Who Will Listen to the Voices of Veterans Calling for Peace?
I watched helplessly as the snow fell on stubborn veterans and police officers at the White House gates. On December 16, Veterans for Peace (VFP) organized a brief rally followed by a nonviolent act of civil resistance at the White House demanding an end to the U.S. wars and occupations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and Yemen. VFP organizers expected this to be the largest veteran-led resistance since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began.
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I often feel like a talking head advocating for issues that I am only familiar with, but have never experienced. However, bearing witness to former members of the armed services so vividly calling for an end to a war they participated in struck me as the purist form of activism. These men and women were asking the president to keep his promise. While President Obama had pledged during his campaign to "change the mindset that leads us to war," the deadline of troop withdrawal from Afghanistan is being rumored to be pushed back an additional 3 years, and the war looks destined to become the United States' longest war.
How many more voices will it take for President Obama, his administration, and military officials to understand that it is time to leave this war and appropriate non-militarized solutions? Demonstrators young and old called out chants and familiar songs of protest: "We shall overcome," "we shall not be moved," and a familiar John Lennon cry of "give peace a chance" rang through the freezing wind.
The war in Afghanistan is now entering its 10th year. As party politics continue to divide the debate over the country's budget deficit, our defense spending is often overlooked. In 2010, defense and security spending was estimated at around $715 billion (20 percent of the federal budget). The war is not fought only in Afghanistan, but is fought over a systemic battlefield -- which includes military actions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Pakistan, and the management of almost 800 U.S. military bases throughout the world. This war is not sustainable.
I often jump to statistics when trying to rationalize an argument against injustice. However, as I watched these veterans strap themselves to the White House gates, I remembered the individual. The unnecessary sacrifice made by these men and women has been forgotten. Fiscally, war is impractical; emotionally, war is destructive; spiritually, war is immoral. God is our greatest advocate.
As the snow fell harder and I could no longer feel my feet, I prayed to God and petitioned for a transforming change to the global mindset that has led us to war and asked that we may know peace.
Hannah Lythe is a policy and outreach associate at Sojourners.