The Guardian July 21, 2004


The price of occupation

Juana Carrasco Martin

The number of dead US soldiers in Iraq and in Afghanistan has 
already exceeded 1000. The weekend of July 10-11 was particularly 
bloody, leaving seven US soldiers dead. As of July 12, 887 had 
perished in Iraq and 129 in Afghanistan  we shouldn't forget 
that other war of injustice  augmented by 117 troops from other 
forces involved in the coalition. Those crosses hang like swords 
over George W Bush and his desperate search for oil and strategic 
geopolitical positions, and now, for a new term in the White 
House.

They barely want to show those bodies, much less those of the 
Iraqis, civilian or military.

However, since May, a singular exhibit has been touring US cities 
and towns. Part of its title is "Eyes Wide Open". The show, which 
has only two elements or sets of elements, is very simple and 
terrible: more than 800 pairs of combat boots, each one of them 
bearing a tag with the name, rank and place of birth of a US 
soldier who died in the Iraq war, and a sort of 24-foot-long-wall 
bearing the names of Iraqis and the incidents in which they died.

They now number more than 16,000. In other locations, each one of 
those men, women and children, murdered in their own land, has 
been represented by an empty bullet casing.

The name of the exhibit is thus completed in some places: "The 
Human Cost of War in Iraq". In others, it is "Beyond fear and 
towards hope..."

What is terrible is that the number of boots will continue to 
increase, as will the length of the wall or the number of spent 
bullets.

It is about trying to put a face on war, like a portrait of Bush 
that we received in an e-mail. When the likeness is enlarged, we 
can see that the emperor's image is made up of photographs of 
each one of his soldiers who has died in Iraq.

It is an impressive image. However, imagination is not needed; 
one only needs to contemplate the everyday things to realise what 
the war represents in pain and suffering for hundreds of 
families.

Nevertheless, such a sadly necessary accountability does not 
appear to apply to the White House or to the Pentagon, although 
they should be paying attention, while the exhibit has already 
been seen by thousands of people in the capital, Washington DC, 
in Chicago, Philadelphia, and various cities of Ohio: Cleveland, 
Cincinnati, Akron, Youngstown, Oberlin... And in the months to 
come, as we draw closer to November 2, it is to tour another 
dozen cities.

In Washington, the event was accompanied by speeches from various 
peace activists and three men with a special link to those 
military boots. Paul Vogel, the father of a 24-year-old veteran 
of the war in Iraq who has returned to his home in Chicago but 
who knows the anguish of waiting; Ivan Medina, also a veteran of 
that war, whose 22-year-old twin brother died there; and Fernando 
Suarez del Solar, a father from San Diego, California, whose only 
son died on Mesopotamian soil.

Mary Ellen McNish, general secretary of the American Friends 
Service Committee, a Quaker-led organisation, explained this live 
memorial, this multi-sensory journey reached via words, images 
and the sounds of war, in the following way: "We have placed 
these boots and we embrace this wall of names in the capital of 
the United States to show this nation and the world the human 
cost of that unjustified and immoral war that has now spiralled 
into the irrational abuse of prisoners and chaos."

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Granma (abridged)

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