By EDWARD EPSTEIN
San Francisco Chronicle
September 22, 2005
Sheehan, whose protest in Crawford, Texas, became an August media sensation that lasted until Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast on Aug. 29, pulled into town Wednesday in one of three 41-foot recreational vehicles that were part of a 51-city, 28-state tour that began just as the storm hit.
Standing a few hundred feet from the Capitol's west front, Sheehan said she was convinced those demanding a withdrawal from Iraq have gained momentum.
"This is where we will force change on America. We the people are the checks and balances on this government," she said, flanked by relatives of other service personnel who, like her son Casey, have been killed in Iraq or are now serving in that war zone.
"We're going to show this administration. We're going to show you, the media, and we're going to show Congress that we mean business. ... We're not going anywhere," she said.
Organizers expect tens of thousands of marchers Saturday for a protest that will start on the Ellipse south of the White House and end up on the Washington Monument grounds, where there will be speeches and 12 hours of music. Bush is scheduled to be out of town, perhaps on a post-Katrina trip to Alabama, Arkansas and Texas, although those plans might change because of approaching Hurricane Rita.
On Sunday in Washington, march organizers plan an interfaith service followed by a day of lobbying Congress on Monday to urge more members to join the ranks of those calling for a troop withdrawal from Iraq.
Backers of the Bush administration's policy in Iraq plan their own "Support the Troops and Their Mission Weekend" in Washington that will be highlighted by a Sunday march. Organizers say they expect 10,000 to 20,000 participants. One of the sponsoring groups, Move America Forward, started its own bus tour in San Francisco on Monday and plans for the tour participants, who include families of troops who have served and died or been wounded in Iraq, to arrive in the capital by Sunday.
Some of the families who participated in the wide-ranging anti-war RV tour said they considered the experience their duty.
"I am so guilty because I recommended that my three youngest sons join the Army," said Phil Waste, a former Oregonian who now lives in Shellman Bluff, Ga. He and his wife, Linda, have three sons, a grandson and a granddaughter who have served in Iraq for a total of 58 months. More deployments might be in store.
He called on Congress to cut off money for the war in Iraq. "They may have had faulty information when they voted for this war, but they don't now," said Waste, referring to intelligence that Saddam Hussein had stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons and a nuclear weapons program, all of which has been discredited.
"They can change their minds and stop appropriations for this war," he said.
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