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News :: International
‘Welcome to Camp Casey, the beginning of the end of the war’
25 Aug 2005
I arrived in Crawford, Texas, on Aug. 17. As I got off the shuttle bus I was greeted with, “Welcome to Camp Casey, the beginning of the end of the war!”
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Crawford, Texas, diary
‘Welcome to Camp Casey, the beginning of the end of the war’

By Dustin Langley

I arrived in Crawford, Texas, on Aug. 17. As I got off the shuttle bus I was greeted with, “Welcome to Camp Casey, the beginning of the end of the war!”

As I settled in at the camp, I was overwhelmed by an almost tangible feeling of optimism.

Eleven days earlier Cindy Sheehan—whose son, GI Casey Sheehan, was killed in Baghdad in April 2004—had arrived in Crawford to confront President George W. Bush. By doing so, she had reached out and touched people who had not been reached before.

People have come here from all over Texas and all over the United States. They have also come from as far away as Australia, Turkey and South Korea.

All to camp out in a ditch beside a single-lane road. When I ask why they’ve come, almost everyone says, “I felt I had to be here.”

Dave Jensen, a veteran who drove from Tyler, Texas, says: “I saw this and just knew this was something I had to go to. The best way to put it is that I felt like this could be the little snowball going down the mountain that’s going to turn into something and change something.”

As I settle into camp, pitching my tent at the side of the road, I survey the vista: cars and tents stretched as far as I could see down the road. Some people sleep inside or on top of their cars. Others sleep in tents, or just in sleeping bags in the open air.

Tammara Rosenleaf’s husband is about to be deployed to Iraq. She joined the encampment in its first few days. She says: “When my husband got ready to deploy, the Army gave me a book, called ‘Sur viving Deployment.’ There’s a lot of things in it, lists of all sorts of things I should have.

“It says I should write down the numbers of the electrician and plumber. You know what? I am 47 years old. I know that if my toilet is clogged up, I should call a plumber. What I’d like to know, at 4:00 in the morning when I wake up scared to death that my husband is dead or injured, who do I call? And it’s not in that book.”

Sense of community

The next day I meet with Cindy Sheehan briefly. I tell her about the solidarity rally in Union Square and the ongoing presence we had at Camp Casey in New York City.

Sheehan has to leave later in the day when she hears that her mother has suffered a stroke. But those left at Camp Casey are determined to continue building the movement here.

A sense of community and enthusiasm permeates the roadside encampment. People just seem to show up, and immediately begin chipping in.

A group of young activists from Ithaca, N.Y., staffs a kitchen at Crawford Peace House, making sure the camp has fresh coffee in the morning and three hot meals each day.

Others stand out in the blazing Texas heat for hours, directing traffic and keeping an eye out for pro-war troublemakers.

The veterans’ tent

There is a veterans’ tent, staffed by representatives from Veterans for Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War. Inside, I talk with Cody Camacho, an Iraq War veteran from Chicago.

Camacho tells me he’s here because it helps in “dealing with the things I saw and the things I did over there, dealing with the guilt and things.

“You’ve just got to find a real ‘noble cause.’ The only way to keep your sanity is to do what is obviously right.

“All of a sudden, there’s clarity after you go through that. That’s the reason I’m here, to get my buddies home,” Camacho said.

On the night of Aug. 20, the anti-war campers hold a powerful rally at the new campsite—located within view of the Bush estate. Speakers include military families, veterans, and anti-war activists from across the country.

One of the speakers is Andrea Hackett from the Michigan Emergency Com mit tee Against War & Injustice. Her daughter is currently in Iraq. She asks: “Now, why is it that the president can’t come out and answer her question, okay? Us mothers want to know this, okay? We want him to act like an executive officer that he is supposed to be.

“He [Bush] represents the whole of the United States. He represents all of those troops that are laying their life down for this country and die for what they thought was the good cause. I think it’s just a moral sin against them to have them fighting a war and not know exactly what they’re fighting for, because you lied to them.

“Since we don’t have the power to go over there and really end this war, we’re just going to bring the issue right here to him, right to his house. Right into his neighborhood, right to his backyard. Let’s keep coming, okay?

“Let’s make this a big huge movement that he’s going to have to either answer to or go back to the White House and hide, okay? Hide back in the White House.

“We’ll meet him there, though, on Sept. 24.”

Returning veterans face trauma

Eddie Boyd, a Navy veteran and an activist with the Troops Out Now Coalition in Baltimore, speaks of the trauma returning veterans face. He says: “There are a lot of folks that are coming back home, and a lot of folks that are feeling the same way. And all our government has to do is say, ‘Suck it up, drink a beer and keep moving.’

“I say no. We have to love our troops, and we love our kids. And we love our kids so much that we would do anything and everything in our power to keep them away from putting on them uniforms.”

SCLC’s Lowery speaks

One of the highlights of the rally is a speech by the Rev. Joseph Lowery, co-founder of Southern Christian Leadership Conference and a close friend of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Lowery says: “The war is over, now it is time for Bush to come to that understanding and bring the troops home.

“Even though Cindy had gone, her presence remained, and the presence of all of those parents and supporters and sympathizers who came from across this country—Black, white, brown—to send a message to this administration, it was a tremendous spiritual experience.

“And when I go back home, I want to share it with a woman who has given her life for peace and justice, Coretta Scott King, who is struggling now with courage and dignity, the kind of courage and dignity she has displayed throughout her life. I want to share it with her the first chance I get, that there is a balm in Gilead, and that there is a movement brewing in the land. And it’s time, it’s time to bring the troops home.”

Taps at Camp Casey

“By far, the most incredible part of my stay,” says Eddie Boyd, “was at dusk on Saturday, at Camp 2, where a plot of land had been measured to place crosses for the dead who had come from Texas. Jeff, a Marine veteran, began playing TAPS in honor of the dead. The camp was silent.

“After TAPS were played, a lady that had lost a family member sang a song that didn’t leave a dry eye at the campsite. Later that night I begin to think of the importance of being here, of voicing my displeasure of this president and administration’s policy, where this country is headed.”

Annie Spell and Buddy Spell, lawyers from outside New Orleans, had driven to Crawford to help out with legal issues and security. Buddy Spell describes his time at Camp Casey as “the most unique and inspiring action that I’ve ever been involved in. I have a lot of hope for the future.

“Now we’re in a position for a national movement. People from all over the country are organizing and preparing for future resistance against the war.”

Many at the camp echo this sentiment. As I leave Camp Casey on Aug. 21, participants are preparing to take this new spirit of struggle and grassroots action to Washington, D.C., on Sept. 24 and beyond. Everyone I say goodbye to says, “See you next month in Washington!”

-- 30 --

Langley is a Navy Veteran and organizer with No Draft No Way (www.NoDraftNoWay.org)

-- END --
See also:
http://www.gsfp.org
http://www.nodraftnoway.org

This work is in the public domain
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