Several years ago, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting produced a documentary series entitled "Violence: An American Tradition." The series described the ways in which this country has historically resolved conflict. One need only read the history books to see that nonviolent diplomacy is not a tradition we can claim as part of our custom.
When we look back on the more than 200-year history of our nation, we find that war has indeed been part of our convention. This heritage is not one that should make us proud to be Americans.
Unlike previous wars, the present war in Iraq is one in which the media provides a daily dose of the horrors that ravage that whole community, including innocent people. For example, U.S. troops are accused of breaking into an Iraqi home and killing all its residents.
There is a range of reactions to this horrifying incident among Americans. Some say that the troops were just doing their jobs. Others say that the troops must have been convinced that the household residents were part of a terrorist enclave, so their actions are justified. Still others are appalled, saying that there is no conceivable excuse for such an act.
It is not my intent to analyze, defend or justify the mental and emotional condition of the soldiers who opened fire on this household. Those involved in this terribly violent act will no doubt have lasting memories of this scene — innocent children lying lifeless before them.
Regardless of how we choose to explain it, what it comes down to is that war does not differentiate between the guilty and the innocent. War leaves thousands of victims in its wake, soldiers and civilians alike. Therefore, it cannot and should not be used as a method for achieving and preserving world peace. It's a ridiculous contradiction in terms.
A product of the " '60s" generation, I remember well the days of the Vietnam War. As is the case today, television brought images of bombing and killing into our living rooms as if they were part of some action-packed movie.
However, we did not hear about the atrocities committed against civilians — innocent children — until much later. We heard news reports, but most of the information regarding the horror of Vietnam was shared by those returning, many coming home injured both physically and emotionally. Many still endure the memories of that experience by committing their lives to finding peaceful solutions and avoiding war at all costs.
A peaceful solution is what Americans are calling for now.
Seventy percent of Americans oppose this war today. We are calling for our troops to be brought home now. We must initiate an immediate process for transition, reconstruction and reparations for Iraq. People in this country are ready to make a commitment to nonviolent action to end this war now.
Nearly 50 organizations and hundreds of individuals have endorsed a Declaration of Peace and A Pledge to Take Action to stop the horrors of this war. Visit www.declarationofpeace.org and raise your voice for peace.
The Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo is executive minister of the United Church of Christ's Witness and Justice Ministries.