Monday, September 12, 2005

'Nobody is asking the hard questions except'...Cindy Sheehan

Cindy Sheehan, the Gold Star mother who camped outside George Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, made a low-key visit to Westfield Monday where she spoke outside Town Hall at the invitation of U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone.

Sheehan is demanding a face-to-face talk with the president on the war in Iraq, where her son, Casey, was killed in combat.

Pallone, Plainfield's congressman, said he asked Sheehan to visit Westfield because Bush stopped there on his tour to promote his Social Security privatization plan in March (Mar.4, 2005).

On that winter day the congressman's bus tour to support Social Security made a stop on South Avenue to pick up a number of Plainfield residents.

Sheehan and Pallone faced a bank of television cameras and microphones on the lawn of Town Hall, but only a few citizens showed up for the event.

Barely audible over the noise of East Broad Street traffic, Sheehan pressed home the points she is making all across the United States in a bus tour following her August protest in Texas.

"We need to hold somebody accountable for the tragedy and travesty that is going on in Iraq," she said.

Sheehan cited the human toll in soldiers killed, or wounded, mentally or physically, in the war.

She said she began speaking out because "nobody was asking George Bush the hard questions" about why soldiers and innocent Iraqis were dying. After the Downing Street Memo confirmed there were no weapons of mass destruction, she said, she wanted even more to know why billions of dollars were being expended on the war.

"It has been proven that George Bush is failing our country in Iraq," she said, and pointed out the Hurricane Katrina disaster response as a further dereliction.

"Nobody is asking the hard questions except me," Sheehan said.

Her support, she said, includes "Gold Star mothers who don't want any more people to join our group."

Pallone said he voted against the war from the beginning and is a member of the "Get Out of Iraq" caucus that supports internationalization of the war.

Pallone said the Pentagon has determined that of 18 Iraqi provinces, 14 are secure. He said there should be an international presence in those provinces.

"Then the United States can concentrate on the four provinces that are not secure," he said.

Pallone said the United States cannot continue to pour lives and resources into the war effort.

"This war has to end and we have to have an exit strategy," he said. "There is really no accountability in Congress about this war."

Fran Middleberg of Springfield, whose son served in Iraq, said military families are seeing their soldiers sent back to Iraq multiple times.

"We need empathy," she said. "We need some shared sacrifice here."

After sharing hugs with Middleberg and other supporters, Sheehan left Westfield to resume her tour, now in Pennsylvania.

--Bernice Paglia

KEYWORDS: national politics