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On Peace and Despair: A Veteran’s Musings While Vigiling

As a proud member of Veterans for Peace, I am opposed to all war.  At times accused of naivety, we argue that our commitment to peace is no more naïve than the notion that war will bring peace. 

More Americans know well that our country has become increasingly dedicated to militarism—that in determining foreign policy military options are considered sooner rather than last or later.  Since WWII the U.S. has bombed at least 27 countries.  The unavoidable assessment would judge this adventurism as not being in the best interest of the American public and to have been costly in terms of lives, dollars, and stature lost.  A Gallup poll conducted in 65 countries at the end of 2013, found the U.S. to be considered the most significant threat to world peace.

A notion of American exceptionalism persists, a mythology that leaves us incapable of seeing our country’s behavior as it is increasingly seen around the world.  In this digital age our snubbing of international law as evidenced by our refusal to join the International Criminal Court, refusal to sign on to many multilateral treaties embraced by the majority of nations, our illegal invasions of other countries, and our extra-judicial assassinations by drones, all of this is widely known outside the U.S.

A brilliant red flag is raised by the widely respected journal, Foreign Affairs, where international law professor, David Kaye has recently written that, “Rejection of international obligations has grown so entrenched that foreign governments no longer expect Washington’s ratification or participation in the institutions treaties create.  The world is moving on….with limited (if any) American involvement.”  Characterizing America as a rogue nation or as snubbing the rest of the world no longer is solely the language of the far left.  

Perhaps no greater condemnation, or widely accepted, opinion came from Nelson Mandela, who said, at the time of the impending U.S. attack on Iraq in 2002, “If there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the U.S.  They don’t care for human beings.”

The drum beat for military funding and action continues unabated—Iran, Syria, North Korea, pivot to the Pacific, the F-35, the launching of a Zumwalt destroyer, “forever” presence in Afghanistan, the continuing flow of more than $3 billion/year for military aid to the Israelis.  The full magnitude of this landscape and its consequences may be seeping into the American conscience.

Each week I join fellow members of Island Peace and Justice standing in witness and objection to these truths. I also participate in a weekly 24-hour fast along with other members of Veterans for Peace in the U.S. and the U.K. in solidarity with the misfortunates at Guantanamo, where today 166 prisoners remain incarcerated, some of whom were not even adults when first imprisoned in 2002, some of whom have never been charged, and some of whom are being force-fed having been on long-term hunger strikes in protest of their inhumane treatment.

This last history alone stands in graphic refutation of a fantasy we all want to cling to.  I no longer can. 

These thoughts dominate my musing each week while standing along the highway, but at times are interrupted by creeping despair.  Our voices are few and maybe unheard.  Then, in the spirit of Howard Zinn, I conclude we have no choice if the “great turning” is to come.  By amplifying the voices of the victims, our very planet among them, we keep hope alive.

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Dud Hendrick

Dud Hendrick is a member of Veterans for Peace.  He has traveled widely to meet with and to speak about the victims of U.S. foreign policy.  He resides on Deer Isle, Maine and can be emailed at dudhe [at]

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