Both Hurricane Katrina and Cindy Sheehan's 'Camp Casey' protest outside of George W. Bush's Crawford, TX pretend-ranch took place 10 years ago this week. On today's BradCast, we commemorate both with some personal remembrances from our live on-air coverage of both events at the time.
First, where we are today: As Dubya came out from years of (justifiable) hiding today to speak at a rebuilt school in New Orleans, journalist Colleen Kimmett joins us to discuss the successes and failures of the privatized charter school system that was allowed to take over in New Orleans following the Katrina disaster.
Then we dig deep into the audio archives to revisit some of our on-the-ground, round-the-clock radio coverage of Sheehan's historic anti-war protest in August of 2005 --- including the remarkable on-air moment on Sunday evening, August 28, 2005 when we first received the jaw-dropping National Weather Service bulletin warning of Katrina coming ashore.
Both landmark national events intertwined on our radio coverage from 10 years ago, and, as we discuss on today's program, marked a key turning point for our nation, our wars, and the entire Bush Presidency.
Finally, our latest Green News Report looks back at Katrina's devastation, looks forward to NASA's new warning that at least 3 feet of sea level rise is now "locked in," and the new report from Citigroup finding that moving to renewable clean energy will actually be less expensive than sticking with our current fossil fuel status quo...
[Photo above of Jeff Keys, Cindy Sheehan and Joan Baez courtesy of "Alaska Gyrl" Kim Terpening, who happened to be on air with us in Crawford as the NWS bulletin came across the wires. And here are some of those photos I mentioned on the show today of Karl Rove happily glad-handing the pro-Bush, anti-Sheehan demonstrators in Crawford at the very same moment that Katrina was drowning New Orleans.]
Also, too, see @NTXProgressive's fantastic Storify, which includes a bunch of great photos (including one of us) from the time capsule, documenting moments from 'Camp Casey' in Crawford --- and even as Katrina rolled ashore...
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(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)
PLUS: A flashback to my interview with then 25-year old paralyzed Iraq War veteran turned anti-war activist Tomas Young at "Camp Casey" in Crawford, TX in August of 2005. It was Young's first national interview proceeding his story being told on CBS 60 Minutes in 2006 and in Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro's documentary Body of War in 2007. During the interview, Young (who had driven 13 hours from Kansas City on his honeymoon, despite unceasing pain) describes the tragic story of how he was wounded during a rescue mission in an unarmored truck in Sadr City; how and when he turned against Bush's war; we joke about BBQ in Missouri and more; and then hatch a (successful) plot to bring his story to national attention.
I am incredibly saddened to learn, on Veterans' Day of all days, of the death of Tomas Young, a 34-year old Iraq War veteran turned unapologetic peace activist, paralyzed from the chest down, whose heart-breaking story I played a small role in helping to bring to the national stage back during the extraordinary summer of 2005...
NOTE FROM BRAD: On August 28, 2005, I was the first in the national media to interview U.S. Army Specialist Tomas Young at "Camp Casey" in Crawford, TX. He and his then wife Brie had come down from Kansas City on their honeymoon to support Cindy Sheehan, the "Gold Star Mom" who was famously demanding a meeting with George W. Bush. Tomas' unarmored vehicle had been ambushed in Sadr City, Iraq on the same day that Sheehan's son Casey was killed in the same city. The attack left Tomas paralyzed from the chest down.
Since Bush had refused to meet with Sheehan --- claiming he had already met with her some months earlier, prior to proclaiming those who had died in Iraq had done so for a "noble cause" which he refused to define --- Tomas wanted to find out if he might be able to meet with Bush himself to ask what the "noble cause" was. We came up with the idea to paint a sign to help the media notice his plight. Some of the other veterans who were there as well helped to create the sign and it was, indeed, picked up by AP at the time.
Some years later, Tomas' story would be told on 60 Minutes, and then in a heart-wrenching 2007 documentary film, Body of War, by Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro. (My interview on the ground at "Camp Casey" with Tomas and Brie is seen briefly in both. The full audio of my interview with them is posted in full at the bottom of this article, after Tomas' letter.)
He and Brie have since divorced and Tomas remarried last year. Now, ten years this week after the launch of the War on Iraq, what was left of Tomas' body is failing and, as Chris Hedges recently reported, he has decided to let himself die. Now in hospice care, Tomas, who was 25 when we met and is now just 33-years old, plans to end his long fight. He says he will remove his own feeding tube sometime after his first anniversary with his new wife Claudia in April and before the second birthday of his niece in June.
To: George W. Bush and Dick Cheney
From: Tomas Young
I write this letter on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War on behalf of my fellow Iraq War veterans. I write this letter on behalf of the 4,488 soldiers and Marines who died in Iraq. I write this letter on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of veterans who have been wounded and on behalf of those whose wounds, physical and psychological, have destroyed their lives. I am one of those gravely wounded. I was paralyzed in an insurgent ambush in 2004 in Sadr City. My life is coming to an end. I am living under hospice care.
I write this letter on behalf of husbands and wives who have lost spouses, on behalf of children who have lost a parent, on behalf of the fathers and mothers who have lost sons and daughters and on behalf of those who care for the many thousands of my fellow veterans who have brain injuries. I write this letter on behalf of those veterans whose trauma and self-revulsion for what they have witnessed, endured and done in Iraq have led to suicide and on behalf of the active-duty soldiers and Marines who commit, on average, a suicide a day. I write this letter on behalf of the some 1 million Iraqi dead and on behalf of the countless Iraqi wounded. I write this letter on behalf of us all-the human detritus your war has left behind, those who will spend their lives in unending pain and grief.
I write this letter, my last letter, to you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney. I write not because I think you grasp the terrible human and moral consequences of your lies, manipulation and thirst for wealth and power. I write this letter because, before my own death, I want to make it clear that I, and hundreds of thousands of my fellow veterans, along with millions of my fellow citizens, along with hundreds of millions more in Iraq and the Middle East, know fully who you are and what you have done. You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans-my fellow veterans-whose future you stole...
Today marks the 5th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina slamming into the Gulf Coast at New Orleans, Louisiana, on August 29th, 2005. What the Category 3 hurricane did not destroy, the man-made disaster finished off, drowning much of the beloved city, killing over 1800 people, and displacing over a million more, many permanently.
There are many ways to look at what happened five years ago today and in the horrifying days and weeks that followed. There are successes and plenty of failures to document for history. There are surely lessons to be learned, but have we even come close to learning the most important one?...
Tonight, it's been announced, the last U.S. "combat brigade" has left Iraq, some 7 years, 4 months and 29 days after they were sent there for specious and deadly reasons by the Administration of George W. Bush.
Coincidentally, it is just over 5 years to the day since 14 Marines from a base in the Cleveland, Ohio, suburb of Brook Park were killed by a roadside a bomb in Iraq. The incident, the deadliest bombing there at the time, when "just" 1,820 U.S. troops had died to date, led Bush to tell "the people of Brook Park" that he "hope[d] they also take comfort in the understanding that the sacrifice was made in a noble cause."
That statement brought one very courageous woman --- Cindy Sheehan, whose son had also been killed in Iraq --- down to Crawford, Texas, where Bush had been vacationing at his ranch, in hopes of asking him in person "what noble cause" her son, and those from Cleveland, and from so many other cities and towns around the U.S., had died for.
Sheehan faced down an extraordinary gathering of seething hatred on the blistering hot Central Texas prairie for several weeks in response, in hopes of getting an answer from her son's Commander-in-Chief to that simple question. (And yes, it was nothing short of seething hatred, which we saw first-hand as we covered the extraordinary moment on the ground for this blog and during more than 50 hours of live radio broadcasts, smack dab in the center of it all.) She was joined, in support, by dozens of other family members of the fallen, scores of U.S. Armed Service veterans and thousands of regular, patriotic U.S. citizens on that cow pasture near Bush's home.
5 years later, nearly to the day, after that extraordinary summer and extraordinary display of American courage, the last U.S. "combat troops," we're told, have left Iraq, leaving "just" 50,000 behind, theoretically for logistical and training purposes.
4,415 U.S. troops, including U.S. Army Specialist Casey Sheehan, never came home from Iraq. At least not alive. Tens of thousands more have had their lives forever shattered due to permanent physical and emotional injury. Hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis were also slaughtered and maimed in the bargain.
And tonight, after all of that time, we're still left wondering: What was that "noble cause"?
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UPDATE 8/19/10: NYU's Nir Rosen tweets wryly: "american combat troops pull out of iraq. the remaining fifty thousand are armed only with sticks, fly swatters, pepper spray and nunchucks"
And we later followed with: "Last one out of Iraq, turn out the lights (as soon as they get electricity back)."
Video from MSNBC's exclusive coverage of the last U.S. "combat brigade" leaving Iraq and entering into Kuwaiit follows below...
Cindy Sheehan, whose Army son was killed in the early days of the Iraq War, and who became well known during her controversial stand in protest outside of George W. Bush's property in Crawford, TX, in the summer of 2005, is taking her protests to Bush's new tony suburban enclave in Dallas.
RAW STORY covered Sheehan's plan to lead a "march on former President Bush's new home in the well-to-do Dallas suburb of Preston Hollow" on Monday, June 8th, in protest of what Dallas' NBC affiliate quotes her as describing as "crimes against humanity."
"We can't allow George Bush's crimes to be forgotten just because he is not in office anymore," she told the NBC affiliate via e-mail, as reported in their story, which also quotes Bush's new neighbors chiding protesters to "Go away...Go back! Leave us alone!" (See their video coverage above right, courtesy of RAW STORY's David Edwards.)
In an apparent attempt to offer additional "balance" to his coverage of Sheehan's new protests, RAW STORY's Stephen C. Webster reports that Sheehan "was hit by the right for criticising [sic] the invasion of Iraq and, eventually, by the left for being a perpetual spotlight-seeker."
Webster notes that he "would link to sources" backing up his claims of criticism from the left, "but that bit comes first-hand." He recounts that he'd "spen[t] months covering Cindy's activity for The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford," and writes that he "understand[s] many of the various opinions expressed about this woman's activism." He then goes on to associate with his former Iconoclast colleague Nathan Diebenow who, he writes, "quite accurately summarized, her constant angling for the spotlight and failure to significantly modify her tactics," which, Webster goes on to charge, "made Cindy into a 'media bore' (as opposed to the oft referenced 'media whore' insult so many on the right would hurl at her)."
To all of that, Sheehan replied in comments --- confirmed as her own to The BRAD BLOG today --- in a scathing rebuttal which begins: "Eff whoever wrote this article and Nathan Dibenow [sic] from the Lonestar Icnonoclast. [sic]"...
Let the history books show that the Democrats, and the tiny number of Republicans, who voted NO on giving authority to George W. Bush to wage war in Iraq (and virtually everywhere else) anytime he wished, in October of 2002, were right on every score.
Those who spoke out, and were publicly tarred and feathered, labeled as unpatriotic, left-wing fringe, out of step with the country, and generally loons for having done so --- folks like Feingold, Kennedy, Durbin, Waters, Lee, Kaptur, Kucinich, Wellstone, Woolsey, Waters, Conyers, Hinchey, and perhaps, most prophetically, according to Ellen Spiro and Phil Donahue's the new documentary film, Body of War, Robert Byrd of West Virginia --- are all owed a great debt of thanks by every American, particularly those who had maligned them for having the temerity to be right back then.
Last night I went to see Body of War, which opens this weekend in Los Angeles, and was struck by the simple message that an entire swath of courageous Congressional members, who had stood up, to little notice, to say the right thing, were almost entirely - to a man and a woman - branded as moonbats and traitors back in the dark days of 2002. To this day, they have never received the appropriate recognition for having resisted the systematically orchestrated lies and fear tactics of the pro-Bush crowd (which includes both Ds and Rs), nor have they received the appropriate thanks and apologies from those who were absolutely, undebatably, undeniably, 100% wrong in their horrific assessment of what will go down as perhaps the greatest policy mistake in American history.
To that same end, I would suggest that history will eventually regard the much-maligned Gold Star mother, Cindy Sheehan, as belonging side-by-side with courageous Americans before her like civil rights hero Rosa Parks. I predict that Sheehan will, one day, receive the Congressional Medal of Honor. I only hope she'll be alive to receive that honor, from that body, in person, when that day comes. And it will.
Donahue was on hand last night for a Q&A following the film, which I attended along with PDA's national chair, actress Mimi Kennedy. As I, personally, played a small part (and am seen briefly in the film) in originally helping to tell the story of disabled Iraqi vet Tomas Young, whose remarkable story is told in stark parallel to the fateful --- and often shameful --- words heard during the "so-called" Congressional debate on the resolution to allow the use of force in Iraq back in 2002, just three weeks prior to that year's election, I was delighted to be able to thank Donahue personally, for placing the entire story, finally, in correct, often maddening, often gut-wrenching, historical context.
(See bottom of this article for my audio interview with Young in August of 2005, his first for a national audience, from on the ground at "Camp Casey" in Crawford, TX.)
Body of War should be seen by every American, left, right, center, and other. It should be mandatory viewing for every current and future Congressional representative. It should be shown over and over again, in an endless, Clockwork Orange-like loop, in the jail cells of those who will likely never be convicted for the unspeakable crimes they have knowingly and callously committed, at the expense of thousands of courageous dead American troops, and more than 100 thousand dead world citizens, who have all fallen victim to the cowardly and shameful actions of those entrusted to know better...
After a week of being told how the situation has "improved" in Iraq --- with a compliant corporate media, as usual, all too willing to continue their five year service as Bush Administration propagandists at large --- "all hell broke loose" on Sunday as the 6th year of our War on Iraq commenced; at least 60 died in attacks on the Green Zone and elsewhere around the country and the 4,000th U.S. troop was killed for reasons that remain unknown.
At least 97% of those deaths occurred after George W. Bush's spectacular televised landing on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003, where he proclaimed face-to-face with our troops, and on TV to the world --- while standing in front of an enormous banner reading "Mission Accomplished" --- that "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended."
He was then, as he always has been, wrong. About absolutely everything.
As the 6th year of his disgraceful, criminal lie continues, we associate ourselves at this somber landmark, with blogger and Middle East expert, Juan Cole, who asks today why it has happened at all...
A roadside bomb killed 4 US troops, bringing the total dead in Iraq on the American side to 4,000. The thing I most mind about the deaths of those brave warriors is that our government has not been honest about why they died. We don't know the answer to that question. We've been lied to.
The Bush administration still has not told us why they died. It was not to protect the US from "weapons of mass destruction" (see [this earlier item]; that was a fabricated cover story). It was not to spread democracy. It may have been to nail down a major petroleum-producing country for US geostrategic goals (ensuring its resources were available to the US and could be denied if necessary to growing rivals such as China). If so, one has to ask whether the objectives (which were hidden from the American people) were the top priority for the US, or only for the petroleum industry; whether those objectives have been achieved; and whether there was another way to attain them. No such debate has ever been held. Was it in part to ensure Israeli security...? If so, that should be stated, it should be debated. Even the former head of Shin Bet did not agree that it increased Israel's security. It is not right to ask men and women under arms to die for their country without telling them exactly how they are benefiting their country. For all we know, they have died so that Bush and Cheney could throw goodies to their "base," so that Halliburton could escape bankruptcy and Hunt Oil could get new development contracts.
In the Summer of 2005, Cindy Sheehan, who gave the life of her son for reasons still unknown, was shamefully excoriated by supporters of George W. Bush for having the temerity to demand an explanation of the "noble cause" he claimed that her son Casey had died for. She never received that explanation. Nor have the American people --- not even the ones who attacked Cindy Sheehan so brutally, violently, and mercilessly on Bush's behalf.
Those willing to give their lives, and the lives of their sons and daughters, for our country deserve far better than they have received. Those willing to spend those lives, with a smirk and a "so?" --- without even the courtesy of an honest explanation as to why --- must be held accountable for these most unforgivable of crimes.
We fear such accountability will never come.
The BRAD BLOG stands by those who have fallen and with the millions who have, for so long, had the courage to ask "why?"
Longtime BRAD BLOG readers might recall Brad Friedman's live audio interview [mp3] (and part 2) with Army Specialist Tomas Young from on the ground at "Camp Casey" in Crawford, Texas, during the Summer 2005. Young was paralyzed from the chest down when he was shot in Sadr City, Iraq on April 4, 2004. Cindy Sheehan's son Casey was killed in the same city on the same day.
And now documentarian Ellen Spiro and Phil Donahue are bringing Tomas Young's story to the masses in the soon to be released documentary, "Body of War." On Friday the filmmakers appeared on Bill Moyers Journal to discuss the movie. The segment began, however, by showing about 14 minutes of excerpts from the movie which can be seen in two parts below. Note that Brad is briefly seen and heard in footage taken from his interview of Young at "Camp Casey."
That's "one small step for freedom of speech," our friend Jesse Dyen writes to us this afternoon.
Dyen was arrested, along with a number of other freedom fighters who had the temerity to show up near Bush's "brush ranch" in Crawford, Texas, several years ago to protest against the war, only to be arrested (twice) by police enforcing an ordinance, passed by the locals after Cindy Sheehan's original stand there in the Summer of 2005, that no such protests on public lands were to be allowed.
Today, he writes to let us know that the guilty charges were overturned by an appellate court that decided [PDF] in favor of the U.S. Constitution, the First Amendment, and other quaint old notions such as those.
See below for Dyen's missive explaining what happened back then, and in the court decision today, to the courageous arrested "Prairie Dogs" (who happened to include legendary "Pentagon Papers" whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, as well as a number of other notables), and a video made from one of our favorite songs, as written by Dyen, during the original historic tipping point moment in Crawford back in the Summer of 2005…
In brief, I became known to some as the "Diebold Whistleblower" when, in January of 2004, I stole and exposed legal documents [PDF] proving that Diebold Election Systems, Inc. was using and planned to continue using illegal, uncertified software in their California voting machines. (By the way, Diebold recently changed its name to Premier Election Solutions, but don't let that fool you; it's still the same bunch of idiots.) Details about my case can be found here and here [PDF].
The documents I stole were covered under attorney-client privilege, so my theft was a serious crime. In February of 2006 I was charged with three felonies. On November 20, 2006, I plead guilty to one felony count of unauthorized access to a computer, and in exchange for my guilty plea and a restitution payment of $10,000 to the law firm from which I stole the documents, the law firm promised they wouldn't bring a civil suit against me, and I was put on felony probation instead of being sent to jail. The term of probation was to be at least one year, and as much as three years.
Now, one year after my guilty plea, because I've stayed out of trouble and because I'm a first offender, the judge has reduced my felony to a misdemeanor. Sometime in 2008, my lawyers will petition the court to have my misdemeanor expunged.
The bad part is that the most troublesome aspect of my probation is still in force. Before I can accept a job at which I would use a computer networked to one or more other computers (basically any job for which I'd be qualified), any potential employer must write to the judge in my case, tell him that they know about my conviction and that they still want to hire me, and then we have to wait until the judge responds with a "yes" or a "no" before I can accept the job and start work (and then only if the judge says "yes"). So as you can see, employers will be falling all over themselves to hire me.
Meanwhile, my wife (an actor, filmmaker and writer) certainly hasn't lost her sense of humor. She had been calling me Felonious Punk, but now that I'm no longer a felon, she's switched to Mister Meanor. Ain't it great being married to a comedy writer?
To be clear, breaking attorney-client privilege is a very serious crime, and I accept responsibility for what I did. I'm still being punished for it, and so far the punishment has cost my wife and me over $210,000 - and counting. $210,000 is an enormous amount of money to us. My wife and I have paid and are continuing to pay a very high price for my crime.
But, as we're not Republicans, we might have expected that.
Which got me thinking about other crimes in America that have recently been committed or alleged, and what's happened to those involved. Among the first of many, Lewis "Scooter" Libby comes to mind...
when cindy sheehan's son casey, a loyal enlisted member of the united states army, was killed in combat in iraq, his mother sought an audience with the commander in chief. disturbed that she was rejected in that quest, cindy eventually acquired a five-acre plot of ground five miles from the president's ranch in crawford, texas and named it CAMP CASEY in honor of her son. she used the camp as an outpost for her continued quest to meet with george w. bush, and invited those who supported her cause to join her in texas. over the years the camp has become a haven for iraq and afghanistan veterans opposed to the war and/or its conduct, for peace activists who believe there has to be a better way, for others who simply cannot fathom why the president will meet with oil profiteers, with right-wing religious fanatics, with well-heeled contributors, but NOT with the mother of a son who died serving his country. today CAMP CASEY is as alive as ever.
but when congressional democrats recently backed off of their challenge to the president over funding of the iraq occupation, cindy sheehan reached her point of exhaustion and decided she needed to go home. she put the camp up for sale, and very shortly it became the target of groups supportive of the administration's policies, people who see no problem with the continued needless loss of life in the middle east in support of what amounts to a corrupt oil grab. that's when bree walker stepped in.
this past weekend on her radio program on los angeles' KTLK progressive talk, bree presented cindy with a cashier's check and acquired CAMP CASEY for its original price. her plan is to continue to invigorate the location as a memorial to those who have needlessly and bravely died, and as a monument to all who favor peace, rationality and true free democracy in the United States-- in short, all the causes which have been so flagrantly trampled by the fascist criminals who support and work for george bush.
within the next few weeks a new non-profit organization will be established under which we can all make financial contributions to bree's valuable new outreach and continue the pressure against this administration which has so violently defiled our country and its values. on the weekend of july 7 bree will lead a caravan from southern california to CAMP CASEY for a celebration of cindy sheehan's birthday and of all that cindy has contributed to the cause of truth, peace and justice. until then i invite all of you to express your support to bree for her exemplary patriotism and bravery. you can reach her at email@example.com. thank you for supporting this great patriot who has now placed herself squarely in the line of succession which began with nathan hale, patrick henry, paul revere, george washington and their ilk.
please pass this along to all who share our cause.
Jim Lampley is an HBO/NBC sportscaster and occasional guest host for Ed Schultz and other progressive radio talk shows. He was a formerly married to Bree Walker and served as her broadcast television news co-anchor in Los Angeles for many years.
Following up on last night's exclusive in which we reported that progressive Los Angeles talk radio host and former TV news anchor Bree Walker had purchased Cindy Sheehan's "Camp Casey" property in Crawford, TX.
As expected, AP, CNN, et al. picked up the story today after we reported it here. Also as expected, though we were the only outlet to have the story and neither Walker nor Sheehan issued press releases, none of the MSM outlets bothered to give us credit for having reported it here on The BRAD BLOG. So we won't bother to link to their reports either, but at least we told you they exist.
We reported last night that Sheehan was to appear live in studio this afternoon on Walker's radio show to hand her the deed to the property, and that we were also scheduled as a guest on the program as well.
The audio from our guest appearance today along with the two women follows below. The clip includes Sheehan's transfer of the deed for her land near George W. Bush's "ranch" to Walker, along with some thoughts on her plans for Camp Casey's future.
Walker told us yesterday that by purchasing the land, she was "cashing out [her] capitalist corporate stocks and buying into a legacy of peace." Today she expanded on her hopes to move forward within the anti-war movement. "I will be learning what my role is to be, in being the new caretaker and landowner of Camp Casey," she explained to listeners during her weekend broadcast on KTLK AM1150.
"Like Cindy says, this is not a movement of Right or Left, it's a movement of right or wrong. So my goal will try to be a unifying person there in Crawford, Texas. And if I'm not welcome in my anti-war activities? Well, too bad. Look out. You think Cindy Sheehan was tough? You just wait," Walker vowed.
She reiterated, during her comments about Camp Casey, that she hoped to continue its historic legacy. "That hallowed ground," Walker promised, "will remain a place for protest against war, and a place for peace and freedom."
-- Click below for selected clips from Walker's show this afternoon, with Brad Friedman on the phone and Sheehan in studio to present the deed to her land in Crawford, TX. [Appx 18 minutes]