With Cindy Sheehan's protest outside of President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, in its ninth day on Monday, Hardball's Chris Matthews talked with the California mother who lost a son in Iraq and is demanding to meet with President Bush.
To read an excerpt of their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: What's the latest ... I know it is a tragic situation. Let me ask you, are you asking now for a meeting with the president? Or some other kind of occasion?
CINDY SHEEHAN: We're still asking for the meeting with the president to discuss my concerns that I've brought up. But also, we're having a worldwide moment of silent prayer on Friday at noon for those soldiers who are still in Iraq and their families and for the people who have been killed and for their families. And we've invited our neighbors to join us. And George Bush is one of our neighbors so we've invited him to join us. He says he cares about the troops and we care about the troops. Maybe that's something we can find common ground on to begin our discussion. ...
MATTHEWS: This is serious business. The purpose of your vigil is to get an answer from the president. It is not to demonstrate against the war, right? It is to get an answer from the president. ... Is the purpose of your visit to demonstrate against war or to get the president to say something he hasn't said so far?
SHEEHAN: It is actually to hold him accountable for things he has already said, Chris. Last week, it wasn't last week. The week before when I started this, 14 marines had been killed from the same unit in the same incident. And that not will only broke my heart. Every day is a new sense of tearing my heart out of my body again, when I see other children who have been killed and I know what their families are going through. That broke my heart.
And that angered me and it also made me kind of feel like a failure because I've been working for months to bring the truth to the American people, to wake them up to the fact that this is a war based on lies and to try to put pressure on the government to bring our troops home. In fact, I've been on your show before, a couple months ago ... I have been doing this. I just didn't climb out of the woodwork last Saturday and start this odyssey.
But when he was speaking about the terrible loss of life that day, and we had 30 troops killed in the first five days of August, which was heart breaking and tragic for the families and to their communities, but he came out and he said they died for a noble cause. And you know, Chris, I never have believed that a war of aggression against a country that posed no threat to the United States of America is a noble cause. So I want to ask him what the noble cause is.
And I also know that if he believes it is such a noble cause, what we're doing over in Iraq, which he hasn't defined that really clearly, and like my sister says, it changes all the time. If you believe it is a noble cause, does he encourage his daughters to go and fight? We know there are soldiers there who are in their third tour of duty that don't want to be there and they want to come home. And we know there are soldiers who have been in the military for eight years and they're stop loss and held hostage over there and they want to come home.
So if people believe this is a noble cause, then they should be willing to put their own skin in the game. And there are so many people who say yes, we're fighting over there for a noble cause but they are not willing to sacrifice their own lives or their own children's lives for this. And I don't think they should myself, you know.
And the other thing he always says is that we have to honor the sacrifices of the fallen by completing the mission. Well, Chris, I had my heart and soul ripped out on April 4th, 2004. As a mother, why would I want any other mother to suffer the way I am? Why would I want one more of our dear children to be killed for this mistake, for the lives in Iraq? And those are the answers I want from the president.
MATTHEWS: Can I ask you a tough question? A very tough question.
MATTHEWS: All right. If your son had been killed in Afghanistan, would you have a different feeling?
SHEEHAN: I don't think so, Chris, because I believe that Afghanistan is almost the same thing. We're fighting terrorism. Or terrorists, we're saying. But they're not contained in a country. This is an ideology and not an enemy. And we know that Iraq, Iraq had no terrorism. They were no threat to the United States of America.
Video: Another perspective MATTHEWS: But Afghanistan was harboring, the Taliban was harboring al-Qaida which is the group that attacked us on 9/11.
SHEEHAN: Well then we should have gone after al-Qaida and maybe not after the country of Afghanistan.
MATTHEWS: But that's where they were being harbored. That's where they were headquartered. Shouldn't we go after their headquarters? Doesn't that make sense?
SHEEHAN: Well, but there were a lot of innocent people killed in that invasion, too. ... But I'm seeing that we're sending our ground troops in to invade countries where the entire country wasn't the problem. Especially Iraq. Iraq was no problem. And why do we send in invading armies to march into Afghanistan when we're looking for a select group of people in that country?
So I believe that our troops should be brought home out of both places where we're obviously not having any success in Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden is still on the loose and that's who they told us was responsible for 9/11.
MATTHEWS: The reason I ask that because a lot of Americans believe going to Afghanistan made since because we were doing what the president said he would do that very day. A couple days after 9/11. He said I'm going to get the people that attacked these buildings. And he went over and got them. And that was where America was so united. Whereas Iraq has caused a deep division. Let me give you a statement that seems to show some division in your family. One of your relatives has given this statement to a conservative radio commentary for distribution.
"The Sheehan Family lost our beloved Casey in the Iraq War and we have been silently, respectfully grieving. We do not agree with the political motivations and publicity tactics of Cindy Sheehan. She now appears to be promoting her own personal agenda and notoriety at the expense of her son's good name and reputation. The rest of the Sheehan Family supports our troops, our country, and our president, silently, with prayer and respect. Sincerely, Casey Sheehan's grandparents, aunts, uncles and numerous cousins."
So it seems like you have a division in your family.
SHEEHAN: Those are on my husband's side of the family. And we've always been politically on different sides of the fence. I have always been a Democrat and they have always been Republicans, so we've always had a good-natured kind of debate within that family. But you know what, we support the troops. How can they say by what I'm doing I don't support the troops?
The troops are over there for a mistake and not one of them, not one drop of blood should have been spilled in Iraq. Why are they still over there? Why are they still dying and why are the Iraqi people still dying? Because it is a mistake. And it was based on deceptions.
And another thing about that side of the family, they barely knew Casey. They barely had a relationship with him. They call him their beloved Casey. He was my hero, Chris, before he was killed. I knew him so well.
MATTHEWS: Were your husband's parents and grandparents on your side close to Casey?
SHEEHAN: Out of all those people who signed the letters, they know him the most but they didn't really keep up a relationship with him either. ...
MATTHEWS: Why are they going to war with you in public? Why are they issuing a statement for national release through a conservative radio talk show host? ... Why would they put out a statement that goes in the face of what you're doing in your camp?
SHEEHAN: You know, like I've said, we've always been on different sides of the fence politically. And my sister was Casey's second mom. And she is standing here next to me in solidarity and agreement with me.
MATTHEWS: ... Let me ask you about your situation. Cindy, this is a tricky situation. Every time a family has a tragedy and the loss of a son, your oldest, must be unimaginable.
Sometimes husbands and wives grieve in very different ways and it often leads to separation and divorce. Is that what has happened between and you your husband? Or is this a partisan fight that we're seeing in the open that's behind us? The separation and divorce of you and your husband?
SHEEHAN: My husband has always agreed with me philosophically. And he only disagreed with the intensity that I put into the fight. But I am compelled to do this. And other than that, that's as far as I'm going to talk about my family's -- another personal tragedy due to this war.
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