It has been 82 years since the guns fell silent. On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, World War I was over.
Few are left who remember that day. But the cost and consequences of the conflict that brought about Veterans Day are still felt around the world.
World War I destroyed the spirit of peace and optimism that had ruled Europe for most of 100 years. It set in motion the forces that led to World War II. And it ruined more lives than any war in human history until World War II.
France lost 168 of every 1,000 men who served. Germany 154 men of every 1,000.
The United States lost far fewer, something like 27 of every 1,000 who went to Europe.
Yet about twice as many Americans died on the Western front and at sea as in Vietnam.
''All told,'' says the Oxford historian Niall Ferguson, ''the war claimed more than 9 million lives on both sides, more than one in every eight of the 65.8 million men who fought in it. In four and a quarter years of mechanized butchery, an average of around 6,046 men were killed everyday. The total number of fatalities for the British Empire as a whole was around 921,000: the originator of the Imperial War Graves Commission, Sir Fabian Ware, calculated that if the dead were to march abreast down Whitehall, the parade past the Cenotaph would last three and a half days.''
During the '20s and '30s, the blind, gassed and crippled soldier was a common sight on the streets of Moscow, Hamburg, London and New York. In the late '30s, more than 600,000 British officers and servicemen were receiving disability pensions -- roughly the entire population of Alaska today.
Young men on both sides went to war with heads full of heroic poetry about great battles and individual courage. If they came home, the poetry that accompanied them was like this simple, heartbreaking piece of verse written by Lt. Ewart Mackintosh about a father whose son died in 1916.
So you were David's father,
And he was your only son,
And the new-cut peats are rotting
And the work is left undone,
Because of an old man weeping,
Just an old man in pain,
For David, his son David,
That will not come again.
The war ended on Nov. 11, 1918, but the suffering it inflicted did not.
Nor did the suffering end after the last shot was fired in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
Please remember that as we remember our veterans.
Editor's note: The Niall Ferguson quote and the Ewart Mackintosh poem are from ''The Pity of War: Explaining World War I'' by Niall Ferguson (Basic Books, 1999).
November 8: Juneau Empire on the Electoral College:
It's time to dismantle the Electoral College, as yesterday's national election clearly demonstrates.
There are strong signs telling us how the election is likely to turn out, but we don't want to make the mistakes the TV networks did early Tuesday night when they prematurely awarded Florida's electoral votes to Al Gore and early today when they prematurely declared George W. Bush the winner. At this writing, it appears Bush has the edge.
If Gore edges Bush in the national popular vote but loses the Electoral College, the nation has had its wake-up call. The Electoral College is an anachronism, something that might have made sense in the late 1700s or early 1800s when the small states did not want to be steamrolled by the larger states. Then the Electoral College was an equalizer.
But then and now the Electoral College goes against the American ideals that all men and women are created equal and that every vote should count exactly as much as every other vote.
The Electoral College is a contrivance that can deny voter equality, thwart democracy and deliver runners-up to the Oval Office.
We say that yesterday, today and tomorrow -- until the Electoral College is scrapped and regardless of whether the beneficiary-victim relationship is Democrat-GOP, GOP-Democrat or involves some third party.
We do not call upon this year's electors to rebel in favor of the popular vote. They should respect the rules in place at this time. But we should change the rules without further delay.
If Bush loses the popular vote but wins the White House, the new president's legacy already is being written. He will be tainted as the loser who won. Is that fair? No, his legacy should be based on merit, where he takes the nation in the next four (or eight) years. But the sense of unfairness experienced by Bush will be minuscule compared to that experienced by Gore.
It is wrong for the nation to endure the division that accompanies an Electoral College victory for a runner-up presidential vote-getter.
Dismantle the Electoral College.
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