Today we commemorate the cease-fire that was a prelude to the end of World War I, an armistice signed on Nov. 11, 1918. Living memory of the war to end war has faded with the death of its last veteran, Frank Buckles, on Feb. 27, 2011. The modern usage of the phrase "war to end war" is sarcastic and disparaging. As we well know, mankind has continued to pursue war for almost a century after the Treaty of Versailles, which marked the end of empires and fostered revolutions.
War has been framed positively, World War II particularly, but it has been and continues to be a bloody assertion of national interests in world affairs. The United States stood by and watched the slaughters of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, and the genocide in Rwanda without lifting a finger. A case could have been made that military intervention in those conflicts might have served a greater good. The case was not made and millions died.
Armistice Day has been eclipsed by Veterans Day which has become a day for restaurants to provide a free meal to veterans, and a time to thank a living veterans for their service. Federal employees get a day off work with pay, although most people do not. Veterans Day has become a shell of a holiday, without adequate remembrance of its origins.
Veterans for Peace will host Armistice Day events in more than 50 cities this weekend to remember that the world came together to recognize that war is so horrifying that it must be ended. Nothing has changed. Despite a United States military presence around the globe, it remains increasingly clear that instead of war, society should wage peace. Today we renew our efforts in that regard.