On Wednesday, January 18th, Cindy Sheehan was hosted by the Rome Province in their Sala della Pace. Sheehan is on tour in Italy with her organization, Gold Star Families for Peace, calling for the removal of troops from Iraq. At the same time, she is sharing her personal story about the loss of her son Casey in the war and her subsequent efforts to speak with President George W. Bush at his ranch in Crawford, Texas in August 2005.
Sheehan was welcomed by Enrico Gasbarra, President of the Provincia di Roma, who asked how anyone could consider asking for peace a provocation. He commended her for her work and presented her gifts. Vice-president Rosa Rinaldi commented on Sheehan's simple question, "'For what noble cause did my son die?' Perhaps she has received no answer because there simply is none."
Cindy Sheehan thanked those present for her warm welcome to Italy and began her address by discussing the meaning of “peace”. She stated that “peace is a way of life” not something that can be obtained by bombing and killing and maiming people. She suggested that one spreads peace by using words and not weapons. She went on to say that being anti-war was not enough but rather for peace was what was needed. She asked that everyone examine their “moral center” to act against this war. She shared that by being actively opposed to war was the only way she could live with herself and wondered how people like Bush and Berlusconi were able to live with themselves.
She described her efforts as, “a woman’s pain turned into a peace effort.” Sheehan thought that it was women’s role to promote peace and non-violence. Her suggestion for countering the governmental exploitative call for “patriotism” was by using a different call, a call for “matriotism” defined as bringing out the “mother” in all of us. Men can do this as well because, “we have all had mothers.” If this were the case, Sheehan posited, “we would all fight to preserve life, not kill it”. She has heard this concept called “mother courage” in other cultures.
Sheehan talked about a play written by Italian playwright and Nobel Prize Laureate in Literature Dario Fo titled, “Peace Mom”, which is her story of attempting to speak with President Bush, the setting up of Camp Casey and then the formation of Gold Star Families for Peace. The message she wanted us to take away from her talk was that an individual canmake a difference. It requires stepping out of one’s comfort zone, and engaging in activities that will effect positive change.
She called on us as world citizens (U.S., Italy…) to hold our leaders accountable; their lies and deception must be exposed. She illustrated this by asking Bush the question, “For what noble cause was worth killing my son for? For what noble cause was worth killing thousands of Iraqis for? Not only do we have a right to question our government, we have the responsibility to.”
Sheehan expressed the view that the war in Iraq was not only about politics, but that it was a matter of right versus wrong. She called Bush a coward and a criminal. She harkened back to his being an illegitimate President, by stealing the elections in 2000 and again in 2004. He is a war criminal for having started an illegal war. She stated that, “Bush should be impeached, (or resign in disgrace) for his war crimes, spying on citizens and saying that, “the Constitution is just a piece of paper.”
During the question and answer session, Don Giovanni Franzoni, president of the association Iraq-Italy Friendship, offered another gift to Sheehan, the video "Iraq: The Unjust War", and thanked her for commitment to peace. Luisa Morgantini, member of European Parliament spoke of her work with Women in Black and how uplifting it had been hearing of Cindy's battle. Another person told Cindy, "We need you. You are the true ambassador from the U.S."
Cindy was then asked what changes had taken place in the U.S. since the invasion and what more was expected to change. She talked about the importance of the relatively new movement of military families and veterans and how the tide was slowly shifting. Sheehan tried to explain how 80% of the U.S. public initially supported the invasion of Iraq - “We, Americans, want to trust our government. What we, (U.S. citizens) need is more healthy skepticism.” She also told those present to give little thought to accusations of being anti-American. "They call me anti-American. I gave birth to four Americans. How can I be anti-American?"
Stephanie Westbrook of U.S. Citizens for Peace and Justice presented Cindy with photos of the group's presence at the March 2005 anti-war demonstration in Rome, assuring her that U.S. citizens were speaking out against the war in Italy.
Following the event at the Rome Province, Cindy Sheehan continued to share her message at a meeting with Parliament Members for Peace who declared their commitment to working more closely with the U.S. peace movement and later at the Casa Internazionale delle donne.
Despite short notice, the meeting room at the Casa Internazionale delle donne was filled with Italian women and a few men. Tired but revitalized by the enthusiastic, admiring audience, Sheehan repeated her appeal emphasizing that the women and enlightened men before her were critical in the movement to sway leaders from aggressive acts and war. Beatriz Saldivar of Gold Star Families for Peace, also spoke and recounted the tragic loss of her nephew in Iraq and how she had gone to join Sheehan during her campout at Crawford. She drew attention to the particular problems faced by Mexican-American soldiers who have died in Iraq. The proposals to use March 8 and 18 as opportunities to call for world peace received great support by the group.
Sheehan's Italian tour has taken her to Assisi where she participated in the seminar commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Tavola della Pace (Peace round table), to Milan where she was a guest of the province and peace activists at an event entitled "Bring Them Home – Civil Society for Peace in Iraq", to Venice where she took part in a debate on Iraq and Turin at a debate "Iraq: The Endless Tragedy." where she spoke together with Alice Mahon, ex Labour Party MP who resigned in protest.
Did someone tell you that U.S. military intervention in Iraq was over? Not true: we're at it again. This time the pretext to drop bombs is "curbing ISIS" (which was created by the U.S. in the first place, to overturn Assad in Syria and al-Malaki in Iraq, and is now out of hand. Like what happened to "our" creature al Qaeda in Afghanistan). And the death toll continues to rise...
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