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."
* * *Granma (abridged)