To Remember the Victims of War, Challenge Militarism

Memorial Day for Peace
Memorial Day for Peace

by Nate Goldshlag

Remarks delivered at Veterans Day for Peace, Memorial Day 2022, Boston Common

Today we gather as Veterans For Peace on Memorial Day in a different way from the other veterans’ groups.  Over there are tens of thousands of US flags, each representing someone from Massachusetts killed in a war.  Remembering them is appropriate , but we have a different message.  We mourn and remember all victims of war, from the world wars to Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Ukraine, and many more.  In the carnage, I am reminded of the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. : “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world – my own government.”  Yes, the awful invasion of Ukraine is a crime, but so are all the others.  And by far most deaths in war are not soldiers but civilians.  Estimates of those deaths are almost 2 million in Korea, 2-3 million in Vietnam, over a million in Iraq, hundreds of thousands in Afghanistan and Yemen.  And it is my own government responsible for those.  The US government talks about war crimes in Ukraine committed by Russia and undoubtedly there are war crimes – war itself is a crime.  But the US does not even recognize the International Criminal Court which investigates war crimes, and has never been held to account for its own war crimes, which are on an exponentially larger scale.

This country is built on war, militarism, and violence.  We see it in the massive number of guns owned by people and the huge number of mass shootings, including the latest of little girls and boys in Uvalde Texas.  We see it in the military parades, the cheering, USA USA, police violence mainly against black and brown people.  We see it in the militarized police using weapons normally only used in war.  We see it in the massive amount of money going to companies that produce weapons of death – Raytheon, Boeing, Northrup Grumman, Lockheed Martin, and the rest.  War is good for business if you are in that business.  We see it in massive bloated military budgets, now added to, to fuel the war in Ukraine.  And note that the only people voting against the $40 billion for Ukraine were Republicans.  We see it in large amounts of money being spent on nuclear weapons, which cannot ever be used without causing a world-wide holocaust and the end of civilization, if indeed we really are a civilized people.

And those flags over there – people say they honor the people represented by those flags, their sacrifice.  But in the wars of the last 70 years who did they sacrifice their lives for?  It was for US imperialism, big corporations, the arms merchants of death.  What Eisenhower called the military industrial complex is now called the MICIMATT by Ray McGovern – the Military Industrial Congressional Intelligence Media Academic Think Tank complex.  The United States has been spectacularly unsuccessful in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and yet we continue down this road of militarism and war.  And on this day, we must remember all victims of war, and shout out that the main victims of war are civilians – men, women, and children.  War is never the answer.  In Ukraine there must be serious negotiations and an end to the war.  Sanctions are another form of warfare.  They almost never work for their intended purpose, and they harm many other people other than those they are directed towards.  As we remember the victims of war, we must work to change the culture of militarism and war to one of nonviolence and peace.

Nate Goldshlag is a member of Veterans for Peace / Smedley Butler Brigade