From the Second World War forward, MOST people dying in wars are civilians: old men, women, children, non-combatants.
World War II deaths: about 47 million civilians, 25 million combatants, 416,800 US military.
Some 48,000 Americans fell in Korea, but over 2 million Koreans civilians.
While 58,000 US military died in Vietnam, over one million Vietnamese civilians died.
So far, fewer than 4,300 US military have died in Iraq. Estimates of Iraqi dead range from 600,000 to over one million.
The ratio of civilian deaths to American military deaths is similar in Afghanistan.
It was also so during the invasions of the Dominican Republic and Panama.
To honor only US military dead is to glorify the military mindset and only count US lives as worth anything. These sentiments only lead to more wars that are bad for the US and bad for the world. And war robs us all.
CNN's international audience will watch Memorial Day coverage of ceremonies replete with colorful flags and military uniforms and hear snippets of speeches praising military service with special honors for those killed in action. Most watching overseas will be struck by the holiday attention shown solely for U.S. Armed Forces fatalities with nary a reference to the hugely greater number of foreigners who died in their home countries. Non-Americans grouped around TV sets in Korea, Vietnam, Dominican Republic, Panama, Afghanistan, and Iraq will likely be squinting in grim incredulity at American indifference to the loss of THEIR countrymen's lives - unfortunately, more often than not, at the hands of Americans.
In our personal lives, good manners require us to recognize the discomfort of others before speaking of our own - especially in the case where we have caused others discomfort. We try to be self-effacing when tragedy strikes both ourselves and others, showing compassion and sympathy for others first. If one of us has harmed someone, it is only moral and humane to show concern for his or her suffering over our own.
So since most war dead have been civilians, on Memorial Day 2009, as US wars of occupation continue to take their daily toll of civilian lives, let us best remember:
It's NOT Veterans' Day. It's NOT Armed Forces Day. It's NOT the Marine Corps' Birthday.
It's Memorial Day, a day of solemn mourning.
Don't let anyone tell you WHO to mourn and HOW to mourn.
The above phrases, as well the slogan below was put forward by fellow member of Veterans for Peace, Elliot Markson, and endorsed by New York City Chapter 34:
"Most War Dead Are Civilians, Mourn Them Too"