Started 102 years on November 11, Armistice Day was established in the UK to commemorate the armistice which ended WWI a year earlier. In 1926 Congress made it a US remembrance to "perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations…a day dedicated to the cause of world peace."
What a wise way to turn the most destructive war in history at the time into a lesson for peace. Alas, in 1954 Congress changed Armistice Day to Veterans Day to commemorate military personnel past and present. The raging Cold War with Russia may have inspired the switch from peace to militarism during a dark era of fear and loathing in America.
Since then, ‘perpetuating peace and mutual understanding between nations’ has been left behind. Veterans Day has largely become a commercial to promote American militarism around the world, which today sees over 150,000 soldiers deployed at 750 bases in 80 countries. Almost daily we bomb innocents in at least 7 countries we know of. Crippling U.S. economic sanctions degrade, if not extinguish life for innocents in 19 nations.
While every decent function of government loses funding, the annual increase alone in our $750 billion plus military budget dwarfs what most countries spend on their entire military. All vets but the near centenarians of WWII fought in undeclared, unnecessary and senseless wars which slaughtered millions while doing nothing to promote peace.
After 67 years it’s time for another name change. How about Peace Day to honor our millions of veterans without promoting endless militarism around the world. But its primary purpose would be to once again to promote peace as exemplified by Dr. Martin Luther King, Gandhi and courageous American whistleblowers such as Pvt. Chelsea Manning and Air Force intelligence officer Daniel Hale, imprisoned for revealing US war crimes in Iraq and massive civilian casualties from US drone bombings, respectively.
John Lennon famously sang, ‘Give peace a chance’ decades ago. It’s time for all of us to give peace a chance by commemorating the end of The War To End All Wars this November 11 to end the wars raging a century later.
Walt Zlotow became involved in antiwar activities upon entering University of Chicago in 1963. He is current president of the West Suburban Peace Coalition based in the Chicago western suburbs. He blogs daily on antiwar and other issues at www.heartlandprogressive.blogspot.com.