White House aides talk to angry mother of dead soldier near Bush ranch

But Calif. woman is denied meeting with president

August 07, 2005|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

CRAWFORD, Texas - Two senior White House aides met here yesterday with the angry mother of a fallen U.S. soldier, but they rejected Cindy Sheehan's demand for a direct accounting from President Bush for the way he has conducted the war in Iraq.

The surprise meeting, which lasted about 45 minutes, took place on a roadside several miles from the president's ranch, where federal and local law enforcement officials had halted Sheehan's advance toward the 1,600-acre estate. Bush is spending much of August on vacation at the ranch.

Sheehan, a 48-year-old Vacaville, Calif., woman, was accompanied by more than 50 placard-wielding anti-war activists. After police and Secret Service agents halted their march on a country lane, Sheehan and a half-dozen die-hard supporters stayed put while others turned back, trudging slowly down Prairie Chapel Road under the hot Central Texas sun.

In a telephone interview after her conversation with national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley and White House deputy chief of staff Joe Hagin, Sheehan said she would remain in Crawford and continue to seek a meeting with Bush. "I didn't change my mind at all," she said.

"They said the president really believed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction," Sheehan added. "And I told them: `I might be a grieving mom, but you men are very intelligent, and I know you don't believe what you're telling me.'"

Hadley and Hagin said they would relay her sentiments to the president, according to Sheehan.

Bush has met privately around the country with numerous family members of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, but not with relatives who are overtly against the war.

Sheehan's son, Casey, 24, was killed in the Sadr City section of Baghdad on April 4 last year. Afterward, she co-founded Gold Star Families for Peace, an organization of people who have lost loved ones in Iraq or who oppose the war. Previously, Sheehan was turned away while trying to protest the war at the Pentagon.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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