Arlington West

Recognizing the Reality of the Iraq War



  The Veterans for Peace motto is Wage Peace.

Created every Sunday on the beach in Santa Barbara, California, Arlington West is an immense temporary cemetery of more than 2,000 wooden crosses each with a name of an American soldier who has died in the Iraq War. (Arlington National Cemetery, in Arlington, Virginia, is a burial ground for soldiers killed in active duty). It takes two dozen volunteers about 3 hours to erect this temporary display on the beach.

overview of Arlington West  

There is a sign stating the total number of dead to date; and another sign states, "If we were to honor the Iraqi dead, it would fill this entire beach." That is because the total of Iraqi dead is likely well over 100,000 people.  The photo below was taken on May 7, 2006. The numbers have changed since then. As of October 29, 2009, the number of American soldiers who have died in Iraq total 4,343. Add to that number the soldiers from other countries who have died in the Iraq War, the number of journalists, the number of civilians both Iraqi and from other countries, the number of children, the number of ...people. Consider as well the injured, disabled, maimed, and psychologically-scarred for life. This link provides the total Iraq War casualty count to date.

As of May 7, 2006 ther are 2,417 American soldiers dead  and over 100,000 Iraqi people dead in the Iraq War.

Onlookers come from the cruise ship in the harbor, locals out for a Sunday walk along the beach or at the marina, visitors to the nearby tourist pier called Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara. All are invited to walk through the crosses. Each cross has a name, rank, age, place of death and how the death occurred.  It is remarkable how many ages marked are 19. The phrase heard over and over, spoken by the viewers, "This really makes you think."

Marker states Iraqi General Election Jan. 30, 2005

In the crowd of passers-by, there is usually someone who has lost a spouse, child, sibling or friend in the Iraq War.

Onlookers at Arlington West in Santa Barbara, California

The majority of the crowd pauses briefly to take in the awesome spectacle, the overwhelming number of crosses, the black and white facts. Some engage the volunteers in conversation; some join the effort to erect all the crosses; and some ask if they may attach a picture or a newspaper clipping, or thoughts on paper on the cross of the soldier they knew. Each week volunteers make sure that these items remain on that cross.

Visitors are invited to walk through the crosses and read the names  at Arlington West in Santa Barbara, California


These memorials silently ask the question,  Why War --- and demand a credible answer. 

Out of 600 members of Congress, only one has a child in the military.


The Arlington West site is erected every Sunday by volunteers coordinated by the local chapter of the Veterans for Peace, an organization of "Veterans Working Together for Peace & Justice Through Non-violence."  There is another Arlington West temporary cemetery site on the beach every Sunday at Santa Monica, California (info).  There is a DVD describing these memorials available from Santa Monica Arlington West and at

Below is a list of questions from the curriculum which accompanies the film. These questions have value for all of us. Consider the answers with an open mind.

*Is war necessary? If so, when? If not, why not?

*How do different people experience war?

*Is war about actions or about feelings?

*How should we honor those who are killed in war? What is the purpose of a war memorial?

*How should people protest against war?

*How can people protest against war and also support soldiers?

*What were the reasons given for enlisting?

*At what age did the soldiers enlist?

*In looking back, did the soldiers have regrets about enlisting? If so, why? If not, why not?

*What might be considered positive or negative reasons to enlist?

*37% of first time enlistees are 17 and 18 year olds. What is your reaction to this statistic?

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