7,000 Tombstones

The Madison-based Clarence Kailin chapter of Veterans for Peace installed a Memorial Mile along the shores of Lake Monona this past weekend. Consisting of nearly 7,000 small grave markers spanning a mile-long stretch of Atwood Avenue in Madison, the public art project is a chilling reminder of the year-by-year deaths of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan since 2001 (about 2,200) and Iraq since 2003 (about 4,488).

The silent rows of little white markers force passers-by to reflect on a small portion of the cost of the two undeclared wars the U.S. has been fighting for nearly twelve years: the deaths of American soldiers.

But the true cost of those wars is probably incalculable. When you add up the number of civilian deaths that are a direct result of the state-sponsored violence in Afghanistan (conservative estimates hover around 22,000) and Iraq (134,000) and factor in public health effects and the destruction of buildings, communities and clean water supplies, your mind boggles at the destruction. On top of that, the vast amount of fossil fuels and natural mineral resources used to fuel this war machine creates untold damage across the globe.

Here is a drive-by video of the Memorial Mile. Special thanks to all the volunteers who helped to install the grave markers and to Wade Fernandez for the beautiful music.

Rebecca Kemble reports for The Progressive magazine and website.