Saturday, November 11, 2006

On Armistice Day

"Blessed are the peacemakers," Jesus is reputed to have said, so in 1982 the Reagan administration built nuclear missiles that were originally to be named "Peacemaker."

War has never been good, nor holy, nor praiseworthy -- even the men who have mongered war have always known this to be true.

In 1917, coming home from the front, Siegfried Sassoon declared, and a member of Parliament read in session: "I have seen and endured the sufferings of the troops, and I can no longer be a party to prolong these sufferings for ends which I believe to be evil and unjust ... On behalf of those who are suffering now I make this protest against the deception which is being practiced on them; also I believe that I may help to destroy the callous complacence with which the majority of those at home regard the continuance of agonies which they do not share, and which they have not sufficient imagination to realize."

Sassoon was locked up as insane.

No war need ever have occurred, had those in power been willing to negotiate and compromise. In the two centuries of U.S. warmaking,

  • the War of Independence and its follow-up, the War of 1812, could have been avoided: Canada became independent without firing a single bullet;
  • the Mexican-American War was an ignominious war of conquest that need not have happened at all save for the Anglo Texans' greed;
  • the Civil War need never have been fought: the backward-thinking South is still retrograde and racist ... the region does not belong in the United States;
  • the Spanish-American War was another naked land-grab and saber-rattling that should never have occurred;
  • there never was a good reason for World War I and, without it, World War II would never have occurred;
  • the Korean War kept the military-industrial complex going but it accomplished little that could not have been negotiated;
  • the United States had no business in Vietnam;
  • nothing achieved in the Kuwait War could not have been acheived through diplomacy;
  • the Iraq War was totally unjustified, launched by a lying president.
All told, this unnecessary warmongering cost the lives of 1,006,935 U.S. soldiers and wounded 1,449,217 Americans. That's more than 2 million mothers weeping ... for what?

And that's only the American dead. The other side, and civilians, were also killed and wounded.

For example, we are all familiar with the 57,690 American dead in Vietnam. Yet according to the The Vietnam War Almanac, the South Vietnamese military lost 243,748 lives; Korea's 4,407; Australia and New Zealand combined, lost 469; Thailand, 351; the Vietnam People's Army and National Liberation Front combined tallied 666,000 dead combatants. Then there are the civilians, estimated at 65,000 North Vietnamese and 300,000 South Vietnamese dead.

In all 1,337,314 people killed. That's 1,337,314 mothers who lost a child. Let's try to explain why their labor was in vain to them, shall we?

Therefore, today, on Armistice Day or Remembrance Day, I do not honor the veterans, for unlike the very few such as Sassoon, most of them do bear some responsibility, as aptly put in the song composed by Buffy St. Marie,

He's fighting for Democracy,
He's fighting for the Reds,
He says it's for the peace of all.

He's the one who must decide,

Who's to live and who's to die,

And he never sees the writing on the wall.

But without him,

How would Hitler have condemned him at Laval?

Without him Caesar would have stood alone,

He's the one who gives his body
As a weapon of the war,

And without him all this killing can't go on.

He's the Universal Soldier and he really is to blame,

His orders come from far away no more,
They come from here and there and you and me,

And brothers can't you see,
This is not the way we put the end to war.

Thus, today I draw on words from a man I did not like very much, Pope Paul VI, yet someone who spoke to the United Nations in 1965 with words that still resonate: “No more war! Never again war! If you wish to be brothers, drop your weapons.”

1 comment:

Anne said...

The better point of Armistice Day is rememberance rather than honor, and condemnation of war is the higher honor of the day.

Too bad the US didn't retain its original title. Over time it might have seeped into our collective conscience to use the day as a sign of peace-making.

I've often wished all the veterans association would designate a part of their dues to promoting peace...rather like a Ben & Jerry effort, but I suppose I wish so because I'm a woman and not one of the majority.