|[Harry Patch died in 2009 at the age of 111.]|
"No war is worth the loss of a couple of lives, let alone thousands."
~ ~ Harry Patch, former soldier100 years after the "Great War"
and all those other wars that followed
. . . and continue,
some will turn off the lights tonight and light a candle and
pause for a moment of silence,
say officials televized visiting the graves of the 'fallen'
or giving speeches to honor the soldiers who fought.
What of those others, though, who did not fight or serve,
those millions of citizens whose lives were also taken?
Mothers, babies, old folks, children, nurses, grocers, teachers, farmers, bricklayers,
clerks and cooks and artists and scientists and students?
Nine million soldiers died in the fighting, 6 million civilians died from disease or starvation
and 1 million more as a direct result of military operations.
"One million died as a direct result of military operations."
The military has a name for this latter group. "Collateral Damage."
Collateral means 'additional but subordinate; secondary; supplementary'.
Collateral Damage is damage to things that are incidental to the intended target.
Things like . . . people.
The intended target at Hiroshima was Hiroshima, the city.
A single bomb instantly destroyed the entire city. And most of the incidental people therein.
The intended target in Gaza this past week has been schools, a hospital and buildings
full of refugees whose homes had been bombed, in this latest 'little' ongoing regional war.
Big wars and little wars, declared or clandestine, defensive or punitive, death is death.
We 'war' against crime, and drugs, and poverty - there are always, it seems, the need to
"fight a war on".
In a dream I imagined an international public memorial commemorating the
brave and the fallen due to war--any war--where instead of famous officials and military images
media-blasted to remind us of our war history (uniforms, medals, rifles, tanks, troops, battle scenes, trenches, etc.), where the focus is War--I imagined instead a sea of ordinary people, each holding a photo of a loved one lost to war, or the after-affects of war, assembling to remember not war and death (the how and where) but the life of the person war took, the focus on why. Why war? Why did we have to go to war? Was there no other option?
The military rewards those who are exceptionally brave in war by giving them medals of honor.
What reward of honor to the mother caught in a war who meets a bullet head-on, rather than let it reach her child? To the mortally wounded brother who'd insisted that his sister be saved first.
In my dream there was no distinction among the dead - of who'd fought with a rifle
and who'd died as part of the group referred to by military strategists as "collateral damage".
You don't have to have been there to be a victim of war. Ask the dead soldier's widow and children, the slaughtered parents' orphaned child, the nurses who take care of the returning war wounded.
Life, for them, goes on, but not without having gotten war's scars. You just can't always see them.
Only when the second massive global war came along a few decades later
did The Great War ("the war to end all wars") start being called "World War I".
World War II showed that even "the most devastating war the world has ever known"
could not convince humans to end all wars. Au contraire.
The next world war won't be fought with soldiers on a battlefield. (The AI progammers haven't yet figured out how to get the future robo-grunts to think like humans.) Battles will be waged in a control room. Someone will just push a button and Poof! the world as we know it will disappear, thanks to our evolution from crude canons and muskets to swift, precise nukes.
Imagine . . . a world without "war".
Our Militaries would become obsolete.
There would be no need to amass more sophisticated and more ingeniously concocted lethal weapons to keep up with other players in the race for better national defense. Departments of Defense could become Departments of Peace.
In my dreams.
An interesting observation - while commemorations commence on this 100-year anniversary,
reminding ourselves of the horrors of war, the focus should be on how to not let this ever happen again, right?
Without realizing it, I'd relegated Peace to being a fantasy. That was . . . sobering.
I further note that in the above piece I've referred to war 23 times; to death or dying, 13 times; to the military, 6 times, and twice each to targets and bombs. And only once, to peace. (The part about lighting a candle, in a moment of silent reflection - is only performed for one minute, out of respect for each nation's warriors, rather than as an urgent call for peace. Perhaps because in so many parts of the world, peace just can't take hold yet.) I wonder, on the 200th anniversary of The Great War, if we will have finally figured out that war is not the answer. If we make it to that time, as a civilization, that is. I prefer to remain optimistic. I don't know the answer (if war isn't 'the answer'), as to the exact "how". But maybe we'll get there "yet". If not in my lifetime, another's.