'Stop the poverty draft,' says Cindy Sheehan
By Nacho Gonzalez, April 2006
CHICAGO -- On February 17, 2006, over 300 people heard anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan speak in Chicago's mainly Mexican community of Pilsen. Many in the audience were young people. The event was sponsored by the Committee Against Militarization (CAMI), which was founded in 2004 by local activists and artists.
Juan Torres, a member of CAMI whose son was killed in Iraq in 2002 explained that his son joined the reserves of the Illinois National Guard in 1996. After his son came back from boot camp, he decided that he did not want to stay in the army. Whereupon, he and his father went to the recruiting station and were told that he would have to finish his term or face 25 years in prison. The parents never signed any papers even though Juan Torres' son was under age.
Cindy Sheehan then followed, "My son Casey, a middle class kid, was recruited in high school. The recruiters made promises to him and every promise was broken. When a recruit signs a contract to join the army it is only binding on the recruit. The contract is not binding on the government." When Casey came back from swearing in he told his mom not to worry. "The army recruiter says that even if there is a war, I won't see combat." Casey died five days after arriving in Iraq. "I have learned that the recruiters and the government lie to us," said Sheehan.
"My son joined the army; there is no official draft but there is a draft -- it is the poverty draft. The recruiters promise college benefits and young people join to receive them but only 15 percent use them. There are few options for low-income youth. There are not many jobs and most of them are very low paying. After Katrina, the government, as we all know, reacted very slowly to the catastrophe. But they wasted no time in sending in recruiters stating: 'you don't have jobs; you don't have homes; join the army,' " said Sheehan.
"Those of you who are against the war, we have to talk to our youth and keep them from getting killed. There are better ways to go to college. I laud all the young people doing counter recruitment," she added.
"We have to work to elect peace candidates and need to do three things:
Impeach President George Bush.
Remove Vice-President Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld from office.
Try them for crimes against humanity and put them in jail for the rest of their lives."
This talk was then followed by several questions from the audience.
Someone in the audience asked: "Why do you think you have been able to galvanize this movement?"
Cindy Sheehan: "First of all, I think the mainstream media was not reporting the anti-war movement, which is very big. Camp Casey was like a match on dry wood ready to be ignited. It resonated with a lot of people who had the same question. If it is such a noble cause why aren't President Bush and Vice President Cheney's kids over there (Iraq)"?
Another person asked: "Have you been harassed for speaking up."
Cindy Sheehan: "There is a big effort to undermine me by attacking me personally. They (government) can't attack the message, so they attack the messenger. When I had to bury my son, it would be the worst thing a mother could live through. If I could live through that, I can live through anything. Nothing they can do can stop us. We will prevail. They (Bush Administration) are incompetent. They allow the murders to go on. They have used chemical weapons in Fallujah and bombed civilian centers. These are all crimes against humanity.
"It is going to take a large movement of civil disobedience. I look for the day that we all go to Washington, D.C. and shut that city down," she said.