Counting the dead

More than 3,000 American soldiers have died in Iraq. Some estimates say as many as 650,000 Iraqis, mostly civilians, have died. To understand the disparity between those death counts, imagine a room filled with Americans and Iraqis. There would be three Americans surrounded by 650 Iraqis.

To help Chicoans understand this lopsided figure, the Chico Peace and Justice Center installed the Iraq Body Count Memorial Monday (May 7) at Children’s Park. Surrounding a small rectangle of red flags is a sea of white flags, stretching the length of the park.

The 3,000 red flags represent roughly a one-to-one ratio of fallen soldiers in Iraq, and the 113,000 white flags represent roughly a one-to-six ratio of dead Iraqis.

Chico is the fourth city, after Boulder, Colo., and Portland and Eugene, Ore., to display the Iraq Body Count Memorial. The goal is to add 10,000 flags at each city across America until the display reaches Washington, D.C., said Sue Hilderbrand, director of the CPJ. In October, more than 1 million flags will be installed at the Mall in the nation’s capital.

The flags took nearly 12 hours to install and will be on display until Friday (May 11). For more information go to