As the Iraq war turns four years old, many Americans have little idea of how many civilians have died.
The recently formed Iraq Peace Project (www.iragpeaceproject.org) has created a touring display of over 130,000 flags to help people come to grips with the human costs of the war.
This past week, Reed College hosted the acres-large bloom of little white flags. Each of the 130,000 flags represents about five Iraqis who have died (nearly 600,000) since the US invasion. The display also includes about 3000 red flags to represent American lives lost.
"When you walk into the display, it just hits you in the heart," says Iraq Peace Project coordinator Rudy Dietz. "It makes the war more real."
The flag project includes an informational table, where people affected by the display are encouraged to write letters to their representatives, expressing their feelings about the war.
Next week the display moves to Lewis & Clark College, its fourth stop thus far. There are tentative plans to tour UC Berkeley, the University of Washington, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Arizona, and more. Eventually, Dietz hopes to reach a wider audience outside the ivory tower of colleges and universities. He hopes to be able to move the display to Tom McCall Waterfront Park here in Portland.
While numbers of civilian deaths are highly contested and difficult to predict, the flag project uses numbers from The Lancet, a respected British medical journal. Data was gathered using methods similar to census taking.