Civilian War Casualties Day

This is a call for an informal Civilian War Casualties Day. A call to you to help a community group acknowledge once a year the suffering caused, intentionally or coincidentally, to civilians by war and terrorism.

Are there many civilian war casualties?

The ratio of civilian war deaths to combatants’ deaths in the last hundred years has been estimated at about ten to one. Perhaps 30,000,000 civilians perished in World War II, and smaller wars since then have caused millions of new civilian casualties. Civilians are dying right now.

In addition to deaths, countless millions of civilians have been maimed, denied access to medical care, deprived of clean water, made to suffer malnutrition, raped, tortured, rendered homeless, separated from families, deprived of schools, and emotionally traumatized.

While “casualties” refers to people killed, wounded, or missing, I imagine that some people will see a series of concentric circles of secondary civilian casualties — refugees, populations feeling terrorized and intimidated, the families who grieve, and people whose lives would be better if their governments did not spend fortunes on unnecessary wars.

What is the point of Civilian War Casualties Day?

The point is to help ourselves and others better understand the scope of suffering, and to consider ways to mitigate that suffering. As a decentralized movement, there is no agenda beyond those two objectives. Individuals and groups who organize events to observe the day might promote specific actions, and one group’s proposal might contradict another’s, in keeping with the principles of freedom of speech and freedom of thought.

What groups might be most interested?

Perhaps certain churches, campus organizations, veterans’ organizations, medical associations, non-profits, peace groups, advocacy organizations, librares, and social organizations. Many individuals have first or second hand experience with civilian war casualties, and are potential organizers and guest speakers.

What activities could happen on Civilian War Casualties Day?

As a de-centralized movement, individuals and groups in various communities should decide for themselves which events would best help other people understand the extent of civilian casualties, and to consider ways to reduce suffering in the future.

My personal preference is for emphasis on education and awareness, which involves — live or online — events like panel discussions, guest speakers, films and discussion, book club readings, and photography exhibits. Some groups might offer arts performances, public gatherings, or other activities.

What can one person do?

Aside from helping a group organize events, any one person can hold a sign on a street corner, write a letter to the editor, express an opinion to an elected official, or send a supportive note to a local group whose purpose complements Civilian War Casualties Day.

Which day of the year?

October 15. Most colleges and schools are in session, or will be after the covid-19 disruptions end.

Some groups might instead observe Civilian War Casualties Day on a day appropriate to their community’s history.

When did this start?

I conducted a one-person demonstration in Napa, California, in 2012.

Why veterans should be supportive

Most veterans and active service personnel believe that they have served in order to protect civilians in their own country, and sometimes civilians in other countries. I was sent to Viet Nam in part ostensibly to protect Vietnamese civilians. Some veterans should be able to make strong contributions to our understanding and awareness of civilian war casualties.

Stephen Sossaman

Burbank, California

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