War and Peace: August Memorium

WW1-centenary-1-300x300War and Peace: August 6, 1945— August 15, 1945—August 15, 2014

By Siegrid Raible

In the northern hemisphere August is known to be a hot month.  Much of Europe shuts down for the month.  In the US, many summer camps end and families find themselves gathering for the final few weeks before school resumes.  In 1914 and 1939 and again in 2014 August has proved to be a hot month for other reasons.

This year is the sixty-ninth anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, Japan.  On August 6, 1945 the United States dropped a nuclear bomb and in less than two seconds 60,000 Japanese were annihilated.  Thousands suffered with radiation poisoning and many thousands more carry the seeds of that catastrophic event.  Three days later the US did it all over again and dropped another nuclear bomb on Nagasaki, Japan.  The loss in life totaled in the hundreds of thousands.  Six days later Japan surrendered and World War II ended.  The debate over whether the use of these bombs saved lives continues to this day.  No one can argue that it saved the lives of those who were caught in its direct effects.

In late July and early August, 1914, the First World War broke out; back then there was no Second World War so it was considered the Great War.  By the time the war formally ended on November 11, 1918 the war had devoured 16 million lives.  It took a Second World War (1939 – 1945) and the deaths of 50 to 85 million combatants and civilians to give rise to the distinction between these two catastrophic events.

On July 17, 2014 Israel invaded Gaza and on August 5, 2014 a truce was called.  A second cease fire was called on August 11, 2014.  We will wait to see if it will hold.  This war cost 1,800+ lives.  On July 17, 2014 a civilian airliner carrying 298 civilians was shot down over eastern Ukraine.

I guess, we can say we are making progress.  The Middle East and North Africa are exploding with civil wars in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Afghanistan.  Eastern Europe is once again a powder keg as it once was before World War I.  Hundreds and many hundreds of thousands are dying, if not directly through violence attributable to war itself, then by injuries, disease and displacement caused by war.

In 2015 we will memorialize the seventieth anniversary of the end of World War II.  Looking back at the peace conferences in Europe and Asia I cannot find a woman’s presence at the tables where peace was negotiated.  Seventy years later you will not find their presence at the table in Iraq, Syria, Libya or Afghanistan.  Women make up half of the world’s population, yet they are not part of the peace process.

It takes but a second to end a life; in most instances it takes nine months to bring that life into being.   Can we not take as much time as it takes to create life to contemplate its destruction?   I believe, and it is only a belief as I have no scientific evidence to prove or disprove my theory that had we more childbearing women in positions of war-making, we would have less war.  I base this on the fact that it is women who bear and give birth to a new life.   I do not believe that these same women would easily consent to the destruction of that life.  I would also argue that the children or the grandchildren of women (and men) who are in decision-making positions should serve in a nation’s armed services.  Until we have as many women as there are men making policy decisions regarding war and peace, and until the children and/or grandchildren of policy-makers are asked to bear the same possible loss of life as their fellow citizens, we will continue to see a world where we humans will stumble into one man-made catastrophe after another.  A popular sport metaphor captures the essence of competition and in this case, the ultimate blood-sport, war.  That metaphor is each of us has to have some skin in the game.

In all of today’s global hot-spots, it is women who are missing from the peace table, just as they cannot be found at those conference tables where war is debated.  Let the Middle East and North African nations engage their women in decisions of life and death.  Give them a seat at the table of peace and war.

Let women have a say as to whether they would sacrifice their children or grandchildren for whatever glorious cause is being sought and fought over.

Let us put women in seats of power where their voices can be heard.

Let all of us on August 15, 2014 contemplate a world without war and let us, both men and women, promote non-violent solutions to conflict.

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