Whilst there are different strands of pacifism (e’g’ religious and ethical), Pacifists in general and certainly all those that I have known, are people who hold the conviction that all violence is wrong, that killing other human beings can never be justified, and therefore that one should not participate in war under any circumstances!
Anti war campaigners like me and most of my comrades in ‘Veterans For Peace’, are people who share very similar views, often acquired through traumatic personal experience, that violence, killing and wars, are inhuman, brutal, degrading and usually ineffective ways of resolving disputes, that we should make every effort to avoid. The difference is that we do not say “under any circumstances”. That is because we can envisage or, as in my case, have experienced, situations and circumstances, such as World War Two, in which we believe that violent resistance can be justified, when it is clearly necessary to prevent greater violence, injustice and oppression.
If you were watching Channel Four News last night, You might have seen me accompanying a group of Veterans for Peace, down Whitehall to Downing Street, where several of them ceremoniously discarded their medals, to express their anger at the British Governments total inability to learn from experience, as demonstrated by the decision to commence bombing yet another Middle Eastern country. The equivalent in our view of poring petrol on a fire which you have previously lit. These younger veterans had served in Iraq and Afghanistan, in wars of aggression that they had come to see were unjustified and which were contributing to the spread of violence and extremism. I supported their decision but I did not discard my medals because I believe that the war I fought in was necessary and justified to defeat a monstrous tyranny.
The last week has seen a signiificant increase in the number of veterans applying to join VfP. It is encouraging to see that young men who have been have sent out to kill and to be killed, in our name, are learning and drawing the right conclusions from their experience. But how depressing to note that the politicians who send them out, appear to learn nothing from theirs!
Jim Radford served on a Tugboat during the D-Day landings and subsequently in the Royal Navy. He is a long time anti-war activist and a member of Veterans For Peace UK.