Taking Back Armistice Day

Armistice Day, 11/11/1918 at 11 am, began a commitment to peace by the brave men who fought during World War One. The men who fought and its citizens did not want to bury the pain and suffering of war. Instead, they wanted to use tragic memories to remind them why war should be avoided and not embraced.

However, in June of 1954, Armistice Day was hijacked and reframed as Veterans Day. Since then, we have seen our nation’s dangerous veneration and the military’s adoption as the new state religion.

Shifting from peace, seen by many pseudo warriors and keyboard commandos as a sign of weakness, towards a celebration of war and fawning over the military, has come with a horrible price.

The past six decades alone have brought over a million dead, torture, destabilization, and climate devastation. The Marines and soldiers that the country espouses to support and honor have subjected them to serve in illegal and unending wars of an empire built on lies. 

The president-elect Joe Biden unapologetically lied us into the Iraq War when he was the head of the Senate committee of foreign relations. Biden got the war he and George W. Bush wanted, proving once again that war is a bipartisan issue.

The list of warmongers is long and shameful and has created the normalization of war and violence. President Trump gained cheers from Democrats, Republicans, and the media.

From Trump’s Syria bombing that sent Brian Williams and Malcolm Nance into a circle jerk to a Leonard Cohen playlist and his pardoning of the disgraced Eddie Gallagher. 

One could include John McCain in this list. McClain honored for his service as a Vietnam Veteran, but, as Media Benjamin of Code Pink comments, “I think it’s so horrible to be calling somebody a war hero because he participated in the bombing of Vietnam.” As a politician, McCain was far from being a hero. 

The glorification for McCain as a politician runs counter to his support for one war after another.

FAIR media analyst Adam Johnson wrote, “McCain lobbied to invade, resulting in 500,000–1 million deaths. Or Libya, which McCain passionately advocated bombing, turning it into an ungovernable bastion of extremism and slavery. Or Syria, which McCain helped rip apart by pushing for CIA-supported opposition groups for years. Or Gaza, whose destruction by Israeli forces McCain cheerled for in 2014. Or Yemen, which McCain, almost more than anyone in Congress, helped destroy by defending Saudi Arabia’s murderous war there.”

Our Nobel Peace Prize winner President Obama also helped in this normalization. Running on a campaign in 2008 to ending war, Obama ramped up troops in Afghanistan and expanded the use of drones. Obama unleashed 26,171 bombs in 2016 alone. Including bombing a hospital in Afghanistan and taking out a wedding party in Yemen, and assassinating an American teenage boy through drone strikes.

The economic cost of these wars has been staggering. Through 2019 the U.S. has spent $6.4 trillion in post-9/11 wars. The cost of financing these wars has been through borrowing and will surpass $8 trillion by the 2050s. 

Colossal, unnecessary, and irresponsible spending like this is why we do not have the funding to address climate change, health care, education, and infrastructure. 

The violence of war has also contributed to the destruction of our climate. Brown University Cost of War Project wrote, “Indeed, the DOD is the world’s largest institutional user of petroleum and correspondingly, the single largest producer of greenhouse gases in the world,” the report notes. If the Pentagon were a country, it would be the world’s 55th biggest emitter of carbon dioxide. And its main purpose — warfare — is easily its most carbon-intensive activity.”

Thanking Veterans for their service is beyond troubling as it removes and minimizes the focus of the damage and destruction of innocent lives abroad. It also trivializes service members by using them as props for political purposes. On a grander scale, we are reflexively using violence as an acceptable use of conflict resolution. 

“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places–and there are so many–where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small away, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”

-Howard Zinn

If anything else is true, violence and war are bankrupting us as a nation: morally, ethically, and financially. Our way of war is not working. The only hope for a better world, and peace will come from mass acts of civil disobedience and faith that changes will come through action.

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  • Thank you for a thought-provoking post. I have been reading many post-war stories lately, perhaps to fill the void from not hearing my father's World War II stories since his death in 2019. I lost two uncles in World War I, and I have had to tell friends (!) about why Veterans Day is when it is and why I wear a red poppy pin in November.
    I think the British Commonwealth term, Remembrance Day, is a clearer name for the day -- and I love the custom of two solid minutes of silence at 11 a.m.

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