In an emotional and heartfelt ceremony followed by the playing of taps, Veterans for Peace unveiled a graphic, oversized “Iraq War Memorial Wall” next to the Vietnam War Memorial at the California State Capitol on March 21.
The “wall,” the brainchild of Pat Driscoll, founder of the Sacramento chapter of the organization, commemorates the thousands of lives lost and tens of thousands injured in the Iraq War. This wall and ceremony is the first of its kind in the country, although other Veterans for Peace (VFP) chapters have done different events exposing the cost of Bush’s war, including displays of empty boots and white crosses representing the U.S. military dead.
Driscoll’s display, made of poster-board panels in black wooden frames, features the names–and photos where available–of service men and women who have died in Iraq. On the day of the unveiling, 582 U.S. soldiers had already died there.
Also listed are the U.S. military wounded, 3,300, the estimated injured, 7,000 to 10,000, and U.S. military suicides in Iraq, 21. The “wall” also lists Iraqi civilian deaths as 8,769 to 10,618 and civilian injured as 43,500 to 53,090.
Missing from the display–because of lack of good data -was an estimate of Iraq military deaths. However, Driscoll said his best estimate of the number of military dead was around 10,000.
“It’s a sad day that reminds me of my own service during the Vietnam War–and the lies that war was built upon,” said Driscoll at the brief ceremony attended by over 40 members of VFP and supporters. “The Iraq War was also based on lies. Truth is the first casualty of war and the way we best honor the sacrifice of the troops is by honoring the truth.”
Driscoll said the Iraq Memorial Wall, after being displayed at the capitol, will be brought to other cities and towns in the Central Valley and the Sierra Nevada foothills.
“The wall shows the true cost of war,” said Driscoll. “As veterans, we commit ourself to the truth and doing something about it. When it’s time to vote, remember to cross the line between war and peace over to the side of peace.”
Dennis Christine, another member of VFP who left the Air National Guard last year after 20 years of service, pointed out how there was a huge influx of young people into the military after the 9-11 attacks. “In my unit, many people signed up for the best intentions,” she explained. “Now they’re being used in an unjust war that is stirring up the forces that attacked the U.S. in the first place. The Bush administration policy in Iraq is symptomatic of a foreign policy that for a long time has given rise to terrorism.”
Christine and Driscoll, both of whom actively oppose U.S. intervention in Iraq, said that the war amounts to an effort to take the natural resources (oil) out of the country on the “pretext of getting a bad guy out of power.” She noted that there are “at least a dozen tin pot dictators oppressing and murdering their people in countries throughout the world,” but the Bush administration does not appear to be worried about them.
George Main, president of the VFP chapter, said the cost of the Iraq War is even higher when you consider the 7 G.I.s who committed suicide after coming back to the U.S. from the Iraq war. In addition, 478 were shipped back to the states as “Section 8”–mentally ill cases.
“They are basically damaged goods and receive no support from the Bush administration when they return,” Main said.
Driscoll noted that it took 13 years from the end of the Vietnam War for a veterans memorial to rise in Capitol Park, but it only took one year since the latest U.S. invasion of Iraq for a group to display a memorial in the park. Referring to the demonstrations held throughout the world on the previous day and over the past year, Driscoll said, “It’s great to see this much resistance throughout the world in one year.”
Driscoll, Christine and Main represent the true patriots in our country–veterans and their supporters who have the courage to stand up to the Bush military machine. I greatly encourage everybody to spread the word about this unique memorial wall and to request that it be displayed in their community!
For more information about the Veterans for Peace, Sacramento Chapter, call (916) 320-6430 or (916) 996-9170.
DAN BACHER can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org