Monday, July 18, 2011

'War is the Enemy'

In 1942, just after the U.S. entered World War II, and the propaganda machines rallied Americans to the cause of the “Good War,” A..J. Muste, a devout and articulate pacifist, wrote a pamphlet addressed to his fellow Quakers.

In it, he proclaimed the on-going need to speak out against war during war time. His pamphlet carefully and rationally lays out why.

I came across Muste’s essay on line after watching a recent PBS Newhour segment featuring First Lt. Paul Rieckhoof, who heads Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. Rieckhoof told the TV audience that more US military personnel engaged in the Iraq an Afghanistan conflicts are now dying by suicide than are dying in the fighting.

Last year, 468 suicides occurred throughout the armed forces. Of those, 301 were in the regular Army, Reserves, and National Guard, up more than 20 percent from the year before.

As Rieckhoof pointed out, the problem of war-related suicide is even bigger than these figures indicate. “We're not even tracking the 2.3 million veterans who have come home and have cycled out of the military since 9/11."

The PBS story grew out of the President’s announcing a policy change regarding presidential letters of condolence. The President has decided to add the families of military personnel who died by their own hands to all families receiving the letters.

Mounting suicides, the civilian deaths and the damage caused by the post-traumatic stress of war all reveal how, even after the fighting stops and the enemy retreats or is vanquished, the shock, pain and grief never end for those who have experienced war.

The words that immediately came to me were “War is the enemy.”

Certainly, I thought, this phrase couldn’t be original. I searched for it on line and up popped Muste’s nearly 70-year-old essay.

Its title...“War is the Enemy.”

The link to it is HERE.

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