Monday, December 24, 2012

Stand with the People of Syria!

As the monopolist corporations consolidate their power over the Free (Market) World, the alliance of the USA, the UKGB, and Israel, used as enforcers of the regime of global economic dictatorship, have been using chemical weapons and subsidizing terrorist organizations to kill people within Syria in order to destabilize their society. As seen in the history of their invasions of Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan, the sole objective of this program is the placement of a new regime which protects the interests of the monopolist corporations, and not to uphold Human Rights or to protect the health and education of the People!
* Stand against War in Syria! [link]

* Revolutionary analysis of the Syria revolution and liberated Kurdistan [link].
* United States Military personnel, tired of endless war and agony, are stirring in dissent. This development is being denied by the monopolist media, calling the dissent "faked" [link].


from Labor Fightback Network [] [973-944-8975] []:
At a time when 27 million U.S. workers are unemployed or underemployed and severe cuts in social programs are being implemented under the sequestration, the Obama administration is focused instead on finalizing plans to unleash a bombing attack on Syria.
We strongly believe that labor and our community partners should vehemently oppose such an attack.
After all, the government destroyed Iraq at a cost of 4,488 U.S. lives, tens of thousands casualties and billions of dollars, and at a cost of a million Iraqi lives and casualties, all based on a lie that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. And this came after the U.S. supported Iraq's use of chemical weapons against Iran in the 1980s. Washington's outrage is indeed selective.
The U.S. government attacked Afghanistan and 12 years later the war against that country is still going on with a further loss of human life and at a cost of $10 billion a month. But what benefit has that war brought to the working class majority of either country?
Now  a new U.S. war is apparently about to commence, this time against Syria. Will Iran be next? And which country will be the enemy after Iran?
A lot of terrible things are taking place not just in Syria but also in other parts of the world. But the U.S. has no right to intervene and dictate the course of events in other lands. We are not the world's cop and have no right to go from one hot spot to the next, demanding that countries comply with what the U.S. government directs them to do.
The cornerstone of international law is that each country must decide its own destiny, free from outside intervention and dictation. Unfortunately, the U.S. has a long history of waging aggressive wars -- even when it faces no immediate threat as is the case with Syria -- because it does not approve of the regimes and policies of other countries. Vietnam is a classic example of where such a war was waged with enormous loss of blood and treasure, while the warmakers suffered a staggering defeat.
Labor must be unconditionally against any military aggression by the U.S. government -- the only government in the world that used atomic weapons and that later used Agent Orange in Vietnam and Depleted Uranium in Iraq.
The American people are sick and tired of endless wars and occupations. All polls show an overwhelming majority of the public opposes a U.S. strike against Syria.
We urge our union brothers and sisters -- and all of labor's allies -- to speak out now and demand of the U.S. government: "Money for Jobs and Education, Not for Wars and Occupations! Hands Off Syria!"

WILPF Statement on Syria, chemical weapons, and avoiding military intervention

The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) welcomes the decision by the British Parliament to refuse the endorsement of military action against Syria. Parliament upheld the principle that the use of chemical weapons can never be justified, but reasserted the importance of international law and the UN Charter in dictating any response by the international community. However, media reports indicate that the US government is still intent on a military strike against Syria, even without UK support.
It has been WILPF’s position since the first reports of use of gas that the use of chemical weapons is a serious violation of international law, regardless of which party to the conflict perpetrated the attack. But the use of chemical weapons, however abhorrent and illegal, should not be used as a pretext for military intervention. Other options are available and must be pursued.

Chemical weapons and international law -
There is no doubt that the use of chemical weapons in armed conflict is a violation of international law. The 1925 Geneva Protocol prohibits the use of chemical and biological weapons in war. Furthermore, the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) outlaws the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention, transfer, or use of chemical weapons. While Syria is party only to the 1925 Geneva Protocol and not the CWC, legal experts and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have pointed out that these agreements have created a principle against the use of chemical weapons through customary international law.
This means the prohibition against using chemical weapons is just as binding as a treaty and is similarly binding on armed groups. Consequently, if either the government or a rebel faction that uses chemical weapons, they can be held accountable for this violation of international law. The alleged use of chemical weapons must not be used as a pretext for military intervention.

Against military intervention -
Rather than rushing to military intervention or war, the international community must respond in conformity with international law. International legal obligations permit military intervention only under specific circumstances, none of which are applicable in this situation.
The rhetoric of the governments pushing for intervention is more akin to retribution and punishment than justice in accordance with international law. It presupposes both the “right” of Western governments to act as global police and the legitimacy of the use of force to resolve international problems.
The consequences of military intervention are inevitable: collateral damage, exacerbation of the conflict and suffering of civilians, radicalization of forces in the region, and making the prospect of a peaceful negotiation even more remote. Military intervention will not help the Syrian people secure relief from the violence nor will it result in a peaceful transition to a democratic and accountable government. A dialogue must happen and it must happen with the voices of those who advocate a nonviolent solution.

Alternative options -
Alternatives to armed force have been carefully constructed over decades and there are systems in place that could and should be used.

1. Ensure effective investigation of the attack through an extension of the existing mandate of the UN inspections. The UN inspections must be allowed to be completed. The inspection team has so far collected samples and interviewed victims and witnesses. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has argued that the team must be allowed to do its job and establish the facts, pushing back against the US and UK government’s assertions of “certainty” about the facts of the case and their demands that the inspection team leave the country. Once the inspectors have determined whether chemical weapons were used and perhaps the origins of these weapons, the international community should then act in accordance with international law in its response.

2. Seek a UN Security Council resolution to secure the hand-over of any WMD in the possession of any party to the conflict. The first obligation on the UN Security Council is to ensure the prevention of further chemical weapons use. Consequently, it should promulgate a resolution to facilitate the seizure of the prohibited weapons. This could get the support of the Russian government, which has supported the prohibition of use of chemical weapons and which seems to have considerable influence over the Syrian government. Because of Russia’s strong participation in the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, (which has a larger geographical mandate than just Europe), the OSCE may also be able to secure the hand-over of the weapons.

3. Request the UN Security Council refer the matter to the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC has been established to bring justice when a state is unwilling or unable to do so, as would be the case here. There needs to be an investigation into the identification of the perpetrators and the nature of the command responsibility. Syria is not a party to the ICC but the UN Security Council can and should refer the matter to the office of the prosecutor and ensure that funds are available for investigation and indictment.

4. Support a political solution through inclusive peace talks. The political process developed to provide a political solution to the Syrian crisis through “Geneva I” talks in 2012 and planned “Geneva II” talks this year have been established to provide a political rather than military solution to the crisis. The first set of discussions developed a plan for a transitional government in Syria involving both government and opposition members. This discussion needs to be continued in Geneva II talks with strengthened support from permanent UN Security Council members. Pressure also needs to be strengthened for an inclusive process involving women on all sides as well as nonviolent humanitarian and women’s groups to ensure a strong peace process and outcome.

In the meantime, arms transfers to the Syrian government and rebel forces must stop. These arms flows have achieved only more bloodshed. In calling for those providing weapons to either side to stop, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon notes, “The military logic has given us a country on the verge of total destruction, a region in chaos and a global threat.  Why add more fuel to the fire?

Moving forward -
Some will question where the justice is in simply completing inspections and securing the weapons. Law is not about quick “fixes” often demanded by governments, or the immediate justice that is wanted by victims. However, it provides a process which is critical to engage with if we want to move away from violent retribution and towards processes of peace and justice. WILPF calls, yet again, for choosing peace over violence, and political over militarized solutions. Sustainable peace cannot be built on more violence.

message from "Mt. Diablo Peace & Justice Center" [] [55 Eckley Lane, Walnut Creek 94596]

Contact your Congressperson now!
A supposedly democratic nation can't have a more urgent and necessary debate than over the question of whether or not to attack another country. That's why the Constitution gives the power to declare war to Congress and not to the President acting alone.
Yesterday, Congresswoman Barbara Lee initiated a letter to President Obama insisting that he "consult and receive authorization from Congress before ordering the use of U.S. military force in Syria."
Two of our local Members of Congress, Rep. George Miller and John Garamendi have signed this letter: This was the right thing to do and we should recognize their efforts.  Please contact their offices and let them know of your support.
* Miller: [925-602-1880]
* Garamendi: [925-932-8899]
Two other local Members have not yet signed on.  Please ask them to do so now!
Representative Jerry McNerny and Eric Swalwell will be at a Congressman on your Corner event tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. at UNCLE Credit Union main branch - Livermore.
* McNerney: [925-737-0727]
* Swalwell: [925-460-5100]
It doesn't take much time to make a quick phone call. You don't have to provide lengthly explanations or point-by-point arguments.  Just tell your Reps that you want Congress to vote and to vote NO.
If you really want to stop this war, the time to act is now!
Link to Barbara Lee letter and updates here 
Saturday August 31, 12 noon
"No New War vs. Syria"
Emergency Protests Across U.S.
Powell and Market Sts. - San Francisco
Peace is Possible!  

"Left and Right Join Together to Say ‘NO on Syria’ On August 30th beginning at Noon Joining a Nationwide Action"
message from the "Chico Peace & Justice Center" [526 Broadway, Chico, CA 95928]

Rally in Chico's Downtown Plaza -
Concerned residents will gather to mark their opposition to a hasty intervention into Syria. Speakers will call on the White House to slow down plans for a military intervention in Syria. This event is being organized by the student-led libertarian group Young Americans for Liberty and the progressive organization, the Chico Peace & Justice Center.
Shared concerns by both the left and the right include lack of evidence that the Assad regime in Syria was behind the use of chemical weapons in a suburb of Damascus on August 21, killing as many as 1,400 people according to US intelligence reports.  Emily Alma, long time activist, says, “The enemy of your enemy is not always your friend.  We cannot, we should not carelessly support the rebels.  Choosing sides in this conflict is reminiscent of Afghanistan in the late ‘80s.”
Beyond the lack of clear evidence, each group has its own concerns.  Ambrosia Krinsky, Assistant to the Director at the Chico Peace & Justice Center, said, “We reject the all-or-nothing mentality to this tragic situation.  Diplomacy must be part of the conversation.”
Concerns from the right include the costs of another war.  Thomas Childers, member of Young Americans for Liberty, says, “We cannot afford another war.  Attacking Syria could lead to a regional war.”
This gathering is part of a national call to action to stop a military intervention into Syria.

Hands Off Syria! Take action against U.S. intervention!
August 27th Statement from the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition [] [] [2969 Mission St., San Francisco] [415-821-6545]

Call to Action for actions the day of/after U.S. military action begins at Powell and Market Sts., San Francisco. 5pm (weekday) or 12pm (weekend)
Plan a demonstration in your city on the day of or the day after U.S. military action begins. Fill out our Event Listing form so we can help spread the word [link]!
Washington is on the march toward yet another war of aggression in the Middle East, this time targeting Syria. In the event of U.S. military strikes against Syria, the ANSWER Coalition is calling on organizations and individuals to take to the streets in opposition to what would be a destructive and criminal war by the U.S. government.
If there is a U.S./NATO attack on a weekday, an emergency response protest will take place in San Francisco at Powell & Market Sts., at 5 pm on the day of the attack, or if an attack takes place after 5 pm, the protest will be the following day. If the emergency response protest is on a weekend day, it will take place at 12 noon at Powell & Market Sts.
Despite the fact that an overwhelming majority of the American people are clearly opposed to U.S. intervention, the signs all point to war. In a recent Reuters poll, only 9 percent favored direct U.S. military intervention, and 89 percent opposed arming the Syrian opposition. But the tiny elite clique who really run the country are completely discounting the will of the people, making a mockery of their so-called “democracy.”
The U.S. 6th Fleet has deployed war ships to the eastern Mediterranean and is threatening to launch missile and air strikes against Syria. Not only are the White House and Pentagon openly threatening direct intervention, they are also moving to further arm the Syrian opposition. A U.S./NATO attack on Syria could well lead to a wider, regional war with grave and unpredictable consequences.

A staged provocation: a pretext for war -
The pretext for attacking Syria is the allegation that the Syrian government used chemical weapons last week in the suburbs of the capital, Damascus, just after a UN team had arrived in the country to investigate an earlier alleged use of chemical weapons. President Obama declared over a year ago that the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government would cross a “red line,” triggering U.S. military action.
The idea that the Syrian government would launch a chemical weapons attack exactly at the moment when the UN team was in the country investigating chemical weapons defies all logic.
In a sign of their total disregard for the truth, the United States government has declared, in advance of any actual investigation, that the Syrian government is guilty of using chemical weapons. U.S. officials have stated that the United Nations weapons inspection team, which is today at the site near Damascus where hundreds of people died last week, is “too late.” In other words, the United States, along with Britain and France – the former colonizers of the region – have decided to use chemical weapons as an excuse to go to war.
We must remember the Iraq War in 2003, where “overwhelming evidence of weapons of mass destruction” was used as the pretext for a war that killed hundreds of thousands and tore Iraq apart. No such weapons were ever found.
If in fact chemical weapons were used in Syria last week, the far greater likelihood is that it was a staged provocation by the opposition to invite U.S./NATO intervention in order to save their weakening military position in the conflict. We have no reason to trust the U.S. government’s version of what happened. This is the same government that has routinely lied and deceived the American people on many issues, as was recently revealed by Edward Snowden’s leaks related to NSA spying.
U.S. foreign policy is not one of benign humanitarian concern, but one of Empire. Washington’s goal is control of the entire oil-rich and strategic Middle East region. To achieve this aim, U.S. leaders – Democrats and Republicans alike – have worked to destroy independent governments and popular movements in the region for more than six decades.
For the people of the United States, fighting against a U.S. intervention in Syria is of paramount importance to prevent the spread of war and destruction. The ANSWER Coalition is calling on all those opposed to this brutal war drive to take action against any U.S. attack on Syria! A broad coalition of organizations worked together in June and July 2013 for days of action opposing the U.S. role in Syria. We expect that the actions in the coming days and weeks will be of a similar unified character.


Organize actions before an attack! Sign up here [link]!   
Secretary of State Kerry’s demagogic speech on August 26 on the situation in Syria makes it clear that the U.S. is serious about military action against the people of Syria.  Polls show that the overwhelming majority of Americans are against any further intervention.  However, as with the Iraq War, the government shows contempt and disregard for the will of the people.
UNAC calls for all antiwar and social justice organizations to prepare for a response if there is any military action by the U.S. in Syria.  We call upon all organizations to mobilize to take action opposing U.S. intervention before any military action.  We also call upon all organizations to work together and make plans for an emergency response on the day after any military action against Syria.  If your organization is making such plans, please click here and fill out the form so we can let others know.
The issue of chemical weapons is the cover the U.S. and its allies use to justify their illegal and immoral acts of war, just as the specter of WMD’s were used as the rationale for attacking Iraq.  Their real mission, as in Iraq, Libya, and elsewhere, is to force regime change in order to control energy resources and get compliant regimes in the region.  The claim that a bloody military attack on a country that poses no threat to the U.S. is needed to offer humanitarian assistance is the height of hypocrisy.  The result of the “humanitarian” invasion and ten-year occupation of Iraq is over a million Iraqi deaths and a country in ruin.
Military intervention will not bring peace to a people already engulfed in terrible violence and destruction.  Such intervention can only lead to more death and devastation.
We must do all we can to stay the hand of the U.S. government as it moves towards military intervention in Syria.  Please start organizing now for actions to oppose U.S. intervention in Syria.
Say NO to another US War!
Hands OFF Syria!

Hands off Syria and Iran!    End the Drone Wars!
We Need Jobs, Education and Healthcare, Not Endless War!

The ominous signs of impending war with Syria escalate.  NATO is massing troops and military equipment on Syria's borders, and preparing to install missiles aimed at Syria.  U.S. warships are stationed off Syria’s coast. ‘Special operation’ units are readied.  The U.S. government has been supplying arms and logistical support to a few selected Syrian paramilitary groups favored by the U.S. as “replacements” for Assad.  The media bombards us with arguments that support foreign intervention, supposedly for “humanitarian reasons”.  Like WMD’s in Iraq, alarms are sounded, with no credible evidence, that Assad may unleash chemical weapons, thus establishing a pretext for invasion.
These are the facts that impel us to oppose any military, economic, diplomatic, or covert intervention aimed at controlling the internal affairs of Syria or any other country:
* The Syrian people in their majority, regardless of their political positions re: the current government, have rejected calling for foreign intervention, such as occurred in Libya.
* Sanctions harm the people of Syria by causing food shortages, power outages, and blocking the distribution of goods.
* The U.S. is directly involved in arming and training a few selected Syrian militias favorable to the U.S., contributing to the escalation of violence, direct foreign military intervention, and total destabilization. The people who always suffer the most are the people not engaged in the armed struggle.
* We see the results of ‘humanitarian’ U.S. wars and occupations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya today, where the people, especially women and children, are worse off than before, with millions dead, injured, and/or displaced, an infrastructure and economy in shambles, and where there is no peace.  A country that has a river of Iraqi, Afghan, and Libyan blood on its hands has no right to tell other countries what to do.
* The U.S. government’s goals in Syria are to gain dominance in a part of the world that holds the vast majority of the known oil reserves and to gain strategic advantage as it seeks to isolate and contain competitors like Russia and China.  The U.S. has no interest in democracy or the humanitarian well-being of a country’s peoples anywhere in the world, especially in areas where the U.S. has economic or strategic interests.
* The U.S. has a long history of thwarting the emerging economies and progressive initiatives of the third world while supporting repressive regimes.
While activists may hold different views of Syria’s internal political system, we must all agree that the U.S. government has no right to impose its will on other countries, especially those formerly colonized and exploited by the West.  In all cases, we must support the right of nations to self- determination – that is to be able to decide on and resolve internal conflicts free from any foreign intervention.
The United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) demands:
No U.S. or NATO intervention in the internal affairs of Syria!
No War!  No Sanctions!  No Intervention!
Self-determination for the Syrian people!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Warlords in the community

2012-05-30 "Retiring rear admiral named new California Maritime Academy president" by Sarah Rohrs from "Keelhaulers News", official athletics website for the California Maritime Academy in Vallejo
In the end it was his son's experience at California Maritime Academy which led a U.S. Navy Rear Admiral to switch careers and land the position as president of the Vallejo university.
The California State University board of trustees has named Thomas A. Cropper as the new president of Cal Maritime.
Cropper, 52, takes the helm of the university after current president William Eisenhardt leaves at the end of June. Eisenhardt has served Cal Maritime since 2001.
Cropper is retiring after a 31-year naval career which includes commanding Carrier Air Wing Eleven onboard the USS Nimitz, and managing combat operations in the Persian Gulf's Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, among many other duties.
He currently lives on the Naval Air Station Coronado Island in San Diego, but will soon be living in the president's house on the Vallejo campus.
The CSU board will set his pay in July. Under a new policy, Cropper will not earn more than Eisenhardt, but he can take up to a 10 percent pay hike if funds are supplied by the campus foundation.
Cropper's son, also named Thomas Cropper, graduated from Cal Maritime a few weeks ago with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Global Studies and Maritime Affairs. He graduated Cum Laude.
"His experience at California Maritime Academy was just wonderful. It was transformative for him. After seeing what the school could do for my own son I realize I wanted to be part of that," Cropper said Tuesday.
Cal Maritime's heritage and mission of educating and training professionals for the maritime field also drew him, he said. "The future of the California economy is sometimes not seen outside the Bay Area, but it is very dependent on maritime professionals," Cropper said. "The Pacific will mean very much to the prosperity of the United States and to Californians," he said.
To weather through the state fiscal crisis and funding cuts to all 23 CSU campuses, Cropper said he would work with other administrators to find non-traditional ways of supporting the school.
While Cropper has no direct higher education experience, he said he brings a wealth of experience in running Naval training and education operations, and of working with young adults.
He also recently left a command where he had two campuses under his tutelage including the Expeditionary Warfare Training Group, Pacific and the Tactical Training Group in San Diego, he said.
CSU Trustee Pete Mehas, who chaired the search committee, said Cropper "brings a stellar maritime career, superb leadership skills and excellent management experience" to his new role.
In his most recent work, Cropper directed education and at-sea training for ships and aviation squadrons deploying to the western Pacific and the Middle East.
From 2008 to 2010, he led and managed 24,000 people in combat operations as the deputy commander of the U.S. Fifth Fleet in Bahrain.
He also headed up an officer team at the Pentagon which worked with representatives of each armed forces chief, the State Department and other agencies.
From 2005 to 2007, Cropper served as chief of staff for the U.S. Third Fleet, where he coordinated training of eight naval battle groups.
Cropper earned a bachelor's degree in Engineering Operations from Iowa State, and three master's degrees in Aviation Systems from University of Tennessee, National Security and Strategic Studies from U.S. Naval War College, and World Politics from the Catholic University.

2012-06-20 "California Maritime Academy New President to Start" from "Vallejo News ", published by City of Vallejo:
With the departure of the president of the California Maritime Academy, Bill Eisenhardt, the California State University Board of Trustees has named Thomas A. Cropper, Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy, as the new president of CMA. Cropper was among the finalists for the position and will begin his new role as president July 1, following retirement from active duty.
Cropper, who spent the past two years with at-sea training for ships and aviation squadrons deploying to the western Pacific and Middle East, brings an exceptional maritime career, excellent leadership skills and first-rate management experience to his new part as president of CMA.
Cropper has served in a variety of roles throughout his Navy career, including director of plans, programs and tactics at the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center, Federal Executive Fellow at the Bookings Institution, military assistant in the Office of Secretary of Defense William Cohen and commanding officer of Strike Fighter Squadron Eighty Three.
"I am pleased and honored to be chosen as the next president of the California Maritime Academy, and look forward to working closely with the exceptional students, staff and faculty," Cropper said. "Cal Maritime's unique and focused mission, excellent reputation and highly successful students make for an engaged and globally focused campus community.

Thomas A. Cropper
USA Warlord who helped organize the mass-murder of over a million people across Arabia, using nuclear weapons made of depleted uranium, targeting government and civilian structures.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Lafayette Crosses

Join the cause for Peace and memorialize the people who died in fascist war...

See you Saturday at the Crosses work party between 10am and 12:30pm.
Crosses of Lafayette work party schedule for 2012:
* Saturday February 11th, 10am-12:30pm
* Sunday March 11th, 10am-12:30pm
* Saturday April 14th, 10am-12:30pm
* Sunday May 13th, 10am-12:30pm,
* Memorial Day Vigil, May 28th, at 7:00pm
* Saturday June 9th, 10am-12:30pm
* Sunday July 8th, 10am-12:30pm
* Saturday August 11th, 10am-12:30pm
* Sunday Sept 9th, 10am-12:30pm
* Saturday October `13th, 10am-12:30pm
* Sunday November 11th, 10am-12:30pm
* Veterans Day Vigil, November 11th,  at 5:00pm
* Saturday December 8th, 10am-12:30pm

2013-03-19 "Enduring vigil for fallen; Lafayette crosses pay silent tribute to war dead on anniversary of Iraq war"
by Kevin Fagan from "San Francisco Chronicle" []:
Bob Hanson visits the crosses that have gradually filled the swath of hillside as the war casualties mounted. Photo: Paul Chinn, The Chronicle 

They seem to rise on the hill forever, from the street alongside the Lafayette BART Station to a thicket of pine trees to some unseen horizon beyond that - cross after cross, white and thick among the wild grasses. Thousands of them.
At first they appear nameless. But a closer look reveals words painted or tacked onto crossbars: Ramon T. Kaipat, Marine Lance Corp., died 4/11/12, Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Sgt. Patrick McCaffrey, Army, died Balad, Iraq, 6/22/04. And on and on.
The crosses have stood on that hill since 2006 as what is believed to be the largest memorial in the U.S. to soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. And even though the Iraq War - which began 10 years ago Tuesday - has been over since 2011 and the U.S. intends to pull out of Afghanistan by 2014, there is no plan to pull them down.
The organizers' idea was always to leave the crosses up until the troops come home. But just what that means is open to interpretation, because a residual force of U.S. troops is still in Iraq, and some American soldiers will remain in Afghanistan after 2014.
"Leaving it all up until the soldiers all come back was the commitment, but it's hard now to imagine when that could be, because it looks like we'll have people over there for a long time," said Jeff Heaton of Lafayette, the memorial's chief creator. "We'll just have to see as 2014 gets closer."
Born as an impulsive protest act, the Crosses of Lafayette display has outlasted vandalism and civic battles. For most commuters going to and from their cars in the BART lot, it's become just part of the landscape. But its purpose is still vibrant for supporters.
 A sign at the top of the hill that tallies the dead is updated every month. Organizers used to erect a new cross for each new casualty, but they ran out of room years ago at about 4,000. Now they just put up a few new ones when they can, and rely on the sign to represent accuracy. As of Monday, it read 6,702.

'So many' -
Lynn MacMichael stared up at the number last week and fought back tears.
"So many, and still we have to put up new ones," said the 72-year-old retired humanities teacher, who helps tend the display. "Some people call this a protest site, but that's not what I see.
"For me, it is a memorial. When I see this hill, I think of the people who served and died overseas while we're here driving our big cars and living our lives like normal."
Heaton, a 59-year-old building contractor, first thought of planting the crosses as a lament for battle deaths right after the Iraq War started in 2003. He asked his friends and the hill's owners, peace activist Louise Clark and her husband, Johnson Clark, if he could use their slope, and with their consent he drove 15 crosses into the ground.
Vandals tore them out. Heaton tried again. They too disappeared.

Veterans Day work -
Three years later, Heaton had enlisted a team of supporters, including the Mount Diablo Peace and Justice Center - and on Veterans Day 2006 they jammed 300 crosses into the hillside all at once. This time it was too many to tear out easily.
"This was just a grassroots statement we felt we had to make," Heaton said. "After that it kept growing, almost on its own."
The Clarks have since died, and their heirs told organizers they would honor the memorial commitment until the soldiers come home, Heaton said. He said they have discussed with him eventually replacing the crosses with veterans housing or a permanent memorial, but nothing has been decided.
Members of the Clark family did not respond to requests for comment.
Such displays are not in the normal character of Lafayette, an enclave of 24,000 known more for its leafy serenity, and at first debates raged at City Council meetings over whether the crosses should be allowed. Then in 2007, a mediator crafted an agreement under which the crosses and sign could not exceed city size limits, and the hill's defenders promised to keep the grasses down to minimize fire danger.
That was the end of civic strife. Insults and accolades have dwindled with the years.

None like it -
Heaton and his group said they've never found a similar memorial as big. "I've wondered, 'Why are we the only ones?' " he said. "I don't know the answer."
Not everyone in Lafayette has adjusted to the memorial.
"It's one thing to have a parade or a service, but a thing like this is an eyesore," said Bob Zimmerman, 79, a retired contractor who served as an Army corporal in the Korean War. "It's not right."
He stopped by the hill the other day when he saw MacMichael and her friend Bob Hanson of Walnut Creek assessing the weeds.
"Why don't you do the people of Lafayette a favor, tear these crosses down and build a real memorial instead?" he said. "Nobody wants them here."
"Well, I'd disagree," said Hanson, 81, a retired college professor who was a second lieutenant in the Korean War. "I think these make an important statement."
The two veterans of the same war gazed calmly at each other.

Divergent views -
"We appreciate your input," Hanson said.
"It's an eyesore," Zimmerman said quietly as he walked away.
Sgt. McCaffrey's mother, Nadia McCaffrey of Tracy, couldn't disagree more.
She personally installed her son's cross at the bottom of the hill, and said having it there "is extremely moving."
 "It's a sacred place now," said McCaffrey, who has devoted herself to helping returning veterans since her son's death. "That may disturb some people, but they need to see it."

A running tally of the servicemen and women killed in the line of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan has rolled steadily upward, even now that the strife is winding down. Photo: Paul Chinn, The Chronicle

On Sunday November 12, 2006 Bob Hanson a member of Mt. Diablo Peace Center joined members of Rossmoor's Grandparents for Peace, the Lamorinda Peace and Justice Group and even some passerby's to plant some 300 crosses as part of the "Crosses of Lafayette" project created by Lafayette resident Jeff Heaton to remind people of the troops that have died in the Iraq conflict. 11/27/06 {Photographed by Frederic Larson} Ran on: 11-28-2006 John and Louise Clark, who own the property where the memorial is located, applaud a speaker at the City Council meeting. Photo: Frederic Larson, SFC