Back in November 2006, I was sitting home nursing my broken wrist, which paid the price of a too vigorous ping pong game that landed me on the floor. I had time to watch the election campaign in the U.S. One of the accusations bandied about was that “liberals are anti-war.” From time to time, the objects of this accusation protested that they were not. It got me to thinking, “What is wrong with being anti-war?”
Being anti-war means being against killing. It means being against the physical and mental maiming of soldiers on EITHER side. Sometimes, these veterans return home so damaged that their only option is to live on the streets. According to CNN, there were already more than 600 homeless veterans from the Iraq war.
Being anti-war means being against the brutalization of those who fight and the killing of innocent women and children, and not wanting children orphaned, women raped, or young wives turned into widows. In every modern-day war more civilians than soldiers are killed.
Being anti-war means not wanting cities reduced to rubble or the world contaminated with the residue of weapons and mines.
When one is pro-war, retaliation and aggression are the first responses considered to any provocation, real or imagined. Being pro-war encompasses the attitude that you need not listen or speak to those who do not agree with you, that confrontation is the best, the only, solution. It means accepting as a sad fact of war that civilians, sanitized by calling them collateral damage, will be killed.
Being anti-war means knowing that war is never a final solution. The legacy of war is millions of refugees and a future war to right the wrongs of the last war.
Being anti-war means that war is truly the last resort, after all other rational means to peace have been exhausted. Being anti-war means opting for diplomacy, striving to make friends of other nations, listening to their points of view, not challenging them to either line up behind you or be declared an enemy.
Also in the news was the brain drain that was making the situation in Iraq untenable. Those who were able to had fled the country because they daily feared for their lives. The only people left were those so physically and mentally traumatized by war that they would have trouble picking up their lives after the war was over. What would remain, it was feared by some, was a ravaged country with radicalized people, alienated even from one another.
Being anti-war means preferring to spend the people’s money on education, health, and improving the infrastructure and the environment, rather than on the means to destroy all of these things.
As I sat at home nursing my broken wrist, I didn’t ever want to see any war that leaves anybody with anything worse than a broken wrist. Enough injuries are incurred playing games, driving cars, personal violence and natural disasters. To add to them was just too costly and too painful to imagine, I thought at the time.
Fortunately, in Costa Rica, where war is not an option, people do not have to contend with the multiple horrors of its aftermath. What’s wrong with that?
Those were my thoughts back then. It is now 2014 and I still feel the same.
I have come to believe that among the negative aspects of war is that it is an endeavor riddled with hypocrisy. The justification that countries or religions give for going to war seldom are what they actually are fighting for.
Religious groups are perhaps more honest: They simply want to destroy those who do not believe as they do or won’t convert. The governments of countries offer noble reasons, but in fact, are fighting to protect some financial investment or secure some natural resource, whether it be land or energy or to extend their power. Private, not public interests are often the motivations.
So, liberals in the United States object to being called anti-war. I will not object. In email conversations with my fellow writers we have been discussing revolutions. Sadly, it seems, according to those who are more knowledgeable than I, revolutions, even peaceful revolutions, like the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, seldom have long-term, good results. Those who seek power and riches usually end up in charge and then are corrupted by their own addiction to both.
I don’t have the answer, but it does seem that the handful of countries that have abolished their armies have the best chance of serving their people in a more equitable fashion. True, most of these countries are small and have no dreams of becoming world powers. I am content living in one of them.