On Armistice Day, Remember: Wars Cannot End Wars

| History, Things You Can Do

Armistice Day marked the formal agreement between Germany and the Allied forces to stop fighting on 11/11/1918. The war that ended that day was considered in 1918 to be the “war to end all wars” and so a holiday marking its cessation was declared a year later by President Wilson.

In 1926 Congress made Armistice Day official, noting “it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date (marking the cessation “of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed”) should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations.”

Unfortunately, the war that ended in 1918 did not end all wars. Ending the carnage of war is something that only peace, justice, and mutual understandings can do – along with a lot of hard work and effort to see the common humanity and needs, hopes and dreams of other people.

The “Great War” was named World War I after a second, even more horrific, war was waged. The United States fought WWII, followed by wars in Korea, Viet Nam, Panama, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, Syria, and more. Additionally, the United States funds the wars on drugs that have killed thousands of people in Colombia and Mexico; and has incited revolutions in Chile, El Salvador and Haiti that removed their elected leaders. The U.S. continues to support Israel’s violent occupation of Palestinian territories and seizures of Palestinian homelands; and the U.S. financially supported the wars Israel waged against Gaza and Lebanon. Our country engages in “endless” wars abroad, while a culture of violence at home devalues lives of people of color, immigrants, those who are poor and/or disabled, and even students.

President Eisenhower and Congress renamed Armistice Day as Veterans Day in 1954 to recognize all veterans who have made great personal sacrifices while serving in the military.

Many veterans have come home with injuries that may last a lifetime. They may suffer physically, emotionally, spiritually, psychologically and financially as they try to re-enter civilian life. The rates of homelessness and suicide are high.

A member of Veterans for Peace in Seattle leaflets with War Resisters League’s pie chart, Tax Day 2012.

How can we honor veterans in tangible ways on Veterans Day?

  1. Befriend veterans and help them get the medical care and educational and financial resources they need to live hopeful and productive lives at home. If the money budgeted to keep soldiers on the battlefield was used to help them when they return home, it would go a long way toward making America a great place to live.
  2. Follow the directions in the Armistice Day proclamation and do “exercises designed to perpetuate peace” such as truth telling; learning to know, love, and care about people who seem different from ourselves (Travel is a wonderful way to do this!); and supporting our leaders’ engagement in diplomatic relationships.
  3. Stop glamorizing war. Say no to military action figures for our children or video war games for our teens. Question the promises made by military recruiters. Make room for young adults in the civilian job market. Reorder our country’s priorities and deflate the military budget.

We can’t win peace by waging war. Let us instead join hands as we struggle to be transformed by a love which really makes a difference.

Post by Susan Miller