Hurricane Cindy

By Dan Froomkin
Special to
Wednesday, August 17, 2005; 11:57 AM

Hurricane Cindy is gaining strength in Texas.

Cindy Sheehan, the California woman whose son was killed in Iraq last year, continues her not-so-lonely anti-war vigil outside President Bush's Crawford home, the focus of an ever-increasing amount of media attention and speculation about the long-term political effects of her crusade.

Undeterred by a truck-driving local who mowed down hundreds of small white crosses erected by her supporters, Sheehan is about to move her operations off the roadside and onto the property of a Bush neighbor and supporter who, ironically, is a distant cousin of the man who fired a shotgun across the road from her encampment on Sunday.

Elisabeth Bumiller writes in the New York Times: "Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq who has set up a vigil near President Bush's ranch, said Tuesday that she was 'very disturbed' that a local resident had mowed down hundreds of small crosses bearing the names of other dead American soldiers, and that her now 10-day protest was 'only the beginning' of what she described as a growing national movement to bring all American men and women home from the war."

Angela K. Brown writes for the Associated Press: "One of President Bush's neighbors will allow use of his land by dozens of war protesters who have camped in roadside ditches the past 11 days, giving them more room and halving their distance from Bush's ranch.

"Demonstrators said Fred Mattlage made the offer because he sympathizes with them. The protesters' makeshift camp off a winding, two-lane road leading to Bush's ranch has agitated other residents, who complained of traffic jams and blocked roads. . . .

"A distant cousin who owns nearby land, Larry Mattlage, fired a shotgun twice into the air Sunday but no one was injured."

Ronald Brownstein writes in the Los Angeles Times that "until now, no individual or institution had emerged as a rallying point for those disaffected by the war. Sheehan appears to be filling that void -- providing the presence that many on the left have sought."

He writes that Sheehan's vigil "could scramble the politics of the war. . . .

"Antiwar activists, largely inactive since the 2004 election, are organizing around Sheehan's protest: Tonight, the MoveOn PAC and two other liberal groups plan to sponsor about 1,000 candlelight vigils around the country to support her.

"For Bush, a reinvigorated protest movement presents obvious dangers as he struggles to bolster flagging public support for the mission in Iraq. But such a challenge could present opportunities for the White House.

"If a revived antiwar movement promotes alternative policies that the public resists -- such as the immediate withdrawal of all American troops, which Sheehan favors -- Bush could garner support for his course, some analysts say."

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