for Peace and Healing War Wounded
the prospect of war on Iraq continues, streets
have been filled with millions of advocates
for Peace. From Madrid to McAllen those who
oppose war continue to make their voices heard
above the cry for war. But even among various
peace groups things sometime become fractious
when civility is forgotten.
a friend of mine, a former veteran who questions
war with Iraq, expressed his concern for the
future of public discourse should war come.
He remembered how soldiers returning from Vietnam
were publicly castigated and pilloried for their
role in that war. Green recruits barely out
of high school returned traumatized by their
experiences to face a country that openly condemned
them rather than giving them the hero's welcome
that they expected.
reaction to the war created wounds in many Americans
that have not yet healed.
and policymakers decide when and if we go to
war, while it is the young men and women in
uniform who must carry out their orders. Leaders
are clear in their message that those who serve
in uniform are defenders of American freedoms
and our way of life, even if we sometimes doubt
nation's warriors follow in the traditions that
they feel to be just and honorable, as the armed
forces of each country do. Soldiers and their
families are told, and most believe, that they
are fighting for peace and security; every bit
as much as those who sing songs like "We
Shall Overcome" and carry signs that read
"Not in Our Name" or "Who Would
camp in this debate tries to wear the banner
of moral certitude, and all invoke God to his
or her side.
more than a century ago America was torn asunder
in a great Civil War. To paraphrase Abraham
Lincoln, it tested whether this nation, or any
nation dedicated to the proposition that all
people are created equal, could endure. The
American family, brother against brother, fought
a bloody battle that affected each home and
ripped through the very soul of this country.
peaceful outcome to that war wasn't certain.
Battles and skirmishes continued even after
the surrender at Appomattox. Then President
Lincoln was assassinated.
Northern and Southern leaders saw certain calamity
if moderating influences couldn't be restored
in time. The horrors of the war, including the
prospect of continued guerrilla warfare that
could last for generations, were only avoided
after people on both sides worked together to
make the peace and chose courtesy and generosity
rather than bitterness and wrath.
that time, Americans have participated in many
armed conflicts all over the world with each
generation re-learning the painful costs of
aggression and defense and the arts of peacemaking
there be no mistake about my position, I am
completely opposed to war, including this proposed
war on Iraq.
returned from Iraq on January 28 after a very
long, but fruitful, trip with the Christian
Peacemaker Teams and Voices in the Wilderness
two organizations of Americans who work towards
peace in that country.
I left Baghdad I wondered to myself, "why
in a world of so much beauty do some people
continue to work towards war?" I had been
given the pleasure of learning about Iraq, of
the misconceptions that we have about the situation
over there, and couldn't (still can't) bring
myself to believe that we would rain bombs down
on these defenseless people.
our small group was in Iraq during Martin Luther
King, Jr.'s birthday we held a vigil down by
the Tigris river where we read selections from
MLK's April 4, 1967 "Riverside Speech"
opposing the Vietnam war.
speaking about that war King said, "the
world demands a maturity of America that we
may not be able to achieve. It demands that
we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning.
The situation is one in which we must be ready
to turn sharply from our present ways."
He spoke of Americans to be the first in creating,
"a world-wide fellowship that lifts neighborly
concerns beyond one's tribe, race, class, and
prophetic words still ring true today.
we continue this debate about the need for war
- and especially if war does indeed come - let
us work together to try and listen to each other's
side. Even as we become immersed in the carnage
of the aftermath of such a war, we must be civil
to the returning soldiers remembering that they
too will now be war's victims, both those with
visible and hidden wounds.
we are to replace violence, war, and injustice
in the world with nonviolence, peace, and justice
then we will need the energies and work of everyone's
hands. To achieve these purposes we will need
to avoid bitterness and contention and treat
one another with true healing and respect.
Peace - Charlie
founder of Texans for Peace, recently returned
from his second trip to Iraq, undertaken through
the Christian Peacemaker Teams organization
of Chicago. He is a high-tech CEO and lives
with his two sons in San Antonio.