On the 11th of November at 11am, people in many countries will pause in silence to remember those in the armed services who gave their lives in any number of wars. But, who takes the time to remember the millions of innocent lives lost in these conflicts?
I was born in 1947, two years after the worst conflict in history. Since then, there has not been a time when there has not been a conflict or terrorism somewhere in the world in which innocent people have been killed. From my early years I witnessed Tibet, the Mau Mau uprising, Korea, Ireland, Vietnam, numerous civil wars etc. The recent bombing by the USA of a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan in which at least 12 staff and 7 patients including 3 children were killed is another incident of innocent people losing their lives. Islamic State criminals today are involved in the slaughter of innocents who do not comply with their insane ideology.
Estimates of civilian deaths in two world wars vary. In WWI 11 million soldiers died and 7 million civilians. In WWII 21-25 million soldiers died and 50-55 million civilians. At least a quarter of a million people were killed when the USA dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is estimated that eleven million people were killed in the holocaust perpetrated by the Nazis, being 6 million victims of Jewish origin, 3 million Christian Polish victims and two million victims from other countries.
Nobody (as far as I can tell) who has been involved in a conflict comes back and says they had a great time. In fact, the opposite applies. If war is spoken about at all, you will be told war is not worth it. My father who was in WWII from the start to the finish only mentioned where he served, but never the details. “I was there in the war” would be his comment when he heard of a place in the news, but nothing more.
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Of course we should remember and honour those people in the armed service who gave their lives in protecting our freedom. We also need to recognise that some of these service men also killed others in their line of duty and that millions of innocent men, women and children who died during conflict did not by accident. Many communities have been bombed out of existence. Some people were executed for no other reason than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Others eliminated in programs of organised genocide.
It would not be difficult to combine the commemoration of armed service with that of remembering the innocents. Instead of the sole emphasis on the military with the implication of glorifying war, it would provide a more realistic and grounded view of what war means.
“And let us also remember those innocent people whose lives ended tragically through no fault of their own”.
Do you feel like we do enough to commemorate the innocents lost to war?
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