By Joseph Arrieta
Pinko would have been so proud of me. I had just left a gaggle
of patriots near the gazebo in the park, gravely chatting
in the scorching evening heat as they set up their peace vigil
on September 11th. I had an order to carry out, remembered
from my heroes at Media
Whores Online: take back the flag. I'd brought one with
me, but it was still in the car.
The inevitable beer dudes, idly guzzling brew and chucking
redeemable glass empties into a trash can the previous sixty
minutes, noticed me. I elicited stares with my shirt from
Smirking Chimp: BUSH KNEW.
A beefy blond bare-chested suburban-surfer type looked me
dead in the eye. "Must be a hippie!" he yelled.
Flabbergasted, without thinking I broke into a workout jog
and went across the park to the car. People actually stared,
but it was all I could do to keep from hysterically laughing,
which would have been very bad. Nobody likes being laughed
at. Auntie Pinko trained
me what to do, I didn't turn that park punk into a punching
At least out of sight from the stares for a minute I carefully
unfurled the flag, suddenly aware that I had never carried
the colors before. I'd paid taxes, registered voters, enlisted,
got educated, voted and become an obedient corporate cog for
the feds all these years, but I'd never held or waved Old
Glory for anything, ever. Now I had a colors debut as a hippie.
Since workout jogging didn't seem provocative and there was
a calming effect to the cadence, I locked the colors by jamming
them into a pocket and chugged across the park.
Loud hosannas and whistles immediately rang out from all over,
but what I really remember was the startling snapping of the
flag next to my ear as I ran. Some girls gave me big wolf
whistles, but as I reached the gazebo things suddenly got
very quiet, the girl's loud laughter dying away. By the time
I walked up to the vigil none of the patriots even knew of
the little commotion behind them.
Here on the little down slope before the gazebo Pat Kneisler
has ceaselessly kept her Iraq war peace vigil, often all by
herself and her collection of laserjet signs: coalition soldiers
dead in Iraq last seven days: 5 US TROOPS.
Pat would know. Never an activist before the war, she had
moved to California many years before following a civil engineering
career. Eventually she set up her own one-person business,
meticulously building a niche market devoted to industrial
engineering. Woe to the sorry-assed contractor or civil servant
who ever lied to Pat Kneisler or brushed off her unwavering
devotion to duty and detail.
That's precisely what George Bush did sometime in March, 2003.
He lied to Pat one too many times and she simply decided she
was going to find out for herself exactly how many American
boys were dying for his lies.
It began with the signs. Every week on a Thursday night she
would stand on the sidewalk near a downtown park with two
signs, one listing total coalition troop deaths to date, one
listing Iraqi civilian deaths. The civilian deaths came from
the website IraqBodyCount.net. But where to find the coalition
For a couple of weeks she used numbers posted by CNN,
until she began to wonder, "Just where do they get their
Eventually, she discovered that CENTCOM and the DOD both release
US troop death notices on their websites,
while British deaths were posted at the British Ministry of
The problem: only infrequently (say, every month or so) were
these death notices tabulated in print into a total. Much
to her chagrin, she discovered that anyone, including the
media, who wanted a daily running total had to pull the individual
death notices and add them up themselves.
Never one to shy from a challenge, Pat began to hunt down
those notices and her own list quickly grew. Things began
to get really interesting when she compared her list to the
ones kept by CNN, the Army Times and other
The CNN list was attractive, but it was kept alphabetically,
so that recent entries to the list were very difficult to
pick out. They did give a total, but that total included both
British and US troops. No breakdowns were provided for US
troops only. They were missing two British troops who appeared
on the Ministry of Defense Website. Furthermore, one could
frequently count the entries on their list, and get a number
that was less than what they listed as their total!
The Army Times list was also well done and it was kept chronologically
so that recent entries were easy to find. But it was short
four soldiers, only counted US
troops, and didn't provide a total.
So much for existing lists. Pat determined that hers would
simply have to provide the kind of info that the other lists
Late in May, Pat decided her numbers needed to be published.
She contacted Markos Zúniga, blogger of the Daily
Kos, and asked him if he would be interested in publishing
her data. Within an hour Marcos had the numbers up on his
Reader/blogger Michael White saw Pat's numbers and decided
they needed a permanent home with browser database functionality.
Out of the blue, he made her an offer she couldn't refuse.
"Would you like me to provide you with a website just
for your data at my Lunaville
blog?" Michael (the inimitable "elvis56") can
do it all—build the database, install the OS, server
and database, secure everything, script the columns into html,
script database update through the browser, filters for the
database columns. In a twinkling Lunaville's crown jewel was
born in early June, the Iraq Coalition
No one knows how Editors
and Publishers, prestigious journalism trade sheet, ever
found Lunaville, but they did in mid-July. They announced
the site to the world of their readers: "A website called
the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count is tracking the deaths,
by whatever cause, of US
military personnel in Iraq, based on official Pentagon and
CENTCOM press releases."
Word was out among the professionals and Lunaville's server
immediately groaned under an onslaught on hits: by the end
of June, the hit count at Lunaville stood at 500-1500 a day.
By the end of July it was 6,000. Right now Lunaville cruises
at about 13,000 hits a day. Humans crave the truth.
Lunaville burns through about 18 gigs of outbound a month,
which costs $522. RonK, pinch hitter at the Daily Kos, found
out and posted about it. Michael now has enough money to make
it through Christmas.
The Guardian referred to the site in an article.
The BBC called. Newsweek sent e-mails. The Utne
Reader added to the positive chorus. Radio interviews
were requested. Vernon Loeb of The Washington Post
pointed Pat to the CENTCOM press line for news of the wounded.
Mother Jones chimed in with praise. Two reporters
and a photographer hovered around her on September 11th.
Pat Kneisler isn't famous because she can pay attention and
count. It's because the US journalism corps can't or won't.
Too many publications were reporting "combat deaths,"
not all deaths. One could dodge an RPG,
crash the hummer and be listed as a traffic fatality and not
counted in the press reports.
Pat dignified all of our slain GI's in the theatre by counting
them, for whatever reason. All of a sudden word spread like
a prairie fire that to know the real number one had to go
To flog a dead horse - to mercilessly whip with glass barbs
upon that stinking, odious carcass of a profession - it simply
must be said that the US journalism corps is an utter disgrace,
a disgusting pack of craven rating hyenas who care nothing
for the truth, not even self-conscious in treating Pat Kneisler
as the story, when in fact at least half of the story is their
complete inability to get the correct casualty numbers themselves.
Halfway through the vigil a minivan slowed in the busy street
facing the patriots. "Pat, Pat!" a woman called
out, waving an arm. "Come by, we never see you anymore!"
All the patriots laughed while Pat blushed. Any patriot knows
the gaps in life when duty calls, but Pat Kneisler would never,
ever get paid a patriot's compliment for attention.
"Hey, fuck you!" a young large man yelled from a
pickup. Pat gravely held her sign of truth and then looked
up with an easy peace. A peace that comes from knowing that
here she was yet again on a Thursday, honoring all the men
who have died, counting them all so the world could know the
No matter the many foul insults hurled at her those two hours,
no matter how tired she was, no matter what other sacrifices
had to made, she would be there and Lunaville would display
the truth. George Bush is still lying.
Joseph Arrieta is a writer, web producer and amateur media
living in San Jose, California.