The fact of the war in Iraq remains death. And that should be an occasion
of mourning. The fact is that the war and the ensuing occupation was the
result of lies.

The Dover - DC Trail of Mourning & Truth ended on March 15 at the White
House where the deaths being mourned,  the war being protested, and the
lies on which the deaths and the war rested, all began.

The idea for an act of nonviolent resistance in anticipation of the first
anniversary of last spring's bombardment and invasion of Iraq  began to
germinate among a few people from Baltimore, Washington, DC, and
Philadelphia, last Fall. The idea being to take to  Washington, DC and to
the White House the fact of the unacknowledged toll of this war and
military occupation. Hundreds of U.S. troops have died, thousands of
Iraqis (not even accounted for as a matter of policy)  "In war truth is
the first casualty" and in this war, the lies proceeded the war and
continue. So we knew where the trail ends, but where to begin. Where do
the bodies come home, at least the U.S. bodies, not in caskets or coffins
but in "transfer tubes"?

The Dover Air Force Base is located 50 miles south of Philadelphia just
outside of Dover, DE. It is where all U.S. troops killed in action are
returned in anonymity. Since the end of the Vietnam War (the last
televised war) the press has been banned from the  Base. Families of the
dead, also barred from the Base, must wait on the military delivery plan
of their loved ones.

Since the Vietnam War military veterans have in increasing numbers spoken
out about U.S. war policies. Veterans for Peace is a vital part of the
peace movement landscape. Something phenomenal, however,  has developed
since last spring invasion of Iraq and that is families of troops in
Iraq, including families who have lost loved ones, are speaking out
against the war and military occupation from a wonderful association of
support called Military Families Speak Out [MFSO]. MFSO was the moral
authority to begin the Trail of Mourning & Truth at the Dover Air Force
Base and around them the first steps in the trail were taken.

At noon on March 14, people began arriving at the Camden, Delaware
Friends Meeting   for The Dover to DC Memorial Procession: a Trail of
Mourning & Truth. A Muslim Iman and a Native American Elder dedicated the
opening procession with prayers for the dead and for peace and the 3.5
mile walk of several hundred people began to the Dover Air Force Base
surrounded by reporters, cameras, and TV crews.

At the gates to the Dover Air Force Base,  a service, lead by Nancy
Lessin of MFSO and I,began with Jane Bright speaking of her son, killed
in Iraq, bagpipes played, and one by one mothers and fathers read the
names of their sons and daughters, and  of Iraqis, killed in Iraq.
Fernando Suarez, who was in Iraq as part of a peace delegation last
winter, read the first names: "Bush lied and who died? My son, Jesus!" 

Congressperson from New York and chair of the Congressional Black Caucus,
Charles Rangel, was joined by a number of speakers that included Michael
Hoffman from Bucks County and a Marine veteran of last spring's invasion.
 The service concluded with a litany (e.g.: "For all the deaths that have
been justified by turning the love of God or country into fanatical
arrogance, militarism, and empire"; "May our plea for peace be heard,
from here at the Dover Air Force Base to Washington, DC and everywhere
war is contemplated and bombs are built, that our mourning will make
fertile the soil of our future and nourish the seeds of peace.") with the
response of "We mourn, speaking truth to lies, for the sake of peace."

From the Dover Air Force Base, caravan proceeded to Baltimore for supper
and overnight lodging.

Day Two of the Trail began with an early morning drive from Baltimore to
the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC where many of the
U.S. troops wounded of Iraq are treated. Speakers in front of Walter Reed
included: Bob McIlvaine, from 9/11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows and
who lost his son in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center; Ellen
Barfield and John Grant of Veterans for Peace, both of whom have made
trips to Iraq before and after last spring's invasion; and Pat Gunn, a
U.S. Navy Veteran from Lansdowne, PA, a USO volunteer at the Phila.
International Airport, and the mother of a son seriously wounded in Iraq.


Following  a Litany of Healing & Peace by Rev. Frederick Boyle of
Titusville, NJ, who was part of a Christian Peacemaking Team in Iraq a
month before last spring's bombardment and subsequently defied a federal
order that he reveal how much money he spent on the trip, the Trail of
Mourning & Truth took to foot, walking 6 miles across Washington, DC to
LaFayette Park across from the White House which, with security
construction surrounding it, looks more like a fortress than "the
people's house" described by Thomas Jefferson.

From  LaFayette Park, the names of U.S. and Iraqi war dead were broadcast
and placed in a coffin to be delivered to the White House. The Hundreds
of people gathered in LaFayette Park fell in behind the coffin as we
began to negotiate our way out of the Park which was no easy feat with
the numerous TV crews and photographers that had surrounded the coffin.
Chanting "Mourn the Dead, End the War", we arrived at the one narrow and
heavily guarded sidewalk from which one can approach the White House.
There, we were met by uniformed  secret service police who announced that
only those with ID passes could proceed any further.

Ellen Barfield from Veterans for Peace and I then proceeded to speak with
the secret service police, who were shortly re-inforced by District
police with night sticks drawn. We demanded that we be allowed to pass
and deliver the names of the war dead to the White House. When asked if
we had passes to proceed, I said: "the names of the war dead - U.S. and
Iraqi - are our passes." But we did not pass, so we waited and waited.
After an hour, sitting before the police, with TV cameras and sound
microphones overhead, we announced that the voice of democracy, along
with the fact of the war, had been barred from the White House just as
democracy was sacrificed daily for the sake of  Bush's war  We returned
to LaFayette Park, carrying the coffin with the names of the war dead
inside.

"Bush lied and who (or what) died?"_____. You can fill in the blank.


Bob Smith, staff, Brandywine Peace Community