Friday, October 25, 2019
From The Archives- November 11, 2018 will mark the 100th anniversary of the armistice that brought the cease fire in the “war to end all wars,” the bloodiest in human history up to that time.
November 11, 2018 will mark the 100th anniversary of the armistice that brought the cease fire in the “war to end all wars,” the bloodiest in human history up to that time. Europeans suffered utter carnage with deaths in the millions. American forces entered the war only in its last year and suffered the least number of casualties-approximately 110,000 deaths, many of them due to the influenza epidemic of that year. Thus only a small fraction of the American public suffered the terrors of World War I- the troops themselves, their families and closest friends. It is by no means inaccurate to note that a similar measure applies to the numerous wars waged by the United States today. Less than 1 percent of the U.S. population is making the grievous sacrifices required of soldiers in the various overseas conflicts in which the United States is involved. We say this not to disparage our fellow citizens but because we believe that the public’s removal from the reality of war and militarism blinds many to its logical and utterly negative outcomes.
In commemoration of this day we, as Veteran For Peace, ask our fellow citizens to inquire of themselves honestly - What has been achieved by these wars and have the dreadful costs been worth the consequences past and potential?
The national holiday of remembrance observed at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month is today called Veterans Day to honor all who have worn the uniform and we certainly mourn the sacrifices and losses endured by all who have served. We also lament the actuality that the cession of war in 1918 failed to reconcile the belligerents or bring about the amity envisioned by Wilson and by all Americans who believed the U.S. should never have entered the war. To cite the most fateful outcome of the so-called “peace” in its aftermath the conflicts in the Middle East and the wider region today derive from the betrayal by American allies, Britain and France, of their pledge of Arab independence.
President Woodrow Wilson invested the original day with the following words.
…with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…
We entreat our fellow citizens to note and process the irony of his words. War had somehow freed us from war and foreshadowed a world order of peace and justice!
The tragedy of the postwar world that Wilson envisioned to be a “world made safe for democracy” is that the treaty signed at Versailles in 1919 incontestably made the world safe only for yet more war.
Wilson hoped that his famous Fourteen Points, and especially his League of Nations, could lead the great powers away from fevered economic competition, mutual suspicion, ultra-nationalism and an all-inclusive arms race toward a “peace without victory” and a new international order whereby states that had long antagonized each other could collaborate and manage a new era of comity, internationalism and an end to the general and perpetual arms race.
Although the League of Nations was established at Versailles the United States Senate refused to join it and the British, French and Italians disregarded Wilson’s larger conception to impose what one observer labelled a “Carthaginian peace” on Germany. All of Europe’s imperial powers were equally to blame for the war. Germany acceded to the armistice on the generous terms outlined by Wilson but the American allies determined to punish their enemy to the maximum extent possible. How many readers know that Britain continued to impose a total blockade of foodstuffs, even at neutral ports, that so further weakened Germany over the next year that domestic civil strife impelled the new Weimar Republic to accept the harshest terms including exclusive responsibility for initiating the war, the so-called “war guilt” clause, acceptance of French occupation troops, and the imposition of crippling reparations? Such draconian stipulations catapulted Germany into a depression so crushing that war orphans went hungry and amputee veterans begged in the streets. Despair generated in that dismal environment nourished the seeds of Nazism.
Thus the post war ceasefire lasted all of one generation until most of the factors that had produced the “Great War” in the first place re-emerged to generate Round Two. In the inferno of World War II at least five times as many human beings died as in Round One and the slaughter culminated in the employment of those dire weapons that portend the obliteration of human civilizations if not the extinction of our species.
The origination and deployment of nuclear weapons guaranteed the subsequent nuclear arms race that now holds nine nations in its satanic embrace with more countries considering their development.
A year ago the peoples of our world held their collective breath as our president threatened to visit “fire and fury” on North Korea in response to that tiny nation’s development of its own small nuclear arsenal, that is a response to the menace it feels from the U.S. In Syria the U.S. and Russia face off over differing agendas for the future of that country with ground forces close enough to set off a clash that could lead to worse. American forces remain in Afghanistan and Iraq although polls have shown that a majority of Americans now favor withdrawal from the latter nation. Washington abets the criminal war now being waged by Saudi Arabia against the already destitute and shattered nation of Yemen, thereby stoking the possibility of war between Riyadh and Tehran, which may decide to renew Iran’s nuclear program in retaliation for President Trump’s withdrawal from the Joint Plan of Action agreed to by the U.S. China, Russia, Germany, France and Iran. Since then Trump has withdrawn from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces agreement signed by President Reagan and former Soviet premiere Gorbachev in 1987 that reduced the 65,000 hellish weapons then in existence by more than 75%. Now an ominous return to the Cold War and all its potentially calamitous perils looms.
When the armistice of 1918 went into effect the peoples engaged in that ruinous conflict breathed a collective sigh of relief and held out hope that we might learn from the appalling experience and never again allow such industrial mass murder.
James Madison, the principal author of the United States Constitution admonished us long ago that:
Of all the enemies of public liberty war is most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other.
Numerous former high ranking officials of what we like to call the “national security state’ have today warned that we are now closer to World War Three and the employment of nuclear weapons than we have been since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.
On this Armistice Day let us find the will to abolish these weapons that do anything but safeguard our security and find the collective will and means to abolish war before it abolishes us.
Veterans for Peace, Chapter 9, Boston, Massachusetts