Self-Described ‘Peacenik’ Carroll Advocates Opposing War While Still Loving Country

Reflecting on his lifelong struggle to love his country while disagreeing with its military policies, award-winning author and weekly Boston Globe columnist James Carroll spoke during Wednesday’s All-School Meeting. Carroll’s father, a three-star Air Force general who acted as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency during the Vietnam War, raised Carroll in Washington, D.C. Although Carroll was the son of a man who at one point had “to pick the targets for nuclear weapons,” he became a “‘peacenik’ because war is not the answer.” Referring to the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall, Carroll defined Andover students as members of the “1989 generation,” and said that students, faculty, and staff must recognize that they were witness to a profound political change brought about by a nonviolent demonstration and a cold, not a hot, war. Carroll said that people should not be afraid to challenge leaders who wage war, or to challenge their leaders, in any event. “We are never more American than when we are asking questions regarding who is in charge,” he said. About the Iraq war, Carroll said, “Bush is responding to the terrorist attacks of September 11th in exactly the wrong way. [The United States is not] eliminating terrorists but creating terrorists…and [is not] finding weapons of mass destruction but rather, making other nations want such weapons.” Directly referring to the current American operations in Iraq, Carroll said that U.S. soldiers are “better at home than at war.” He said that forceful peace is better then war and that “the method of war, will in the end, destroy us all.” Highlighting the excessive production of arms by the American and Soviet militaries during the Cold War era, Carroll said that when he was in first grade, the U.S. had about 200 nuclear weapons. However, by the time that Carroll graduated high school in 1960, that number had reached 19,000. “By the end of the Cold War, experts believed a total of more than 70,000 nuclear weapons were jointly possessed between the United States and the former U.S.S.R.,” he said. Carroll elaborated on the actions of Lech Walesa, a Polish shipyard electrician who inspired the solidarity social revolution that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and subsequently ended communism in Eastern Europe, Carroll credited Walesa with heroism “equal to that of Martin Luther King Jr.” The 1989 fall of the Wall was “a victory not of war, but of peace,” Carroll said. “I tell you this story because today our nation is at war.”