By the time this editorial is read, there is little doubt that the death toll in Gaza will have risen.
There will likely have been more skirmishes in the various nations of Africa where rebels and governments, tribes and families continue to fight.
Death and destruction will no doubt have continued in Syria, where aid agencies seem to have no hope of keeping abreast of a continuing humanitarian crisis there.
And in the Ukraine, militants armed by Russia may or may not have agreed to let inspectors look at the wreckage of the airplane they probably shot down — it’s all but proven that Flight MH-17 was downed by a missile fired by Russian separatists. That one act of aggression killed nearly 300 people.
And on it goes. The conflicts above are just a few of the various “hot spots,” as the United Nations calls them, where people are busy killing other people (often with American-made weapons) for mostly indecipherable, pretentious or just plain fabricated reasons.
There is a non-profit, non-partisan organization called the National Priorities Project that keeps tabs — as closely as it can — on the ever-rising costs of conflicts across the face of the earth. In fact, their website has a continually-running adding machine that calculates the cost of wars while you watch. It changes by the split-second, and the numbers always go up, never down.
One day last week, in the second or two it took to write down the number, the cost of wars that day totalled $1,553,334,200,990. (The very first number represents a “quadrillion.”) That’s not the cost of all the wars in the history of mankind. Oh, no. It is just the cost of wars since 2001.
And on it goes.
A cease-fire in Gaza on Friday was supposed to last for four hours — a “humanitarian” cease-fire, it was called, so the people of Gaza could creep out of their hiding places to try and get bread and water and people who were wounded, without getting shot.
It lasted only 45 minutes. Doesn’t matter who is to blame for ending the “humanitarian” pause to the war — Lord knows there is enough blame, enough evil, to cover the actions of both sides.
But no one appears to see the obvious, the one fact of war that has been true throughout its history. Nobody really wins. Oh, it’s true that World War II stopped the evil of facism in its tracks — at a cost that, in may ways, we’re still paying. It resulted in a destroyed and divided Europe and a Cold War that gives every indication of becoming a reality once again.
It is also true that there have been times when war was a final, ugly-but-necessary recourse. World War II and the Civil War may well be the best examples. But war, even when it is “successful,” represents humankind’s greatest failure.
We can’t talk things out; we can’t compromise; we can’t get along or find ways of living beside one another for mutual benefit. So we resort to figuratively hitting each other over the head. Might makes right, or so we think.
Well, here’s something else to think about:
The cost of a single B-2 Stealth bomber is $1 billion.
That translates into 2,564,102,564 meals for starving people, (according to the National Priorities Project.) Or it could buy 1,150,510 clean water cells for people in Africa, Asia and South America who are often forced to drink unhealthy water.
The cost of one B-2 bomber would pay for 106,951,872 mosquito nets, to let people sleep at night free of the malaria-carrying bug bites. The United Nations says two million people die every year from malaria and most of them are children.
The B-2 would pay for 31,466,331 immunizations against childhood killer diseases such as diphtheria, whooping cough, measles, polio and others. And that bomber’s cost could pay for school books for 53,504,548 children for a year.
There are other numbers to throw on the page, but the point is obvious. It’s time the fighting stopped.
“Never war! Never War!,” said Pope Francis last month. “I think most of all about children, whose hopes for a dignified life, a future, are dashed. Dead children, wounded children, mutilated children, orphans, children who have the leftovers of war for toys. Children who don’t know how to smile.
“Stop it, please!,” the pope pleaded. “I beg you with all my heart. It’s time to stop!”
Others have begged for the same thing; pleas that so far have fallen on deaf ears. The president of Caritas Internationalis suggested that Israeli and Hamas leaders “pick up a pair of binoculars so they can see that most of (their) victims are innocent people.”
And Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriquez Maradiaga — the Caritas Internationalis president — had another suggestion:
“Israel and Hamas, why do you keep pointing out the speck in the eye of your brother while missing the plank in your own eye?”
Blessed are the peacemakers. We just need more of them.