And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
Welcome to C4SS’s newest regular blog, Wars and Rumors of Wars. Here, we will explore issues of war and peace, ranging from foreign and military affairs through the culture of militarism and the effects of war on soldiers and civilians to the details of anti-war activism. I will be your main writer, although others from within and without C4SS will contribute as well. As my byline says, I’m a veteran of the Iraq War and a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, having fought as a medic in Baghdad in 2007 and having been an IVAW member since 2010.
What we want is peace and freedom – no war but class war – but to get there we must understand our enemy. Developing that understanding is going to be a major concern of this blog. If we wish to cut off the state’s supply of soldiers, we must understand soldiers and know why they fight. If we wish to eradicate militarism, we must understand its appeal and recognize its appearance. If we want to help the victims of war heal, we must hear their voices – finding and sharing the stories of the survivors of war will be a major focus for this blog. And if we want to work for peace, we must examine what has worked and what hasn’t, make the best arguments we can and be always willing to back our words with action.
From time to time – as in my recent article on Ukraine – it may appear that I am granting some or even all of the premises of the warmongers. I do this not because I do in fact agree with them – for example, I do not believe that “democracy” in a meaningful sense is any great concern of the planners at Foggy Bottom – but because I think making the strongest argument means meeting the enemy on his own ground. If we can show that war and intervention will not achieve the good things the warmongers claim to want, then we weaken their position and spur interest in what their actual motivations may be.
This year marks the centennial of the outbreak of the Great War, one of the greatest tragedies in European history that had one salutary effect. The Great War made crystal clear the futility and horror of war, and instilled in a generation a healthy and natural skepticism towards power. This skepticism led these men and women to be termed the “Lost Generation,” although no generation since has found a clearer image of the meaning of war. For this first post, I will leave you with one of the most moving iterations of that image, Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem.
Britten was a conscientious objector in the United Kingdom during World War II, refusing service even in a noncombatant capacity due to his firm belief in pacifism. While his pacifism was unpopular, he remained an successful composer. In 1961, he was commissioned to write a piece for the consecration of the new Coventry Cathedral, a replacement for the original destroyed in an air raid in 1940. Rather than turn out a triumphalist piece celebrating the Allied victory, Britten turned to perhaps the greatest poet of the Great War, Wilfred Owen.
Britten wove Owen’s agonized lyric together with the traditional Latin setting of the Requiem Mass, creating a shattering remembrance of the tragedy of war. He inscribed the score with a quote from Owen himself:
My subject is War, and the pity of War.
The Poetry is in the pity …
All a poet can do today is warn.
While this blog concerns a harsh and terrible subject, our fundamental position is hope. We believe peace can come. “For all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.” I hope you’ll stay with us.