If you walk past Marble church at the corner of 29th and 5th avenue in New York City, you cannot help but notice the thousands of colorful- gold, blue and green ribbons hanging from theÂ iron gates. These ribbons are symbolic prayers for peace and are significant because they each represent American service people and IraqisÂ who have lost their lives in the current war. WhenÂ I stroll past these ribbons, I intentionally extend out my hand to touch the soft fabric, and plastic tags of the soldiers names.
Soldiers; fathers, sons, brothers, husbands, sisters, mothers, wives, daughters,Â whoÂ shed their blood and gave their lives for our country.
Today, on the eighth anniversary of the war in Iraq, their lives areÂ not forgotten.
Every time I rememberÂ these fallen soldiers whose memories hang on, in the prayers of family and friends. I cannot help but think of my cousins family: her husband is aÂ soldier andÂ together they have a four year old son. I think aboutÂ how happy they are together,Â how much love surrounds them and unites them as a family. I think about when my cousins son wasÂ a toddlerÂ and his daddy was stationed overseas as a soldier in Iraq, how he got to knowÂ his father via photographs and internet videos. Kisses and "I love you's" were exchanged between father and son, husband and wife, across great distances to keep the family together. And I think about when my cousins husband came home from the war, their young sonÂ did not quiet understand why daddy was no longerÂ "living in the computer screen" but was live and in person.
Now,Â as her son approaches five years old in the next year andÂ has becomeÂ use to having his father around. His father, a soldier-Â will be sent away for a second tour of dutyÂ to Afghganistan.
Today, I will continue to pray for their family; for her husbandsÂ safety and for her strength. I pray for them to once again remain united as a family across great distances, through great trials and personal sacrifice. I pray forÂ her husbandÂ to return home once again to the United States, safe andÂ unharmed; both mentally and physically. I pray for their young son- who deserves to have a loving father return home to the United States to continue raising him into manhood. I pray for the day when war is no longer an option toÂ resolveÂ conflict. I pray for the day when war is not used as a solution to meet greedy energy demandsÂ and for the creation ofÂ corporate war profits at the expense and sacrifice of our community; our soldiers-the blood of our familiesÂ and international reputation.
ItÂ might beÂ easy to walk past the colorful gates of theÂ church and move forward without considering the personal costÂ of human life made over the last eight years, but I can assure you, to the families whose loved ones names are attached to the gates of Marble church, they are much more than just ribbons.Â
They are memories of loved ones lost to war.Â Â
Take a moment to look closely atÂ the photograph attached to this article, it is a photograph of my cousins sonÂ held byÂ his father at his 2nd deployment ceremony, yesterday. Look into this little boys eyes and into your heart and tell me, whatÂ does war really accomplish?
There are thousands of children on both sides of the war, all worthy of anÂ answer.Â
Is it possible to bring our soldiers home, and give them a better resolution?
Give peace a chance.
Write your representatives Today.
PERSPECTIVES OF WAR WORTH WATCHING:
AÂ intimate look at the CorporationsÂ role in American capitalism and war.
PBS aired a documentary film titledÂ Soldiers of ConscienceÂ which focuses on theÂ ethical dilemmaÂ ofÂ being a soldier.Â Â In the first few minutes of the film,Â the viewer isÂ confronted withÂ a harshÂ truth of war- "At some point, every soldier has to face the question: Will I be able to kill another human being in combat?" Until recent wars, most soldiers were not willing to kill; during WWII the military found that 75 percent of combat soldiers did not fire at the enemy when given the opportunity. The concept of being a conscientious objector was acknowledged in 1775 by the Continental Congress. When the U.S. had a military draft, conscientious objectors often cited religious beliefs. Quakers, for whom pacifism is a fundamental part of their religion, notably objected to combat when drafted, but would serve in other parts of the military to fulfill their obligation. Since the U.S. no longer has a draft, why would a pacifist volunteer to flight? The answer is, they wouldn't. But some soldiers have a "crystallization of conscience," which is military speak for having an epiphany that turns them against the war while enlisted. They can then file for conscientious objector status. The film takes the idea of conscientious objection one step further by profiling two soldiers (Joshua Casteel and Aidan Delgado) who formally became conscientious objectors, finished their tours of duty, and were then honorably discharged; and then, in contrast, features two other soldiers (Camilo Mejia and Kevin Benderman) who were not formally recognized as conscientious objectors, went AWOL, and were court-marshaled and imprisoned.Â
Â FILM #3
Â Â A look at the "bigger picture" by Yann Arthus-Bertrand:Â www.home-2009.comÂ
U.S. SPENDING IN THE MIDDLE EAST:
- Spent & Approved War-Spending - About $800 billion of US taxpayers' funds spent or approved for spending through mid-2009, including $76 billion requested by President Obama and approved by Congress.
- U.S. Monthly Spending in Iraq - $12 billion in 2008
- U.S. Spending per Second - $5,000 in 2008 (per Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on May 5, 2008)
- Cost of deploying one U.S. soldier for one year in Iraq - $390,000 (Congressional Research Service)
- Lost & Unaccounted for in Iraq - $9 billion of US taxpayers' money and $549.7 milion in spare parts shipped in 2004 to US contractors. Also, per ABC News, 190,000 guns, including 110,000 AK-47 rifles.
- Missing - $1 billion in tractor trailers, tank recovery vehicles, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and other equipment and services provided to the Iraqi security forces. (Per CBS News on Dec 6, 2007.)
- Mismanaged & Wasted in Iraq - $10 billion, per Feb 2007 Congressional hearings
- Halliburton Overcharges Classified by the Pentagon as Unreasonable and Unsupported - $1.4 billion
- Amount paid to KBR, a former Halliburton division, to supply U.S. military in Iraq with food, fuel, housing and other items - $20 billion
- Portion of the $20 billion paid to KBR that Pentagon auditors deem "questionable or supportable" - $3.2 billion
- Number of major U.S. bases in Iraq - 75 (The Nation/New York Times)
TROOPS IN IRAQ:
- Troops in Iraq - Total 130,000 U.S. troops as of August 31, 2009. All other nations have withdrawn their troops.
- U.S. Troop Casualties - 4,345 US troops; 98% male. 91% non-officers; 82% active duty, 11% National Guard; 74% Caucasian, 9% African-American, 11% Latino. 19% killed by non-hostile causes. 54% of US casualties were under 25 years old. 72% were from the US Army
- Non-U.S. Troop Casualties - Total 316, with 179 from the UK
- US Troops Wounded - 31,483 through August 31, 2009, 20% of which are serious brain or spinal injuries. (Total excludes psychological injuries.)
- US Troops with Serious Mental Health Problems - 30% of US troops develop serious mental health problems within 3 to 4 months of returning home
- US Military Helicopters Downed in Iraq - 72 total, at least 36 by enemy fire
IRAQI TROOPS, CIVILIANS & OTHERS IN IRAQ:
- Private Contractors in Iraq, Working in Support of US Army Troops - More than 180,000 in August 2007, per The Nation/LA Times.
- Journalists killed - 139, 93 by murder and 46 by acts of war
- Journalists killed by US Forces - 14
- Iraqi Police and Soldiers Killed - 9,202
- Iraqi Civilians Killed, Estimated - A UN issued report dated Sept 20, 2006 stating that Iraqi civilian casualties have been significantly under-reported. Casualties are reported at 50,000 to over 100,000, but may be much higher. Some informed estimates place Iraqi civilian casualities at over 600,000.
- Iraqi Insurgents Killed, Roughly Estimated - 55,000
- Non-Iraqi Contractors and Civilian Workers Killed - 565
- Non-Iraqi Kidnapped - 306, including 57 killed, 147 released, 4 escaped, 6 rescued and 89 status unknown.
QUALITY OF LIFE INDICATORS:
- Iraqis Displaced Inside Iraq, by Iraq War, as of May 2007 - 2,255,000
- Iraqi Refugees in Syria & Jordan - 2.1 million to 2.25 million
- Iraqi Unemployment Rate - 27 to 60%, where curfew not in effect
- Consumer Price Inflation in 2006 - 50%
- Iraqi Children Suffering from Chronic Malnutrition - 28% in June 2007 (Per CNN.com, July 30, 2007)
- Percent of professionals who have left Iraq since 2003 - 40%
- Iraqi Physicians Before 2003 Invasion - 34,000
- Iraqi Physicians Who Have Left Iraq Since 2005 Invasion - 12,000
- Iraqi Physicians Murdered Since 2003 Invasion - 2,000
- Average Daily Hours Iraqi Homes Have Electricity - 1 to 2 hours, per Ryan Crocker, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq (Per Los Angeles Times, July 27, 2007)
- Number of Iraqi Homes Connected to Sewer Systems - 37%
- Iraqis without access to adequate water supplies - 70% (Per CNN.com, July 30, 2007)
- Water Treatment Plants Rehabilitated - 22%
RESULTS OF POLL: Taken in Iraq in August 2005 by the British Ministry of Defense (Source: Brookings Institute)
- Iraqis "strongly opposed to presence of coalition troops - 82%
- Iraqis who believe Coalition forces are responsible for any improvement in security - less than 1%
- Iraqis who feel less ecure because of the occupation - 67%
- Iraqis who do not have confidence in multi-national forces - 72%
SUPPORT CHARITIES THAT SUPPORT OUR SOLDIERS:
- Azalea CharitiesÂ : Provides Aid for Wounded Soldiers:
- Socks for SoldiersÂ : Puts socks on our soldiers feet
- Soldiers AngelsÂ : Contains a list of various charities to support our soldiers
- PickUpPlease : Donate used clothes and items for VeteransÂ in need
- Airborne Angel Cadets: Send aÂ Care Package to our soldiers overseas
- USOÂ : Make a financial donation or donate your old car
Facts on Iraq, courtesy of:Â Â Iraq War Facts, Results & Statistics at Sept 21,Â 2009Â
Iraq Coalition Casualty Count: http://icasualties.org/Iraq/index.aspx