... listen to the words of great presidents past
How shocking we consider many customs and habits of thousands of years ago - sacrificing young girls as virgins to the gods by burning them alive or hurling them to their deaths over cliffs; leaving weak or small babies to die in the cold on mountain tops; leaving weakened or ill family members to die alone on the ground as the tribes marched away to new areas.
The Greeks and Romans enjoyed some intellectual and artistic activities, but tossed humans to wrestle with lions, with thousands watching the entertainment. Enemy captives, men or women, often became slaves. In many places, women were accused of being witches and burned alive. Through the centuries, countries have developed governments of law and methods of controlling crime and chaos in the streets, education gradually has become available to most citizens, as well as medical care - in all of the developed nations except ours, available to all citizens. Progress has been made as civilization has advanced.
Except for one ancient and prehistoric activity: War! Killing and maiming fellow human beings.
And one nation leads the world in this time-renowned pursuit - the United States.
No other nation has engaged in as many wars as we have, although some have been embroiled in their own civil wars for competing lengths of time. But when it comes to waging wars against other nations, the U.S. stands alone, no competition. Our present president has waged two wars, against Afghanistan and Iraq, and at last the nation has turned against this war, waged against a nation that had done us no harm. No weapons of mass destruction, no tie-in with 9/11, no nuclear activity.
Why then, a second war for President George W. Bush? Well, in 1998, some citizens were so anxious to go after Iraq that they asked President Clinton to invade Iraq and take out Saddam. With no provocation from Iraq, Clinton declined. But those men, members of the Project for the New American Century, held onto their ambition. When George Bush was elected in 2002, they circled around him, possibly at the influence of one of its members - Jeb Bush, governor of Florida and a charter member of this ambitious group.
Who were those zealots? Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, John Bolton, Elliott Abrams, Douglas Feith, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Richard Perle, and more, all rising to important positions in the new presidency. While Bush I still opposed a war to take over Iraq, young George had this compelling group of men at his side, just itching to go after Saddam and his oil. Now even Republicans like Senator Chuck Hagel, who had been a reluctant supporter before the war began, is being openly critical.
Great presidents like Roosevelt, Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Lincoln, Jimmy Carter have all spoken out forcefully against the horrors of war. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill at the end of WWII said "We must have no more wars," but must "settle differences diplomatically and peacefully." John Kennedy said, "Mankind must eliminate war, or war will eliminate mankind." Eisenhower, great WWII general and later Republican president, said "I hate war as only a man who has been there can, seen its brutality, futility, its stupidity!" Eisenhower and Carter are the only presidents who had no wars since the end of WW II in 1945.
Count the wars: Korean War (Truman); Vietnam War (Johnson, followed by Nixon), Grenada, then Contra War in Nicaragua, both by Reagan; Panama Invasion and First Gulf War, Bush One; Afghan War and Iraq War, George W. Bush.
We Americans would not allow any group to toss men and women into a ring with hungry lions for the enjoyment of U.S. citizens, nor would we permit babies to be left to die on freezing mountain tops. How barbaric those customs were! How uncivilized!
But isn't war just as uncivilized? Even more so in that we have developed the most powerful, deadly weapons in the history of the world - and the most expensive. We can and do kill more and wound more than in the history of the world. Why are we so less concerned about taking human lives than most of the world? Why have we ignored the advice of the great Democrat Roosevelt and great general and Republican President Eisenhower?
Isn't it time for Americans to demand an end to war as these great leaders have urged?
Isn't it time we demanded that our Congress pass a law, like that in Japan, that forbids wars? At least allows only a war against a nation that attacks our soil and tries to take over our nation. Who could do that? No nation. Terrorist attacks, yes, but our great military buildup did not stop the attacks on 9/11.
The billions spent on our wars, constructing the most ghastly and lethal weaponry in the history of the world, could be used to saving lives instead of taking lives - isn't this what religions urge us to do? Around the world, people are afraid we will attack them, resenting our killing power. Surely our use of deadly power against innocents is not making friends but instead antagonizing further those who hate and would harm us.
It is past time that we insist on respecting human beings as the old barbarians and ancient peoples did not - we must demand that our leaders show respect for life, and ban the brutal act of war.
September 2, 2005