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Mother of slain soldier laments 'media circus'

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CRAWFORD, Texas - Bothered by what she laments as mounting "distractions," Cindy Sheehan sought on Monday to refocus her peace vigil near President Bush's ranch on her central anti-war message.

Since she "came out here and sat down on a lawn chair" 10 days ago, Sheehan said it's "got out of hand and just turned into a media circus."

For instance, she cited calls for the president's impeachment as "another distraction off of our original cause."

On Sunday, she faced reports that she was not paying her federal income taxes. "They killed my son in an illegal and immoral war," she told a reporter who asked, "and I don't feel like I owe them anything."

And she has been besieged not only by burgeoning numbers of her own supporters, with all sorts of agendas of their own, but also by counter-demonstrators over the weekend - and on Sunday by an angry neighbor who fired a shotgun into the air near her camp.

"The media attention has been fabulous," she said at news conference to introduce other military families opposing the war in Iraq. "We have finally gotten this war back on the front page and back in the headline news where it belongs."

Still, she said had stayed awake all night reviewing recent events and wished now to get back to the basics of her vigil - and her demand to meet with the president.

"I don't want to be distracted," she said. "Our message is to bring the troops home."

Sheehan lost her son, Army Spc. Casey Sheehan, in Iraq, last year, and has spent much of her time since crisscrossing the country, demanding that Bush withdraw U.S. forces there.

She and other families met with the president in Fort Lewis, Wash., a few months after her son died. But she had been demanding a second meeting to confront Bush on the war.

On Wednesday, supporters are planning candlelight vigils across the country. And on Friday, Sheehan is urging a worldwide moment of silence to honor the war dead, and hopes the president will attend a noon prayer service at the anti-war camp.

"He says he cares about the troops. We care about the troops," she said. "This is a way to show that we have something in common."

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino declined to say whether Bush, who's on vacation this week at his ranch, would attend.

The president, she noted, has said he sympathizes with Sheehan and shares her pain and that of others who have lost family and friends in Iraq.


(c) 2005, The Dallas Morning News. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.

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