Friday, May 29, 2015

Did You Know?: Three Percent

Did you know that one out of every thirty-three people on the planet was killed during World War Two? To be exact, the exact number of casualties in that war is unknown, but the best guess is sixty million human beings, including eleven million who were murdered in concentration camps run by the Nazis. That eleven million included six million Jews and five million non-Jews. The total for all war casualties from all causes, as massive and horrible as it is, stands for three percent of the world’s population. So: one in every thirty-three people on the planet died. There were many places the war barely touched or did not touch at all, others that were horribly impacted. The United States fought on two fronts, but suffered only a handful of casualties on national soil; in all, America lost one life in every 300. Great Britain lost one in 200. One in every eight Germans died; one in every four Russians; one in every two Jews. Some estimates of overall deaths reach as high as 85,000,000, with roughly a third being combat deaths, a third being civilian deaths from combat activities, atrocities and other military actions, and another third from famine and disease. The Twentieth century stands as Man’s bloodiest in history, with the war death tally at about 187,000,000. It got a good start with World War One, in which ten million soldiers and eight million civilians were killed. You would think humans, particularly the ones who actually fought and suffered during that war, would have learned their lesson. Many did, but not the ones in power: twenty-five years, almost to the day, from the start of the first came the start of the second. It can’t be stated enough, and yet two things stand out. First, a 1/33 ratio is pretty small when you look at it that way. Second, as Joseph Stalin said, “One death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic.” Maybe this strange statistical analysis helps explain why the United States – as a government and as a people – still believes that war is a viable means of diplomacy. Despite having fought a bloody civil war a century and a half ago, despite having lost Vietnam militarily and despite having been embarrassed by our failure in Iraq, we still clamor for more. In fact, the current fidgeting by the myriad of 2016 Republican Presidential candidate hopefuls on Iraq are proof: the majority of them are saying that, yes, going into Iraq in 2003 was a mistake, but in 2015 we ought to do it again. Lessons learned?

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