Sunday from sunrise to sunset, a temporary memorial appears next to the world-famous pier at Santa Monica, California. This memorial, known as Arlington West, a project of Veterans For Peace, offers visitors a graceful, visually and emotionally powerful, place for reflection.
Arlington West Mission Statement
In accordance with the Veterans For Peace Statement of Purpose, the Arlington West Mission Statement is to remember
the fallen and wounded to
provide a place to grieve to
the human cost of war to
encourage dialogue among people with varied points of view to educate the public about the needs of those returning from war.
Visiting Arlington West
To take in the full expanse of crosses, one stands breathless at the enormity of what one sees. Each cross, carefully positioned in the sand with a uniformity appropriate a memorial for this purpose, represents all American military personnel who've lost their lives in the US war and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Upon deeper reflection, Arlington West also powerfully represents the path our country has embarked upon.
When one visits the Arlington West Memorial at Santa Monica, one will see mementos placed on some of the crosses, many with fresh cut flowers. Arlington West also represents those who've lost their loved one or close friend.
In celebration of their lives, family and close friends of the fallen write their own heartfelt words and dedicate these to their loved one. A gold star is placed by us on dedications made by those who are family. Those dedications made by a friend or those who served along side an individual, will have a silver star placed on their dedication.
Veterans For Peace and dedicated volunteers of Arlington West are careful stewards of these dedications and currently maintain an archive of over 1600 such mementos. Mementos are added to those that may already have an existing dedication made to an individual. We also maintain a log of these dedications, making it easier to see if an individual has ever been visited before.
A Sea of Crosses
As one stands looking out over the sea of crosses, one will notice a swath of red crosses standing among the white ones. As the numbers of American lives lost increases daily, one red cross is representative of 10 military personnel each.
For those who've lost their lives within the week past are flag draped coffins with blue crosses positioned in front of each of these. The cross was chosen for its simplicity, not for its religious connotation.
The “wall” of names has been replaced with pillars positioned where the public can review the frequently updated list of fallen American military personnel since day one of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. The list contains the name, age, rank, branch of service, unit assigned to, date and place of the circumstance of death, as well as their hometown and state.
Military Fatalities in Iraq and Afghanistan
Using the “officially
acknowledged” account published by the U.S. government, U.S. miltary fatalities in Operation Iraqi Freedom alone now exceeds
Again using “officially
acknowledged” numbers provided by the DoD, if we were to combine coalition forces with US occupation forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, the fatalities increase to well over 7000. Not included in these numbers are those service members who commit suicide while on temporary leave or have been discharged from active duty service.
Although rarely mentioned, journalists and “private contractors " (a.k.a. corporate armies), are also fatalities of the U.S. occupation war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Female Fatalities in Iraq
One pillar stands alone, dedicated to just female service member fatalities. As one glances through the list of names, one will take notice of the several who've taken their lives through suicide just as equally as those who've been killed in action.
Of these fatalities is one reported to be a suicide by the U.S. Army. However, the family has demanded another investigation into the probability of a coverup of a rape / homicide. We refer you to the web site dedicated to Pfc. LeVena Johnson by her family for more information.
Military Sexual Trauma
The view of women as sexual prey rather than as responsible adults has always been part of military culture. Women today are indispensable to the military. Nevertheless, one woman soldier observed: "There are only three things the guys let you be if you're a girl in the military - a bitch, a ho, or a dyke." Not all military men see women soldiers this way, but too many do. The hostility is shown by undermining women's authority, denying promotions, denigrating their work, sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape.
See our web page for the study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine and other helpful resources for those currently deployed or discharged from military service here.
Friendly Fire Deaths
The US military has been withholding information from the families of soldiers who have lost their lives in American wars. Sometimes, like in the case of Marine Lance Cpl. Benjamin Schmidt, those soldiers were killed by “friendly fire,” and the families are never told about it.
The Army has been forced to confront the issue of fratricide after a highly publicized scandal surrounding the 2004 death of Army Cpl. Pat Tillman, a well-known professional football player.
See other links in the right-hand column of our homepage for additional information.
Over 500,000 Wounded
Estimates of American military casualties between Iraq and Afghanistan combined place the wounded at over 500,000. These numbers more accurately reflect the reality of combat and other occupational hazards characteristic of day to day military operations.
Newly released Pentagon statistics show that in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the number of armed contractors is rising. And with the supposed "end of the US war in Iraq," the massive army of security contractors is growing, not shrinking.
Redeployment of Traumatized Troops
The occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq are continuing through the use
of exhausted troops who have been on multiple deployments and suffer deeply from the trauma of war. 20% to 50% of all service members deployed to Iraq and/or Afghanistan suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Military Sexual Trauma, and Traumatic Brain Injury.
Nearly 20% of service members are taking some kind of psychiatric drug. Among service members currently experiencing combat, 12% in Iraq and 17% in Afghanistan are taking prescription antidepressants or sleeping meds. Yet, the military has no way of tracking prescription drug use in combat.
Suicide rates among active-duty troops are twice as high as that of the civilian population, and veterans with PTSD are 6 times more likely to attempt suicide.
Help is needed to stop the redeployment of traumatized troops. See Operation Recovery: A Campaign to End the Redeployment of Traumatized Troops on our web site here or the web site of this campaign here.
Mercenary Private Military Forces
According to these statistics released by the Pentagon, with Barack Obama as commander in chief, there has been a 23% increase in the number of “Private Security Contractors” working for the Department of Defense in Iraq in the second quarter of 2009 and a 29% increase in Afghanistan, which “correlates to the build up of forces” in the country.
Overall, contractors (armed and unarmed) now make up approximately 50% of the “total force in Centcom AOR [Area of Responsibility].” This means there are a whopping 242,657 contractors working on these two US wars.
More detail regarding this rise in private contractors is available here.
Military Deaths by Suicide
Military deaths by suicide have been on a dramatic rise in recent years. According to the Army Times, the Army is on pace to shatter the record suicide rate set among soldiers in 2008. In April 2010, the U.S. Army released its quarterly suicide data for the month of March.
A newly released study reported by the Army Times on April 24th, 2010, indicates that there are as many as 950 attempted suicides per month by veterans who are receiving some type of treatment from the Veterans Affairs Department. Seven percent of the attempts are successful, and 11% of those who don't succeed on the first attempt try again within nine months.
In 2007, CBS News conducted a survey of all fifty states - with only forty-five of those states reporting - showing that over the past 10 years alone, an average of 120 veterans per week from among all branches of service, have taken their own lives through suicide. See how they got their numbers here.
In the meantime, according to the military, the National Guard and Reserve suicide rates are climbing at a rate of one a day, a level not seen since the Vietnam War.
Persian Gulf War 1990-91
To deliver our concept of justice, democracy, and freedom, 88,000 tons of bombs were dropped on Iraq during the US Gulf War of 1991 with only 7% of these being of the so-called “smart bomb” variety. This “smart bomb” technology requires the use of GPS beacons to be placed in their intended target locations well in advance of our long range cruise missile strikes. However, the bulk of firepower delivered during the Gulf War were of the “old fashioned” variety - “dumb bombs.”
With an increasing number of both US military personnel and private military “contractors” in Afghanistan - and now Pakistan, and with remote controlled armed aircraft controlled from military bases within our own country hovering over targets thousands of miles from our shores, the fatality rate among the civilian population in those countries will most surely skyrocket.
We are not worth more.
They are not worth less.
As the numbers of military personnel lost and wounded are acknowledged, a sign nearby begs attention to the number of Iraqis killed. It reads,“if we were to acknowledge the number of Iraqi deaths, the crosses would fill this entire beach”.
In October 2006, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, published a survey in The Lancet Medical Journal. This survey, known as the “Iraqi Mortality Survey,” shows statistically that since the U.S. invasion of March 2003, the number of Iraqi deaths exceeded 655,000. While this study has come under scrutiny in the past few years, its findings have remained unchanged. Johns Hopkins published a response to these questions available here. Listen to an interview with the lead author of this study.
By January 2008, Opinion Research Business (ORB), a prestigious British polling firm, reviewed their previous analysis and revised this number to over 1 million Iraqi deaths since the US invasion and occupation of March 2003.
In January 2008, the World Health Organization, with the assistance of the Iraqi government, conducted a survey of 9,345 Iraqi households and estimates that between 151,000 and 223,000 Iraqis died from violence between March 2003 and June 2006.
None of these studies include mortality rates from the immediate aftermath of the US led Gulf War of 1991, nor the impact 12 years of sanctions had upon the people of Iraq.
Regardless of which study is more accurate, one thing is certain; the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq has only increased the number of Iraqi fatalities as a consequence. Unfortunately, this will most certainly be true of the occupation of Afghanistan and the use of US mlitary drone warfare elsewhere.
The Disappeared and Displaced
While others languish in prisons put in place by the occupation forces for those caught or suspected of resisting the occupation of their country, an unknown number of Iraqis and Afghanis have been disappeared, with no sign or trace of their whereabouts.
In addition, an estimated 2.5 million Iraqi's have fled the violence in Iraq, seeking refuge in neighboring countries, while an estimated 2 million have been internally displaced from their homes.
Shock and Awe at Ground Zero
The Obama administration says the last combat brigades have left Iraq. Is this the end of the Iraq war or just a rebranding of the US occupation? More than 50,000 troops remain in Iraq as well as 4,500 special operations forces and tens of thousands of private contractors. The US Embassy in Baghdad, the largest in the world at roughly the size of eighty football fields, stands as a permanent reminder of the power and arrogance of a nation oblivious to the carnage and mayhem wrought in its name.
As of February 2008, the cost of the U.S. war in Iraq, subsidized in large part by U.S. tax dollars, is estimated to be between $350 to more than $720 million per day ($500,000 per minute) with costs exceeding $12 billion per month.
According to John Pike, the head of the research group GlobalSecurity.org, an estimated 250,000 bullets have been fired for every insurgent killed in Iraq. That's not just a waste of ammunition; it's also a reflection of how badly the country has been damaged and how indiscriminate some of the fighting has been.
Isn't it about time we rethink our stratagies in Afghanistan as well? Perhaps we're not giving more serious consideration to the course of direction our country has embarqed upon?
While more people in the United States die from lack of health insurance, side-effects from the legal use of perscription medications, traffic accidents, and salmonela poisoning than of terrorism, one might ask just how many lives were lost during the “Cold War” in the name of “anti-Communism”? Why do we fight?
We are all connected
Each cross powerfully represents more than the loss of an individual life, it also represents life as concentric circles of intertwined relationships.
“We’re all caught in
an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of
destiny. And whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.
John Donne coined it years ago and placed it in graphic terms: “No
man is an island entirely of itself, every man is a piece of the
continent, a part of the main.” And then he goes on toward the end
to say: “Any man’s death diminishes me, because I’m involved in Mankind;
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls
for thee.”~Martin Luther KIng, Jr.
Volunteers Are Welcome
We love volunteers! This has
become a monumental task! Setup starts at 6:00 am
on Sunday mornings - rain or shine - and taken
down shortly before sunset.
A candlelight vigil is placed at the base of each cross at dusk on special occasions. Please see our volunteer and or the Calendar page for more details.
Arlington West Memorial
is a Non-Partisan and Non-Sectarian
project of Veterans For Peace
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed,
it is the only thing that ever has."
Are you a veteran or currently in the military?
See the About Us page for useful information.