Yesterday the journalist Marie Colvin was killed in Homs, Syria, just one day after she reported on the death of an infant from shelling and the lack of medical care. She was an American who reported for a British paper. She has previously been in other dangerous places including recently reporting on Libya. While she is well known, she is just one of many casualties in the civil war racking Syria. The French photographer Remi Ochlik was also killed. Their deaths attract attention for two reasons, one is that, as reporters, they are celebrities of a sort and second that they are Western. Unfortunately, some people's lives still seem more important than others.
In Syria, like so many other places in the world, civilians, including young children suffer and die. The number of civilians as a percentage of war deaths has been increasing especially over the past hundred years or so. The increased technology of killing allows armies to kill at greater distances, thus making "collateral damage" more likely. In addition, since more conflicts are civil wars, the site of combat is more often in cities and villages. So, it is more difficult to distinguish who is a combatant. In some conflicts, there has been an attitude of "to kill the big rats, one must also kill the little rats" as was expressed by a Rwandan political commentator.
As I am writing up some of my family's stories from WWII and the communist era, I see many similarities to current wars. Hearing my family's stories caused me to hate war, though a more careful review of history has taught me that it is occasionally necessary. Nevertheless, I think that we must all do whatever we can to protect life, especially innocent life. Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik were doing their part, as journalists, making it known to the world. Others, such as Gino Strada, of Emergency, and Medicins Sans Frontiers help by caring for the civilian victims.
It is my dream that humans can evolve to settle conflicts in other ways. Only then can we truly call ourselves civilized.