Have we finished with war yet?

by Nancy Wrenn, Mass. Peace Action board member
A talk delivered at Memorial Day for Peace, May 28, 2012

Have we finished with war — yet?

You who have risked and yet recovered your lives from the ugliness of war know better than any of us that we can no longer afford to use force to solve the world’s conflicts and competing interests. Together we will win the battle to shake out militarism from our culture. We will proclaim that war is our enemy.

Some will say “We’re wired for violence.” The spiral of revenge, an eye for an eye, is dynamic. But is it inevitable? What has revenge for the 9/11 attack on the US achieved? Over the past five centuries, countries that initiated wars have ended up losing them over 25% of the time, according to historian Stephen Pinker. We must find a new description for “winning.”

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, if not before, it has become clear that the US government isn’t crazy about being at peace. We’re nearly always at war with something: nations, drugs, even the abstract concept of “terror.” A country founded on the conquest of the Native American population is restlessly paranoid in the absence of real or perceived threats. We appear to be uncomfortable if we don’t have an enemy within our sights.

We know better, we can be smarter, we do not have to continually create an enemy. We do not need to be a super power, we must not, spend more than any other country in the world on defense. Security, when we’re asked, is based on dependable humane work, well-functioning communities, fair trade, trust in our government, health care for all, not on weapons of mass destruction.

The American public is disenchanted with war, based on the common agreement that “winning” in Afghanistan is impossible. Yet we learn from our President and his advisors that we now are stuck there for several more years in a vain attempt to create a stable society with US-trained Afghan police forces. So I ask: Have we really finished with war yet?

Listen to a couple of voices of women who are intimately knowledgeable about Afghanistan:

The announcement that the U.S. is withdrawing from Afghanistan is “very misleading,” says Kathy Kellly, who has traveled to that country many times in the last decade with Voices for Creative Nonviolence. “It’s simply not true. The Joint Special Operations forces, the most intimidating and fearsome warriors on the planet, will remain till 2024 and beyond.”

“Our bases will be turned over to the Afghan government, which will lease them back to us. We’re building the world’s largest embassy in Kabul – it’s really a huge base – and we’re building three prisons. The night raids will continue at the insistence of the U.S. All these things are going to continue, so how can we say the U.S. is withdrawing from Afghanistan?”

Malalai Joya, an Afghan woman who was a member of the Afghan Parliament, pleads: “We need security and a helping hand from friends around the world, not this endless U.S.-led ‘war on terror,’ which is in fact a war on the Afghan people….Today the soil of Afghanistan is full of land mines, bullets, and bombs – when what we really need is an invasion of hospitals, clinics, and schools for boys and girls. The war’s only purpose has been to perpetuate the occupation, install military bases and safeguard the takeover of a region that has substantial natural resources.”

We are stunned when we learn that there are over 800 US bases throughout the world. What is the justification if we are no longer defending ourselves and Europe against the Soviet Union and if we are seriously trying to calm down our ever-increasing debt and provide much needed money for our educational systems, our universal health care program, infrastucture repairs? We the people, you and I, must articulate, I’d like to say scream, for our values. How can anyone knowing the horror and persistent disease and trauma caused by our nuclear bombs in Japan over a half century ago promote building and refurbishing our nuclear arsenal? How can we support drone strikes in countries that we have yet to declare war against?

We the people are trying to be heard. Please add your name to the petition for a referendum on the November ballot for a budget for all which will ask Congress to preserve Social Security, Medicare, and veterans benefits, create jobs, require the rich to pay their full share of taxes, cut military spending and stop the war in Afghanistan.

As a member of Mass Peace Action I and others are trying to encourage our elected officials and would-be elected officials to reflect our values. We believe that going to war with Iran would be a disaster just as Iraq and Afghanistan have been. We support Barney Frank’s proposed 25% cut in military spending. We work toward downsizing our nuclear arsenal in line with commitments we have made as a nation to international treaties. We do not support extending the life of our aging nuclear power plants.

Peace must be built, step by step. In honor of the valiant men and women we name today, we must respect the rights of people in all nations. We must make their sacrifice and the country they served worthy of the world’s respect. We will win the battle against war.