... we must put wars behind us
About a year ago, Madeleine Albright, President Clinton's Secretary of State, appeared on the Jon Stewart Show to read from a list of about 40 countries all afraid we might attack them next -- in the Middle East, Europe, and even, she stressed, China and Russia!
Such is our record of military adventurism. Such is the fear we have instilled in many places, many people. Why do we do this?
At the end of World War II, our President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said, "We must have no more wars, but settle our problems diplomatically." Is this adverb missing from our American dictionaries? Europe developed the European Union to settle problems "diplomatically," and our country has waged eight more wars.
General-Republican-President Eisenhower said openly, more than once -- "I hate war as only a soldier can who has been there, who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity!" In connection to war, Ike also warned at great length about the danger of the "Military Industrial Complex." Our military officials, generals, Congressional leaders connected to the Defense Department, and the industrial companies that manufacture arms -- all doing well these days, with two wars keeping us busy and costing 10 billion each month. Eisenhower would be appalled!
When the Iraq War threatened, 23 senators protested -- our Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy, forceful in opposition along with 22 other senators, not including Senator Hillary Clinton, but including one Republican senator who respects human life -- Lincoln Chaffee of Rhode Island.
Before the Iraq War began, only one person now running for our highest offices -- president and vice-president, spoke out against attacking Iraq -- Barack Obama. His speech in the Senate of Illinois was eloquent and powerful, likened to great speeches of Presidents Roosevelt and Lincoln.
He spoke out through conviction that the "brutality, futility and stupidity" of war should not be inflicted on young Americans or our fellow human beings in Iraq. Friends had advised him that such negative statements about a potential war would not gain him support or admiration, but he felt compelled to express his deep concerns about a new war.
Five years later the war has lost its sheen -- here in our country and all around the world where our stature is widely considered to be the lowest in our nation's history. Part of that is the deaths that war is sure to bring -- more than 4,000 young Americans stirred to sign up out of patriotism, feeling that the horror of 9/11 must be addressed. But of course 9/11 was not, as President Bush and then Defense Secretary Rumsfeld said, connected to Iraq, but to Osama bin Laden thought to be in Afghanistan, where we had bombed caves heavily, causing about 1600 deaths of innocents. Some of our soldiers had thought they would be sent to Afghanistan to avenge our American deaths from 9/11 -- but were forced to go to Iraq instead. Hundreds of veterans are now protesting the hopeless war in Iraq. More than a hundred more have been unable to live with the pain and anguish of what they have seen and done in Iraq, and have committed suicide.
The war has caused the deaths of a million of our fellow human beings, Iraqis of all ages. Our initial invasion took 150,000 lives, including the family of a man who escaped it from being away as our war began. He stood pictured on CNN beside a pile of rubble -- "I came home from a business trip," he moaned, "and my home was this pile of rubble! May five little children and my wife were crushed to death by your terrible bombs! How can I go on living?" His whole street a pile of rubble over dead bodies, he showed a torn photograph of a smiling little girl, his five year old child. "She was so smart! And now she is dead from your bomb!" Then he asked the question we cannot answer: "What did we ever do to you that you would do this to us?"
President Kennedy said, "Mankind must eliminate war, or war will eliminate mankind." Jimmy Carter said, "We are known as the war monger of the world." Republican President Herbert Hoover said on Armistice Day in 1931: "A solemn obligation lies upon us to press forward in pursuit of those things for which our soldiers died. Our duty is to insure the world against the horror and wastage of war!"
Senator McCain has said he may have to keep our soldiers in Iraq, struggling and dying, up to a hundred years. Although a prisoner during the Vietnam War, he speaks only of his patriotism than, never a word of how "wasteful" that was, waged by a Democratic president, Lyndon Johnson; not a word of remorse about deaths of more that 58,000 of our own drafted soldiers, and deaths of 3,200,000 Vietnamese who had never harmed us.
Of course our economic woes are also now of great concern - a worry Sen. McCain has never faced. Obama has, and has worked most of his adult life to improve working conditions of the middle and lower classes. Another plus for Obama -- if our greatest concern is about terrorism against us, he has the insights, international background and stated intentions of meeting with Middle East leaders to strive for improved relations, to lower hatred and fears of our nation, not an easy task after our destruction of a Muslim country, Iraq.
It has been a breath of fresh air to hear this American speaking constantly about the needs of all of our citizens, and lowering our fears about foreign hostility by thoughtful, intelligent efforts for understanding and rapprochement with the world.
October 3, 2008