The Futility of War: When Will We Ever Learn?

O soldier who is sentenced by man’s cruel law to forsake his mate and his little ones and kin to go out of the field of death for the sake of greed in its guise of duty.
Gibran Kahlil Gibran, from A Tear and a Smile

“All wars are fought for the acquisition of wealth”



Right now it seems that most of the world is embroiled in war or serious conflict. There is no peace to be found anywhere as men struggle against one another in the quest for power, for resources, for wealth and maybe for justice, or at least what they perceive as justice. Yet I firmly believe that most of us just want to live our lives in peace, finding fulfilment in relationships, our families, our pastimes our pleasures and general day to day living. Most of us basically want to get on with our lives not face the horror, the turmoil and terrifying consequence of conflict forced upon us by those who take little part in the actual suffering and misery of war. Many of us feel helpless to stem the tide of violence, disruption and insecurity into which we or our fellow human beings are plunged seemingly at the whim of those who have little regard for our lives.

It goes without saying that if no one participated in war, war could not happen, yet millions join the armed forces for reasons that to my mind are unfathomable, leaving those they love, risking their lives, their health and their security. Why? Torn from their families and their way of life… for what I have to ask?

Here in the UK you may find in your local supermarket a collection point for toiletries, sweets and such like to be sent to solders engaged in conflict in far off places, fighting in wars that most of us do not fully understand. Surely military personal should not need the charity of others, yet increasingly so this is the case. Often service men and women live in unsatisfactory conditions or are not adequately provided for when maimed in a war supposedly fought for their country. Such as the ex soldier who died because his benefits were stopped. Having no income he did not have enough money for the electricity to keep his diabetic medicine cool in his fridge.

I will state now that I am a pacifist and vegan and would not take part in or condone war, particularly modern wars which to my perspective are fought for greed and power under the guise of justice or liberation. Nonetheless this does not prevent me from respecting those who have made sacrifices for what they consider to be a noble cause, nor does it prevent me from protesting the recent treatment of people who have served or are serving in the armed forces here in the UK, were it seems that those who have “served their country” have been discarded and rendered homeless, destitute.

Although, I do not condone or support war under any circumstances, I wholeheartedly condemn the lack of support for veterans. It is not just here in the UK that veterans are thrown on the scrap heap, left homeless without money or compensation for the sacrifices they have made, the same situation occurs in the USA. Who would have thought there would be a click to donate website for homeless veterans in the USA?

In fact in both the USA and the UK there are a growing number of on-line support and charities or non profit organisations for veterans. Here are a few examples:

Veterans Inc

National coalition for homeless veterans

Coats for veterans USA:

A charity for veterans UK:

Shocking but true service men and women are being abandoned to homelessness and all the misery that entails

9,000 ex-service personnel homeless after leaving the military

The Sunday Mirror this week heard harrowing stories from veterans who fought on the front line but now sleep in doorways, graveyards and parks, begging from the passers-by whose freedom they defended.

Why the hell are veterans homeless, after laying their lives on the line they are now left to the vagaries of charities.  Albeit well intentioned charities cannot offer the support that is needed and which should be provided by the country they served.

Many service personal are disabled and unable to support themselves yet here in the UK welfare reforms leave many destitute:

A record number of wounded war veterans have been denied disability benefits in the past year after undergoing tests carried out by the Government’s controversial assessment company.

Hundreds of injured ex-soldiers are being declared fit for work by Atos Healthcare in spite of physical and mental injuries they suffered in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Read more:

Severely wounded veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, who were once entitled to incapacity benefits, are being told they no longer qualify under new assessments carried out by Atos on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Read more:

Former lance corporal wounded in grenade attack in Iraq says he is being accused of faking his injuries:

A similar pattern exists in the USA

  • Between 529,000 and 840,000 veterans are homeless at some time during the year.
  • On any given night, more than 300,000 veterans are living on the streets or in shelters in the U.S.
  • Approx. 33% of homeless males in the U.S. are veterans.
  • Veterans are twice as likely as other Americans to become chronically homeless.
  • Veterans represent 11% of the adult civilian population, but 26% of the homeless population, according to the Homeless Research Institute (2007).
  • Veterans are more at risk of becoming homeless than non-veterans
  • The number of homeless Vietnam-era veterans, male and female, is greater than the number of soldiers who died during the war.
  • Primary causes of homelessness among veterans are:
  1. Lack of income due to limited education and lack of transferable skills from military to civilian life (especially true of younger veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan)
  2. Combat-related physical health issues and disabilities
  3. Combat-related mental health issues and disabilities
  4. Substance abuse problems that interfere with job retention
  5. Weak social networks due to problems adjusting to civilian life
  6. Lack of services.

Read More:

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) states that the nation’s homeless veterans are predominantly male, with roughly 8% being female. The majority are single; live in urban areas; and suffer from mental illness, alcohol and/or substance abuse, or co-occurring disorders. About 12% of the adult homeless population are veterans.
Read more:

Is this the thanks they get? The futility of war enhanced by the callous indifference of the country for which they supposedly served, though these days one has to wonder who is behind war and what the real agendas are. Is so called liberation merely an excuse to plunder the country’s resources as is I firmly believe the real reason for the invasion of Iraq?

Shame on the UK and the USA and any other country that does not care for the needs of veterans

I am appalled at how easily the decision makers start wars – usually the rich and powerful, the global political elite be they presidents, prime ministers, ministers, parliamentarians and dictators . These people who remain in security and safety while sending others to die take from us our precious lives in the meaningless struggles here in our modern world while rarely if ever sacrificing anything. Perhaps some of our war mongering leaders should do as the kings of old and actually participate in their war mongering escapades instead of sending others , mostly the young, to die or be injured.I wonder how keen they would than be to wage war.

It is of course not only soldiers that lose their lives but millions of men, women and children who are caught up in the increasing complex conflicts worldwide with seemingly hidden agendas, such as in the Middle East and more recently Ukraine.

Take time to reflect on the appalling casualties of conflict

Numbers of people killed in various conflicts since and including ww2

It is not easy to acquire statistics of civilian deaths only and some of the links below may include military personnel

World War II was the deadliest military conflict in history. Over 60 million people were killed, which was over 2.5% of the world population:

The United States most likely has been responsible since WWII for the deaths of between 20 and 30 million people in wars and conflicts scattered over the world. (often aided and abeted by the UK)

Among the latest conflicts


Death Toll in Syria Estimated at 191,000:   This was the estimate in August 2014, the toll has of course risen.


Between 8 July and 27 August, more than 2,100 Palestinians were killed in the Gaza Strip, along with 66 Israeli soldiers and seven civilians in Israel.


Civilian death toll in Iraq

Documented civilian deaths from violence

134,712 – 152,068


More than 5,400 people have died since the conflict began

It is not only our fellow humans of course who suffer in our war mongering escapades, animals too bear the brunt of our insanity:

Did you know that the USA abandons its military dogs in conflict zones?

Here is a petition to tell the Defense Department you support the call for service dogs to retire on U.S. soil!:

I wish to live in peace, it is my hope that future generations will live in peace. Sadly though until we take a stand against war it will continue while men and increasing women sign up to the armed forces, while war is glorified there will never be peace.

I would like to present a number of thought provoking quotations, poetry and song concerning the futility of war beginning with the moving poem Disabled by Wilfred Owen


He sat in a wheeled chair, waiting for dark,
And shivered in his ghastly suit of grey,
Legless, sewn short at elbow. Through the park
Voices of boys rang saddening like a hymn,
Voices of play and pleasure after day,
Till gathering sleep had mothered them from him.

About this time Town used to swing so gay
When glow-lamps budded in the light blue trees,
And girls glanced lovelier as the air grew dim,-
In the old times, before he threw away his knees.
Now he will never feel again how slim
Girls’ waists are, or how warm their subtle hands.
All of them touch him like some queer disease.

There was an artist silly for his face,
For it was younger than his youth, last year.
Now, he is old; his back will never brace;
He’s lost his colour very far from here,
Poured it down shell-holes till the veins ran dry,
And half his lifetime lapsed in the hot race
And leap of purple spurted from his thigh.

One time he liked a blood-smear down his leg,
After the matches, carried shoulder-high.
It was after football, when he’d drunk a peg,
He thought he’d better join. – He wonders why.
Someone had said he’d look a god in kilts,
That’s why; and maybe, too, to please his Meg,
Aye, that was it, to please the giddy jilts
He asked to join. He didn’t have to beg;
Smiling they wrote his lie: aged nineteen years.

Germans he scarcely thought of; all their guilt,
And Austria’s, did not move him. And no fears
Of Fear came yet. He drought of jewelled hills
For daggers in plaid socks; of smart salutes;
And care of arms; and leave; and pay arrears;
Esprit de corps; and hints for young recruits.
And soon, he was drafted out with drums and cheers.

Some cheered him home, but not as crowds cheer Goal.
Only a solemn man who brought him fruits
Thanked him; and then enquired about his soul.

Now, he will spend a few sick years in institutes,
And do what things the rules consider wise,
And take whatever pity they may dole.
Tonight he noticed how the women’s eyes
Passed from him to the strong men that were whole.
How cold and late it is! Why don’t they come
And put him into bed? Why don’t they come?

Here is a good analysis of the poem Disabled

The sad fact is no matter how undervalued are their endeavours, or how many have died or have been maimed for their country, or the stark reality of war which can no longer be denied still thousands give their lives and their health to support a country that soon forgets them.

words and music by Pete Seeger

Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the flowers gone?
Girls have picked them every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the young girls gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the young girls gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the young girls gone?
Taken husbands every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the young men gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the young men gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the young men gone?
Gone for soldiers every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Gone to graveyards every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the graveyards gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Covered with flowers every one
When will we ever learn?
When will we ever learn?

©1961 (Renewed) Fall River Music Inc
All Rights Reserved.

The song above was written in the 1960s by Pete Seeger and made famous by the Kensington trio and used as a protest of war particularly the Vietnam war. The lyrics though have a wider meaning. The song is really about the cycle of history and how impossible it is to break.

Read more about the cycles of history and the fact that awareness of such cycles even one as destructive as war fail to bring about an end to this insanity that takes the lives of the young and serves the purposes of the minority in this world who are greedy only for power and wealth

“An eye for eye only ends up making the whole world blind.”
Mahatma Gandhi

“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”
Albert Einstein

“Older men declare war. But it is youth that must fight and die.”
Herbert Hoover

“It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.”

War does not determine who is right – only who is left.”
Bertrand Russell
“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower

“Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime.”
Ernest Hemingway

Note this article was written in August some of the statistics will most certainly have changed concerning current deaths as a result of ongoing conflicts.

4 thoughts on “The Futility of War: When Will We Ever Learn?

    • Thank you for the reblog. Indeed we will never learn, wars get increasingly more frequent, kill and injure more people. Sadly while we humans exist there will always be conflict.

  1. With few exceptions, armies are usually peopled (for the most part) by young males. Except in extreme cases it is likely difficult for countries to get people to make up their armies without use of this chronologically adult but inexperienced in living group of humans. Older males tend to be more adverse to being subjected to the negatives of military participation. Females tend to not be as hormonally challenged by testosterone. We speak and write realms about child abuse but rarely mention young adult abuse. Children are much more susceptible to being duped by their elders….it should always be remembered that young adults are also much more likely to fall for such film-flam. Reframing war as an instance of how societies abuse their young males might offer a new way of thinking about such mayhem.

    • A good point. I agree that with some exceptions it is mostly young men who make up armies though I think that during WW 1 ands 2 older men were conscripted here in the UK. In more modern times it is most certainly young men who are duped into joining the military, though many women do so it is not generally as combatants, although in the future I would not be surprised to find this will be the case for women also.

      I had not thought of it that way but yes indeed it is a form of adult abuse, war itself and the nonsense propaganda that induces gullible young people to join up is indeed abuse and deception. Promoted as an adventure and a way to see the world many join not realising the reality of doing so. Also these days many may join simply to secure a wage. It is a tragedy that young men die to fight for the greed and the hunger for power of the old and elite and after their usefulness is over are left on the scrap heap homeless and destitute – that is if they survive.

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