My Testimony for the Downing Street Memo Hearings

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Congressman
Conyers and all, it is an honor to be here to testify about the
effect that the revelations of the Downing Street Memo has had on
me and my family. It is an honor that I wish never had to happen.
I believe that not any of us should be gathered here today for this
reason: as the result of an invasion/occupation that never should
have occured.

My
son, Spc Casey Austin Sheehan, was KIA in Sadr City Baghdad on 04/04/04.
He was in Iraq for only 2 weeks before L. Paul Bremer inflamed the
Shi’ite Militia into a rebellion which resulted in the deaths
of Casey and 6 other brave soldiers who were tragically killed in
an ambush. Bill Mitchell, the father of Sgt. Mike Mitchell who was
one of the other soldiers killed that awful day is with us here.
This is a picture of Casey when he was 7 months old. It’s an enlargement
of a picture he carried in his wallet until the day he was killed.
He loved this picture of himself. It was returned to us with his
personal effects from Iraq. He always sucked on those two fingers.
When he was born, he had a flat face from passing through the birth
canal and we called him "Edward G" short for Edward G.
Robinson. How many of you have seen your child in his/her premature
coffin? It is a shocking and very painful sight. The most heartbreaking
aspect of seeing Casey lying in his casket for me, was that his
face was flat again because he had no muscle tone. He looked like
he did when he was a baby laying in his bassinette. The most tragic
irony is that if the Downing Street Memo proves to be true, Casey
and thousands of people should still be alive.

I
believed before our leaders invaded Iraq in March, 2003, and I am
even more convinced now, that this aggression on Iraq was based
on a lie of historic proportions and was blatantly unnecessary.
The so-called Downing Street Memo dated 23 July, 2003 only confirms
what I already suspected: the leadership of this country rushed
us into an illegal invasion of another sovereign country on prefabricated
and cherry picked intelligence. Iraq was no threat to the United
States of America and the devastating sanctions and bombing raids
against Iraq were working. As a matter of fact, in interviews in
1999 with respected journalist, and long time Bush family friend,
David Herskowitz, then Governor George Bush stated: ‘One of
the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander-in-chief.
My father had all this political capital built up when he drove
the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it. If I have a chance to
invade….if I had that much capital, I’m not going to waste
it. I’m going to get everything passed that I want to get passed
and I’m going to have a successful presidency.” It looks
like George Bush was ready to lead this country into an avoidable
war even before he became president.

From
the expose of the Downing Street Memo and the conversations with
George Bush from 1999, it seems like the invasion of Iraq and the
deaths of so many innocent people were preordained. It appears that
my boy Casey was given a death sentence even before he joined the
Army in May of 2000.

When
a President lies to Congress and the American people, it is a serious
offense. If the Downing Street Memo proves to be true, then it would
appear that the president, vice president and many members of the
cabinet deceived the world before the invasion of Iraq. As the result
of this alleged lie, over 1700 brave young Americans who were only
trying to do their duties have come home in flag draped coffins:
images, as if they were ashamed of our children, our leaders won’t
even let the American people see; thousands upon thousands of Iraqis
who were guilty only of the crime of living in Iraq are dead; thousands
of our young people will go through the rest of their lives missing
one or more limbs, and too many will come home missing parts of
their souls and humanity.

Kevin
Lucey who found his Marine son, Jeffrey, who was recently home from
Iraq, hanging dead from a garden hose in his basement wrote to me:

We
ask daily where was the urgency; where was the necessity of rushing
in. Can anyone explain to us, his mother and to his father as to
why he felt that he had to die by his own hand. Why are the ones
in position of power so afraid to ask people like us to discuss
what happened to Jeff? Jeff can teach us so much. This war was so
misguided and had so many other agendas which had nothing to do
with the country.
Kevin, who cradled his son when he was his sweet baby boy, cradled
Jeff’s lifeless body for the last time in his arms after he cut
him down from the hose. The Jeff that the Lucey’s saw march off
to a wreckless war was not the one who limped home. The Jeff his
family knew died in Iraq, murdered by the inhumanity of gratutitous
war.

The
deceptions and betrayals that led to the US invasion and occupation
of Iraq cost my family a price too dear to pay and almost too much
to bear: the precious and young life of Casey. Casey was a good
soldier who loved his family, his community, his country, and his
God. He was trustworthy and trusting and the leadership of his country
seemingly betrayed him. He was an indispensable part of our family.
An obedient, sweet, funny, and loving son to myself and his father,
Pat, and an adored big brother to his sisters, Carly and Jane, and
his brother Andy. And the beloved nephew to my sister, Auntie, who
is here with me today. Our family has been devastated and torn asunder
by his murder.

I
believe that the reasons that we citizens of the United States of
America were given for the invasion of Iraq have unequivocally been
proven to be false. I also believe that Casey and his buddies have
been killed to line the pockets of already wealthy people and to
feed the insatiable war machine that has always devoured our young.
Casey died saving his buddies and I know so many of our brave young
soldiers died doing the same thing: but he and his fellow members
of the military should never have been sent to Iraq. I know the
family of Sgt. Sherwood Baker, who was killed guarding a team that
was looking for the mythic WMD’s in Baghdad. The same WMD’s that
were the justification for invading Iraq as outlined in the Downing
Street Memo. Sherwood’s brother, Dante Zappala, and his dad, Al
Zappala are here with us today. I believe the Downing Street Memo
proves that our leaders betrayed too many innocents into an early
grave. The lives of the ones left behind are shattered almost beyond
repair.

I
also believe an investigation into the Downing Street Memo is completely
warranted and the necessary first step into righting the wrong that
is Iraq and holding someone accountable for the needless, senseless,
and avoidable deaths of many thousands. As far as I am concerned,
it doesn’t matter if one is a Democrat or a Republican, a full
investigation into the veracity of the Downing Street Memo must
be initiated immediately. Casey was not asked his political affiliation
before he was sent to die in Iraq. The innocent people who are having
their blood shed by the bucketsful in Iraq don’t even know
or care what American partisan politicking is all about. Every minute
that we waste in gathering signatures on petitions, or arguing about
partisan politics, more blood is being spilled in Iraq. How many
more families here in America are going to get the visit from the
Grim Reaper dressed in a US military uniform while we are trying
to get our Congressional Leadership to do their duties to the Constitution
and to the people of America? I believe that Congress expediently
abrogated their Constitutional responsibility to declare war when
they passed the War Power’s Act, and they bear at least some responsibility
for the needless heartache wrought on this world by our government.
I believe that supporting a full investigation into the Downing
Street Memo is a good beginning for Congress to redeem itself for
abandoning the Constitution and the American people.

There
are too many stories of heartache and loss to tell at a hearing
like this. I have brought testimonies of other families who have
been devastated by the war. Their soldiers’ names are: Sgt. Sherwood
Baker, KIA 04/26/04; 1st Lt. Neil Santoriello, KIA 08/13/04; Sgt
Mike Mitchell, KIA 04/04/04; Spc Casey Sheehan, also KIA 04/04/04;
Lt. Jeff Kaylor, KIA 04/07/03; Spc Kevin S.K. Wessell, KIA 04/19/05;
Spc. Jonathan Castro, KIA 12/21/04; PFC William Prichard, KIA 02/11/04;
Spc Joseph Blickenstaff, KIA 12/08/03, and 1st Lt Kenneth Ballard,
KIA 05/30/04. I would like to have the testimonies put into the
record and recorded for all to read the words of boundless love,
bottomless loss, and deep despair.

There
are a few people around the US and a couple of my fellow witnesses
who were a little justifiably worried that in my anger and anguish
over Casey’s premeditated death, I would use some swear words, as
I have been known to do on occasion when speaking about the subject.
Mr. Conyers, out of my deep respect for you, the other representatives
here, my fellow witnesses, and viewers of these historic proceedings,
I was able to make it through an entire testimony without using
any profanity. However, If anyone deserves to be angry and use profanity,
it is I. What happened to Casey and humanity because of the apparent
dearth of honesty in our country’s leadership is so profane that
it defies even my vocabulary skills. We as Americans should be offended
more by the profanity of the actions of this administration then
by swear words. We have all heard the old adage that actions speak
louder than words and for the sake of Casey and our other precious
children, please hold someone accountable for their actions and
their words of deception.

Again,
I would like to thank you for inviting me to testify today and giving
me a chance to tell my story, which is the tragic story of too many
familes here in the US and in Iraq. I hope and pray that this is
the first step in exposing the lies to the light and bringing justice
for the ones who can no longer speak for themselves. More importantly,
I hope this is a step in bringing our other children home from the
lie of historic proportions that is Iraq. Thank you.

A
video of this testimony is available
here
.

June
17, 2005

Cindy
Sheehan [send her mail] is
the mother of Spc.
Casey Austin Sheehan, KIA 04/04/04
She is co-founder of
Gold Star Families for Peace.
She is the author of Not
One More Mother’s Child
and Dear
President Bush
.

Cindy
Sheehan Archives

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