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 Shiite 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, Im not going to waste it. Im going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and Im 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 wont 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 doesnt 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 dont 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