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Cindy Sheehan vs. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi - an interview with Ernest Hancock

Written by Subject: WAR: About that War
I spoke to Cindy Sheehan while she was at her campaign office Friday September 12th. She was kind enough to return my call requesting that we get caught up on what’s been happening with her since Crawford, Texas’ first “ Camp Casey” in the summer of 2005.
Just a few weeks ago it was announced that she would be on the ballot in California as an independent congressional candidate against Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Also running against Speaker Pelosi is a token Republican woman candidate being used to raise money for the Republican Party and a Libertarian Candidate.
But this article isn’t about her campaign for the US Congress. It is about Cindy Sheehan’s journey as a grief stricken mother of a soldier killed in Iraq. Cindy was told in person by the President of the United States that her son died for a “Noble Cause” and from that moment on Cindy demanded to know what that noble cause was. Cindy Sheehan influenced millions to ask the same question and helped to break through the media’s defense shield in support of the expansion of the Empire. Cindy’s efforts helped to open up the debate in America about our role overseas and many Americans added a few questions of their own.
I wanted to take this opportunity to provide some of my background covering Cindy over the years in an attempt to lend credibility to some opinions I have formed over the years about American politics.
It was at the very end of 2004 or early 2005 that I started to hear about the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq that was openly and forcefully opposing the Iraq War and demanding to know what was the “Noble Cause” that her son died for. Cindy had met personally with President Bush as part of a media event put on by the White House that failed to provide the comfort she had hoped for.
I had been a radio talk show host and later a producer since before the Iraq invasion in early 2003 ( and had just run as the Libertarian US Senate candidate against John McCain in 2004, so I had been paying very close attention to not only what was happening in Iraq and around the world but also how the first hand accounts of individuals,  “experts” and truly knowledgeable people were being spun for consumption by the American public.
In late 2004 I became the producer for The Charles Goyette Show that would soon move over to the new Air America affiliate in Phoenix, Az. Charles Goyette was very keen on how the mother of an Iraq War casualty could provide a voice for those trying to get the anti-war message into the public debate. Years had passed without the breakthrough expected that would result in having many questions answered by 'The Empire' in general and the Bush Administration in particular.
After interviewing Cindy on the phone we knew the impact that she would have. Soon after, Cindy would visit Phoenix with her sister DeeDee. They had created an organization called 'Gold Star Families for Peace' (Gold Stars represent families that have lost a loved one in war) and Cindy was constantly in demand as radio talk show guests from all across the political spectrum.
Cindy's early rise in the Anti-War Movement made it crystal clear what likely path she would be on. The NeoCon apologists in the media would do their best to smear even a mother of a slain soldier to prevent the asking of legitimate questions, the Democratic Party machine would use her celebrity to elect more of their chosen lawmakers, and Cindy Sheehan would be faced with many important decisions about how best to honor her son Casey.
Early on Cindy would write for the very libertarian website Lew Rockwell where you can find over 3 dozen articles. Cindy demonstrated a clear mind that had the capacity for rational thought and the ability to influence others into asking the right questions. So I could see her as the target of many NeoCONed supporters of the “War on Terror”. But Cindy's soft voice and mild manner lulled her opposition into an expectation that 'Cindy Sheehan' could be dominated in interviews,... she couldn't.
Cindy Sheehan was a very useful tool for many. I’m sure that Cindy was a willing participant in an effort to end the Iraq War, but she was also used unwittingly to further the interests of other’s interest that she didn’t fully understand for quite some time. I never made an attempt to discover Cindy Sheehan’s political philosophy or what she determined was the proper role of government. I believe that she is opposed to war and has been an effective activist in getting the issue debated much more than had she not been available to be used as an effective tool against perpetual war.
In person, Cindy is far more imposing than most journalists expect. Cindy is at least a couple of inches over 6 feet tall and is not afraid to go toe to toe & eyeball to eyeball with a hostile reporter. When the opposition is another parent trying to justify the death of a child by supporting the Iraq War, or anyone else seeking rationalization for the grief they are enduring, Cindy would ask to be excused and go off alone with the individual for some private time. I saw this happen over and over in Crawford, Texas during the week I covered the protests near Bush's home while he was there vacationing.
When the idea of “ Camp Casey” was announced to the world, it was clear to many what was happening on several levels. Cindy's insistence that President Bush meet with her to explain what “Noble Cause was worth her son's life”, it was obvious that this would resonate with many. So the media battle was on.
In Phoenix, Arizona, 1010 KXXT at the time was the most successful affiliate of the Air America network. The libertarian “Charles Goyette Show” was providing the principled reasoning behind rational opposition to the wars we constantly are finding ourselves in, and Bush's Iraq War and the “War on Terror” specifically.
The fundamental understanding of what was going on at all levels of American politics, and how the “WAR” was being used to oppress us at every level of life, was beginning to sink into the individual minds of the 'progressive' audience we helped to educate for 3 hours in the morning M-F.
While a talk show host at the ClearChannel radio station in Phoenix, Charles Goyette had been ostracized by NeoCONed Talk Radio for refusing to support the Iraq War. Charles took every opportunity to make it clear why he knew better while informing the audience. So when Camp Casey was announced in the summer of 2005, half jokingly it was mentioned that we should send a station representative to cover the event. I understood the importance of what was happening and immediately volunteered.
Supported by the station manager, Bob Christy, the entire radio station sprung into action. Our IT man Bily Foster immediately set up and set up the means for me to Audio Blog directly to the site using my cell phone. This was new technology that was being used by activists covering stories in real time all over the country. I would then upload photos from my digital camera to the site that Bily would manage and place. Sales Reps. Mari Conner flew to Crawford for a few days and I drove with all of the camping supplies. Mari and I shared a tent in a red ant infested ditch for days and she would return again later with Bily and another sales representative for the radio station, Kim Macias, to camp out at the new location nearer Bush’s ranch and cover events after I left.
A summary of the experience was recorded when all of us returned home to share our thoughts on The Charles Goyette Show - “Charles Goyette conducts round table of KXXT Camp Casey on-site staff”  Mari was not there because she was seeing her brother off to Iraq (another very interesting story).
I share this information with you so that you understand that I have some first hand experience covering the effect that Cindy Sheehan had on the Anti-War movement in America. But, I viewed the events from a different perspective. I spent most of my time examining the coverage by other media and the efforts of various organizations hoping to take advantage of the situation. Every network was in Crawford with their satellite trucks, and stages were constantly in use for the “live coverage from Camp Casey” by the most recognized cable news networks. Everyday there was a schedule of activities and the press was very appreciative of the planned affairs.
Almost immediately after arriving I began to see a pattern. There was a lot of top down control and management of activity that supporters were expected to support. Along with the 2-3 major planned events “approved” by those in charge of the schedule for the press, there were at least as many private events by other individuals and organizations that provided many opportunities for coverage. Cindy did her best to accommodate everyone that she could. Her time was in constant demand and many of her supporters worried about her health as she spent so much time in the Texas sun. But she was very energized by the love and support of those around her. Even those that chose to counter protest her being there were given one on one attention. Cindy is a very good activist and shows no hesitation engaging another in conversation.
The Crawford Peace House was a small home close to the railroad track in Crawford that was purchased earlier by another organization that knew it would come in handy later whenever Bush came home to visit. I arrived earlier than most and saw how this 900 Square Foot home was converted into a headquarters for the effort. Equipment and supplies were constantly being delivered and there was always a volunteer to make use of them. Within two days, one of the bedrooms had room for many Bloggers from all over the progressive spectrum. Crawford was the place to be if you were for “progressive change”.
Alternative media was also in attendance. Alex Jones’ radio show and his video crew were on hand to provide their perspective on things. Alex Jones and Charles Goyette had been guests on each other’s shows so we knew each other by phone conversations. I was glad that Alex had come to witness what was going on. Alex and I shared the perspective that the anti-war movement was being heavily infiltrated by individuals and organizations with far more on their agenda than ending the War in Iraq. After Alex left I would provide short daily updates for his audience from Camp Casey.
Only once I was publicly challenged for my libertarian philosophy. I was defended by the main organizer in charge of the Peace House. He was one of the oldest activists that clearly was supported by others even higher up the progressive food chain. Likely he was active in the 60’s and certainly in the 70’s. He demonstrated a great understanding of libertarianism and how a socialist society was perfectly fine with libertarians and had even lived with libertarians in communes before. He went onto explain how libertarians had no problem with socialism,… as long as it was not forced onto individuals. It was during this conversation that someone made the comment, “but if you don’t make people contribute then it won’t work”,… conversation over.
After packing and ready to leave, I would find the Peace House man helping to set up the new gathering location to get everyone out of the ditches along the road. The new location was just outside Bush’s property entrance on a piece of land donated by a local landowner that didn’t share Bush’s politics.
I don’t remember the man from the Peace House's name but I found him informed and understanding of how to work with volunteers. While most of the younger ‘managers’ of the event were constantly barking orders and telling people what to do, he had the experience of being a facilitator. Looking back I suspect that he was far nearer the top than most knew.
I did my job, covered the facts, and did my best to make sure that the radio audience was constantly updated with full coverage. I did provide a ‘libertarian’ perspective on events but kept my opinions to myself. At the end of my assignment I did give a final summary that included some of my concerns for documentation on the site. And now I would like to expand on those concerns for the education it provides us all.
I insulated myself from Cindy’s personal life (divorce, financial situation and even her personal grief) so as to focus on the effect she was having with the American People and to clearly and as objectively as possible witness the effect on the Olde’ Media.
But there was one exception,… August 14th 2005 in a closed room at the “Peace House” in Crawford, Texas, Cindy Sheehan sat down with me for an interview that focused on her motivations and her perspective as a Gold Star mother of the Iraq War. This 8 minute interview has never been heard by anyone but Cindy and I. I’ve used only very small cuts from this short interview for radio during the summer and fall of 2005.
The September 12th 2008 interview with Cindy confirmed many of my observations about the Anti-War movement and how it was high jacked.
Cindy Sheehan partnered a lot with Code Pink for infrastructure. They did use Cindy to get a Democratic congress but Cindy is of the opinion that Code Pink’s motivations were genuine and that they were of the opinion that a Democratic Congress would end the Iraq War. The increasing number of organizations that jumped onto Cindy’s coat tails leading up to the 2006 Elections was openly welcomed by Cindy. She had no experience to draw from and didn’t understand how powerful she was due to the representation of a large block of Americans that identified with her and her mission. Cindy made it clear to me that her focus was ending the war. “During Crawford, and for a year after, I was far too busy to keep track of actions inside the Anti-War movement. The participants were so generous and enthusiastic, and the support from around the world so overwhelming that I wouldn’t have believed any criticism of anyone at the time.” Cindy shared these thoughts with me after I relayed some of the observations I had during my time in Crawford.
In Crawford I was once again the “token libertarian” in an ocean of “progressives” who saw the election of a Democratic congress in 2006 as the only option to ending the war, and there was nothing that could be said or done at the time to convince them that the Democrat and Republican parties were the same entity. So unless asked a direct question, I kept my opinion to myself until my daily morning segment on the radio show with Charles Goyette. And even then I did my best not to be a “buzz kill” during a time of great enthusiasm.
There was so much food donated that the immediate need was for refrigerators. So immediately one of our advertisers, Associated Appliance in Phoenix, had shipped a very nice large refrigerator. But after the expected arrival date had passed it was found out that the Texas shipping company would not deliver anything to anyone associated with the protest of George Bush. So volunteers drove to Austin to get it. This is but one of the examples of how polarized the situation was. The philosophy, “you’re either fur us, or a’gin us” was practiced by several Bush supporters in town. But I found that for the most part the Camp Casey protesters were peacefully tolerated. The local townspeople were more annoyed that Bush attracted so much negative attention to their community than I think they were critical of the protestor’s message.
On my second or third night there I was using the WiFi connection in Crawford and heard from one of the drivers, that were constantly shuttling people the 7 miles from Crawford’s “Peace House” out to “Camp Casey”, that a man had chained a metal fence post to the back of his pickup truck and drove along the shoulder of the road around Camp Casey where Arlington West activists had placed hundreds of small white crosses with the names of killed Iraq Soldiers on them. I immediately drove back to the campsites and took photographs.
Within a couple of days the crosses were repaired and with hundreds of roses that were delivered by supporters, each cross had a water bottle attached to it with a single rose in it.
Only minutes after the pickup had run down the crosses, police had arrested the man responsible. He was stopped by police for speeding. Pieces of crosses were found in his truck’s undercarriage. Later it was found out that he was a local officer in the Republican Party near Waco, Texas.
Strangely, it was this event and my coverage of it that started me to wonder what was really going on behind the scenes.
This was a headline story that was not going to be contained (especially since I had immediately posted the photos But there were instructions to all of the bloggers by a couple of young women (that would not tell me who they were) that the incident was not to be blogged about by anyone using the Peace House WiFi . Most people understood that they were there to follow orders and didn’t cause a fuss. Only a couple of other older activists agreed to talk to me later to explain that it was the opinion of some “influential people” that the ‘cross incident’ not be exploited. WTF!!
Cindy just explained to me that, “ had hired Fenton Communications and they were the ones trying to control the entire event. Once it was clear that we couldn’t work with them I made my opinion clear,… I fired them. MoveOn did their best to control branding with signage and who could and could not participate. I was busy taking care of myself and keeping Camp Casey on message to make too much of a fuss after I fired Fenton Communications.”
Cindy went on to tell me that, “The last Sunday of Camp Casey I was visited by to endorse an “out of Iraq eventually” bill. But because I refused to give the Democrats the ‘out’ they were seeking MoveOn pulled all support after I helped make them more powerful than they had ever been.”
Looking back she remembers, “You couldn’t say Afghanistan was wrong, even though I didn’t support the war in Afghanistan either. This ‘understanding’ also came from the MoveOn organization”
But I don’t think that the ‘controllers’ expected the level of support shown for Camp Casey from people all over the world. I remember a large banquet tent put up by an event company that was used as an outdoor cafeteria, and it was paid for by a supporter in Italy.
There was a Vietnamese man that arrived one night on a bus from Los Angeles that spoke no English. Somehow he came to the attention of the local police that brought him to the Crawford Peace House because all that they could understand was his desire to talk to George Bush.
I knew that Bily Foster’s mother was Vietnamese and that he might know of someone that could translate. Bily gave me the number of someone he knew that could help. After the circumstances were explained to the translator I called him and gave the phone to the man from California. He had come to America after escaping Viet Nam following the fall of Saigon. Ever since, he has worked with other Vietnamese refugees in the kitchens of Los Angeles restaurants. His unique understanding of America’s wars compelled him to seek Bush out in an effort to share his perspective. I passed on the information and made sure that he got something to eat and that was the last I heard of him.
At the time I thought that Cindy understood the various subtleties of the politics being played out around her much more than she did. I was of the opinion that she knew she was being used by those with motives different from hers, but that she was making use of the resources and opportunities being provided her while making sure that the words coming out of her mouth were hers. But she told me, “I was so filled with positive emotions from the Camp Casey experience that I could only see the good in everyone around me and was blind to any infiltration of the anti-war movement. But after MoveOn’s attempt to get me to compromise the message I was a bit more aware.”
Cindy told me of the building demand for her time after Camp Casey, “Award ceremonies seemed to be created so that an event could be organized for me to accept an award while the various organizations would use my notoriety to build their organization and raise money. All the while my own Gold Star Families for Peace suffered for lack of attention.”
I ask Cindy when she decided to break with the anti-war movement. “I never stopped being anti-war, but the movement was so infiltrated with organizations and operatives with an agenda so different than mine that I needed to make it clear that I was not part of what the “anti-war” movement had evolved into”. I then pressed Cindy to share what was her epiphany. “My epiphany was when the Democrats gave Bush more money for the war. So I left the Democratic Party and it was then that I was attacked by those that were really Democratic shills. But at the recent Democratic National Convention doing TV the people that were there were very supportive of my stances,… even leaving the Democratic Party.”
I was curious how Cindy knows who to work with now that she has more experience. “When I challenged the Democrats for not challenging the growth of the empire I went from their Hero to their Zero. I feel like I have stayed true to my message and kept my integrity and the only thing I did wrong was to trust too many people too quickly. I could trust people with a common purpose to challenge the empire. But there was a powerful influence from all directions to get more Democrats elected,… not peace. I was in Europe when this went down and I was broke. After investing every penny from book sales, Casey’s insurance money and speaking fees, I decided to stop and reevaluate my associations. Me, Tiffany (assistant and now current campaign manager) and my sister just pulled back to see what we could do to be more effective.”
I asked Cindy if she could evaluate the various organizations in the anti-war movement of the past few years with a simple ranking of good or bad. “Organizations that are controlled by the Democrat Party abused the anti-war movement and the Democrat Party had these organizations make excuses for them continuing the war. The local volunteers of organizations had many great people that wanted the same thing that I did,… an end to war and an end to the expansion of Empire. But, I definitely could see that at the national level there were organizations that were focused on serving the interests of the one party system that was ultimately controlled by the Military Industrial Complex.”
Cindy had nice things to say about, “Veterans for Peace, World Can’t Wait, Code Pink, ANSWER, After Downing Street, Gold Star Families for Peace. At the national level she was very critical of many of the progressive websites and organizations that she felt had always been part of the Democrat wing of the ‘Washington Party’. Cindy said, “Highly placed and powerful Democrats in general are supportive of Empire. They act like something is wrong with me because I challenge the system that they are supporting at a fundamental level. This has exposed their true allegiances. They are now saying the same things about me now, and even challenging my mental state, just as the Republican machine did,… they are the same thing,… empire supporters.”
I had to stop the interview and call Cindy back on a land line for a better connection. I called into her office where I could hear a great deal of activity. Cindy had to move to a small office where we could finish the interview without the distractions of a campaign that has just started to hire campaign staff. I asked Cindy what she thought of her chances as an independent candidate and of 3rd party challenges to the Empire in general. “I totally freaking agree 100% with Dr. Paul’s (Ron Paul) effort to promote 3rd party candidates for their anti-empire common ground. My campaign as an independent places me on the ballot along with Nancy Pelosi November 4th and since making the ballot we have been getting a lot of support from the people.”
Cindy is taking on the new Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. Cindy told me why, “Pelosi is part of the establishment, so much so that her husband attended Bohemian Grove this year ( Everybody in San Francisco wants the War to End but the Olde’ Media has been effective in convincing the Democratic Party voters that the Democratic leadership is different than the Republicans. Both parties support the war and get their orders from the Military Industrial Empire”.
I asked Cindy what was her new focus now that she was free of controlling interest that had managed her efforts for so long. “My controversial trips overseas have demonstrated my commitment to work on an international level creating person to person contacts to stand up to the US Empire, promote peace and understand the importance of resisting Empire.” Cindy also explained the message from other countries that she hoped to share with the American people. “It is important to make sure that the people in the United States understand just how detrimental our policies are to people that don’t get a say in how our government treats them.”

(I’m working on a story now that details how the Second Amendment issue is being used by Republican operatives in support of Empire. In particular how the RealID is being supported under the idea that it will allow for National Concealed Carry)

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