OAKDALE, Minn. – Former FBI whistleblower Coleen Rowley (search), along with a state senator whose son died in Iraq, are headed to Texas this week to join a growing anti-war demonstration near President Bush's ranch.
Rowley, now a Democratic candidate for Congress, and Sen. Becky Lourey will join a protest initiated by Cindy Sheehan (search), whose son Casey died in Iraq last year. Sheehan started the vigil Aug. 6, coinciding with Bush's summer vacation. She has said she won't leave until the president meets with her.
Rowley said Tuesday that she and Lourey would leave Thursday and stay at least through Sunday, sleeping in a tent at the site. They are paying their own way, she said.
Lourey's son, Matt Lourey (search), died May 26 when the Army helicopter he was piloting was shot down. A Democrat from northern Minnesota, Lourey was a consistent critic of the Iraq war — she authored a state Senate petition against it in 2003 — but was also supportive of her son's military career.
"Our children are dying and I think it's time to go support Cindy and see if Bush will come out and we can say, 'President Bush, what is the mission exactly?' Truth has been shifting all around and I think we need to rejoin the world community and not occupy another nation," Lourey said.
"But mostly we're just going to support Cindy," said Lourey, a Democratic candidate for governor in 2002.
Rowley, a former special agent in the FBI's Minneapolis office, gained fame in 2002 for her criticism of FBI leadership. She said officials failed to act on information that cast suspicion on some Sept. 11 hijackers in the months before they carried out their attacks, and was later named one of Time magazine's people of the year for her efforts.
Now challenging incumbent U.S. Rep. John Kline (search), a Republican, Rowley has emerged as a harsh critic of the war in Iraq.
"It puts a human face on this issue," said Rowley, who mentioned the trip briefly in a campaign appearance here and then elaborated afterward in an interview with The Associated Press. "Many people, if they don't have a personal connection to the troops, it's so easy for this to become a discussion that lacks seriousness and urgency. I think it's good to show that there are real people that are being affected."
Rowley met Sheehan earlier this month at a Veterans for Peace convention in Dallas, where both women spoke. At that meeting, Sheehan shared her plans to stake out Bush's ranch.
A few days later, Rowley said, she called Lourey — whom she'd never met — and suggested a trip to Crawford to lend support to Sheehan. Rowley said Lourey had already considered making the trip.
Rowley said she wants to "stay in the background" and offer moral support to Lourey, especially since the vigil has drawn critics and counter-demonstrations in recent days.
"You have to have compassion for folks like Becky Lourey and Cindy Sheehan, who have lost sons in the war," said Bill Walsh, executive director of the Minnesota Republican Party. "I don't need to question their motives, but I don't think you should question the president's motives either. He's fully aware of the ramifications of sending people's children into battle, but he has to balance that with the question of how do we best address the serious problems facing our world."
Walsh was less kind to Rowley.
"You can't ignore the fact that Coleen Rowley is running for Congress right now," he said. "That has to be part of this equation."
Rowley said her opposition to the Iraq war stems from a conviction that it has actually incited more terrorism around the world while purporting to fight it.
"This is not the right path," she said.