Zinn, reflecting on his participation in World War II as a bombardier, also wrote: “I suppose I’ve come to the conclusion that war, by its nature, being the indiscriminate and mass killing of large numbers of people, cannot be justified for any political cause, any ideological cause, any territorial boundary, any tyranny, any aggression.”
As years of brutal warfare in Ukraine with all its suffering and death drag on, a new year and time is upon us. It is our most fervent wish that this year will see sanity, peace and justice reign and all wars everywhere cease.
This year could well be the one where humans either consciously choose peace and justice, or perish. It is that urgent. We must urge a global leadership gone mad to come to their senses and strive for a just and fair end to the war in Ukraine and ultimately all wars and all preparations for war. We need to come together in a spirit of cooperation, conciliation and a willingness to compromise. We must be aware of the need for security, prosperity and peace for all, not just for our own nation. There needs to be a willingness to sacrifice, not lives but ideological positions in order to insure that lives, on all sides, will be safe.
This will not happen by adding more weaponry or more soldiers on any side of the conflict. Regardless of convictions as to which side bears more responsibility, we need to come together now in a spirit of peaceful resolution, free from this or that demand. Let all sides recognize what security concerns motivate the other and try to make sure they have it.
Leaders of countries and their citizens have to begin acting with a collective concern rather than selfish motivations. Either we continue in a spirit of love and mutual concern or we perish. It is that simple. We must stop demonizing the other for perceived personal and political advantage – or for any reason – as that only serves to separate and remove us to where lines of conflict are drawn bold in blood.
The war in Ukraine, as we all recognize, has brought us to the very brink of the ultimate disaster – nuclear war. Martin Luther King Jr. said in 1957, “ … the development and use of nuclear weapons must be banned. It cannot be denied that a full-scale nuclear war would be catastrophic.”
As veterans, many of whom have either made the mistake of participating in war, whether forced into it or voluntarily, we encourage active-duty military personnel on all sides to refuse to participate in the horror of war. We recognize that it takes great courage to resist the herd mentality and that enormous pressure is put upon young people, as countries take pains to glorify the warrior and justify wars – flag waving, military flyovers at sporting events, support-the-troops mentality (even as they come home in body bags or grievously wounded).
Arundhati Roy notes, “Wars will be stopped only when soldiers refuse to fight, when workers refuse to load weapons onto ships and aircraft, when people boycott the economic outposts of Empire that are strung across the globe.”
We need to close our ears to the insane martial voices of war as trumpeted by politicians, the weapons industry and a subservient media and open our hearts and minds to the prophets of peace.
The brilliant scientist, philosopher and pacifist Albert Einstein said with rare anger, “He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would fully suffice. … Heroism at command, senseless brutality, deplorable love-of-country stance, how I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is. … It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.”
Over 50 years ago Bertrand Russell warned about the egotistical insanity of war “ … all this madness, all this rage, all this flaming death of our civilization and our hopes, has been brought about because a set of official gentlemen, living luxurious lives, mostly stupid, and all without imagination or heart, have chosen that it should occur rather than that any one of them should suffer some infinitesimal rebuff to his country’s pride.” He also said, prophetically, “Either man will abolish war, or war will abolish man.” We need more than ever to see the truth in these words and take them to heart.
The military veterans who are the editors of Peace & Planet News are convinced that there is no such phenomenon as a “good war” and that, as Einstein said, all war is murder. Another veteran, Ernest Hemingway, wrote just after WWII, the so-called “good war,” “An aggressive war is the great crime against everything good in the world. A defensive war, which must necessarily turn aggressive at the earliest moment is the great counter crime … But never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified is not a crime. Ask the infantry and the dead.”
Perhaps Jeannette Rankin, the first woman elected to Congress, said it best, “You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake.”
Tarak Kauff is the editor-in-chief of Peace and Planet News. He was a paratrooper in the U.S. Army from 1959 to 1962 and is a lifetime member and former board member of Veterans For Peace. He is a longtime activist for peace, justice, and the environment.