War Resisters’ International is about to turn 100 years old. While celebrating cultural diversity, we’re proud to say that as an International we firmly believe in the unity of humankind. The situation provoked by COVID-19 is showing us that international cooperation – and not confrontation – is the path that the world's peoples have to take, if they intend to save the lives of their members.
For almost 100 years we have been insisting that all wars are crimes against humanity and that wars are not a natural state of affairs among humans. Now that the entire world is facing one of the biggest health and social crises of recent decades, we need to repeat what we have been saying all this time: the most important struggle we face is saving people’s lives, not killing them!
On the economic side, we have insisted, and still insist, that war and war preparations are a huge waste of resources. Instead of being used for nuclear weapons, jet fighters, rifles and cluster bombs, our money should be invested in health care, the environment, education and the social needs of the population. Instead of giving money to military research and development - which somehow never lacks funding, tax payers’ money - should be put into medical, environmental and social research.
Many organizations and individuals who form part of the WRI network have conducted and published a range of studies, proving that investing in the military while neglecting health care systems endangers our societies, rather than making them safer. Many of our members have been advocating – and have ended up being fined by the tax authorities – for refusing to pay the part of their taxes intended for the military and for war preparations, and giving that money to a social cause instead. Now, more than ever, fiscal objection to military expenditure needs to be de-penalized, and people should be at the very least be allowed to allocate their money to social causes if they wish to do so.
It is unacceptable that even in the current situation, provoked by COVID-19, the mass media is presenting the military as an institution that has a great deal to offer in the effort to limit the damage from the virus. Nothing is further from the truth. Military personnel around the world are being assigned to a variety of tasks, such as disinfection of public spaces, purchase of medical equipment, or even the construction of field hospitals, which would be much better performed and managed by civilian workers and professionals. In many countries, military troops are also charged with keeping the “public order” and enforcing lockdowns, which is a function that armies in particular are not supposed to perform. It is equally disturbing to see politicians and the media worldwide often using militaristic imagery, likening the current situation to a war, thus justifying military presence in peoples’ everyday life.
Therefore, War Resisters’ International calls upon peoples and individuals all around the world to refuse to accept a narrow and xenophobic view of the current crisis, to cancel any further investment in the military and war preparations, convert the military industry to industry that will serve the purposes of public health, social and environmental needs, to reject the use of the military in any aspect of solving the crisis provoked by COVID-19, and, why not say it, abolish armies and warfare altogether in order to make the world a better, safer and more just place.
War Resisters' International Executive Committee