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Cindy Sheehan Asks Governor Schwarzenegger to Pull California Guard out of Iraq (Revised)
Cindy Sheehan visited the State Capitol in Sacramento today to ask the "Governator" to pull California National Guard troops out of Iraq.
Cindy Sheehan Asks Governor Schwarzenegger to Pull California Guard out of Iraq
by Dan Bacher
Cindy Sheehan, the grieving mother whose courageous battle to meet with George W. Bush at his Crawford, Texas ranch this August has reinvigorated the anti-war movement, delivered a letter today to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s office at the State Capitol in Sacramento pleading with him to pull California National Guard troops out of Iraq.
Sheehan’s sister, Dede Miller, and members of Veterans for Peace, Gold Star Families for Peace, Military Families Speak Out & CODEPINK Women for Peace accompanied Sheehan as she walked from the Capitol’s West Steps, through the Capitol, to the front of the governor’s office. The California Highway Patrol stopped the group from going into the governor’s office, but Sheehan was able to meet briefly with one of the Governor’s staff while her supporters and the media waited.
“California is suffering each day as its law enforcement, corrections officers and firefighters are called to a war in Iraq which does not protect the people of California, leaving the state in a weakened position,” Sheehan wrote. “California tax dollars are also disproportionately spent on this war. California men and women are killed and maimed in this war, and their families are left in ruins, as I too well know”.
She also requested the Governor to ask President Bush three questions he refuses to answer:
• “What is that "noble cause” that brave Americans like my son Casey and 60 Californians have died for?
• How many more lives are we as a country, and as the State of California willing to sacrifice in Iraq?
• What are you doing to bring our sons and daughters home from this needless war?”
Sheehan’s son Casey was killed in Sadr City, Iraq on April 4, 2004 while serving in the Army. Sheehan delivered a similar letter 10 days before to Governor Napolitano asking that the Arizona National Guard be recalled.
Republican Governor Schwarzenegger, just like G.W. Bush, has to date refused to meet with Sheehan. Michael R. Laidwin, a member of the Governor’s staff, met briefly with Sheehan in the Governor’s absence.
“He listened to what I said, said he will pass it on to the governor, and said he would try to get a meeting with Schwarzenegger,” Sheehan explained.
National Guard soldiers from every state in the nation are now stationed in Iraq, In fact, 16,000 of the 20,000 members of the California National Guard are now deployed in Iraq, leaving the state in peril if a natural disaster like Katrina was to hit Sacramento or other California cities, according to Sheehan.
The trip is part of a nationwide campaign by Sheehan and MeetWithTheMothers.org to get the Governors and legislatures to pull State National Guard troops out of Iraq.
“What G.W. has done by invading Iraq has made our country so vulnerable,” Sheehan said. “Katrina was a natural disaster, but it was also a Bush-made disaster because of the deployment of the National Guard to Iraq. According to Sheila Jackson Lee, 80 percent of the Guard from the three Gulf states hit by Hurricane Katrina were deployed in Iraq at the time of the hurricane.”
After delivering the letter to Schwarzenegger’s office, Sheehan plans to go next to New York to ask the Governor to pull the state’s Guard members out of Iraq. “The Guard members signed up to guard their communities, but were instead sent by George Bush to fight in an illegal war in Iraq,” Sheehan told me.
Karen Bernal of Sacramento for Democracy, who coordinated volunteers for Sheehan’s campaign at Camp Casey for several weeks, pointed out how the deployment of the California National Guard in Iraq puts Californians at severe risk. “If we had any type of disaster in California – like an earthquake, flood or fire –the Guard is the first line responder,” Bernal said. “I hate to think about the large scale loss of lives and property that would result because the Guard members are fighting in a foreign war based on a lie.”
Pat Driscoll of Veterans for Peace, who served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War, drew comparisons between Vietnam and the war in Iraq. “We’re now seeing the same lies, corruption and attempt to impose ‘democracy by military force that we saw in Vietnam,” said Driscoll.
However, Driscoll is optimistic that the efforts of Sheehan and other activists will be able to end the Iraq occupation more quickly than it took for the U.S. to withdrew from Vietnam because of the quick manner in which peace and social justice groups can now organize though global communications, especially the Internet.
As of this week, 208 troops from California have been killed in Iraq, including members of the California National Guard, according to Cres Velucci of Veterans for Peace. On September 2, Assemblymember Loni Hancock introduced a resolution, AJR 36, that would have limited federal control of the California National Guard to cases where there is an insurrection or a declaration of war under the United States Constitution.
There is great support throughout California and the country for ending the Iraq occupation; the most recent Gallup poll found 66 percent of respondents nationally favor the immediate withdrawal of some or all of the U.S. troops in Iraq.
In conjunction with Cindy Sheehan’s visit to the Governor’s office, Laurie and Russell Loving announced the formation of a New Military Families Speak Out (MFSO) Capital Region Chapter. Their son was deployed to Iraq this August to do “search and destroy” missions. In his first week there, 13 members of his battalion were severely wounded.
“I cannot wait in silence as the dead bodies of our family members and the Iraqi people pile up in a war started by lies and continued for oil rights,” said Laurie. “Military Families Message is three-fold: support the troops, bring them home now, and take care of them when they get here.”
“Anyone who says MFSO members are unpatriotic and don’t support the troops is flat-out wrong,” added Russell, a Vietnam era veteran. “The troops are our family members.”
(The next meeting of the Capital Regional chapter is Friday, October 14 at 6 pm. To reach the Lovings, email them at mfsocap [at] dcn.org or call (530) 756-7335. To contact Cindy Sheehan, phone 626-833-0105 or 480-663-8118; Cindy [at] meetwiththemothers.org)