It is June 6 as a I write this, the 72nd anniversary of D Day when the Allied armies landed in Normandy to begin the final push to end the maniacal attempt of Adolf Hitler to create a new World Order based on the perverted principles of Nazism. My father was part of that push, a private in the Canadian Army. He was not part of the D Day landings, but came in the next wave after a beachhead was established, and he took part in the campaigns that saw the Canadian forces push through France, Belgium, the Netherlands and finally into Germany.
My father was proud of the services he rendered during the War, and the medals he wore in the subsequent peace time parades he marched in as a veteran. What he was not proud of was the war itself – the indiscriminate killing, death and destruction wrought by those who would sacrifice peace, lives and property to wage their ideological or political battles.
My father had no shortage of stories from his wartime experiences, but it always struck me as somewhat odd that he never talked about the fighting itself, or what it was like to kill or to face death in battle. Whenever I prodded him on it, he would say that it was better that I never know the kind of brutality and devastation that war inflicts.
Of late, I have been writing about war a fair bit, though mostly about the one currently being waged in Eastern Ukraine, spawned by another megalomaniac that would impose his vision of a new World Order on Ukraine and ultimately on Europe as well. This is Putin’s Russkiy Mir (Russian World). For him too, the death of a few thousand or a few million for that matter is of small consequence.
As a famed military historian by the name of Gwynne Dyer once noted, war has been an intrinsic part of our civilization for the past five thousand years of recorded history. I find that statement ironic in its conjoining of what to me are antithetical concepts, namely civilization and war. How can we claim to be civilized if we still settle our differences and disagreements using the blunt force of war and the infliction of death on a large scale?
And yet war, as an instrument of greed, politics, religion or vengeance, continues unabated even in 2016. Despite NATO, the UN, many decades of peace talks, the globalization of our economies, etc. etc., there are still no shortage of Hitler and Putin clones, both petty and mighty, who are more than willing to inflict misery on the world to achieve their aims.
Why this continues to be so is easy to understand, yet hard to explain. War happens because most of the political, religious and moral authorities allow it to happen. As much as the major powers may decry the prevalence of wars in our time, they have little compunction in producing the arms and technology that fuels the wars and the killing, and selling them to the participants, often with financing included in the bargain. All of this is often abetted by the religious authorities that do far too little to restrain their secular partners in the waging of war. Despite the fact that most religions expressly forbid the wanton killing of other human beings, their leaders and their actions betray this principle to achieve political and secular aims. The priests of the Russian Orthodox Church unashamedly blessed the soldiers and tanks that blatantly invaded Crimea and Eastern Ukraine. There are countless fanatical Imams that have perverted the teachings of Mohammed and actively urge their misguided followers to slaughter the infidels. Over the past century there have been countless examples of the Catholic Church either staying silent or actively supporting petty dictators in Central and South America while they oppressed and murdered their political opponents and innocent civilians.
War has been around for so long that we accept it as normal, and that is the crux of the issue. The same Gwynne Dyer whom I quoted earlier, also once put it quite succinctly when he said: “Our task over the next few generations is to transform the world of independent states in which we live into some sort of genuine international community. If we succeed in creating that community, however quarrelsome, discontented, and full of injustice it probably will be, then we shall effectively have abolished the ancient institution of warfare. Good riddance.”
We need to focus more on how to create genuine peace. We need to invest in peace as much as we invest in war. We need to alleviate the conditions that are the breeding grounds of conflict. We need to eliminate the ability of petty war lords of whatever stripe to be able to buy the weapons and materials to wage war. We need all of our religious leaders to unequivocally expound on the moral necessity of peace, and the immorality of killing for any kind of political or economic gain. We need every government to balance having a Ministry or Department of Defense, with a Ministry or Department of Peace Creation. I hardly need add what the ultimate conclusion will be if we are not successful in eliminating war from what we deem to be our civilization. We either eliminate war, or we face extinction.