Armistice Day, Peace, and Other Things Americans Should Know
Ninety-four years ago, on November 11th 1918, the fighting ended in a senseless, four-year, worldwide bloodbath. While estimates vary, the military and civilian death toll was likely around 20 million people, with tens of millions more wounded. U.S. president Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Armistice Day to remember the dead and give thanks for the victory “because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.”
In 1926 Congress enacted a resolution about Armistice Day which in part stated, “the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations.” Then in 1938 Congress made November 11 a federal holiday, “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day’.”
A day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace!
Concurrent with these Congressional actions, the whole world was seeking ways to implement a permanent state of peace. In the years following the first Armistice Day, an international peace movement of citizens, foundations, organizations, governments, and political leaders – yes, governments and political leaders! – searched for ways to give substance to the phrase which described World War I as the “war to end all wars.” Various ideas for treaties were put forth without success, but one did get traction. This was a simple agreement authored by U.S. Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg and French foreign minister Aristide Briand.
The Kellogg-Briand Pact was and remains a “Treaty between the United States and other Powers providing for the renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy.” By the end of 1929, it had been ratified by Congress and signed by the President, and more sixty other countries – most of the established nations of the world – had signed on. The signatories agreed “that they condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies, and renounce it, as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another” and “that the settlement or solution of all disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be, which may arise among them, shall never be sought except by pacific means.”
Article VI of the U.S. Constitution states that “all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land.” That means that war is illegal under U.S. law.
Then what happened? The United States and most of the rest of the world engaged in yet another round of global carnage and destruction, this one generating at least twice the body count of the first. (Yes, since this dispute was not settled by pacific means, it was illegal. Perhaps everyone forgot.) But this time the cessation of hostilities did not result in a rededication to seeking peace.
Sixty-seven years following the world war that followed the war to end all wars, the United States is engaged in a permanent state of war – and most Americans approve, or at least condone it. This sorry condition came about for myriad complex reasons, all relating to power and greed. Still, if the people had access to the truth, they would be clamoring for peace as they did nine decades ago.
No News is Bad News
During the First World War, the one that gave rise to the 1920s global peace movement, the British government tightly controlled the war news. On hearing a report from the front, Prime Minister David Lloyd George said, “If people really knew, the war would be stopped tomorrow. But of course they don't know, and can't know.” So the people were “protected” from the news and the pointless war raged on.
Today the powerful and greedy control the media and “protect” the citizens from the truth, and they manufacture their consent for war and imperialism. The ignorance of the typical American is appalling.
Hope and change.
At the poll yesterday, I asked an Obama sign-holder if she was just a little bit disappointed in the incumbent’s first-term performance. She said he does his best under the conditions. I asked if she cared that Guantanamo hasn’t been closed. She said she doesn’t think about it. It would have been futile to ask about drones and kill lists.
Latest Poll: Sixty-two percent of Americans approve of drone strikes.
I recently saw a poster displayed in a public place. It had a picture of a Predator drone along with some statistics about the numbers, in the hundreds at least, of innocent civilians, women and children, killed by Hellfire missiles. Some patriotic American citizen had scrawled across it, “Remember 9/11.” Great. Justify the murder of innocents who likely couldn’t find the U.S. on a map and probably never heard of the World Trade Center (and also justify another million and more dead, and untold destruction) by invoking a crime whose alleged perpetrator has already been summarily executed.
In addition to murdering and maiming innocents, modern warfare leaves a legacy of suffering in its wake. The enduring effects of the chemical and radiological toxins used in weapons are blamed for increases in congenital abnormalities, miscarriages, and cancer in the civilian populations of war zones. Think Japan, Vietnam, Iraq. Most recently, a number of studies have shown a staggering increase in birth defects in Fallujah. Ross Caputi of the Justice for Fallujah Project writes, “I am generally appalled by how many young people in America have never even heard of Fallujah. And this is almost as frightening as the number of adults who only remember the propagandistic account of the sieges of Fallujah as told by the U.S. government and the corporate media.”
I don’t blame the people for their ignorance as much as I blame their manipulators. Government officials and their media lackeys have long painted a false picture of reality that informs a distorted and malevolent world view. We are the good guys – exceptional because… well, because we’re ‘mericans. And the proof is that we are more comfortable and fatter than the rest of the world; and our “American way of life is not up for negotiation” according to G.H.W. Bush in 1992, and later echoed by Dick Cheney.
The “others” are bad guys, ready to attack us at any moment. They are disposable. We are scared. So the “Defense” budget is sacrosanct. Security is our main concern.
Brown of the Earth Policy Institute says if we were to “make
a list of principle threats to the future of civilization,
that list would include climate change, population growth,
spreading water shortages, rising food prices, growing
political instability and failing states….defense against
armed aggression wouldn’t be anywhere near the top of that
list. It might make the top 10, but it wouldn’t make the top
Further, Brown says we could solve these security problems by spending “only one-third of the U.S. military budget.” Note that the U.S. spent more on "defense" in 2011 than did the countries with the next 13 highest defense budgets combined.
But the people don't know this.
Support Our Troops
Despite the exceedingly disproportionate use of force by Americans, and its ineffectiveness (every encounter creates more new enemies than it eliminates), and despite the misdirected use of our treasury, Americans keep sending Johnnie and Joanie off to war. Once deployed, they stand an excellent chance of suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury, or sexual abuse, or committing suicide. (One in five veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is diagnosed with PTSD; at least 100,000 suffered TBI; one in three women are raped in the military, and both sexes can suffer Military Sexual Trauma; veterans account for 20 percent of U.S. suicides.) Soldiers can also suffer “Moral Injury” -- the result of being trained and ordered to do things that violate their basic sense of humanity.
But the people don't know this.
In 1954 Congress changed the name of the day, replacing “Armistice” with “Veterans” by means of “An Act – To honor veterans on the 11th day of November each year, a day dedicated to world peace.”
This name change and the shift of emphasis, from perpetuating peace to honoring veterans, was concurrent with a shift in the national priorities – a shift from seeking peace to condoning war – which has led to today’s state of perpetual war. But by honoring veterans of war, we are at least suggesting that war is honorable. How can something illegal since 1929 – and so ineffective, costly, and injurious – be honorable? Further, if we honored our treaties, at least the Kellog-Briand Pact, we wouldn’t have any need to honor our veterans of war because there would be no war.
But the people don't know this.
Seeking Peace -- Again
What to do? Those that know, need to inform those that don’t. We need to learn the history that the greedy and powerful don’t want us to know: “If people really knew, the war would be stopped tomorrow.”
We need to honor peace heroes more than we honor war heroes.
We could begin by reclaiming November 11th as Armistice Day.
All I am saying is give peace a day.
--Kim Carlyle - WCT editor - http://www.warcrimestimes.org
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