While in Santa Monica, I headed to the Stearns Wharf pier with its street performers, roller coaster, Ferris wheel, and Abercrombie t-shirts. Among the throngs of tourists and locals clamoring to get to some cheap and greasy fast food, I noticed something quite striking. A makeshift cemetery, called Arlington West, lay before me on the beach, just next to the pier. Resembling Arlington National Cemetery in D.C. but including several caskets draped in the American flag, this site is intended as a memorial and to draw awareness to military deaths related to the various operations in Iraq since the U.S. has had a military presence there.
Installed by a local activist and supported the WWII veterans group Veterans for Peace, this memorial on the sand was conceived and built as a place for people to ”reflect, contemplate, grieve, and meditate, to honor and acknowledge those who have lost their lives, and to reflect upon the costs of war.”
A multi-denominational memorial [one can see approximately three thousand crosses, red crescents and stars of David], the memorial also includes a list of the fallen soldiers in Iraq, updated weekly. The latest figures put the U.S. military death toll at over 4400 with another almost 32,000 wounded in action, and these figures do not come close to the estimates of Iraqi civilian deaths, which number in the hundreds of thousands.
Whatever your politics, one would hope that it is safe to assume that given an option, war is not the option one would choose. Unfortunately, for this particular unneeded war and for the many individuals who became the war’s casualties, that was not the option chosen.