Anyone who’s known me for some time has heard me say those words. Not directed at any particular military force or at soldiers in general. Actually, a more accurate way of putting it would be “I Reject Violence”. Somehow, I’ve never been able to understand how anyone could want to make a career out of learing how to kill other people. Sure, you can say it’s for noble reasons such as defending one’s country. Fine. Chances are I’d pick up a weapon and defend my home and country as well if it were under attack. But if everyone refused to use force against another human, this would be pretty irrelevant. I finally came across a passage that summarizes my thoughts perfectly:

“There is only one circumstance that justifies the use of force: If someone is attacking you, you have a moral obligation to defend yourself. Applying that rule would lead to a surprising conclusion. If all countries upheld the ethic that the only just war – the only legally, morally acceptable use of force – was for defence, then there would be no war. We wouldn’t need military defence. People would use non-violent means of correcting injustices – with protest, with civilian resistance. Paradoxically, if you use armed force only to defend yourself, and if you believe this, what you end up with is a world in which you don’t need it.”

It is sad that I should read it in the context of the author’s obituary. Dr. Randall (“Randy”)Caroline Forsberg, the executive director of the Institute for Defense & Disarmament Studies, a Cambridge-based think tank and the Chair of Political Science at the City College of New York, passed away at age 64 a week ago. She launched a movement with a profound impact on international relations in the 1980s. As a graduate student at MIT in 1980, Randall Forsberg started the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign at a time when the Reagan administration was threatening nuclear war with the Soviet Union. Recognizing that the division among peace groups rendered them ineffectual, she called on them to unite behind a proposal for a U.S-Soviet agreement to halt the testing, production, and deployment of nuclear weapons. When they proved enthusiastic, she began circulating a “Call to Halt the Nuclear Arms Race.”

The Freeze campaign made remarkable progress. Holding its first national conference in March 1981, the Freeze began organizing all across the country. On June 12, 1982, when peace groups sponsored an antinuclear demonstration in New York City around the theme of “Freeze the Arms Race — Fund Human Needs,” it escalated into the biggest U.S. political demonstration thus far, with nearly a million participants. Reaganites did their best to discredit and destroy it, but on the other hand in 1984, the Freeze became part of the Democratic Party’s campaign platform.

On the defensive, the Reagan administration was forced to modify its policies and the President endorsed the “zero option,” a proposal to remove all intermediate-range nuclear missiles from Europe. Furthermore, in April 1982, shortly after the Freeze resolution was introduced in Congress, Reagan began declaring publicly that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” He added: “To those who protest against nuclear war, I can only say: ‘I’m with you!”

Dialog International puts it, “the activities of Dr. Forsberg and people like her are ridiculed. We are closer now to a nuclear conflict – this time with Iran – than we have been for nearly two decades. We will miss Randall Forsberg’s quiet voice of reason. Her message lives on, and the planet cannot afford not to heed it.”

May she rest in peace.