PHILADELPHIA - June 30 - Public support for the war is waning. Iraq casualties continue to soar. This week, faced with documents that discredit his reasons for war and plunging poll figures among the American public, President Bush addressed the nation, urging Americans to stay-the-course, because the sacrifice will prove worthwhile.
We disagree. The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), an international social justice organization and co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, was one of the first organizations calling for the complete withdrawal of troops from Iraq.
The U.S. invasion of Iraq has escalated both danger and chaos in a country already devastated by years of international economic sanctions and a dictatorship that squandered valuable resources on military adventures, explains Peter Lems, national coordinator of the American Friends Service Committee Iraq program. Each day Iraq becomes less safe for the occupied, the occupiers, and those who seek to relieve the suffering.
The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) brings its acclaimed exhibition: Eyes Wide Open: The Human Cost of War to the Independence Visitors Center, 6th and Market Streets in Philadelphia for four days beginning July 1. Eyes Wide Open features over 1700 pairs of combat boots with a name tag for every U.S. military casualty, as well as a wall of names and incidents of Iraqi civilian deaths. Hundreds of shoes memorializing a small fraction of the Iraqi civilians who have been killed in the conflict are also on display. The exhibition has been to more than 60 cities across the country, including: Boston, Dallas, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, New York City, Orlando, and many more. Sites have included various college campuses, the National Civil Rights Museum, the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. and other public venues.
Naba Saleem Hamid, University of Baghdad Professor and founder of New Horizons for Women, an Iraqi-based nonprofit organization that prepares Iraqi women to become politically active through education, acquirement of professional skills and psychological support. Naba offers first-hand stories about the day-to-day life of women in Iraq today and their efforts to assume a greater leadership role in shaping their country's future. As quoted in a recent New York Times article on violence in Iraq, she states: It has become part of our daily lives. Just like there is eating, sleeping, there is bombing.
Les Roberts is co-author of an independent, peer-reviewed study that has concluded at least 100,000 Iraqi civilians mostly women and children have died because of the U.S invasion. The study, Mortality Before And After The 2003 Invasion of Iraq: A Cluster Sample Survey appeared in Britain's foremost medical journal The Lancet and was conducted by researchers at Columbia University, Johns Hopkins and Al-Mustansiriya in Baghdad. Making conservative assumptions we think that about 100,000 excess deaths, or more, have happened since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, he states. Violence accounted for most of the excess deaths and air strikes from coalition forces accounted for most of the violent deaths.
Peter Lems led delegations to Iraq in 2002 and 1999 working to rebuild the Al Naour Water Treatment Plant outside the city of Baqooba in an agricultural region known as the citrus basket of Iraq. Before the war, twelve years of U.S. sponsored sanctions led to an almost complete breakdown in economic, medical, social, and educational structures in Iraq, Lems stresses. The U.S. Government used Saddam Hussein as an excuse to justify the horrific number of deaths caused by the sanctions.
Cindy Sheehan is co-founder of Gold Star Families for Peace an organization made up of families who have lost members to the Iraq war. Her son, Casey, born on Memorial Day, 1979, was killed in Iraq on Palm Sunday, April 4, 2004. She states: [Our children] were needlessly slain. They were lied to by our President. And they were lied to by their recruiters, who will tell young people anything to get them to enlist, then deliver nothing. No one -- Iraqi or American -- should have died, and not one more drop of blood should be shed for lies and deceptions.
Marq Anderson has toured with the exhibition Eyes Wide Open: The Human Cost of War in Iraq for more than a year. He states: Eyes Wide Open has a sobering impact on the people who come to view it. Our shoes represent as estimated 100,000 civilians that have been killed in Iraq during this war. Compare that with the number of soldiers that have died. It's astronomical, and it needs to stop. A Vietnam veteran, Marq adds: A lot of military families view this as the only public memorial for them to remember their loved ones. Whether we as individuals agree on the necessity of this war, we can all honor the losses.
Eyes Wide Open first opened in January 2004 at Chicago's Federal Plaza with 504 pairs of boots. It will continue growing as the death toll continues to rise. The exhibition has been to more than 60 cities across the country, including: Boston, Dallas, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, New York City, Orlando, and many more. Sites have included various college campuses, the National Civil Rights Museum, the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. and other public venues.