(By Cindy Sheehan, originally published in TruthOut)
I bought land in Crawford, Texas, to conduct our Camp Caseys until the horrendous nightmare of an occupation ends in Iraq or/and until our world no longer has to suffer under the Bush Regime. But our land will also be a permanent place for peace and a bastion of hope and refuge for soldiers whether they want tobe in the military or not.
So many other people have literally put their blood, sweat and tears into Camp Casey III and all of the previous Camp Caseys - wonderful peace activists who give up many days, but in most cases, many weeks to come to hot, sweaty, dry, and dusty Crawford, Texas, to show BushCo, our country, and our world that there are people in our nation who love peace with freedom so much that they are willing to drop their own lives to make such things realities in our lifetimes.
Camp Casey has not received the media coverage that we enjoyed (or not) last summer - because Cut and Run George has spent less time in Crawford this year than Camp Casey has. For some reason, the media follows him.
All of our hard work and every penny that I have spent was made abundantly worthwhile today when Mark Wilkerson, a 22-year-old Army Specialist out of Ft. Hood who has been AWOL for 19 months heard our call of sanctuary and came to Camp Casey to spend his last few days of freedom before turning himself in to military authorities at Ft. Hood.
After one tour in Iraq, Mark decided that the war, which he initially supported, was as illegal and immoral as he was hearing some people say. He tried very hard to go through the proper channels to attain Conscientious Objector status, but he was denied. So instead of being redeployed to Iraq for a 2nd time, he decided to go AWOL.
He heardour call for sanctuary at Camp Casey and he came. He found a home and a new family who love and support him fully. Mark is anxious to pay whatever price he has to pay for his decision and then to work with us in the Camp Casey Peace Institute and in the peace field.
One question that I heard the reporters who were there ask him over and over again went something like this: "Don't you feel that when you take an oath you have an obligation to fulfill?" Mark handled this question wonderfully, stating that he also has an obligation to follow his own conscience. Knowing that this war is both illegal and immoral by all rational and sane standards, he could not morally participate in the war crimes and crimes against humanity forced on everyone byour lying leaders.
I watch a lot of news and I read reports of Bush's rare press conferences, and I have never seen any one ask George Bush the same question asked of Mark. The commander in chief did not fulfill his obligation during the Vietnam War. He was transferred to the Alabama Air National Guard, and despite a reward, which no one has come forward to claim saying anyone saw him there - he never reported for duty. I would like the same question askedof the president as was asked repeatedly of Wilkerson. How can he dare send a 22-year-old Spc. 4 to Iraq to fight, perhaps die, and perhaps kill innocent people in a FUBAR excuse for a war, when he used all of his daddy's connections to get out of the FUBAR excuse of a war that his generation had to fight, die, and kill innocent people for?
Along with most of the Republican Senators, congresspeople, executive branch, and Dick "I had other priorities" Cheney, I have no problem with anyone who did whatever they had to do to not go to Vietnam. What I surely do have a problem with is while they ran from the military industrial complex in the 60s and 70s, they feed our children to the ravenous monster in the next century's first war for greed. Congress also abrogated its Constitutional responsibility to declare war and handed the keys to the war machine to an irresponsible deserter and his vice-draft dodger.
Additionally, our commander inchief has an obligation to use his troops wisely - not recklessly and negligently. And what about the obligation to tell the truth to our country?
Instead of having the dubious "courage" to ask a brave young man full of integrity and honor the question about fulfilling an obligation, I would love for one of the press corps to ask the same question of Mark and Casey's commander in chief. George had all the advantages of his East Coast birth and daddy's wealth and cronies - so, he just didn't have to show up if he didn't want to. Mark did not have such advantages, he had to live in fear of discovery for over a year and a half. The rich always send the children of the poor to die to make themselves richer.
The peace movement needs to encourage all the soldiers to lay down their weapons and refuse to die or kill innocent people for the cowards in DC and the war machine. We as peace people need to support themwith our moral support and monetary support so they feel comfortable doing so. We as peace people need to work on stopping the next war and work on giving families information and alternatives to their children putting on the uniform of the war profiteers. College is too expensive and they have no jobs in their communities. We need to wrest away money from the War Department and give it back to our future: our children.
War will only continue if wekeep giving our kids to the war machine to chew up and spit out for their wicked profits.
To find more information on how to help young people get out of goingto a war, please go to the GI Rights Hotline.
To findmore information on obtaining CO Status, please go to the Conscientious Objectors Web Site.
To find more information about alternatives to joining the military, please go to American Friends' Service Committee
I wish I had had all of this info before my oldest child came home in a body bag.