Sheehan’s son, Casey, was an army specialist in the 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, and was killed in Iraq on April 4, 2004. Sheehan met with the president shortly after Casey’s death but she now claims that Bush treated her coldly on that occasion.
Sheehan now wants to meet for a second time with the president to talk about her sense of loss, her anger at a war she believes to be unjustified and to press her demand for a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
Sheehan’s vigil has attracted massive media attention and has become a focal point for anti-war sentiment in general. Many other anti-war activists have joined her in Texas, in the process setting up a de facto “peace camp” just outside the Bush ranch.
But while the National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley has met with Sheehan, there have been no indications that the president himself will consent to a meeting.
The farthest Bush has gone in reference to Sheehan is a statement he made at a recent press conference in which he said he had “thought long and hard” about her position, even though he disagrees with her.
Attempts by the Irish Echo to contact Sheehan were not successful. However, in an interview with the Buzzflash website earlier this year, she referred to her Irish heritage, while talking about a phone call Casey had made to her shortly before his death:
“He was on his way to Mass, and we talked about when he stopped in Ireland to refuel,” she recalled. “We’re Irish, so he found an employee that was telling him about the history of our name, the Sheehan name.”
After her son’s death, Cindy Sheehan became one of the founding members of an anti-war group, Gold Star Families For Peace. The group calls for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. More idiosyncratically, it also insists that the president should tell its members why his twin daughters, Barbara and Jenna, are “not in harm’s way” in the war.
While Sheehan’s beliefs as a whole are to the left of most Americans, her protest comes at a time of rising discontent over the war in Iraq. A succession of polls has shown that the war is now more unpopular than ever before.
The president’s supporters contend that Sheehan and her supporters are using her grief as a vehicle for a partisan political agenda.
The story also has complicating personal elements. Some members of the Sheehan family have distanced themselves from Cindy Sheehan’s protest. Although Casey’s father, Pat, is also listed as one of the founders of Gold Star Families For Peace, he reportedly filed for divorce on Friday.
Cindy Sheehan blames the stress caused by their son’s death for having driven the couple apart.