There is no issue more imperative than that of peace. Don’t let the presidential candidates fool you. It’s not unemployment; it’s not even healthcare and the need to improve our education system and to properly nurture the young. Without a world, there is no hope for the future, no place for the young. And there is only one thing wars and killing have ever done--promote more wars and killing. If we want this to stop, we have to make it stop. We have to let our legislators know that it is not all right to send our children to war, to force them to kill and then demand that they return to normalcy when they come back home. It’s not possible, and we have seen that too.
Peace activists like myself have been attending rallies, keeping vigil on street corners, writing legislators and going to Washington D.C. to attend major demonstrations for the cause of peace for years. But alas, we are still at war in Iraq and Afghanistan and on the brink of launching attacks in Iran and Libya.
Where is the common sense of our brilliant president in this regard?
Some of you may be responding perplexed to the notion that we are still at war in Iraq. We are. We have not yet withdrawn all our troops, as our government claims, as there are thousands of corporate soldiers still there. Corporate soldiers do the same work as regular soldiers, but for higher pay. We need to get them out of Iraq before we can claim to have ended that war.
President Obama has promised the nation we will be out of Afghanistan by 2014, but we should be out sooner than that. October 7, 2012, marks our 11th year there. It’s not just American military lives being decimated in that country. Innocent beings are being destroyed in Afghanistan too. The number of American soldiers killed in Afghanistan now surpasses 2,000. During the Iraqi War, 4,409 American soldiers were killed.
Unfortunately, we do not ever seem to care as much about those we kill overseas as we do about American lives, who, for some reason seem superior to some people. However, we should all be aware that in Afghanistan alone, the number of human beings we have killed exceeds 12,000. These are beings who had parents, spouses, children, hopes and dreams too, just like us. Just like Americans.
We take great pride in our nation when we go to war, and honestly I don’t know why. Nothing good ever comes of it. What does it mean to win a war anyway? It’s not a game. Seriously, what does it mean?--That we have killed the most people? Done the most damage? Why should we be proud of that? How can we expect human beings who are by nature not meant to kill, to obey orders to kill abroad, but to behave like sane individuals when they return home? It’s no wonder so many soldiers go berserk, take their lives or those of others. Sometimes people go to war with great illusions of heroism, not realizing that what a soldier is meant to do is take lives. If you believe that a soldier’s job is to save lives then you are just one of the suckers taken in by the propaganda of ads that run before movies in theaters. War is not romantic. It is not fun. It is hell.
Many people who have not been paying much attention to the wars America is engaged in—perhaps because they think it is happening “over there”—would do well to ponder some statistics. Between 2008 and 2012, an estimated 253 veterans from New Jersey alone committed suicide. The number of those with brain injuries, mental issues and those who have killed themselves is staggering and unconscionable. Believe me, this is not the "heroism" the military brags about or wants you to know about. Some of those soldiers who committed suicide from New Jersey took out other people too at home before taking their own lives. I hope that news is close enough to “home” to stir those of you who exist in the comfortable illusion that war does not concern you even just a little.
War concerns us all. We have spent trillions abroad that could have been spent on jobs, healthcare and education at home. We have killed thousands, wounded hundreds of thousands and devastated families around the globe. Thousands of wounded soldiers will eventually come home. We will have to heal, clothe, shelter, educate and offer them jobs. We owe them and the people and countries they have shattered in America’s name.
Isn’t it time we find a better way to deal with conflict, one that we can be proud of, that will support Americans and people everywhere and keep us hopeful about the future? The facts prove war is not the answer. Dialogue is. Understanding is. Let’s extend a genuine hand to the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, all the nations we have harmed around the globe. Let’s enlist doctors and engineers to help people rebuild their lives and let’s take stock of our responsibilities here so we can improve our legacy now.