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Protesters Follow Vacationing Bush

Times Staff Writer

The peace movement has returned to this tiny town near President Bush’s vacation home, where thousands gathered last year to support activist Cindy Sheehan in her protest of the Iraq war.

Sheehan, whose son was killed in Iraq in 2004, came back to Crawford on Sunday -- the same day that Arabs and Muslims from across Texas gathered at the Crawford Peace House, the modest headquarters for antiwar activity here, to protest the violence and the civilian death toll in Lebanon.

Sheehan defended her decision to use a third party to buy 5 acres of land near Bush’s ranch to conceal her identity. She paid for the property with insurance money she received from the government after her son, Army Spc. Casey Sheehan, was killed.

“I know that they wouldn’t have sold property to me,” said Sheehan, whose return to Crawford was timed to coincide with Bush’s vacation. The land will be used as a gathering place for antiwar demonstrators.

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Supporters raised a large tepee Sunday and flew a rainbow flag. Small white wooden crosses were planted in an open area under a sign -- “For What Noble Cause?” -- that listed the numbers of Americans killed and wounded in Iraq.

Sheehan first came to Crawford last summer after attending a peace rally in Dallas. Two senior White House officials met with her on the day she arrived, but she vowed to remain until she got a face-to-face session with the president. She ended up spending almost a month camping on the side of a road near Bush’s ranch and on a nearby lot owned by a sympathizer.

White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said Friday that there were “no plans” for White House staffers to meet with her this year.

Speakers at the Crawford Peace House rally warned of increasing Arab and Muslim anger about U.S. policies in the Middle East and the widespread perception that the United States was biased in favor of Israel.

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Edward Peck, a retired diplomat who served as chief of the U.S. mission in Baghdad during the Carter administration, warned of the risks that such a perception would pose if the U.S. were to get more deeply involved in the region.

He contended that some administration officials were urging the United States to go to war against Iran and Syria because of those countries’ support for the Shiite Muslim militants of Hezbollah.

“To the extent that that is true, we should bear in mind the consequences of backing Israel, which is doing some awfully nasty things to the Lebanese,” Peck told a crowd of about 100. “There are people who might wish to return the favor who will be coming after us. It’s not because we have freedom -- that’s not why they hate us. They are unhappy with us because of the policies of this administration.”

One speaker, Samah Elhajibrahim, a legal permanent U.S. resident from Dallas, recounted her harrowing escape from Lebanon, where she was visiting her family.


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