Guest columnist H. Patricia Hynes: War is not the answer 

  • Local residents collect wood for heating from a destroyed school where Russian forces were based, in the recently retaken area of Izium, Ukraine, Sept. 19. AP

  • Pat Hynes of Montague. FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Published: 10/2/2022 9:00:13 PM

“They will beat their swords into plowshares … Nor will they train for war anymore.” Isaiah2:3-4

What’s wrong, so profoundly wrong with war that compelled Isaiah to implore for peace (without debate over just and unjust war) almost 3,000 years ago?

War breeds a plague of ills and evils. Most immediate is the acute tragedy for those directly killed, soldiers and civilians alike, with civilian deaths often being in excess of soldiers’ deaths in recent wars due to urban, aerial and guerrilla warfare.

For U.S. veterans who have returned from war with “soldier’s heart” (Civil War), “shell shock” (World War I), “PTSD” and “moral injury” (Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan), Veterans for Peace captures poignantly the lifelong agony of fighting and killing in war. “Many of us continue to suffer physical and spiritual wounds from multiple wars; we can tell hard truths. War is not the answer — it is mass murder and mayhem. War dehumanizes soldiers and scars survivors for life. Nobody wins in war but the profiteers. We must end war or it will end us.”

War fuels rape, sexual torture, and sexual exploitation of women and girls by male soldiers and civilians. Every documented war holds accounts of this acute sexual injustice, including the current Russia-Ukraine war. “For predators and human traffickers, the war in Ukraine is an opportunity — and women and children are their targets,” states UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. In Germany, where prostitution and pimping are legal, social media has been soliciting Ukrainian refugee women into the sex trade since the onset of the war. Google searches for terms like “Ukrainian girls,” “Ukrainian porn,” and “war porn” spiked in the first days of the conflict.

War accelerates climate catastrophe. Militarism is the most oil-intensive activity on the planet. Between 2003 and 2007, the Iraq war generated more carbon dioxide equivalent in greenhouse gas emissions each year of the war than 139 of the world’s countries released annually. Re-building Iraqi (and Afghani, Syrian, Yemeni and Ukrainian) schools, homes, businesses, bridges, roads, and hospitals pulverized in these wars will require millions of tons of cement, the most fossil fuel intensive of all manufacturing industries.

Further, the global impacts of more drilling and fracking for fossil fuels to offset sanctions on Russian oil and gas; war-related inflation; and war-related extreme food shortages imperiling millions in Africa and the Middle East have undermined countries meeting their climate targets. Yet, mainstream U.S. and British media have all but eclipsed the record climate temperatures, drought, floods and fires of 2022 across the world with their preoccupation on militarizing Ukraine to defeat Russia.

“The first casualty, when war comes, is truth,” are the words of Hiram Johnson (1866-1945), a progressive Republican senator in California, at the outset of World War I. The current war in Europe, illegally initiated by Russia, is no exception. Who knew that promising negotiations to end the war in late March 2022-early April between Ukraine and Russia mediated by Turkey, were torpedoed immediately after by Great Britain and the U.S.? Both then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Pentagon chief General Lloyd Austin met separately with President Zelensky and insisted that Ukraine, with both countries’ providing military weapons and training, should stay in the war to defeat and weaken Russia and Putin, specifically. Zelensky acquiesced. Since the war began neither the U.S. nor Britain has engaged in or shown any interest in diplomacy to bring an early end to this tragedy. This war is their war too and also a consequence of a two-decade long broken commitment.

The U.S. has failed in its promise given by U.S. Secretary of State James Baker to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on February 9, 1990, of “not one inch eastward” — a commitment not to expand NATO east of reunified Germany. This assurance has been violated time after time with an eastward expansion of NATO that is critically threatening to Russia’s security if Ukraine joins NATO, given their shared borders.

“If Ukraine and Russia can negotiate grain exports, prisoner exchanges and a nuclear reactor inspection, they can negotiate an end to this crisis,” states the national feminist peace network CodePink. But only if the U.S., the major provider of advanced weapons, training and supplies to Ukraine (worth over $110 million dollars per day), supports peace negotiations.

Today, U.S. presidents mainly vaunt our country for its military prowess — despite having barely won a war since World War II, nearly all of which wars the U.S. has illegally initiated. Isn’t it time to repair our dangerously divided, sinfully unequal country, besieged with mass murders and to join the family of nations as a sibling, not a patriarch; time to become a country that will beat our swords into plowshares, our weapons into windmills … nor train for war anymore.

Pat Hynes is a board member of the Traprock Center for Peace and Justice and lives in Montague

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