To the Editor:
At this Memorial Day time of year, we not only honor veterans but also mourn the recent tragic loss of life on American soil — at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, the Boston Marathon, the Texas plant explosion, the Oklahoma tornado. Our hearts go out to families of any innocents who die violent deaths, whether killed by other humans or by the severe storms that are hitting us harder and more frequently as climate change intensifies.
But consider this as well. For the past 12 years, our government has conducted military operations in Muslim countries, killing thousands and displacing millions of people, many of them women and children. As we mourn the loss of U.S. lives, we must ask what the loss of Muslim lives means to us. Should we expect Yeminis, Pakistanis, Iraqis, and Afghanis to passively accept loss of life in their countries as a result of attacks ostensibly carried out to keep us safe? Can these military operations continue without leading to repercussions for the “collateral damage” of their loved ones’ deaths? How many are simmering with rage over the deaths of innocent people caused by U.S. bombs, missiles and drones? Can we expect them not to retaliate? How can we call for an end to gun violence here, while at the same time supporting kill lists and the assassination of alleged terrorists and their families with drones? How can we expect to end violence at home while using war as the primary instrument of our foreign policy? We cannot rely on violence to end violence.
Just as the cities of Newtown and Boston need support and time to heal from their ordeals of terror, so do communities in Yemen and Pakistan feel great pain and sorrow due to the killing, maiming and suffering they have experienced. Human life is as precious there as here. The grief we all feel is the same. More killing will not end the suffering. It will only bring new pain, new anger and the urge for more violence. We need a new approach to foreign policy that does not rely on destruction and death, but on building communities, respecting all life, and promoting diplomacy and negotiation as alternatives to war and retribution.
The billions of our tax dollars spent on war would be better used for development, education and promotion of human rights. They could be invested in healthcare, education, and job creation, and to build bridges between peoples. The cycles of violence and death will only end when we realize that killing begets more killing, while only dialogue and restorative justice can break those cycles. Gandhi warned us that “an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.”