Monday, May 28, 2012
Those who died in the service of the United States will surely be remembered today, as they should be.
Less frequently remembered by Americans are the non-combatants killed in the countries the US has warred with since the end of World War II.
About 935,000 Korean civilians died during the Korean War, with higher mortality in the North than the South (http://www.cotf.edu/ete/modules/korea/kwar.html).
There were roughly a million civilian deaths on both sides of the Vietnam War. That's a moderate-to-conservative estimate; in 1995, the Vietnamese government estimated the civilian death toll at twice that number. (http://vietnamwar-database.blogspot.com/2010/11/vietnam-war-casualties.html).
It was very difficult to find any statistical information on civilian casualties in Nicaragua and El Salvador during the Reagan interventions of the '80s.
There were fewer civilian deaths during the first Iraq War, known officially as Desert Storm, than in most American expeditionary actions. However, Baghdad was bombed repeatedly, leading to something in excess of 100,000 non-combatant fatalities (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gulf_War#Civilian).
The web site Iraq Body count estimates between 107 and 117 thousand civilians died during the second Iraq War of 2003-2011 (http://www.iraqbodycount.org/).
Although it has lasted longer than the second Iraq War, the war in Afghanistan has been fought at a low level of intensity off and on since 2001 when it began, and has not been as deadly. Still, roughly 50,000 civilians have been killed by belligerents on both sides since the conflict began (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civilian_casualties_of_the_War_in_Afghanistan_(2001–present).
If we assign Reagan's Central American wars an arbitrary civilian death toll of 50,000 -- actually a conservative estimate -- and add it in with all the other civilian war death figures above, and keeping in mind that these are rough guesstimates only, then between two and two-and-a-half million civilians have died in American expeditionary conflicts since the end of World War II.
No matter what they turn out to be, these numbers are much higher than the total numbers of American war dead in all these wars.
I believe we should remember the victims of war. I believe we should remember and honor the memory of all of them.
Photo: My Lai Village, Vietnam, 1968.