Ending War and Beginning Peace

If we are to talk about ending war and beginning peace—bringing the ghastly social destruction of war to an end—we must talk about what we are going to replace it with. We have a long history of conducting the mass killings that we call warfare… about 14,000 years of it, in fact. We don’t really have a history of conducting peace. Rather, it was more of a quiet time before the “inevitable” conflict began again for whatever fear-based reasons. For that reason, I call this post “Ending War and Beginning Peace”.

To look at the current status involved in ending war and beginning peace, I would like to bring to your mind four human beings, all of whom lived and served within the last hundred years. The first, US Marine Corps Major General Smedley Darlington Butler, “The Fighting Quaker” (1881–1940), who served a 34-year career in many combats around the world, becoming the most decorated Marine in US history, including not one, but two, Medals of Honor. During his military career, he became progressively more disenchanted with a very dark side to warfare: profiteering from its tremendous consumption of resources, both human and non-human. This resulted in the writing and 1935 publication of an exposure of the actions of war mongers called War is a Racket, which is still in print. In his 1935 words, “War is a racket….It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.”

The second human being—one who comes to mind because of his great leadership qualities that earned him in 1942 the rank of General of the Army, and 10 years later the Presidency of the United States of America — President Dwight D Eisenhower. Shortly after assuming his presidency, he gave an address called The Chance for Peace before the American Society of Newspaper Editors. In it, in my opinion, he rose far above politics when he said this (selected extract) about the recently ended World War II: https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Chance_for_Peace:

The worst to be feared today and the best to be expected can be simply stated.

The worst is atomic war.

The best would be this: a life of perpetual fear and tension; a burden of arms draining the wealth and the labor of all peoples; a wasting of strength that defies the American system or the Soviet system or any system to achieve true abundance and happiness for the peoples of this earth.

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

This world in arms is not spending money alone.

It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.

The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities.

It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population.

It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals.

It is some 50 miles of concrete highway.

We pay for a single fighter with a half million bushels of wheat.

We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.

This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking.

This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

These plain and cruel truths define the peril and point the hope that come with this spring of 1953.

This is one of those times in the affairs of nations when the gravest choices must be made, if there is to be a turning toward a just and lasting peace.

It is a moment that calls upon the governments of the world to speak their intentions with simplicity and with honesty.

It calls upon them to answer the questions that stirs the hearts of all sane men: is there no other way the world may live?


(Concluding with:)
The test is clear.

There is, before all peoples, a precious chance to turn the black tide of events. If we failed to strive to seize this chance, the judgment of future ages would be harsh and just.

If we strive but fail and the world remains armed against itself, it at least need be divided no longer in its clear knowledge of who has condemned humankind to this fate.

The purpose of the United States, in stating these proposals, is simple and clear.

These proposals spring, without ulterior purpose or political passion, from our calm conviction that the hunger for peace is in the hearts of all peoples–those of Russia and of China no less than of our own country.

They conform to our firm faith that God created men to enjoy, not destroy, the fruits of the earth and of their own toil.

They aspire to this: the lifting, from the backs and from the hearts of men, of their burden of arms and of fears, so that they may find before them a golden age of freedom and of peace.

The third peace-bringer was a humble Roman Catholic Italian priest, Pio of Pietrelcina, a Capuchin Franciscan known as “Padre Pio”. He was known as a “holy man”, capable of miracles. I became familiar with his life through a fascinating anecdote of him appearing in the sky to a flight of U.S. bombers intent on destroying a sacred place, San Giovanni Rotondo, because it contained a cache of Nazi war materials. This image forced the bombers to turn away and jettison their bombs over a forest. (This is a fun trip through the search engines… try http://www.sanpadrepio.com/Flymonk.htm ). What is remarkable about this man of peace is that a citizen of a nearby (Maine) city was called to move to his father’s farm in a very rural part of Maine to help the older man. Shortly after moving, he felt called to build a chapel to Padre Pio. He spent about $1500 of his own money to build a solid foundation for the building, the dimensions for which came from his imagination. Subsequently, all the materials – from floorboards to the steeple with its bell – came from churches, monasteries, and convents that were being renovated or demolished. There was always just enough of everything donated to meet the needs of the chapel.

The local diocese was always fully supportive of the project, and at the exact hour when it was consecrated here, Padre Pio was beatified in Rome – and neither the diocese nor the Vatican knew about the other… and Padre (now Saint) Pio was famous for his ability to bi locate… be seen in two different places at the same time!

I have been to this lovely chapel. It seats about fifty, and its sole builder, a man in his mid–fifties built this lovely, well–built chapel in a maple grove justpast the entrance to the farm where it stands. The Mystic in me wonders. Why here? Why Pio? I asked those same questions of the man who built it, Larry Perron, and he smiled softly and shrugged gently; so I told him how I heard the Hopi Elder, Thomas Benyakya, tell a group of physicians of whom I was a part that the Hopi Prophecies say that the healing of our world comes from the one place in the northeast that is spared the flood of pollution… Maine. Larry’s gentle smile grew, matched by the twinkle in his eyes.

The fourth peace-bringer is, of course, the Bishop of Rome and Sovereign of the Vatican City, Pope Francis, who has just ended a week-long visit to the United States. He has confronted the United States government and the United Nations in ways that peacefully point out our failings, and what we need to do in order to heal the world.

Finally, one can say that if we were to stop fighting wars we would rapidly become bankrupt and with incredibly high unemployment rates of all of the dismissed military personnel. In response to this, I invite you back to President Eisenhower’s list in which he describes how many houses it cost to build a single destroyer; how many bushels of wheat to buy a fighter plane; how many power plants, or hospitals or concrete highways can be built for the cost of one modern heavy bomber. It takes little imagination to see what would happen to the employment rate were the current members of the military to be offered posts in the National Guard to go along with their new–found, well–paying jobs building and maintaining all of these development and maintenance projects.

I offer you a simple principle on which to focus your mind: “What you focus on expands.” It is always better to see the glass half full because what it contains is what will be there tomorrow. If you do not like what it contains, change it to that which you would like to see, for instance: Ending War and Beginning Peace.

{ 15 comments… add one }
  • rrecord October 1, 2015, 2:55 am

    Thank you for putting the war machine failures and costs in this blog, to make a money shift to do more public needs projects instead of destroying what is before their eyes.
    The Quakers have have made a yard stick of the U.S. budget spending areas. Military takes 57% of our treasury dollars. Veterans Benefits 5.5%, Education 6%, Govt6%, Housing and Community 5.5%,Health 5%, International Affairs 4%,Energy and Environment 3% 2.5%, Labor 2.5%, Transportation 2%, Food and Agriculture 1%.
    This yardstick is produced at the address : One minute for Peace
    1501 Cherry Street
    Philadelphia, Pa. 19102-1403
    Many people are surprised when I pull out my yardstick to show people.

  • Howland Bickerstaff October 1, 2015, 4:12 am

    “Waging” peace is always the harder road. We are called to access a different part of ourselves, to consciously choose to turn away from violence and do “something else” instead. That requires becoming creative instead of destructive. We have to employ our hearts and minds, which requires compassion, aware that, instead of engaging in the pain and blood lust of destruction, we turn from that toward a higher goal of serving each other, addressing the needs of our fellows… it is the higher road, the more difficult path, but one which needs to be travelled if we are to aspire to our higher selves and reap the rewards of such efforts…

  • Mimi Kugushev October 1, 2015, 4:34 am

    Oh, so true, however, how do we change the underside of human nature? This has been so ever since life, of any kind, began; the need for territory to supply those elements in order to sustain life. This, in turn, can, and does, become pure greed, for power, be it territory or ego. Just how long will the soul be nourished after the Pope goes back home?

    • Ken Hamilton October 1, 2015, 12:48 pm

      Change our relationship to the dark underside by acknowledging it with compassion and focus on that which makes our lives the half-full glass… yes?

  • martina October 1, 2015, 5:19 am

    Dear Ken,
    I loved reading this, and have been persuaded that we must actually engage in building Peace. We need a department of Peace, where the strategists who write the treaties are explicitly engaging in the same process they would be in if it were a post-war treaty. The win-win engagement of what needs to occur to keep us at peace would be the heart of the document. We need people to promulgate this treaty, and the best in the business so far are the Quakers, FCNL is a trustworthy organization with a track record. Non-violent communication needs to be taught in our schools, asap. There are videos available to do this, one especially fine teacher was Marshall Rosenberg. (You Tube). We also need a law to proscribe violence— that is STOP it from being on television and in video games. This is going to be the hardest thing to accomplish. Bootleg violent games will continue to exist, but we must ask our video game producers to change from hitting and killing a target to some other more strategic decision-making tool, and better cooperative language. I bless you and thank you for writing this wonderful piece! Thank you for all you do for the world! martina

  • Robert Karl Skoglund October 1, 2015, 10:46 am

    As long as educated people oppose war, it will be difficult to get an education.

    As long as people can be convinced to vote against their own economic interests, we will have talk radio and Fox News.

    As long as there is big money to be made in filling our prisons, we will be building more prisons.

    As long as there is big money to be made in preparing for war and fighting wars, there will be wars.

    Greed and ignorance are an unbeatable combination. Americans should be proud that they are number one with something.

    The humble Farmer

  • Diane October 1, 2015, 12:27 pm

    I’m so glad that I chose to turn off the morning news and instead read this inspirited blog. As always, Ken, thank you for giving me lots to think about. 🙂

  • Jeannie Locke October 1, 2015, 1:46 pm

    Thank you, Ken, for posting this! And I love the commenter’s mention of a Peace Dept. or perhaps a Peace and Restoration Dept. which, not unlike the 30’s, when he CCC was created and our military-aged youths were put to work repairing roads and infrastructure, and building some of the most beautiful trail systems and parks in the world… We take some of that excessive war budget and put our nation back to work. Don’t call it welfare but the Peace & Restoration of America and all of her people, while training, educating, housing, and caring for all… moving and looking forward, not backward. I also loved reading the statistics… I believe that many folks never stop to think about the true costs of war and who profits from it. If this were part of the evening news I believe most people would become less complacent. But would it change the politicians? Now there’s the rub.

    • Ken Hamilton October 1, 2015, 4:21 pm

      Keep up the focus on the creative potential of peace. Extend compassion to those who try to hold on to the old ways of fear and war, knowing all the time they have it exactly 180 degrees backward, as Nanci L. Danison describes in her remarkable book, “Backwards, Returning to our Source for Answers”. Talk it up and we move toward the greatest tipping point in our history.

      • Sally Sandler Bitan October 2, 2015, 2:48 pm

        So true Ken!

  • Bob October 2, 2015, 12:13 am

    Thanks, Ken. I cannot think of a more important topic for our time, for all time, than peacemaking and ending the seeming endless conflict that lies at the root of so much suffering in the world. Picking up where you left off in your last blog, we are often reminded in many teachings to “Be the Peace that you seek.” Recognizing and experiencing my own innate “inner peace” and translating that into “right action,” peacemaking in the outer world, or acting to mitigate the downstream effects of conflict, raises many “translational” questions. And sometimes my own inner conflict because many of these questions do not have ready answers. And, so, I must sit with them, too, as Rilke advised, to “live the questions, now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, [we] will gradually, without even noticing it, live [our] way into the answer(s).”

    • Ken Hamilton October 2, 2015, 1:59 am

      Thank you Rob, especially for that fine bit of Rilke’s wisdom.

  • Sally Sandler Bitan October 2, 2015, 2:46 pm

    Thank you for this information Ken. The practice of actively creating peace is an exhilarating experience we all can have. From the small things to the big things we can train our will and actions to be heavenly while on Earth. We humans , and sadly men in particular seem to love the “challenge” war provides. The real LIFE challenges necessary for human survival in our times can intrigue men and women to excel at bridge building, both physical and spiritual. Again, thanks for all you do!

    • Ken Hamilton February 21, 2016, 8:47 pm

      You are most welcome, Sally. I particularly like your comments about bridge building as a joint venture involving women and men.There are alternatives to war, and we must keep firm pressure on those challenged by it to accept the challenge to build those bridges.

  • Bethany October 5, 2015, 7:24 pm

    I wonder why wounded soldiers must depend upon charitable donations to support them in their recovery from the wars that we/our government sent the to fight in. Isn’t caring for the wounded PART of the COST of war that should be counted and born by the government that decides to send our young men to war? I wonder what would happen if a charitable organization or a government grant explored the question you pose fro Eisenhower. What if you took the money used to make one Cruise missile and built the school or power plant in an unstable nation and then studied what happened to the people in that nation and their opinion of America and Americans?

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