URBANA – Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan condemned Republicans and Democrats alike Thursday for what she considers a moral failure in Iraq.
Saying the U.S. is a one-party system, the activist who became known for her sit-in at President Bush's ranch in Texas, said dissent is not only allowed, but mandatory in this country.
"Our government should be undermined!' she answered a heckler who questioned her patriotism. "But let's do it peacefully, before it ends in armed violence."
A founding member of Gold Star Families for Peace, Sheehan is the author of "Not One More Mother's Child." She became an activist when her son, Army Spc. Casey A. Sheehan, was killed in action in Iraq.
Before that, she told a large lecture room in the University of Illinois' Natural History Building, she was against the war but not motivated to do much about it.
Sheehan said the anti-war movement had lost steam after the U.S. commenced war in Iraq. About 70 percent of Americans are for withdrawal from Iraq, she said.
"I don't see 70 percent out on the streets," she said. If just 1 percent of those against the war were to demonstrate publicly, she said, the political system could change.
One difference between the peace movements of the Vietnam era and those of now, she said, is that students no longer face a military draft.
Sheehan said the media are "complicit" in distorting news about the Middle East.
The Democrats are generally no better than the Republicans in Sheehan's eyes. She said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is "an investor" in the companies profiting from war spending.
As for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Sheehan was derisive.
"You're admitting George Bush fooled you? That doesn't inspire a lot of confidence in me," she said of Clinton.
Sheehan said she had been recently approached by the Green Party to run for office.
Her harshest words were reserved for the Bush administration.
She said most of the higher-ups in his administration belong in prison – for life.
"And not one of the most fancy ones, either," she added.
She called the president stupid, "a vampire you can't kill" and a war criminal who should be impeached.
"If George Bush hasn't committed high crimes and misdemeanors, I don't know who has," she said.
The great majority of the crowd was friendly to Sheehan's message, including Timothy Grider, whose T-shirt read "More Blood! More Bush!"
The most vociferous opponent was Mark Thompson, owner of Slot N Wings Hobbies, who held up Sheehan's speech for several minutes, accusing her of profiteering from her son's death by selling her book and of being unpatriotic.
Sheehan accused Thompson of serving the interests of the right wing and Fox News to undermine her cause by attacking her personally.
"The only weapon they have is lies," she said.