There’s a protest movement afoot in Crawford, Texas and it’s growing larger with each passing day.
No, I don’t mean that one.
Just across the street from Cindy Sheehan’s “Camp Casey,” a relatively small but significant group calling themselves “Camp Reality” have organized to voice their support for President Bush and the liberation of Iraq. And the anchor of this movement is one 18-year-old woman named Bethany Berry.
Bethany’s father John Berry is a chaplain with the U.S. Army Reserves currently serving in Iraq. He’s been in and out of active military duty since 1972. Before being shipped to Iraq, John served as the Methodist preacher in Crawford. Bethany told National Review Online Tuesday about a life of migrating from one small Texas town to another in accordance with her father’s service. She’s lived in Crawford for about two years and didn’t hesitate to add her name to the counter-protest movement. “I’m just here supporting my president and my Dad,” Berry said.
Berry is doing more than supporting her father. She has become a symbol to those voicing their support for President Bush. Fellow “Reality” camper Jeanie Cosper tells NRO, “She keeps us older people going. She’s very proud of her father as she should be. Some days we’d rather not be out here. We all have jobs and families. But on days when we might not, she’s our motivation to come out here.” As one of the many signs on the site reads, “Camp Reality: And yes sometimes it bites.”
Still, when I turn my attention back to Berry, she is quick to point the direction of praise outward, “We have a Palestinian man down here supporting the president. He is driving to Dallas and back to bring us a generator so we can have power and maybe a fan or something to cool off. He says that despite what you see and hear in the media his people want to be free and they want the U.S. in Iraq. They realize by us being there we are providing security and helping improve everyone’s lives. We also have a 9/11 survivor who has been visiting the site. These are the stories you’re not hearing about everyday.”
Berry’s father has shared firsthand accounts of American troops providing irrigation services to Iraqis and building water wells where some villages typically went without. He’s seen U.S. forces building schools, homes and helping to install the foundation for a new democratic society.
Bethany’s support for her father and President Bush is not going unnoticed. When I first spoke with her, two administration officials from the “Western White House” stopped by to thank Berry. They offered to bring back food and refreshments for Berry and anyone else on the scene.
Walking around “Camp Reality” it’s not hard to find other compelling stories. Former Marine Steve Silvas is on hand contributing his support. Silvas’s brother Sandy has been serving in Iraq since around Thanksgiving. Sgt. First Class Sandy Silvas is an engineer who has served in the U.S. military for about 15 years. He currently commands 80 fellow soldiers in his company where “morale is high.” Steve tells NRO that he wasn’t sure at first about coming out to support President Bush and his brother.
“I was worried about giving his name. The terrorists in Iraq can find that stuff out and can find out where he is. I didn’t want to put him in any greater danger than he already is. So, I e-mailed him about it and he said, ‘Just make sure they spell my name right.’”
Another Bush supporter is Mary Hitt, whose son Sgt. Andrew Kaul served in Iraq before returning to Ft. Hood with his company in March. Kaul saw action in the battles of Fallujah, Najef and spent time in Baghdad as well. Hitt tells NRO Kaul is, “Very supportive of our president.”
What about those anti-Bush protesters on the literal and figurative other side of the street? Berry says the majority is respectful and has mostly ignored those at “Camp Reality.” However, there have been exceptions. “One of them came up to me and started taking pictures,” Berry says. “It kind of made me uncomfortable, but that’s their right. But the next day a group of them came up to me and said those pictures had been posted on the Internet and the protesters were making fun of my picture. It kind of shocked me. I almost wanted to throw up.”
Nonetheless, Berry says she doesn’t object to the protesters getting their voice out. “You can have whatever opinions you want. But when arrogance takes over, that’s when democracy starts to breakdown.” And by Berry’s account, she’s seen no shortage of that emotion from the attendants of “Camp Casey.”
As I was listening to the accounts of those at “Camp Reality” legendary folk singer Joan Baez approached us with a documentary camera crew and several supporters in tow. A few of Baez’s followers bore menacing grins on their faces as they approached. “Those people know they aren’t supposed to be here,” Berry said. Apparently, they had appeared the previous day screaming at Berry. Baez obliged Berry’s request and kept her followers at bay.
To her credit, Joan Baez and her camerawoman were respectful of those at “Camp Reality.” After filming the interview they even provided a release form and agreed on the record to not alter the documentary footage.
Back when the United States withdrew forces from Vietnam Baez received much criticism from her colleagues on the left for stating a vital truth: Even though the war in Vietnam was “over” from the U.S. point of view, thousands of innocent Vietnamese were still being murdered by the communist regime. So, I asked Baez if she’s concerned a similar situation would transpire were U.S. forces to withdraw from Iraq. Baez told NRO, “As Gandhi once said, yes there will be chaos, but it will be our chaos. Yes, there will be massive chaos, but nothing is going to stop the massive chaos. That’s my answer.”
I then asked Baez what she thinks the U.S. and international community could do to ensure a peaceful transition if and when the U.S. leaves Iraq:
“We’ve just made ourselves so loathsome that whatever happens I think will be better. We have antagonized the world so much. I mean, I travel a lot. When I’m in places like Italy I memorize the Italian translation and I say, ‘I ask for your forgiveness for what my president is doing to the world. And they stand, they get up and give a standing ovation, because someone finally does get it. That’s how they see it. Granted, that is my public. But that public is pretty broad.”
Meanwhile, back at “Camp Reality” the cause continues. If someone were to take a snapshot of the scene, it might appear the Bush protesters greatly outnumber his supporters. However, if one spends some time on the scene they will see a different reality. In the hours I’ve spent visiting “Camp Reality” roughly 9 out of every 10 cars that drive by are in support of the president. Most slow down just long enough to voice their support, give thanks and then drive on. Others stick around longer. Hundreds have passed through the site in the past two days alone. One group parked their truck and played the Rush Limbaugh show on their car stereo to the dismay of those across the street.
But the real star of the show is Bethany Berry. She’s one 18-year-old with an abundance of courage that has already logged several days of support, sometimes sitting in for hours on end as the only “Camp Reality” attendee. Just across the street, a group of more than 100 protesters await. Most tend to their own cause, but there are plenty who have come looking for a fight.
Berry won’t be alone for long, though. A “You Don’t Speak for Me, Cindy” tour is traveling across the country with Bush supporters and plans to arrive in Crawford for a large pro-Bush rally on Saturday, August 27. Until then, one determined young woman and a growing group of supporters are doing their part to make a difference.
–Eric Pfeiffer writes the daily political “Buzz” column on NRO.