The Crawford Texas Experience; August 20 21, 2005
2 Days in Crawford with Thousands of Peace Activists
By Carly Miller
I can’t imagine Hell being much hotter than Crawford, Texas. Exhausted, saddened and inspired, I have just returned from a two-day stint at Camp Casey, located adjacent to President Bush’s ranch in Crawford, where the temperature lingered around 105 degrees and, combined with the 40% humidity, was nothing short of oppressive.
I am in awe of and deeply moved by the thousands of peace activists who have been at Camp Casey for what is now days, and in some cases weeks, on end, enduring the heat, insects, portable restrooms and surmountable other deterrents. For many, this is certainly not an ideal place to set up camp in a ditch on the side of a dirt road.
But, for those of us who believe that the U.S. is waging an illegal, immoral, devastating war on the Iraqi people, comfort and life’s little luxuries are the least of our worries. More important for us are the increasing numbers of American soldiers dying daily, the lives of nearly 100,000 slain innocent Iraqi civilians and the utter physical and psychological destruction of a country that never posed an imminent threat or committed any actions to provoke such an unjust invasion, occupation and mass death. This is why we are in Crawford and this is why we are demanding answers.
My name is Carly Miller. I’m one half of a two-woman team operating Clothing of the American Mind (http://www.cotam.org <http://www.cotam.org/>), a grassroots apparel company dedicated to promoting, supporting and articulating vital progressive values.
Through the sale of our merchandise, Clothing of the American Mind (COTAM) raises funds to assist forward-thinking organizations, including MoveOn.org, Progressive Democrats of America, Amnesty International, Gold Star Families for Peace, Peace Action, the Democratic National Committee and many other reputable causes.
A percentage of every purchase is donated to these groups. Clothing of the American Mind is not just another t-shirt company trying to make a buck. For us, it’s not about money; it’s about spreading a message and outfitting informed dissenters with provocative, dialogue-inducing wear. We are heavily involved in the political climate, participating in events here in Los Angeles on an almost daily basis.
In the summer of 2004, we drove across country in an RV hosting nearly 20 events in swing state cities, registering voters and raising funds. Ending our trip in Boston at the Democratic National Convention, we later headed to New York to join the thousands protesting during the Republican National Convention. During the week of the November 2, 2004 Presidential election, we worked on the ground to get out the vote both in California and Ohio.
I believe this background is important because just like Cindy Sheehan, Clothing of the American Mind did not just recently appear on the anti-war scene. Our founding in March of 2004 coincided with the 1st anniversary of the invasion of Iraq and since then, we have been an integral part of the movement fighting to take back America and our democracy.
I flew all night from LA getting minimal sleep to arrive at the Waco Regional Airport on Saturday morning, August 20th. The sideways glares began immediately as I was, of course, wearing COTAM’s very direct Stop War t-shirt. The first evil eye came from a man wearing one of Rush Limbaugh’s What Happens in Gitmo, Stays in Gitmo t-shirts. (I’d like to know what is so wrong with advocating against the perpetual, unjust incarceration and torture of innocent people.)
Driving to the Crawford Peace House, I was greeted by a huge billboard of a beaming Laura & George, giving a big thumbs up and welcoming me to Crawford, Texas. Stopping to photograph the sign, I wondered what it should really say: Welcome to Crawfordthat is, unless you are against the Iraq war. If you support me, please proceed and enjoy our quaint little town. But, well, if you don’t support me, kindly turn around and go the hell back home. God bless America and don’t mess with Texas.
Upon arriving at the Peace House, I was, as all were, welcomed with open arms. After checking in and observing this grassroots operation for a few moments, I immediately headed up to Camp Casey I to link up with my comrades from Arlington West. Most of the day was spent cleaning up the Arlington South memorial at Camp Casey I as well as building a second memorial at Camp Casey II. Because Texan Larry Northern decided to mow down hundreds of crosses just days before, there was lots of clean up, repair and restructuring that needed to be done at the first camp.
While rebuilding the first memorial, we were approached by about three family members of fallen soldiers who refused to have their loved ones be part of the Arlington South memorial at Camp Casey. Without argument, we located and handed over the crosses bearing the respective names. We were left wondering why these people did not want their loved ones to be part of this memorial. However, in the interest of keeping the peace and respecting their wishes, we chose not to debate them and instead, simply handed over the crosses. As we continued our work, one of the approximately ten Bush supporters stationed at Camp Casey I began shouting at us from across the road. He said that he was in between Iraq deployments and didn’t believe what we were doing was supporting or honoring the troops. April Fitzsimmons, a member of Veterans for Peace and part of the Arlington West crew, replied with a simple Thank you for your service. And, in the searing Texas afternoon sun, we continued our work on the memorial.
After completing the restructuring of Arlington South at Camp Casey I, we loaded hundreds more crosses into a truck and headed a few miles up the road to Camp Casey II. There, after consulting with the Gold Star Families and other leaders at the camp, we began to erect the second Arlington South memorial on the lawn outside the large tent serving as a sort of headquarters for Camp Casey II. With the help of many volunteers, the memorial was erected in a matter of minutes. Even with a fraction of the crosses that normally line the beach every Sunday at the Arlington West memorial in Santa Monica, the scene was extremely powerful. As part of that evening’s program, at sunset, US Marine Corp Veteran Jeff Key played taps at the foot of the Arlington South memorial site at Camp Casey II.
It is difficult to describe the impact this memorial has on the observer. How can one dispute the immorality of this war while staring at hundreds of crosses, each representing nearly ten fallen soldiers? More than two years after the invasion of Iraq, it has been proven that there were never any Weapons of Mass Destruction, and therefore, never any imminent threat. It has also been proven that there was absolutely no link between Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and 9/11. In fact, we now know that 15 of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia. Yet, the President continues in his daily comments and addresses to link the Iraq war with 9/11. If there is some other truthful reason for which we invaded Iraq, why can’t Bush talk about it? Why can’t he answer the cries of Cindy Sheehan and countless other family members of fallen soldiers? What is he so afraid of? What is the noble cause? We stand here staring at these hundreds of crosses, having received no valid response from the Bush Administration. This is why we are in Crawford.
The remainder of Saturday evening was spent listening to speakers, including Dante Zappala (brother of Sgt. Sherwood Baker, killed in action on April 24, 2004), Andrea Hackett (whose daughter just returned from a tour in Iraq), Tammara Rosenleaf (whose husband is about to be deployed), Ed Boyd (former homeless veteran), Patricia Roberts (mother of Jamaal Addison, the first solider from Georgia to be killed in the Iraq war, 2003) and Reverend Peter Johnson (former staff member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference). Performances by James McMurtry and Steve Earle followed. After a long 12-hour day, we headed to our motel in nearby McGregor.
We awoke early Sunday morning in order to arrive at the Peace House by 9 am for an Arlington West cross-building event. More crosses needed to be built in order to continue expanding the memorials. After getting volunteers going on this project and setting up a screening room for the Arlington West DVD in the Peace House, we headed back up to Camp Casey II. We were pleased to hear that a press conference had been held earlier that morning in front of the memorial. There was only a few more hours until I needed to head back to the airport, so I spent most of the day talking with other activists, taking photographs and reflecting on the Crawford experience. As I ate my lunch among hundreds of others, I considered how amazing the Camp Casey set-ups are. Because donations have been pouring into the Peace House from all over the country, volunteers have been able to cook for and feed all the activists in attendance; and this is just one aspect of the intense camaraderie that is almost tangible in the air here at Camp Casey.
Meanwhile, the right wing spin machine continues to bash Cindy and, in turn, all the other military families and activists staked out in Crawford. I wonder how anyone who hasn’t lost a child, sibling, parent, husband or wife to war can criticize how one responds to such an incident. I ask of Anne Coulter, Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Malkin and countless others how they can accuse Cindy of being responsible for her son’s death and for disrespecting Casey’s memory. I don’t believe one can stoop any lower than insulting a fallen soldier’s mother so intensely. Standing shoulder to shoulder with these military families and hearing their stories first hand, all I can do is admire their courage and be proud to stand with them and continue to question the morality of this war and all those who support it.
After giving an interview to the Los Angeles Air America affiliate station KTLK from outside the Crawford Peace House, I headed back to Waco to catch my flight. Yet again, the sideways glances came in droves as I entered the airport in my Stop War t-shirt. However, after passing through security, I caught the eye of a friendly face; she asked if I had come from Crawford. It turns out that this friendly face was Elaine Johnson, mother of Army Specialist Darius Jennings who was killed in action on November 2, 2003 when the Chinook helicopter in which he was riding was shot down in Iraq. That crash took the lives of 16 troops, including Spc. Jennings. I offered my condolences to Mrs. Johnson, thanked her for her activism and we parted ways with the hopes of reuniting in Washington, DC on September 24th.
I returned home to the news that the draft of the new Iraqi constitution describes Islam as a main source’ of legislation and stipulates that no law may contradict Islamic principles. In my opinion, this does not jive with the definition of democracy. Operation Iraqi Freedom and the Administration’s ultimate goal of bringing freedom and democracy to Iraq seem almost moot in the wake of this announcement. And, as the President’s approval rating hovers around 36%, the tide is beginning to turn.
I also hope that you will join me on Saturday, September 24, 2005 in asking the Bush Administration to end the war in Iraq. As the American death toll nears 2,000 and the number of Iraqi civilians killed could be close to 100,000, I urge you to begin speaking out against this war in whatever way you can. Sign petitions, send emails, call your Senators and Representatives and plan to attend the September 24th protest.
I will be in Washington, DC for the 3-day massive anti-war actions during the weekend of 9.24. If any of you are interested in traveling to DC, please contact me and I’ll provide you with the necessary information, most of which can be found at http://www.unitedforpeace.org. However, if you are unable to travel to DC, there will also be a large protest in Los Angeles, beginning at 12 noon @ Olympic & Broadway in downtown. More info at http://www.answerla.org. Please note that there will also be corresponding protests in many other cities, including San Francisco, Seattle, New York and others.
I welcome your comments, feedback and questions on my experience. It is vital that we all join the current political dialogue surrounding the debacle that is the war in Iraq. If you’re interested in supporting my organization, Clothing of the American Mind, you can log onto http://www.cotam.org. A percentage of every purchase goes toward assisting progressive organizations such as MoveOn.org, Progressive Democrats of America, Gold Star Families for Peace, the Democratic National Committee and countless others.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Carly Miller can be contacted at [email protected]; feel free to send comments, feedback / Please contact me for reprinting info…