THE ROOT OF WAR * THE SPIRIT OF PEACE
BY LINO STANCHICH
As appeared in Chrstine Cooks February 2005
War kills. War is immoral. War should be avoided at all costs. I have fought in two wars. I have been bombed, shot, and almost beaten to death. Now I know that all people of the earth are one family. To save our planet, and ourselves, we must focus our hearts, minds and energy towards the creation of peace through health and love.
The work, my friend, is peace. More than an end of this war - an end to the beginnings of all wars. I have seen war… I hate war.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
I think that people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it.
President and General Dwight D. Eisenhower
In the year 1940, World War II began in Europe when I was eight years of age. This war would encompass the entire world, changing all of our lives forever. In 1943, the Germans occupied my beloved country of Istria, formally Italy, and now Croatia. We survived with the help of my incredibly strong mother, Giovanna, the faith in our cause, our wits, guts and blind luck. Men, women, and other children my age took up arms and fought the Nazi invaders, in fields, woods, and towns. Stubborn and courageous, our countrymen had as their motto: “Never Give Up!” And we never did.
War is hell. As Civil War’s General Sherman told the pleading mayor of Atlanta before burning that city, “War is cruelty.” Those who have lived through war know this. The images and terror of war is seared in one’s mind and changes one’s soul forever. One of my war memories crystallizes that cruelty more than any other. When, in 1943, the high altitude carpet-bombing began in my city, we civilians ran for bomb shelters to escape the massive explosions. As the sirens sounded, a close childhood friend did not make it to the shelter in time. After the “All Clear,” his mother and I searched his bombed house. His mother found one of his shoes with the foot still inside. I found in another room, his head. I knelt to cradle my friend’s head and as I said my “Goodbye,” stroked his curly hair. Life changed for me at that moment. I realized how horrible and senseless is war. Man’s inhumanity to man slapped me hard in the face. I then asked God, “Why do you allow this to happen?” The toll of blood, suffering, death and sorrow of war are immeasurable and horrible. During the war I saw countless innocent deaths, including many innocent civilians blown up before my eyes. The heartbreaking fact is that more civilians die in wars than soldiers. In addition, a warring country sacrifices the lives of the finest men and women to fight for its cause. Now I wonder what we learned from that war, any war. I only know that war must be prevented at all costs.
Nazi Germany was finally defeated by determined and united Partisans and Allied forces. There is an ancient Japanese saying, “After victory, tighten your helmet.” Following World War II, Yugoslavia was forced into another government of tyranny, led by our once honored Partisan hero, Joseph Broz. Known as “Tito,” this leader chose Communism over Democracy. At age seventeen, I tried to escape, was captured and sentenced to two years hard labor. I was thankfully released and, with my family, went to Italy and later America. Yet another war loomed ahead for this young immigrant and US Army draftee. The Chinese became another “enemy” as I stood guard on the 38th Parallel during my tour of duty in Korea. My life has been a unique journey of evolution, transformation, from struggle to survival, from the horrors of war to hope for peace.
In order to achieve peace, we must understand war. The dictionary defines war as: “The conflict by force of arms, as between nations.” Indeed. Conflict and violence seem to be an inevitable part of human life. Whether in a family or neighboring country, disagreements flare, ambitions clash, and desires compete. Jealousy, fear, prejudice, and revenge continue to rage in the hearts and minds of people. Conflict is derived from a difference of opinion, as well as from want, from greed, from ancient anger and recent retaliation. Conflict occurs across borders and across living rooms. Conflicts can be resolved peacefully. It is that possibility that we must cling to, or destruction will prevail, destruction of marriages, of families and the well being of our people and our planet.
“Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind,” stated President John F. Kennedy. Mankind is on the ultimate precipice now. The world has known over 3000 wars counted in as many years. More wars have been fought over conflicting religious beliefs than any other reason. America has sent armed forces to war beyond its borders more than 165 times in its history. Governments lead soldiers to war, soldiers who serve bravely and heroically. Our national security is in their hands. The Vietnam War, the longest and most puzzling, divisive war in American history, took 58 thousand lives of valiant US soldiers. Now The U.S. is in a preemptive war that has cost over a thousand American lives, tens of thousands of Iraqi lives and over $120 billions of dollars. The current personal and financial cost is vast. Is war ever right? When is war justified?
Milton Meltzer reports in Ain’t Gonna Study War No More, named after the Biblical verse and protest song, historical pacifists list seven standards for a “just” war:
1. War must be the last resort, used only after all other means have failed.
2. War must be declared to redress rights actually violated or to defend against unjust demands backed by the threat of force. It must not be fought simply to satisfy national pride or to further economic or territorial gain.
3. The war must be openly and legally declared by a legal government.
4. There must be a reasonable chance of winning.
5. The means used must be in proportion to the ends sought.
6. Soldiers must distinguish between armies and civilians and not kill civilians on purpose.
7. The winner must not require the utter humiliation of the loser.
At the heart of war is the absence of inner peace. Whether between national leaders, or family members, tense energy within the body is likely to manifest as anger and may escalate into violence. As Albert Einstein stated, “Peace can never be achieved by force. It can only be achieved by understanding.” Calm understanding is the foundation of any healthy relationship. Quincy Wright, author of A Study of War, and expert in international law, states that war is more prevalent among societies in which animal food forms a major part of the diet. Our daily food profoundly affects our perceptions, opinions, and behavior. Highly dense foods such as excess animal products, salt and baked flour products along with toxic chemicals, contribute to tension, irritability, impatience, anger, and aggression. These emotional imbalances, in turn, lead to an increase in conflict, violence, and divorce. Divorce is shown statistically to lead to greater incidence of youth suicide, crime, street wars, illegal drugs, and illness. The increase of spousal abuse, domestic violence, and stress all reflect a lack of internal balance in the individual. The Japanese word and symbol for Peace “Wa, “ combines two characters: “Grain” and “Mouth. Certainly, greater inner peace and health of body, mind, and spirit can be achieved through a balanced lifestyle and a predominately vegan, whole grain-based diet such as the macrobiotic diet.
When will the world embrace peace as passionately as they finance and glorify war? When will we steadfastly seek human brotherhood/sisterhood with the same fervor as we stockpile arms? Let us each seek and create peace in our homes, our neighborhoods, our country and the world. “Shall we choose death, because we cannot forget our quarrels? We appeal, as human beings, to human beings: Remember your humanity and forget the rest,” said Albert Einstein and many of the world’s scientists and philosophers. Peace begins with ourselves. Let us start now. Peace is indeed patriotic. The world’s great religious books, from the Torah to the Koran and Bible, as well as Buddha, Muhammad, and Jesus all teach peace. “We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount,” says General Omar Bradley as he referred to Jesus’ teaching, “Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” One peaceful world, as Michio Kushi promotes through the international macrobiotic lifestyle, is a worthy and possible goal for all of humanity.
I have dedicated my life to preventing war through the creation of health and the development of understanding. I agree with vegetarian Ben Franklin that, “There was never a good war, or a bad peace.” Peace is a possibility. I will live with that dream and that belief all my life. When we glorify peace, focus on peace as we do war, then we will begin to realize peace. I applaud the formation of a Department of Peace in America. I await the day when, as written in the Bible’s Book of Isaiah, we “beat our swords into plowshares,” tools to cultivate healthy foods to make healthy minds. Let us keep the faith, keep living consciously, and keep peace as the focus of our lives. Peace, Brothers and Sisters!