This is the website for the local chapter of Veterans For Peace in Western North Carolina, based in Asheville.
We're also on Facebook: Veterans For Peace Chapter 099

You don't have to be a veteran to belong, just a person who wants peace and is committed to taking action to achieve it.

Joan Baez is quoted as saying, "Action is the antidote to despair."

If you feel despair at the many costs and endlessness of our wars please consider joining us in taking action.

Statement of Purpose

We, as military veterans, do hereby affirm our greater responsibility to serve the cause of world peace. To this end we will work, with others both nationally and internationally

To increase public awareness of the causes and costs of war 


To restrain our governments from intervening, overtly and covertly, in the internal affairs of other nations 


To end the arms race and to reduce and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons 


To seek justice for veterans and victims of war 


To abolish war as an instrument of national policy. 


To achieve these goals, members of Veterans For Peace pledge to use non-violent means and to maintain an organization that is both democratic and open with the understanding that all members are trusted to act in the best interests of the group for the larger purpose of world peace.

For More Information (Including how to become a member): www.veteransforpeace.org


Join us for the weekly vigil at Pack Square Vance Monument, Tuesdays from 4:30 to 5:30pm.
JOIN VFP OR RENEW YOUR MEMBERSHIP
MONTHLY MEETING TIME: Second Tuesday of the month at 6:30pm

Note that we are currently meeting at The Center for Art and Spirit, One School Road, in West Asheville

Our phone # is:
(828-490-1872)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sending the troops off to war: When will we ever learn?


(rejected by the  Mountain Xpress -- not of local interest)


We deeply regret this tragic loss of life.
--U.S. Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, after an airstrike killed a dozen civilians on Feb. 14 in Afghanistan

We are extremely saddened by the tragic loss of innocent lives.
--U.S. Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, after an airstrike killed two dozen civilians on Feb. 21 in Afghanistan

When in doubt, empty the magazine.
-- Buncombe County Commissioner Bill Stanley, speaking on Feb. 24 to a National Guard unit heading to Iraq, as reported in the Mountain Xpress

Human cultural behavior is often based on habit. Over time, habit can become tradition and tradition can become sanctified into ritual. A problem with traditions is that we rarely take the time to step back and reassess them in the context of a changing world or the light of new information. A problem with rituals is they become sacrosanct—holy and not to be criticized or tampered with.

 We have a tradition of sending young people off to war. We do this because our leaders tell us this is necessary for our security. There might have been a time when our security was in fact threatened and our leaders were telling us the truth. In 1941, President Roosevelt asked Congress to declare a state of war in the wake of an attack against an American military installation. This was the last time that our country has officially and legally been in a state or war. Now, instead of responding to aggressors by declaring war, we have become the aggressors and we call it “war.” (Yes, we are the aggressors—no Iraqi of Afghan attacked any American until we invaded their countries.)

Nonetheless, we continue to send our young folks off to “war”–Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, not to mention Grenada and other lesser known threats to national security.  It’s a habit. Leaders say, “War”; young folks go off. No questions.

We even ritualize it. We have ceremonies where we say goodbye to loved ones and send them off to “war.” Generals and colonels proffer platitudes and politicians provide sage advice. Such was the case reported in the March 3rd Mountain Xpress: “Asheville-based National Guard unit heads to Iraq.” Evidence of the ritual nature of this event is that it took place at a Christian church. (I personally have a difficult time reconciling Jesus’ teachings with sending troops off to war, but so it goes.)

But perhaps we should take a moment to examine this tradition and this ritual in the context of a changing world and in the light of new information. What’s changed in the world is the nature of war. War used to be a conflict between armies on a battlefield. Over the course of time and especially with advances(?) in the technology of warfare, civilians—innocent civilians—increasingly are the casualties, even the targets, of war and populated cities are the battlegrounds. What’s more, the conflict is no longer between armies. We are fighting—our leaders tell us—terrorism. That’s a concept, a tactic; it’s not an enemy.

Mr. Stanley’s words might have made more sense in another age, a time when the worst outcome of a doubtful action would be casualties among comrades—“friendly fire” as we euphemistically call it now. But today, emptying a magazine in conditions of uncertainty is most likely to result in the killing or wounding of women and children—“collateral damage” as our leaders like to say. 


While the senseless carnage is enough reason to give pause, consider that each civilian maimed or killed has friends and relatives whose hearts and minds will not be won over to our side. Practically speaking, the “wars” we’re waging in Iraq and Afghanistan are both counterproductive and insane.

We need to ask basic questions: What is war? Who is the enemy? Is this old tradition of sending young people off to “war” still valid? Do we dare to cast doubt on the ritual sendoff ceremony? And more questions: Is military force the antidote to terrorism? Or does it just create more terrorists? Can we trust what our leaders say? What are their real motives? Are there better ways to insure our security? Has war outlived whatever usefulness it may have once had?

Finally, we’re told national security is the goal. But Americans would feel much more secure if we all had health care and jobs—and if the good people of our National Guard were safe at home, ready to respond when emergencies and natural disasters endanger our citizens.


Kim Carlyle is president of Veterans For Peace WNC Chapter 099  (http://vfpchapter099wnc.blogspot.com/), editor of the War Crimes Times (http://warcrimestimes.org/), and lives near Barnardsville.


2 comments:

  1. The article becomes very "local" when WNC families have to bury their dead from this war, or carry on in this depressed economy without a major breadwinner or supportive companion. It is a very local issue. Keep writing Kim.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Excellent points. (I, too, believe that the church's widespread support of Uncle Sam's agenda is a telling indictment of her deepest loyalties.) I would add a couple of thoughts:

    (1) I think a factor that contributes to the support of the American war machine is the fact that all of our "freedom-defending" takes place in others' homelands. If our tradition involved subjecting ourselves to the hell it does those in other countries, then perhaps we would be more reluctant to send our sons and daughters to war.

    (2) Were many Americans in the place of Iraqis, I contend that the insurgents would be their heroes. Does our nation not hold up as heroes Revolutionary War personalities like Frances Marion, the "Swamp Fox," famous for his guerrilla war tactics? Iraqis (rightly, I believe) view the US as an oppressive, foreign regime. To resist such--often to the point of death!--how can this not be viewed as patriotic heroism by their fellow citizens?

    ReplyDelete