A New Patriotism: WWII Vet Speaks

As a World War II veteran who served in the South Pacific, I know the horror of war first-hand. Our great victory in that "good" war should not be twisted into the inspiration for massive military action now. President Bush, Congress and world leaders must root out terrorists everywhere, but not wipe out ordinary people anywhere.

While I am outraged by the terrorist attacks, I ask the U.S. government not to compound the tragedy. As a proud U.S. citizen and U.S. Army war veteran, I must speak up and tell our nation's leaders: "Don't perpetuate the cycle of violence." Bringing terrorists to justice must not become an excuse to wage a wholesale war against Islamic nations and Muslim people around the world (including here at home) -- the vast majority of whom are as innocent as everyone murdered at the World Trade Center. As a Jew, I am all too familiar with the world's willingness to demonize and try to destroy whole groups of people on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity or nationality. There already has been a grotesque slaughter of the innocents around the world and across the centuries. It is time for it to stop.

That's where America's role and response become most important. September 11th marks the end of one era in American history. As the world's only superpower, the ball is largely in our court. Will we respond to the causes of terrorism, as well as to its awful effects? How can President Bush even hope to win a war against an elusive enemy that, like a cancer, has spread its tentacles everywhere around the world and across America? Where will Congress send our soldiers, our battleships and our war planes -- in other words, where can we unleash our unquestioned military might without doing far more harm than good? How should America deal with these dilemmas?

History may provide an answer. Our first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, warned that our nation could not endure half slave and half free. So too, our WORLD cannot endure divided against itself into the "haves" and the "have nots." The only war worthy of America's treasure, talent, time and lives is a world-wide war against human suffering. We must "turn our swords into plowshares and study war no more." The peace-seeking, loving, merciful tenets espoused by ALL the world's sacred texts and holy leaders have been prostituted, misused or simply forgotten throughout history by religious zealots throughout the world. A "Jihad" is just a "Crusade" dressed up in different clothing. And, acts of violence still reap only the whirlwind . . . never peace nor justice.

Take the advice of this old soldier before I, too, fade away. Lashing out in anger doesn't take one-half the guts of quelling the spirit of vengeance within ourselves. Fighting wars of any kind doesn't take one-tenth the intelligence of (at long last) creating a harmonious, prosperous world. America's challenge as the world's only remaining superpower is to use that power to sow the seeds of peace, forgiveness and fairness for all our brothers and sisters in the human family. Terrorism cannot take root, or flourish, among people who are liberated from hunger, torture, ignorance, poverty, tyranny and all the other true evils in our world.

Make war on war itself.

Maurice Sher, 84, a retired businessman from Ohio, now lives in southern California.

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