so long as he thinks it will help shape the world to his own liking”; and that Saddam Hussein and Rumsfeld were “kindred spirits.”
Among the earliest supporters of Sheehan’s cause was Ralph Nader, who sent her an open letter denouncing the Bush administration as “this rogue regime” which was “led by two draft-dodgers and officially counseled by similar pro-war evaders during the Vietnam War.”
Democratic National Party Chair Howard Dean’s organization Democracy For America also stood firmly behind Sheehan. Dean’s onetime presidential campaign strategist Joe Trippi made an appearance at Camp Casey, collaborating with Code Pink co-founder Jodie Evans and the Democrats.com website to produce a web broadcast lauding Sheehan. In that production, Sheehan intimated that the Secret Service might well have murdered her, had she not placed a notice about her suspicions on the blogosphere. “Thank God for the Internet, or … we would already be a fascist state,” she declared.
Another notable Sheehan supporter was Democrat Representative Jan Schakowsky of the Progressive Caucus and the Out of Iraq Congressional Caucus. Moreover, some 40 Congressional Democrats — including Barbara Lee, Pete Stark, and Lynn Woolsey — signed a letter urging President Bush to meet with Sheehan.
Film producer Michael Moore set aside a portion of his website for a Cindy Sheehan blogspot, where the activist mother could post her thoughts about the Iraq War, the Bush administration, and whatever else interested her. The Daily Kos also gave Sheehan a forum for her daily blogs.
Among Sheehan’s organizational backers were CodePink and the pro-Democrat activist group MoveOn.org.
Sheehan was also supported by the Crawford Peace House, a Texas-based antiwar group that had been formed in 2003. The White House press corps maintained a prominent presence at Camp Casey, giving Sheehan’s vigil extensive media coverage. Bush acknowledged the protest but refused to meet with Sheehan, on grounds that he had previously met with her and other military families at Fort Lewis 14 months earlier.
Sheehan remained in Crawford for the duration of Bush’s stay there, and at the end of August she and a group of supporters staged an antiwar bus tour from Crawford to Washington, D.C. After that, Sheehan appeared at antiwar protests at locations across the United States.
The publicity for Sheehan’s activist tour was handled, in large measure, by David Fenton and his public relations firm, Fenton Communications. The antiwar group TrueMajority footed the bill not only for Fenton’s services, but also for many other expenses associated with Sheehan’s efforts.
Fenton Communications was not Sheehan’s only public relations conduit. Her statements were also distributed by the Institute for Public Accuracy, the organization that had sponsored Sean Penn‘s anti-American propaganda trip to Baghdad on the eve of the Iraq War.
The strategist most responsible for orchestrating Sheehan’s public statements and appearances was the radical Lisa Fithian.
During the heyday of her anti-Bush, anti-war activism, Sheehan developed a close working relationship with Medea Benjamin, who co-founded Code Pink and Global Exchange, and who masterminded the violent anti-World Trade Organization riots in Seattle in 1999. Sheehan also shared the stage at anti-war protests with Kathy Kelly, director of Voices in the Wilderness.
Blaming not only America, but also Israel, for her son’s death, Sheehan wrote that Casey had been “killed for lies and for profit,” in service of a “neocon agenda to benefit Israel.” “My son,” she complained, “joined the Army to protect America, not Israel.” Added Sheehan: “We were told that we were attacked on 9/11 because the terrorists hate our freedoms and democracy … not for the real reason, because the Arab Muslims who attacked us hate our middle-eastern foreign policy.”
The Crawford Peace House website, which was almost entirely devoted to promoting Mrs. Sheehan’s cause, featured a photograph depicting the state of Israel as “Palestine.” It also displayed a photo of the former U.S. director of Berlin’s Spandau Prison, Eugene Bird, who had suggested that Israeli intelligence was responsible for the highly publicized prisoner abuse that had occurred at Abu Ghraib in 2004 and earlier. When Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon visited President Bush in Crawford in April 2005, members of the Peace House greeted him with an 800-foot-long banner listing all of the United Nations resolutions that Israel allegedly had violated.
In Sheehan’s calculus, Islamic terrorism was not something that drew its inspiration from Muslim doctrine or tradition, but rather, could best be understood as a reaction to all manner of American and Israeli transgressions. “You get America out of Iraq, and Israel out of Palestine, and you’ll stop the terrorism,” Sheehan said. The threat of such terrorism, she added, was largely a fabrication of the Bush administration: “When I was growing up, it was Communists. Now it’s Terrorists. So you always have to have somebody to fight and be afraid of, so the war machine can build more bombs, guns, and bullets and everything.”
In August 2005, Sheehan was asked by CBS News’ Mark Knoller: “You know that the President says Iraq is the central front in the war on terrorism, don’t you believe that?” Sheehan replied:
“No, because it’s not true. You know Iraq was no threat to the United States of America until we invaded…. Iraq was not involved in 9/11, Iraq was not a terrorist state. But now that we have decimated the country the borders are open, freedom fighters from other countries are going in and they (America) have created more terrorism by going to an Islamic country, devastating the country and killing innocent people in that country. The terrorism is growing and people who never thought of being car bombers or suicide bombers are now doing it because they want the United States of America out of their country.”
Demanding that the U.S. withdraw all its troops from Iraq immediately, Sheehan said: “As soon as we get them out of the country, people, the insurgency will go down. They might have a little bit of trouble at first, but you know what every Iraqi tells me: ‘We’re a civilization that has been around for thousands of years. We can handle our own problems.’”
Unwilling to compromise her anti-war position in even the smallest measure, Sheehan steadfastly refused to support any political candidate who did not share her commitment to pulling all U.S. troops out of Iraq immediately. In October 2005, for example, she wrote: “I would love to support Hillary [Clinton] for President [in 2008] if she would come out against the travesty in Iraq. But I don’t think she can speak out against the occupation, because she supports it. I will not make the mistake of supporting another pro-war Democrat for president again: As I won’t support a pro-war Republican.” Notwithstanding her hesitation to support Mrs. Clinton, Sheehan viewed Clinton as “a brilliant woman.”
In January 2006, Sheehan joined Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in addressing the Sixth World Social Forum (WSF) in Caracas, Venezuela, where nearly 60,000 people met to protest American foreign policy and debate such issues as land reform for the poor, fair trade, and indigenous rights. Sheehan hailed the WSF as “the kind of event where many ideas are exchanged and the best are promoted.”
”Enough of imperialist aggression,” President Chavez said after placing his arm around Sheehan. “Down with the U.S. empire! It must be said, in the entire world: Down with the empire!” “Cindy, we are with you in your fight,” Chavez added. Sheehan, meanwhile, told Chavez that she agreed with Harry Belafonte, who had made headlines by calling President Bush ”the greatest terrorist in the world.” And in a blog she posted during the WSF — entitled “A New World is Possible” — Sheehan asserted that Chavez was not a dictator, but rather “a democratically elected leader who is very popular in his country.”
Shortly after her visit with Chavez, Sheehan urged the nations of the world to help bring down “the U.S. empire” and declared that she would prefer to see Chavez in the White House than President Bush. Said Sheehan:
“Hugo Chavez also wants to finally realize Simon de Bolivar’s vision of a united South America which can be together stronger to live more peacefully with the U.S. and stand in solidarity against the constant meddling of all of our regimes in their affairs…George [Bush] is a reverse Robin Hood and even steals from our grandchildren’s future to further enrich the already obscenely rich of the present. I would rather live under a president like Hugo who tries to improve living conditions in his country than someone like George who is demolishing our social structures and making the poor, poorer.”
Also at the WSF, Sheehan announced that she was contemplating a run for the U.S. Senate. According to the Associated Press, Hugo Chavez encouraged her to pursue that goal.
On January 31, 2006, Sheehan attended President Bush’s annual State of the Union address as a guest of Rep. Lynn Woolsey. Just before the president delivered his speech, Sheehan was arrested in the House gallery for refusing to cover up a T-shirt bearing the anti-war slogan “2,245 Dead. How many more?” — a reference to the number of U.S. troops who had been killed in Iraq.
In June 2006 Sheehan announced that she would be leading an “open-ended hunger strike” beginning on July 4, to urge the Bush administration to bring all American troops home from Iraq immediately. The hunger strike was organized jointly by Code Pink and Gold Star Families for Peace. “We hope the fast will galvanize public attention, invigorate the peace movement, build pressure on elected officials, and get our troops back home,” said Sheehan. Among the high-profile figures who lent their names and their support to the venture were Ed Asner, Danny Glover, Dick Gregory, Cynthia McKinney, Willie Nelson, Sean Penn, Susan Sarandon, and Lynn Woolsey. Each participant reportedly fasted for one day.
In August 2006 Sheehan was part of a 12-member delegation that traveled to Jordan to meet with eleven members of the Iraqi parliament. The U.S. delegation also included Medea Benjamin, Jeeni Criscenzo (a blogger for Daily Kos), Jodie Evans, Tom Hayden, Judith LeBlanc, Gael Murphy (a Code Pink official), and Raed Jarrar (an Iraqi-American member of Global Exchange). According to Benjamin, the delegation’s goal was “for the U.S. peace movement to meet directly with Iraqi parliamentarians working on a peace plan … [and] to return to the U.S. to build support for their plan.” The trip, however, may well have violated the American government’s prohibition against private citizens conducting their own foreign policy.
In Iraq, Sheehan and her fellow delegates met with Sheikh Ahmad al-Kubaysi, a Baghdad-based cleric affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, the ideological forebear of al Qaeda and Hamas. Al-Kubaysi was known to have said that the “young men who came … from other Muslim countries to defend Iraq” against the Americans were “very brave” warriors whose participation in “the most important form of Jihad” undoubtedly “guaranteed” them a permanent reward in “Paradise.” Al-Kubaysi also is believed to have given $50 million to the terrorist leader Muqtada Al-Sadr. Al-Kubaysi’s organization, the Association for Muslim Studies in Iraq, explicitly condoned armed “resistance” against U.S. forces, and it advocated the murder of civilian hostages who had collaborated with the Americans.
Sheehan and the other delegates also met with Saleh al-Mutlaq, the Sunni leader of the Iraq National Dialogue Front (INDF), which was the prime sponsor of the delegation’s trip to Iraq. Al-Mutlaq once said: “The biased people are trying to shuffle cards to brand as terrorists the honorable national resistance movements, which should have a peaceful role in building the country and preserving its economy, unity, security, and the dignity of its people. We cannot give peace, because someone cannot give what he does not have.” Moreover, the INDF leader led the charge against the new Iraqi constitution when it guaranteed an autonomous geographical region for the Shi’ites. Like al-Kubaysi, al-Mutlaq called for armed “resistance” against coalition forces, offering even to join the “insurgency” himself.
In January 2007, Sheehan and eleven fellow activists traveled to Cuba to publicly call for the closure of the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay. Sheehan said she was unafraid of the possibility that she might face legal troubles for traveling to Cuba, which remained under its longstanding American trade embargo. “What is more important is the inhumanity that my [U.S.] government is perpetrating at Guantanamo,” she told reporters. The organizer of the trip was Medea Benjamin.
In 2007 Sheehan was a key player in a group calling itself Impeach07, which exhorted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to support Rep. Dennis Kucinich‘s then-recent introduction of articles of impeachment against President Bush and Vice President Cheney. Among the Impeach07 coalition’s organizational members were Code Pink, Gold Star Families for Peace, and World Can’t Wait. “Everybody in their [Bush and Cheney’s] administration needs to go [out of office] with them,” Sheehan said. “We elected [Democrats to Congress in November 2006] to bring the troops home and [to] hold [Republicans] accountable.” “I want justice for the destruction of the world, and I won’t rest until I get that justice,” Sheehan pledged.
In July 2007, Sheehan announced that she would run against Nancy Pelosi for representative of California’s 8th Congressional District in 2008, because of Pelosi’s failure to attempt impeachment of President Bush. “Impeachment is not a fringe movement, it is mandated in our Constitution,” said Sheehan. “Nancy Pelosi had no authority to take it off the table.” Sheehan ran on a platform that included the following key planks:
In September 2007, WorldNetDaily reported that one of its writers, Aaron Klein, had shown transcripts of some of Sheehan’s past controversial statements to a number of Muslim terrorist leaders. Among those statements were: Sheehan’s assertion that President Bush was “the biggest terrorist in the world” and “worse than Osama bin Laden”; her numerous characterizations of Iraqi insurgents as “freedom fighters”; and her claim that her son had been “killed for lies and for a neo-con agenda to benefit Israel.” The terrorists responded as follows:
In February 2008 Sheehan and a contingent of fellow leftists — including former U.S. Congressman Walter Fauntroy and the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation’s Mahdi Bray — traveled to Egypt to petition that nation’s government to free some 40 members of the Muslim Brotherhood who were on trial for a host of charges including terrorism. Sheehan considered them to be “political prisoners.”
Sheehan sent Egyptian first lady Suzanne Mubarak a letter, the second sentence of which denounced “the illegal and immoral U.S. occupation of Iraq.” Sheehan continued by presenting three demands: (a) Egypt must financially support the family members of the “political prisoners”; (b) it must protest any future harm to such family members; and (c) it must complete “the return of the personal belongings (including money and jewelry) of the families involved.”
As FrontPage Magazine columnist Ben Johnson observed in February 2008: “Cindy Sheehan thinks so little of her son that she is willing to join forces with the movement [The Muslim Brotherhood] whose extremist ideology spawned the organization that killed him and whose offshoot holds his killers up as role models.”
In 2008 as well, Sheehan signed a Partisan Defense Committee statement calling for the release of Mumia Abu-Jamal, praising him for being a “former Black Panther,” lamenting that he had been “framed” as a murderer by a racist U.S. justice system, and denouncing capital punishment as “a legacy of chattel slavery and a barbaric outrage … the lynch rope made legal.”
In November 2008, Sheehan lost the 2008 election to the incumbent Nancy Pelosi. In a seven-way race, Sheehan finished second with 46,118 votes (16.1%) to Pelosi’s 71.8%.
In February 2012, the IRS filed suit against Sheehan, requesting her financial records because she owed $105,000 in back taxes. She refused to turn over the records, stating: “If they [the IRS] can give me my son back, I’ll pay my taxes, but that’s not going to happen.”
On March 12, 2013 Marsha Feinland, state chair of California’s Peace and Freedom Party, announced that the party’s central committee had unanimously endorsed Sheehan for Governor of California in the 2014 election, should Sheehan choose to run. Sheehan formally announced her campaign for Governor at a news conference on August 27, 2013 at the State Capitol in Sacramento. Sheehan later lost in the June 2014 primary election, capturing just 1.2% of the vote.
Sheehan openly identifies herself as a socialist.
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