The historical epoch of Armistice Day began with the Nov. 11, 1918, signing of a ceasefire between Germany and the Allied powers of World War I. President Woodrow Wilson initiated it.
On Monday, President Barack Obama will oversee this 95th anniversary with historical pageantry (which has for nearly six decades been celebrated as Veterans Day). All the while, war continues in Afghanistan. And despite the United States' declaration that the war in Iraq ended in 2011, insurgents continue to harm civilians there; on Monday, a cluster of attacks killed at least 12 people, many of them police officers.
In Colorado Springs, we're reminded of war's impact more often than people in most other cities. But even so, it's not often enough.
The epidemic tragedy of war could eventually become the genocide of civilization. And even now, the numbers from these last two fights alone — the casualties and costs of war — are horrific.
In February 2013, the Congressional Research Service issued a detailed summation of facts related to the post-9/11 conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, titled Operations New Dawn, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. An analysis by the Journalist's Resource project at Harvard University's Shorenstein Center included these three bullet points:
• During the Iraq War, 4,475 U.S. service members were killed and 32,220 were wounded; in Afghanistan, 2,165 [were] killed and 18,230 wounded through Feb. 5, 2013.
• Among service members deployed in these conflicts, 103,792 were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) over the period 2002 to December 2012. Over that same period, 253,330 service members were diagnosed with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) of some kind.
• As a result of battle injuries in the Iraq War, 991 service members received wounds that required amputations; 797 lost major limbs, such as a leg. In Afghanistan, 724 have had to undergo amputations, with 696 losing a major limb.
It's worth noting that these numbers have surely gone up since February.
The same Shorenstein Center analysis mentioned the "Costs of War" project at Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies. Professors Neta C. Crawford and Catherine Lutz set out to do the "first comprehensive analysis of direct and indirect human and economic costs" of the Iraq war. With scholars of all kinds, from 15 universities plus the United Nations, they looked at the Iraq war specifically and released a report this past March, at the 10-year anniversary of the conflict beginning there.
They found that more than 330,000 people — more than three-quarters of Colorado Springs' entire population — were killed in Iraq during the fighting. That number doesn't even include what they call "indirect deaths due to increased vulnerability to disease or injury as a result of war-degraded conditions." Nor does it represent anything close to the highest estimated death toll among researchers.
Mankind needs to demand the cessation of this human carnage that has affected civilians, contractors, humanitarian workers, journalists, militants and police. It also needs to stop spending money so recklessly on such destruction. The Iraq theater alone, according to Crawford, Lutz and their researchers, accounted for a cost of $2.2 trillion to the United States — despite initial estimates by the U.S. government that the war would run $50 billion to $60 billion. The total monetary cost of operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan will be $4 trillion [according to "Costs of War"].
And speaking of Pakistan, the New America Foundation estimates that more than 300 civilians have been killed due to U.S. "drone" strikes there in the past 10 years or so. This technological "advance" represents another phase of war cruelty.
Ninety-five years ago, we rightfully acknowledged and celebrated the conclusion of years of fighting. But actually, there is no end in sight.
The world's civil societies must strive to put warmongers out of business. The human sacrifice is too great. And until then, we must acknowledge the immutable fact that's often undervalued: War represents an unbelievably costly undertaking.
Charles H. Guy, who has taught at Colorado Technical University, the University of Phoenix and DeVry University, is semi-retired and lives in Colorado Springs.