If You Want Peace, Work for It

Antiwar.com is pleased to announce the winners of its first-ever Student Essay Contest, held summer 2006. Today we present Khadija Abdool Hassam of Dubai, honorable mention in the senior division.

Alexia Gilmore
Executive director, Antiwar.com

In this day and age, peace is like a cloud: it comes and it goes. Peace is something people wish could be part of their lives for good, but like every other dream, unless you do something to make it happen, it will continue to be a figment of your imagination.

Some of the reasons for going to war, which the leaders of a country going to war feel are legitimate reasons, seem unethical or inexplicable to its citizens. The things that occur during war are the exact same things our grandparents, parents, and teachers tell us to refrain from doing when we are young. Yet we still inflict pain on our fellow human beings. Do some of us really take what we have learned in our younger years and carry it in our minds throughout our lives, or have we forgotten or even blocked it out?

Since war dates back thousands of years, not even historians can tell the initial starting point of war. The initial starting point of world war, on the other hand, is engraved in our minds: 1914, the start of the First World War. Between 1914 and 1918 the entire world witnessed mass murder and what was thought to be "the right thing to do" at the time. There are many reasons why such a war broke out. The most sordid reason is greed. Some countries , instead of improvising on the resources they have, try to take the easy way out and take what does not belong to them. Not only will they make more money with more resources but they will also gain more land. That is exactly what Germany tried doing, since their army and naval interests were reinforced by business interests and the soldiers were at their disposal.

The soldiers may have been at their "disposal," but they are human beings, who feel, who suffer, who lose their lives in battle, who bear the pain. They do this because they have the false impression or idea that they are "protecting and serving" their country, but all they are doing is making those leaders or people, who are economically involved, rich unknowingly. In countries such as Syria it is compulsory for men to join the army and serve for up to two years at least. I think that soldiers suffer the most during the war, and even after the war they still suffer mental trauma. People should not be forced to endure such mental torture. On the other hand, some soldiers use the excuse of war and "serving" their country as a means of punishing a certain ethnic group or even punishing civilians for no reason. During war there are cases of rape and executions committed by soldiers. For example, on the Sept. 28, 2006, 40 victims of apparent death squads where found with their hands and feet bound in Baghdad. All showed signs of torture. I feel convicted soldiers are not given the proper punishment they deserve. The Serbian soldiers who were convicted on the Dec. 13, 2005 for the massacre of more than 200 prisoners of war at an abandoned farm outside the eastern Croatian city of Vukovar were given a sentence of 20 years imprisonment.

Though soldiers are the ones with the guns, when it comes to civil wars of any kind civilians feel it is their duty or right to protect their tribe, family, and themselves. Then the government tries to intervene, and the government tends to use military force. This then leads to the people going against their own government. Most governments have no control over their country so they try to show their control by intervening, which most of the time takes a turn for the worst. Government who believe they have complete control over their country try to show their leadership qualities and try to prove that they are "world superpower" material by trying to resolve the issues of other countries. In 1975, when civil war erupted in Lebanon, Syria decided to intervene to prove itself a worthy leader. While intervening Syria shifted its alignment from the traditional insurgents to the incumbents. Taking sides? Is this really resolving the issue or making it worse?

Civil, ethnic, and world wars all have long-term effects, and that is what people fail to realize. You may be able to educate them and teach them about past wars and their effects, yet people still go ahead and continue to annihilate themselves. You can take the horse to the pond, but you can’t make it drink. On Aug. 6, 1945, an American aircraft dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. This was genocide, yet America was not penalized for it. That bomb was built in utmost secrecy by European refugees and American scientists. Maybe they did not expect the effects to last so long or maybe they knew, but should they be allowed to build such weapons? Even though it may have been a superpower, it should not have abused that power. The effects of the atomic bomb last to this day; children are being born with major deformities due to the radiation of the atomic bomb, and some parents are unable to conceive a child. North Korea is already planning its nuclear weapons testing in the near future, and Iran is going ahead with the uranium enrichment project. Even though the world powers are trying to prevent the testing, it does not seem to be working. I feel that after the atomic bomb era, many countries believe that if they had such a power like the atomic bomb that they would become an ultimate world power and get want they want. Two wrongs do not make a right: if two countries were to go to war using nuclear weapons, the results would be 10 times worse than that of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, and possibly irreparable damage would burden us all.

During wars, some people have no mercy on others. Even international law cannot protect people. The international law itself can be changed by superpowers at their convenience. For instance during the naval blockade, during World War II, the British imposed a strict naval blockade against Germany. The international law at the time placed goods headed for the country at war into two classes: contraband (raw materials that could be used for the manufacture of military equipment) and non-contraband (food or raw materials such as cotton). A country was supposed to, by international law, be able to import non-contraband goods during war. This was to ensure that sea powers such as Britain were not able to starve enemies or interfere with normal human production. The allies announced a new international law – that the distinction between contraband and non-contraband had been abolished. This left Germany to depend on its own resources, which would eventually become insufficient, thus allowing the Allies to starve their enemies.

Many countries that were rich before war have become politically bankrupt after war. Some countries who are just recovering from a war plummet into another. The effects of war last much longer than we expect it to, and what we constantly fail to do is refrain from making the same mistake. Most refuse to take responsibility for their actions and blame their wrongdoing on another, just as countries at war claim that they are just trying to prevent war or prevent terrorism from occurring when they themselves are lighting the fire of war or committing an act of terrorism. The leaders who we have chosen to lead us and guide us have seemed to abuse their power in many ways. Instead of learning how to live in peace and unite with one another, the younger generations are becoming increasingly violent toward one another.

It is often difficult and sometimes impossible to communicate or put a point across through harmful actions, so why not use words instead? The voices against war must be heard, because if we do not take a stance now there will be no future. The world is already welcoming an apocalypse, and that’s a guest you want to keep out.


1. Undercover Tales of World War Two, by William B. Breuer

2. A History of the Modern World, by R. R. Palmer, Joel Colton, Lloyd Kramer

3. Syrian Intervention in Lebanon, by Naomi Joy Weinberger

4. Iraq Then and Now, by John King

5. Wikipedia