Armistice Day first

Porterville Recorder - - OPINION - John Laforge is co-di­rec­tor of Nuke­watch, a peace and en­vi­ron­men­tal jus­tice group in Wis­con­sin.

It gets harder to com­mem­o­rate World War I, be­cause of time and the pub­lic’s em­brace of, or in­dif­fer­ence to, a per­ma­nent war econ­omy.

About the Great War Bri­tish nov­el­ist H.G. Wells wrote on Au­gust 14, 1914, “This is al­ready the vastest war in his­tory. … For this is now a war for peace. It aims straight at dis­ar­ma­ment. It aims at a set­tle­ment that shall stop this sort of thing for ever. Every sol­dier who fights against Ger­many now is a crusader against war. This, the great­est of all wars, is not just an­other war — it is the last war!”

Op­ti­mists said it would be short, “Home by Christ­mas!” In­stead, it was the worst blood­bath to date with an es­ti­mated 16 to 37 mil­lion dead. Com­bat and other acts of war killed at least seven mil­lion civil­ians and more than 10 mil­lion mil­i­tary per­son­nel, while dis­eases, hunger, pogroms and tar­geted geno­cide killed mil­lions more. Rather than “for ever” stop­ping war, the un­prece­dented wartime prof­i­teer­ing and vic­tor’s im­po­si­tion of venge­ful repa­ra­tions set the stage for World War II’S 70 mil­lion fa­tal­i­ties, and the nearly con­tin­u­ous string of money-mak­ing le­gal­ized mur­der that has con­tin­ued since. One low es­ti­mate is that since “war to end all war,” about 100 mil­lion peo­ple have died in war zones.

Armistice Day was estab­lished in 1919 to re­vere the peace, and to re­mem­ber and com­mem­o­rate WW I’s the suf­fer­ing, hor­ror, fear, pain, and loss. In 1918, the head­lines roared: “Armistice Signed, End of the War!” and Armistice Day was grounded in the near uni­ver­sal re­vul­sion against war’s dread­ful costs, fu­til­ity, graft, point­less­ness and par­tic­u­larly against the cor­rup­tions and cold am­bi­tions of the politi­cians who pro­longed the con­flict. To­day’s US govern­ment an­nu­ally spend hun­dreds of bil­lions on weapons pro­duc­tion jobs that our xeno­pho­bic fear­mon­ger­ing and its con­se­quent wars sus­tain. As long as US al­lies keep trad­ing their oil and cash for US guns, even bar­baric, me­dieval dic­ta­tor­ships like Saudi Ara­bia (which has be­headed 600 prison con­victs since 2014) are cod­dled, pam­pered, guided and supplied mil­i­tar­ily in its ghastly war of de­lib­er­ately in­duced pan­demics and mal­nu­tri­tion against Ye­men.

In Septem­ber 2014, on a visit to Italy’s largest mil­i­tary ceme­tery, the Pope warned of a “piece­meal” World War III that may have al­ready be­gun — with dozens of on­go­ing, un­de­clared wars, of­fi­cial crimes, state-spon­sored fighter jet and drone at­tacks, and spe­cial­ized com­mando raids the world over. A short list of cur­rent war­ring in­cludes US com­bat in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pak­istan, Syria, Ye­men, and So­ma­lia; civil wars in Nige­ria, Maghreb, Libya, and South Su­dan; and the Mex­i­can drug war. Pope Fran­cis said about all this, “Even to­day, after the sec­ond fail­ure of an­other world war, per­haps one can speak of a third war, one fought piece­meal, with crimes, mas­sacres, and de­struc­tion.”

In 1954, Armistice Day was re­placed with Vet­er­ans Day, and so our pub­lic cel­e­bra­tion of peace and an end to war be­came a rally to “sup­port the troops,” a state and fed­eral day off, and a plat­form for mil­i­tary re­cruit­ment. Not ev­ery­one was pleased. The nov­el­ist Kurt Von­negut, a World War II vet­eran and POW, later wrote, “Armistice Day has be­come Vet­er­ans’ Day. Armistice Day was sa­cred. Vet­er­ans’ Day is not. So I will throw Vet­er­ans’ Day over my shoul­der. Armistice Day I will keep. I don’t want to throw away any sa­cred things.”

Two crit­ics of World War I come to mind. Mon­tana Con­gress­woman Jean­nette Rankin said, “You can no more win a war than win an earth­quake,” and in his state­ment dur­ing his Court Mar­tial in 1918, Max Plow­man said: “I am re­sign­ing my com­mis­sion be­cause I no longer be­lieve that war can end war. War is a dis­or­der, and dis­or­der can­not breed or­der. Do­ing evil that good may come is ap­par­ent folly.”

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