Reflections of an Anti-War Veteran

From Common Dreams:

by Dud Hendrick
Published on Monday, November 12, 2012 by Common Dreams

The following remarks were made on the occasion of the removal for winter of flags commemorating lives lost in Iraq and Afghanistan at the Iraq War Dead Memorial in Blue Hill, Maine on Saturday, November 10th, 2012:

I hope to make the case today for us to continue, even redouble, our efforts to effect real change when there may be a window of opportunity for our voices to persuade President Obama to morph into a leader faithful to a gentler inner self.

I have a comforting expectation that my words will fall on sympathetic ears. Not so, if this were your typical Armistice Day parade or gathering happening all over the country this weekend. My remarks don’t celebrate or glorify the military, which is what we generally hear on this day. Quite the opposite.

I am extremely proud to be a member of Veterans for Peace. Founded 27 years ago in Maine, VFP now has over 5000 members and more than 130 chapters. We are the only veterans’ organization that is opposed to all war and we’re dedicated to increasing awareness of the costs of war, to counter-recruiting, and to seeking justice for veterans and all victims of war.

Unfortunately, most Americans would be dismissive of VFP, maintaining we’re naïve, that man is inherently violent and that, therefore, war is inevitable. My experience teaching peace has convinced me that, on the contrary, there are many cultures that are peaceful and that war is a matter of choice. We here in America resist that notion, I think, largely, because of our violent history. It is simply too uncomfortable for Americans to accept that wars aren’t necessary or that war often has been closer to our leaders’ first option rather than their last. And so our history only contributes to the disheartening resolute march down a blood-soaked and beaten path.

We Americans need to examine America’s record honestly, just as we need to examine the American mythology of exceptionalism. Years ago I came to the conclusion that Martin Luther King, Jr’s stinging rebuke on April 4, 1967, was right on. His country was the greatest purveyor of violence. That distinction is inarguably, I think, just as valid today.

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