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Respecting the Murdered? In Search of Peace

Respecting the Murdered? In Search of Peace

By Cindy Sheehan
t r u t h o u t | Guest Columnist

Monday 04 December 2006

November 29th - the day that two Camp Casey supporters were found guilty in Waco, Texas, courts for a misdemeanor that they did not commit - Larry Northern, a Vietnam veteran, pleaded no-contest to mowing down our Arlington South crosses in August 2005, which had lined Prairie Chapel Road, in Crawford, Texas, memorializing OUR children who have been murdered in the unstable neighbor-down-the-road's war of terror on the world.

Larry Northern said, in an email to the Waco Tribune: "There is no honor or respect by demeaning [the veterans'] service to their country, or their mission, by placing sticks in a ditch with their names attached with rubber bands and typing paper. Their spirit called out for someone to help them. Someone did."

First of all, does Mr. Northern listen to the same "spirit" that George Bush hears in his head when he says that God has told him to invade Iraq and kill innocent people in his shocking and awful war that was absurdly foisted on the world by his lies? Furthermore, does Mr. Northern, in his blind subservience to a war and president that can no longer be supported, if ever they could be, seriously think that he was honoring and respecting OUR loved ones by violently ripping the crosses out of the ground and strewing the wreckage all over the bar ditches? Did the spirit tell him to attach a metal bar perpendicularly from his truck so he could cause more destruction? This was an act of premeditated and coldly-calculated vandalism of the monument to our children, which was spurred by nothing more than his opposition to our protest. How we families of the fallen choose to honor our loved ones is our business, and if Mr. Northern had a problem with the memorial, he could have come to Camp Casey and used his words to express his displeasure. But just like his fearful leader, who only knows how to use physical force to solve problems, Mr. Northern did not go the principled way of confronting problems nonviolently; he instead, like George, took the bully way out. If Northern had stopped that day to talk to the veterans who built the memorial, he might have found that he had more in common with them than not. But here in Bush World, divisiveness is celebrated, and unity is not encouraged or rewarded.

The article further states that Mr. Northern's lawyer, Russ Hunt, said this about our memorial: "It was established that the crude crosses were made from donated materials (Would it have been more acceptable to Mr. Northern if we had purchased the wood?) and constructed in less than two minutes each by volunteer laborers." What Mr. Hunt leaves out, in his irrelevant discourse on the memorial, is that the crosses are made entirely by Vietnam veterans who are members of Veterans for Peace. And that these "volunteer laborers" came from all over America to stand with us, because they know firsthand the cost of war. These veterans, who served their country honorably, would never, ever think of using war as a diplomatic tool because, unlike the commander in chief, who never served a nano-second in war himself, they have seen the true horrors of war. They themselves have seen innocent children burned beyond recognition by napalm, and have walked through rice paddies next to their buddies, who were there one minute, then vaporized by a landmine the next. George Bush, the other chicken hawks, and their horror-show of a war have brought the Vietnam debacle - which has never been, for them, closer than their nightmares - crushingly back to these dear vets, who want to do everything they can to end this newish immoral war. I am sorry for whatever Mr. Northern faced in Vietnam that would make him viciously desecrate the memorial to my son and Casey's buddies. The depth of his pain must be agonizing.

"Larry couldn't stand the sight of those troops laying [sic] in the ditch. His act, at least in his mind, was an act of honor and respect to those troops. It wasn't something that was meant to dishonor the troops. He didn't think it was honorable for those troops to be (symbolically) buried in a ditch," Mr. Hunt further says, in defense of the indefensible. Does Mr. Northern think that it is honorable for the neo-cons to lie through their teeth to send our children to a war without the proper equipment, armor or training? Does Mr. Northern think that it is honorable to shut down Veterans Hospitals and cut back VA benefits? Does he think it's honorable that over one-half of our nation's homeless are veterans of the Vietnam conflict? Does Mr. Northern think that it is the American way to torture prisoners? Even noted war hawk Senator John McCain doesn't believe torture is good behavior. There are a few things that I can't stand to see, too: I can't stand the sight of our troops coming home in body bags. I can't stand the sight of flag-draped coffins. I can't bear looking at the pictures of the prisoners tortured at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere. I can't stand the sight of Iraqi children covered with blood, screaming for their dead parents. I can't bear the sight of George Bush flapping his lips and saying what he is doing in Iraq is "noble." Does Mr. Northern think I can stand the sight of Casey's not-so-symbolic grave in Vacaville? No matter how much I abhor war, and no matter how much eternal pain I am in from burying my oldest child, it would never even cross my mind to desecrate any memorial to fallen soldiers; even the ones who glorify repugnant war.

Mr. Northern's act was not an act of respect. I believe it was an act of high disrespect. But he was not only demeaning our troops, or our killed heroes. He was dishonoring the very thing that he, George Bush, Casey, the vets who built the memorial, and all others who serve our country swear oaths to: the Constitution.

What George Bush calls "that goddamned old scrap of paper" has taken a beating all over the country, but particularly in George's part of Texas, where he has convinced people that loyalty to him, as he converses with God, is more important than upholding an oath of office or oath of service.

In Bush World, up is down; war is peace; bad is good; dishonor is tribute; cowardice is bravery; killing is diplomacy; disrespect is reverence; and 2 + 2 = 5!

I am searching the world over for the peace that is spread by nonviolence, not the peace that is spread by killing and war. The Veterans for Peace are searching for the same thing as they search to redeem their own lost souls.

I know the Veterans for Peace and other Camp Caseyites are with me when we together wish that Mr. Northern will find even a small measure of true peace and some kind of tranquility for his soul.


"In Search of Peace" is a series of articles about Cindy Sheehan's reflections on her journey for true peace.

Cindy Sheehan is the mother of Casey Sheehan, who was killed in Iraq in George's War OF Terror on April 4, 2004. She is the co-founder and president of Gold Star Families for Peace and and the Camp Casey Peace Institute, and the author of three books, the latest now available from Atria Books: Peace Mom: One Mother's Journey Through Heartache to Activism.

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