St. Louis, MO. Veterans For Peace is appalled by the ongoing acts of political violence in Brussels, Belgium, in Istanbul and Ankara, Turkey, in Iraq, in dozens of other places across the globe and most recently in Lahore, Pakistan.
As a community of veterans, military families and friends, many of us know the pain of losing a loved one to violence. We offer our deeply felt condolences to the families and communities affected. We mourn with you and you are in our thoughts as we carry on the effort of working for peace. We remind the people of the world to not only mourn for those killed and injured in Europe and the United States, but to remember that lives lost and bodies maimed by terrorism anywhere is a loss for all of us.
The world must confront this scourge of violence just as we must confront the plague of war. Terrorism is a tactic of war, and for the civilians and non-combatants on the battlefield caught in the middle, war itself is terrorism.
In the face of the latest round of attacks, world governments scramble to respond and attempt to reassure us that they can keep us safe. Yet they continue to call for more drone and air strikes, more weapons sent to the conflicts and more U.S. troops on the ground – supposedly in support of others doing the fighting. These calls are absurd because this is the very brew that has accelerated the pace of ever escalating violence.
From the time President Bush proclaimed, “…and the people who knocked these buildings down will here all of us soon,” in response the events of September 11, retaliation and revenge have become the accepted pattern of behavior and prism through which our government decides what to do next. Nearly fifteen years later, the results are at least four countries in ruins — Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria — others with teetering governments, millions of displaced people, an unknown number of people injured or killed by war, and the politics of hate marching across the Middle East, Europe and the United States.
It should be clear after more than a decade of war that we cannot bomb our way to peace. In the past, Veterans For Peace and others have proposed alternative ways to confront ISIL. We find some hope in the Obama administration’s diplomatic efforts to end the conflict in Syria. This is one of the key elements to any plan to end the violence in the region that feeds the spreading chaos. But the U.S. must also;
- Stop drone and air strikes in the region because the Sunni leaders and militia, who President Obama acknowledges must be persuaded to break with ISIL, see them as the U.S. as acting as the air force for the Kurds and Shia against Sunnis.
- Stop the slippery slope of sending troops to Iraq. The U.S. should withdraw from Afghanistan and Iraq immediately, stop sending weapons that fuel the conflict by killing more civilians, and stop ignoring human rights violations committed by “allies.”
- Make diplomacy the number one priority. Since it is clear there is no military solution, seriously engage with everyone in the region, including Iran, who is needed to force the Iraqi government to be more inclusive with Sunni leaders.
- Massively increase humanitarian efforts in the region through the UN and any other means. Real and effective efforts to relieve suffering will go a long way in convincing people to break with ISIL.
Veterans For Peace calls on the people of the United States to recognize that more war is not the answer, just as hate and discrimination is not the answer here at home. Targeting and alienating Muslims here in the U.S. as responsible for terrorism and bombing and killing of innocent people abroad is not only morally wrong and hurtful to innocent people, it confirms ISIL’s narrative that the West, led by the U.S., is conducting a war on Islam and that the lives of Muslims mean little to us. We, the people of all faiths, beliefs and backgrounds, must unite against terrorism here at home and we must act to restrain our government’s wars that wreak havoc and terror on people abroad. The war on terror is itself terrorism. Invasions, bombing and killing have not worked. They are only bringing us more of the same. It is clearly time for a new way.
Veterans For Peace is a 31-year-old U.S. based nonprofit educational organization with chapters in over 100 US cities and several international chapters. VFP members include veterans of World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the US occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as non-veteran allies. The mission of Veterans For Peace is to abolish war as an instrument of U.S. foreign policy.