• Peace

WWI was “the war to end all wars.” It was one of the most unnecessary wars in human history. Historians still try to figure out why it was fought. Ten million people died. Another 20 million were wounded. There have been many wars since.

What the war did do was create a strong desire for peace by ordinary people. Especially in Europe, where the impact of the war was felt most, there was an unprecedented effort to prevent future wars.

The fighting ended on November 11, 1918 and that day became Armistice Day. It was an international holiday to remember the war and work for peace. In 1926, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution creating Armistice Day to “commemorate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations.” But in 1954 it was changed to Veterans Day.

Veterans Day became a celebration of military service and the original intent to promote peace was lost. The message promoted in Veterans Day observances is that military service members are “heroes” who have defended our “freedom.” Therefore our many wars must have been heroic and necessary. Whether intentional or not, this message glorifies and justifies past wars and makes the next war possible. The message makes recruiting the next generation of “heroes” possible.

Following WWI a strong peace movement advocated for disarmament and the League of Nation. The oldest peace advocacy organization, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), was started during the war. The war also resulted in the Kellogg-Briand Pact, which outlawed war. Many nations, including the United States, agreed to settle disputes through peaceful means. This treaty was ratified by Congress in 1928 and became binding federal law. Using military force is also prohibited by the U.N. Charter and other signed treaties.

To support and honor the troops we should return to observing the original Armistice Day. By remembering the human, economic, and environmental destruction of past wars we should be motivated to work for peace. We should be motivated to ensure that diplomacy, negotiation, and justice rules in foreign relations.

War is not an acceptable solution to conflicts. Opposing war is not unpatriotic. Preventing future war is the best way to honor the sacrifice of those who served to protect and defend the Constitution and the rule of law which is the real basis of our freedoms.

I get angry and frustrated with each Veterans Day because it’s less about celebrating veterans than easing the guilty conscience of warmongers.