President Washington, war and refugees

Statesman Journal
Feb 22, 2016

As America marks the actual 284th birthday of its first president, this is an appropriate day to recall his role in war and in peace.

As Salem prepares for the arrival of 50 refugees from war-torn countries, this is an appropriate day to question why our world has fallen so off-kilter.

Gen. George Washington and the Continental Army were rebels. The British considered them traitors. But history is written by the victors, and the world today looks upon Washington as a great leader — both as a military general and as the founding president of the United States of America. Henry Lee’s 1799 eulogy of Washington described him as “First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”

Washington was guided by a moral code; certainly an imperfect one with its acceptance of slavery and other conditions that today seem intolerable. Still, despite the vast gulf between the 18th and 21st centuries, we can’t imagine that Washington would countenance certain tactics of modern warfare.

The world’s leaders seemingly have lost any consideration, any care, any respect for civilians. Civilians are a casualty in any war. But with the advent of highly targetable missiles and other munitions, the recent attacks on hospitals, humanitarian organizations and civilian populations make a mockery of human decency.

The scale and severity of human suffering in current armed conflicts represent a distressing race to the bottom in disregard for the basic rules regulating armed conflict. Civilian deaths and injuries resulting from explosive weapons have increased by 52% over the last four years,” according to InterAction, a Washington, D.C.-based alliance of nongovernmental organizations that operate around the globe.

“The world is currently witnessing the greatest population displacement since World War II. This is not merely the tragic, inevitable consequence of conflict, and it cannot be excused by the fog of war. Much of this loss of life and human suffering is avoidable.”

Read more at the Statesman Journal.