Sydney Morning Herald -- Tuesday August 23 2005Joan Baez offers ode to war dead at ranch vigil
Peace activist and singer Joan Baez gestures while meeting with families Sunday at Cindy Sheehan's camp near in Crawford, Texas. Photo: LM Otero/AP
Crawford, Texas: Folk singer Joan Baez, a leading figure of the 1960s counter-culture and peace movement, was given a rousing reception just over a kilometre from the Western White House.
Even before she sung a note in her concert in support of grieving mother Cindy Sheehan, Baez received a standing ovation from the 500-strong audience.
"Sit down. Y'all sit down," Baez told the crowd. "I'd say thank you for inviting me, but I already had my plane ticket."
As the sun set on the Texas prairie on Sunday, Baez sang a variety of folk songs, including Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream, the African spiritual Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, and Song of Peace, patterned after the Finnish national anthem.
Earlier, Baez spoke to reporters and to parents whose children were killed in the Iraq war. Baez said she came to Crawford to support Mrs Sheehan's cause and to comfort other military parents grieving for their fallen children.
Baez is forever linked to her activism against the Vietnam War in the 1960s. Through the decades, she has lent her voice against aggression and militarism.
Mrs Sheehan's vigil is now in its third week. She has vowed to camp on a roadside near President George Bush's ranch until the end of this month until he agrees to meet her to discuss why her son died in the Iraq war. She also plans to ask Mr Bush for an immediate military withdrawal.
Baez held her concert under a giant tent dubbed Camp Casey 2, named in honour of Mrs Sheehan's dead son, Casey.
Also on Sunday, the leading Republican senator and prospective presidential candidate Chuck Hagel said the war in Iraq had destabilised the Middle East and was looking more like the Vietnam conflict from a generation ago.
"We should start figuring out how we get out of there," Senator Hagel told the American ABC television network. "But with this understanding: we cannot leave a vacuum that further destabilises the Middle East."