The best way to honor those who have died in the belief that they were defending freedom is to work to end war. If ending war is Mankind's greatest dream, why have we come so far from realizing it? I can remember thinking how cute I thought it was when young women competing for beauty prizes would say that there greatest wish was for world peace. It was so common that it was a cliche. I knew that for most, they were saying what people wanted to hear. Few would go on to work to make the thing they claimed to work for a reality. So it is with most of us.
The greatest challenge to peace is the widespread belief in the self-fulfilling prophecy that it is not possible. If enough people rejected the belief that peace is impossible and worked for it, war would become unthinkable. If we want to assure that those who died for noble beliefs did not do so in vain, we must start by taking an honest and unflinching look at some of our beliefs and attitudes that are incompatible with being true Soldiers For Peace. It begins by making sure that we really believe that peace is possible. Otherwise, we are just going through the motions and cannot possibly see how it is possible.
Paul Chappell has written stirringly in Will War Ever End? how most soldiers do not fight out of hatred of their enemies but from love of their families, nations, ideals and, most of all, for the sake of those who face death fighting beside them. Those who are motivated by hatred are those who suffer most from the psychological wounds of war. It is unnatural to regard other human beings as nothing more than threats, deserving only of death. Only through careful indoctrination do their commanders compel a human to kill another without hesitation. As Dr Ed Tick has written in War as a Soul Wound, it is the unconscious or conscious recognition after the heat of battle of the humanity of those they have killed that tortures their souls.
Soldiers For Peace must learn from the insights that combat veterans learn at such cost. We must avoid the reflexive urge to regard those who actively promote war as our enemies, proper targets of our hate. The war to end war must be fought with love, not hate. From a place of peace within, not anger. In the end, our task is to bring about reconciliation between enemies. We must learn to see them not as "the other" but as brothers and sisters who have been led astray. It is up to us to bring them back into the fold, welcoming them as fellow member of our common human family.
As a member of Veterans for Peace, I often encounter fellow veterans who think they are waging peace but who regularly succumb to the impulse to identify which side is responsible for any given conflict. They fail to recognize that it is our desire to establish blame that promotes the idea of "the other." This is the root of the problem of our failure to teach our countrymen that it is our indoctrination to regard our fellow men and women as members of an alien tribe that allows us to accept the unacceptable reality of war. To combat this, we must train ourselves to forgive the aggressors even as we work to stop them. They are like our children. Our job is to provide boundaries and make sure that they do not hurt themselves or others in their ignorance, driven by base compulsions toward anger and aggression. If they must be punished, it must be done so that the lesson learned is that all humans are deserving of the same respect that we would expect from others, even if their actions anger us. Violence in any form is unacceptable, for unchecked it only leads to an endless cycle of hatred and violence.
In my experience as a family therapist, I do not look for who is at fault in a family conflict. It is my job to study the family system to see how it promotes the conflict, then work with each member and the family as a whole to help each of them understand their role in the family drama that maintains an unhealthy pattern of interactions. I do not have to succeed with all of them. I merely have to reach one, motivate her to change her behavior. My job then is to help the family change the script so that harmony can be achieved and love becomes the driving force that guides their actions. On the scale of the human family, this is the only path to peace.
We must learn to forgive our enemies before going into battle for their hearts and minds. A general, I believe it was Eisenhower, once said that he considered it a victory if he goes to bed with fewer enemies than he woke up with. He was not referring to how many enemies had been killed, but how many allies he had made. A general has to keep in mind that the ultimate objective is not to kill as many as possible but to achieve a just peace in the end. That minimizes casualties among both those in his charge and those they face on the battlefield. He knows that in the end, if peace is to last, our children must live with theirs.
If our politicians shared this goal, they would never send our children to kill and die in war. Their objective is not peace through justice but to conquer and subjugate the enemies that they have created in the service of their Puppetmasters, the war profiteers who are ultimately responsible for creating our current global conflict. As citizens, it is the duty of each of us to let them know in no uncertain terms that they do not have permission to wage war in our names. To truly honor the victims of war on both sides, the soldiers and civilians, we must all become Soldiers For Peace.
This article originally appeared on the website of Soldiers For Peace International. It may be reproduced, unedited and with attribution, without the prior permission of the author.