The deliberate murder of 2,700 civilians in New York last year may have been a unique event in the history of the United States. But in the wider world, atrocities like it are disturbingly familiar. As we grieve with the families of 9/11's victims, who are filling our TV screens this week with their anguished tales of horror and loss, let us spend a moment reflecting on the planet's ocean of civilian casualties.At the beginning of the 20th century, according to a report by Amnesty International's Mark Lattimer, there were an average of nine military deaths for every civilian casualty in wartime. After a century of world wars, smaller proxy wars, revolutions and increasing civil conflicts, with their attendant genocides, this ratio has shifted drastically.
In fact, it has reversed. Nine civilians are murdered in modern warfare for every military casualty! From Armenia to Burundi, from Indonesia to Chile, Vietnam, the Middle East, China, Russia, Latin America, Japan and the former Yugoslavia, few nations have been exempt from the blood-thirsty brigades of the mad, the righteous, the obedient.
The death toll of civilians murdered during wartime in the 20th century: 100 million. And that does not include those who died from disease and starvation, a number estimated to be at least another 100 million.
I'm not meaning to minimize the terrible events in New York last year, but to accentuate them.
When we talk of a permanent memorial for the U.S. victims, I wonder what we are going to do about the broader calamity. Remembrance Day, November 11, was established to honour those who have died in war, and although that day's commemorative services sometimes mention civilian dead, traditionally it's a military event.
Perhaps, then, it's time to set aside another day, a day to remember and mourn and name the mass civilian slaughters of our own time. If that day were September 11, I can think of no more suitable permanent memorial to the dead of New York.firstname.lastname@example.org