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Showdown in Texas

Cindy Sheehan joins Countdown from her make-shift campsite in Crawford, Texas.  This mother who lost her son in Iraq has been following President Bush around, demanding to talk with him.
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As the war continues in Iraq, the number of U.S. troops who lost their lives, continue to grow.  Since, August 2, when the President left for a vacation on his Texas ranch, 38 troops have died in Iraq. While President Bush continues to highlight progress and possible exit strategy talks, some families of fallen troops want answers and want the war to stop.

One women, Cindy Sheehan is a Gold Star mother, a mother who lost a son in military service.  She‘s camped out near the President‘s ranch, demanding a meeting with him to ask him to bring home those troops who did not meet her son‘s fate.

Keith Olbermann, host of Countdown, speaks with Sheehan about the reasons why her grief turned to anger and what she plans to do about it.

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST, 'COUNTDOWN’:  At about the same time the President spoke to the media, the mother of Army Specialist Casey Sheehan, who died at Sadr City, Iraq, in April 2004, held a news conference of her own, joined by other families.  Cindy Sheehan pledged to stay camped outside that ranch for the duration of the president's August vacation, adding that if he does not talk with her there, she may to go Washington in September.

And while the President did not talk with her directly today, he did finally address her presence and her purpose.  You heard what the President said today at his news conference.  What's your response to that?

CINDY SHEEHAN, GOLD STAR MOTHER:  I don't want the President's sympathy.  You know, I want to talk to him, and I want answers to my questions.  And I want him to tell me the noble cause that my son died for.  And I want him to stop using my son's name and the name of the other lost loved ones and Gold Star Families for Peace.  We want him to stop using our children's name to justify the continued killing.

OLBERMANN:  As I mentioned earlier, as is well known here, you spoke with Mr. Bush last year, and your comments to your local newspaper in California about that meeting have made the rounds anew on the Internet this week, how you had said that you had felt he was sincere about wanting freedom for the Iraqis, that he had felt obviously some pain for your loss.

Two questions about those quotes, first being, your critics say they suggest that you have changed your stance on the war, on Mr. Bush, in the interim.  Is that true, or is it false?

SHEEHAN:  No, it's false.  If they had read the whole article, or talked about the whole article, it would have shown that I was already having serious misgivings about the mission that keeps on changing all the time.

And the other day, I wonder if they blogged about this.  My hometown newspaper said Cindy Sheehan has not changed her position.  It's just become clarified and it's become more focused, and her mission has become more important to her.

OLBERMANN:  Second question about the meeting in June of last year.  What could you say to President Bush now that you could not have said to him then?  Or why didn't you say then what you want to say now?

SHEEHAN:  Good question.  June of 2004 is a lot different than August of 2005.  For one thing, in June of 2004, I had buried my son nine weeks before the meeting.  I was a woman in a deep state of shock, in a deep state of grief.  And you know what?  I am still in a deep state of grief.  And thanks to George Bush, I will be in a deep state of grief for the rest of my life.

But I'm not in shock anymore.  The Duelfer weapons of mass destruction report came out, the 9/11 commission report came out, the Downing Street memos came out, the Senate Intelligence Committee report came out.  These have all come out since my son was killed.  They show categorically that my son, his murder was premeditated, that there was no reason to invade Iraq.

And that's what I want the answers to today, in August of 2005.

OLBERMANN:  Another part of this story that has developed in terms of the criticism and this political flashpoint that has developed around you, that seems so reminiscent of a lot of protests.  I kept thinking about your camp there, and it sort of being a parallel world to that, the whole Terri Schiavo protest situation that just became a Mideast phenomenon.

There is an e-mail that purports to be from members of your family that denounces your presence there in Crawford.  It was sent to a right-wing Web site.  Is there any truth in it?  Are there members of your family who are upset with what you're doing there?

SHEEHAN:  There's members of my—they're my in-laws.  And we have always been politically on the opposite sides of the fence.  And we always kind of did it good-naturedly.  You know, my father-in-law would call me Meathead and I would call him Archie, and we would just fight about politics all the time.

But you know what?  When they supported George Bush in November, and when they voted for the man who I consider killed their grandson, that's when—that was it.  That, to me, was a betrayal of Casey, and it hurt me so deeply.  I haven't spoken to them since.

And our family, Casey's dad and my other three children, are 100 percent behind me and agree with me philosophically about what's going on.  I just talked to my husband, and he said, he said, Cindy, you know I've always supported you philosophically.  I know George Bush did the wrong thing, and I had nothing to do with what my sister wrote.

OLBERMANN:  The nature of the media coverage you're getting now, the response from other families of soldiers killed in Iraq, all of that, from the perspective of your protest there, in a way, isn't it really better if President Bush doesn't meet with you?

SHEEHAN:  I would think so, yes.  I think it's great.  And if he would come out right now, it would really defuse the momentum, and I don't want to give them any hints.  And I think that's something they've probably already thought about.

But, you know, but we're here.  We're committed.  We're staying the whole month of August, and then we're moving to Washington, D.C.  And we're going to have a 24-hour vigil on his front lawn to keep the pressure on.  The pressure is there.  Sixty-two percent of Americans want our troops home.  And this is giving them a voice to stand up and be counted and say, You know, we want our country back, and we want our troops home.