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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 1-2, December 24, December 31, 2022 (Double issue)

Why Appeal of ‘Veterans for Peace’ for Ceasefire and De-escalation, Deserves Wide Attention and Support | Bharat Dogra

Saturday 24 December 2022, by Bharat Dogra

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Just before Christmas and holidays the Veterans for Peace organization has issued a call for ceasefire in the Ukraine conflict and at least a holiday truce which deserves wide attention. This statement has been signed by about 38 members, former or present office-bearers as well as a leading advisory board member. Veterans for Peace (VFP) is also an important constituent of a wider organization Peace in Ukraine Coalition which is calling for ceasefire and diplomacy to end war.

With a membership-base mainly of ex-soldiers, VFP has become a very important ethical voice for peace, in the USA and elsewhere too with its many chapters in other countries. Having seen and experienced the horrors of war very closely, these veterans have formed an organization that informs people about the terrible reality of war, about the very high costs of war as well the below-the-surface, actual causes of war, while also striving to heal the wounds of war.

This statement has come at a crucial time when the human costs and risks of the Ukraine war, now in its tenth month, have become unbearably high. As this statement says, with the advent of winter in the western hemisphere, there is increased concern regarding the suffering of civilians under siege and the suffering of millions of refugees. In addition there is concern also for the adverse impact of the war on hunger in several African countries. Then there is also concern for the energy crisis in Europe and the militarization trends there. Above all, there is most concern regarding the increased possibility of a civilization-ending nuclear war.

This statement draws attention to how the VFP has been consistently drawing attention to the dangers of this (earlier) emerging and now ongoing conflict, with recommendations for peace and de-escalation, going back to 2015 with a call to NATO for avoiding escalation and provocation. On the day the Russian invasion started on February 24, 2022 the VFP gave a call for ‘diplomacy, not war’.

This statement has said that VFP also joins the appeal of religious leaders and others for (at least a) temporary holiday truce harkening back to the Christmas truce in 2014 when during World War I soldiers of Germany and Britain came out of their trenches to celebrate together.

VFP says that this war is an entirely avoidable war. The billions of dollars spent on this war and its weapons should have gone to meet important needs of healthcare, housing, providing jobs and checking climate change. VFP has expressed empathy for soldiers being injured on both sides daily, saying on the basis of its vast experiences that they will be traumatized and scarred for a very long time. VFP says—as soldiers we resisted wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq and we support war resistors.

VFP has stated clearly—we want urgent, good faith democracy to end the war in Ukraine—no more US weapons, advisors and endless wars. At a wider level, this VFP statement says—we call upon the US government to end all its wars, withdraw our troops from multiple countries around the world. Ukraine, Russia, Europe, USA –all should move towards peace.

What makes this statement remarkable, and the reason why it deserves wide attention and support, is that it is truly a courageous statement for peace to get the highest priority. In a situation of widespread war-mongering supported by a weapons industry becoming simply too powerful and uncontrolled, this statement dares to take a very true anti-war position and gives a call for a future without wars.

Of course its most immediate relevance is for peace in Ukraine, perhaps beginning with just a temporary truce. However its wider relevance is for the bigger challenges ahead of a future without wars, which is so essential and important in itself but is also very significant from the point of view of creating conditions in which most serious environmental problems like climate change can be resolved with international cooperation. So the world should heed this call of the VFP for ‘Ceasefire, Negotiate, Don’t Escalate’.

(Author: Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Protecting Earth for Children, Planet in Peril and A Day in 2071)

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