Suffer the Little Children
Bernard Joseph Steffen
Today is the 90th Anniversary of Armistice Day, or as it is now known in Canada, Remembrance Day, the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. Today at 11:00 a.m. we give two minutes silence as a sign of respect for the members of the armed forces who served in the war. The original Armistice Day was intended as remembrance for everyone who lost their lives in “the war to end all wars”. We all know, however, that World War I was not the war to end all wars, and World War II was far more deadly, not only for members of the armed forces, but for civilians.
20 million people were killed in World War I – 10 million military and 10 million civilians. The total estimated human loss of life caused by World War II is roughly 72 million people. The civilian toll was around 47 million, including 20 million deaths due to war-related famine and disease. The military toll was about 25 million, including the deaths of about 4 million prisoners of war in captivity.
It is estimated that during his regime, Stalin killed 20,000,000 of his countrymen, and Hitler killed approximately 6,000,000 Jews, Gypsies, and other people he considered “undesirable”. Almost 2,000,000 of them were children and babies.
During the Vietnam War there were approximately 58,000 Americans killed, 1,100,000 North and South Vietnamese killed, and millions of civilians.
In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, there were approximately 151,000 civilian deaths in Iraq from 2003 to 2007. However, according to research done by Opinion Research Business, an independent polling agency located in London, there were 1,220,580 Iraqi civilian deaths in the Iraq war. I work with Iraqi doctors, and I think this latter number may be closer to the truth.
My arithmetic is not very good, but that is a heck of a lot of innocent civilians who have died because of war or philosophical differences. How many more millions of people have been wounded, disfigured, displaced, or suffer illness and other hardships because of war? How many children have been orphaned? And it is still happening. Who will be next? What can we do about it? Not a thing. When I watched the start of the Iraq War, live and in living color on prime time television, March 20, 2003, and I watched the tanks driving over the beautiful bridges on the Tigris River, all I could think about was how frightened the children of Baghdad must have been at that moment. I was heartsick. To me, it was as devastating as watching the World Trade Centers falling. Why was any of it necessary?
So, today, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, when we remember the veterans who served and who gave their lives, I think we should also remember all those millions of innocent people who were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, and who got caught in the cross-fire.