Do you know how many U.S. soldiers have been killed in the wars in Afghanistan images-1and Iraq? No idea? Well, it’s Memorial Day, the long weekend that is meant for commemorating our fallen soldiers. And even though the holiday has come to signify other things to many of us—a three-day weekend, outdoor barbecues, and Mountainfilm in Telluride—I think it’s important to reflect on not just the casualties of war, but also on what has become the casual way we accept war.

It’s 6,805. That’s how many American soldiers have been killed in the two conflicts. No matter what your beliefs are, whether you think war is a necessary evil in protecting our country against terrorists or you think that war is the unjustifiable geopolitical maneuvering of leaders determined to position our country economically, that is still 6,805 too many lives lost. Fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, and children—all gone from this world.

But that number represents only a small fraction of the human costs of these wars. And that number is dwarfed by the number of civilian casualties in both countries. Innocent people—not soldiers, not armed militants, just people who happen to live in Afghanistan or Iraq and whose lives have been sacrificed to these wars. Do you know how many civilian casualties there have been? These numbers are harder to define, but various organizations put the number of civilian casualties in Afghanistan between 18,000 and 20,000. And in Iraq, it’s even more grim. The most conservative calculations put the number between 123,000 and 137,000. It’s hard to even wrap your mind around that kind of body count. And again, these are not soldiers fighting against us. These are just people who live in countries that have been ravaged by the violence and bloodshed of war.

When does this end? What have we accomplished from all of this? These wars were fought, ostensibly, to avenge the 9/11 terrorist attack that claimed fewer than 3,000 lives. Do we feel safer? We are still removing our shoes in the airports and having every single one of our emails and phone conversations tracked by our own government. If we were trying to destroy some perceived enemies in the world, I can only imagine how many new enemies we have created by causing the deaths of more than a hundred thousand innocent civilians. It makes me shudder to think of it.

Peace is not a radical idea, and it’s not a new idea. Peace activists marched and demonstrated before the wars began in Afghanistan and Iraq. There has been a paradigm shift, in part because of the globalization of the world today. We are no longer just united under a flag, or by a form of religion. We are citizens of this earth. We belong to each other, we belong to this planet, and we belong to humanity. One of the most touching speeches I heard during the peace movements was by author Arundhati Roy. She said that the only way war will end is when soldiers refuse to take up arms against their fellow humans. When they reject the notion that it’s OK to kill another person for their government’s cause. I hope that day comes. And if we can reflect on the more than a hundred thousand people who have died in these wars, and honor them by peaceably resolving future conflicts, then they will not have sacrificed their lives in vain.

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.