The name of this holiday says it is a day of remembrance. We think of it as a day to remember those of our fellow citizens who have been killed and maimed in America’s wars, from the War for Independence through the wars of today.
Certainly we should remember them. Whether the wars were justified or not, known or covert, those who fought and died in them were not the ones who decided to wage them. They did what they were told was their duty to their country.
But remembering the sacrifices of our own citizens is not enough. We also need to remember those our country has killed in the wars we have waged. Killing is what war is about. Killing those designated as our enemies is what our military is ordered to do. Whether military or civilians, killing more of them than they do of us is how wars are won.
The vast majority of those we killed did not decide to start the war. They may have been fighting to protect their homeland from us, or told by their leaders their cause was just. Each of them was mourned by their loved ones- by parents, wives, husbands, children, brothers, sisters; friends.
Someone knew their names. To us they are mostly anonymous. Most of the time all we know is about how many we killed, and how we did it. Like our own people, some of them survived, but came home with missing parts. Like our own, many ended up with disturbed minds, unable to cope with the killing and dying around them, and unable to resume normal lives when it was over.
They deserve our remembrance, too. They were human beings, not so different from ourselves. But more than that, let us remember that war is not glory, and it is not just dying. It is killing, done by our country; done in our name. If we think about that enough, we might remember to say NO to the next war. That would be a true Memorial.
If we experienced war in the way that most of the world has, we might say NO more quickly, and more loudly. The last time that happened was the Civil War. History tells us how horrible it was, but no one is alive to remember it.
Casualties of War – Putting American Casualties in Perspective
by R.G. Price November 3, 2003
Since the Civil War, we have waged war on others’ territory, not our own, losing fewer troops than most, and hardly any of our own infrastructure. Our civilians may mourn their loved ones killed overseas, and we must care for our veterans afterward, but remain safe at home.
Consider the needless, pointless Vietnam War: American dead – 58,169
Vietnamese killed by American military – 1,165,000+.
Note the charts of World War II deaths. Of the 55.7 million killed, only 0.53 % were Americans: 295,000.
In the Iraq war, 4,491 US troops were killed, up to 2014. Because Bush choose not to do Iraqi body counts, their number is imprecise, from a minimum of 109,032 deaths including 66,081 civilians, through 2009, 194,058 (2003-2017), and including excess deaths as a result of the war, over half a million.
US Has Killed More Than 20 Million People in 37 “Victim Nations” Since World War II
U.S. military forces were directly responsible for about 10 to 15 million deaths during the Korean and Vietnam Wars and the two Iraq Wars. The Korean War also includes Chinese deaths while the Vietnam War also includes fatalities in Cambodia and Laos.
Today, or any day, is a good time to contemplate these numbers, and to ask ourselves (1) What is worth dying for? And (2) What is worth killing for?
Some will automatically answer “freedom”.
The Civil War did bring freedom to many, and to their descendants. Winning World War II arguably preserved or restored freedom for much of the world. All those other wars? Not really. We’d better think of a good reason, or stop having wars.
—cosmicrat May 29, 2017