Friday Takeaway: No one wins a war

  • Frances Crowe at her home in Northampton, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Published: 11/9/2018 12:13:25 PM

During the Vietnam War, I knew I had to act when our teenaged son Tom and some of his classmates from Williston Academy stood around our kitchen unsure that they wanted to be conscientious objectors. That marked a turning point for me. I knew I had to raise awareness about the evil of war.

I decided to act on my profound belief that morality prohibits war and killing. I had studied psychology and advertising during my college and post-graduate years, and I recognized subliminal persuasions about patriotism, heroism, and service that encouraged support for the U.S. military.

I wanted to confront the distortions and encourage young men to search their consciences and recognize their own reluctance to kill. I wanted them to realize that the military exists to kill, and I wanted to assist them in filing for status as conscientious objectors in the face of the draft. The government would assign some COs to alternative service, and some COs would be exempted from service.

In order to begin my work, I took a workshop about conscientious objection for a weekend with the Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors (CCCO) in Philadelphia and another about group process at the University of Massachusetts.

No one wins a war, including one waged by an all-volunteer military as employed and deployed by the United States today.

Pacifists and realists warned us against the ill-advised invasion of Afghanistan 17 years ago when we began the war there in the wake of attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center. Our unresolved interventions in Central America, South America, and the Persian Gulf, Iraq and Syria perpetuate devastation, displacement, rape, pillage, and a heart-rending, widespread refugee challenge that divides public opinion and, by itself, threatens world peace.

U.S. military spending amounts to 54 percent of the federal budget, according to National Priorities Project. The U.S. military budget exceeds the combined military budgets of the next seven highest military spenders in the world: China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, United Kingdom, India, France, and Japan, in order of their expenditures. In a vicious circle, Saudi Arabia, the UK, and Japan buy much of their military hardware from us.

In any war, arms traders prosper along with their investors in the face of sacrifices by taxpayers, those targeted by war, and those trained by the United States to constant combat-readiness. Despite attractive prospects advanced by military recruiters, men and women who volunteer and deploy to fight our wars rarely find promised rewards without strings attached.

Suicide, post-traumatic stress, homelessness, readjustment issues, and employment challenges meet returning veterans. A June 2018, U.S. Veterans Administration report cites 20.6 military or veteran suicides every day, 16.8 daily by veterans and 3.8 daily by active-duty personnel, amounting to 6,132 veterans and 1,387 service members who die annually by suicide. At least 10 percent of deployed veterans return with PTSD, according to the VA.

Some 30 percent of veterans returned with PTSD from our war in Vietnam, where the U.S. accepted defeat after some two decades of war that took almost 60,000 US lives and millions of Southeast Asian lives. We fought the Vietnam War with conscripted or drafted soldiers, all men at the time, as well as those who enlisted in all branches of the military.

The Selective Service System supervised the draft, and U.S. towns and cities each had a group of citizens, the draft board, to select and induct young men for military training. The military then taught inductees to use weapons and kill before assigning them to war-related duties.

By 1967, soon after our family moved into our smaller house in Northampton as our children left to further their educations, I was ready to embark on my quest to assist young men in announcing to their draft boards and to U.S. society that “War is not the answer.”

A 1977 Gazette article described Frances Crowe as “a long-time anti-war activist.” The founder of the American Friends Service Committee of Western Massachusetts, Crowe continues her pioneering peace work today.

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