By Joshua Shurley, Ph.D.
“War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.”
—Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler, U.S. Marine Corps (1935)
General Smedley Butler was the most decorated U.S. Marine in history before he left military service and became an outspoken critic of U.S. wars and their consequences. Now, more than eight decades later, as we face an even darker moment in our history, Veterans for Peace encourages Central Valley veterans to prioritize human needs over the racket of war.
George Washington (a former army general), in his farewell address, urged Americans to “observe good faith and justice towards all Nations” and to “cultivate peace and harmony with all.”
More than 160 years later, President Dwight Eisenhower (also a former general) warned Americans of the undue influence of the “military-industrial complex,” adding that “the potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.” We have since seen the influence of the war industry on government go far beyond what Eisenhower ever imagined.
Many veterans know all too well the disastrous consequences of ignoring these warnings. Founded in 1985, Veterans for Peace is an international organization made up of military veterans, military family members and allies. Full membership in Veterans for Peace is open to military veterans of any status and from any era, and non-veterans may join as associate members.
Veterans for Peace is dedicated to building a culture of peace, exposing the true costs of war (whether human, financial or moral) and healing the wounds of war. There are more than 120 chapters across the United States and abroad. The membership in Fresno reflects the diversity of the local veteran community, with members having served in both wartime and peacetime, from the 1960s to the 2000s.
The objectives of Veterans for Peace are as follows:
- To restrain our governments from intervening, overtly and covertly, in the internal affairs of other nations
- To end the arms race and to reduce and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons
- To seek justice for veterans and victims of war
- To abolish war as an instrument of national policy
In addition to the obvious moral hazards of organized state violence, some lessons have been hard-learned by countless veterans: that war is a racket, and due to the perverse incentives of the military industrial complex, the permanent posture of war and militarism does far more to harm citizen safety than to strengthen it. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., stated at the height of the Vietnam War that “a nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defence than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.”
For several reasons, Americans hold veterans in high esteem. Many veterans feel that with this recognition comes a degree of responsibility to inform Americans of the true cost of war beyond slogans and militaristic celebrations. Veterans have a voice. Veterans have a platform. Standing up for peace is not only the right thing to do for moral reasons, but it also can be an incredibly important piece of personal healing and closure, as the stories of so many Veterans for Peace members attest.
The Fresno Center for Nonviolence has partnered with Veterans for Peace as the Fresno Chapter gets under way. Continuing support has also been provided by Peace Fresno, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) and Community Alliance newspaper.
Joshua Shurley, Ph.D is an army veteran who later became a conflict researcher (specializing in U.S. foreign policy in Africa). In addition to his activist work with Veterans For Peace and the Fresno Center For Nonviolence, he currently teaches political science at Clovis Community College.
Contact the Fresno Chapter of Veterans for Peace: