Gold Star Families for Peace (GSFP) was established in late 2004; its principal founder was Cindy Sheehan, whose son Casey was an American soldier killed in combat in Sadr City, Iraq on April 4, 2004. The group’s name is an allusion to American Gold Star Mothers, a group founded in the post-World War I era for the grieving mothers of soldiers who had been killed in combat. In 1918, President Woodrow Wilson approved a suggestion by the Women’s Committee of the Council of National Defenses that mothers who had lost a child serving in the war should be able to wear a gold gilt star on the traditional black mourning arm band. The group reappeared in World War II, when mothers of soldiers killed in combat were given a gold star to display in the windows of their homes.
GSFP is vigorously opposed to the War in Iraq, and also condemns America’s post-9/11 mlitary efforts in Afghanistan. The group’s website states, “We as families of soldiers who have died as a result of war (primarily, but not limited to the invasion/occupation of Iraq) are organizing to be a positive force in our world to bring our country’s sons and daughters home from Iraq, to minimize the ‘human cost’ of this war, and to prevent other families from the pain we are feeling as the result of our losses.”
Even though GSFP has a relatively small membership (just 75 families as of March 2006), the group works closely with other anti-war organizations such as Bring Them Home Now, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Military Families Speak Out, and Veterans for Peace in organizing anti-war protests in various locales.
Additional GSFP anti-war initiatives include: setting up a “Camp Casey” (named in honor of Cindy Sheehan’s son) demonstration site outside the confines President Bush’s vacation ranch in Crawford, Texas; assisting various communities in the U.S. in setting up similar “Camp Casey” sites outside of their Congressional Representatives’ offices if those congressmen endorse the Iraq War; meeting with members of Congress in an effort to persuade them to oppose the war; participating in anti-war rallies nationwide; and arranging speaking engagements for Cindy Sheehan. GSFP also features a small roster of speakers available to give speeches and interviews on the topic of the Iraq War.
The GSFP website features a poem by Carly Sheehan, Casey’s bereaved sister, accusing President Bush of leading the U.S. needlessly to war in pursuit of Iraq’s oil resources. Among its lyrics are the following: “Have you ever heard the sound of a father holding back his cries? He must be brave because his boy died for another man’s lies. . . . They say that he died so that the flag will continue to wave, But I believe he died because they had oil to save.”
GSFP is a member organization of the United for Peace and Justice anti-war coalition, which is led by Leslie Cagan, a longtime committed socialist who proudly aligns her politics with those of Fidel Castro‘s Communist Cuba. GSFP is also a member organization of the After Downing Street anti-war coalition.
In late2006, GSFP promoted an online petition titled “Mandate for Peace,” which read, in part, as follows: “By voting out pro-war candidates and changing control over Congress, we [American voters] have repudiated war policies and issued a mandate for new policies that promote peace and international cooperation. More and more of us understand that the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq was based on lies, that it was unjustified and illegal, and that it has sullied our reputation around the world and made us less safe at home. … We insist that the newly elected Congress … discontinue funding for military purposes in Iraq except the safe withdrawal of all U.S. forces.”