Words and laughter are the most powerful weapons of peace.
By Michael Moffett, (LtCol, USMC, ret)
Peace is synonymous with tranquility—a condition marked by an absence of violence. There are people living in blessed enclaves who’ve known nothing but peace throughout their lives. But these fortunate folks likely lack the same deep appreciation for peace felt by those who’ve directly experienced war and violence.
As a Marine Corps infantry officer I witnessed violence and its effects first-hand, from the Persian Gulf to Afghanistan. So like refugees from war-torn lands, I’ve a special appreciation for the general tranquility found throughout most of our beautiful country. I love peace.
That notion may seem counterintuitive to some, as I was trained to wreak violence, if necessary. But most of my brothers and sisters-in-arms and their families surely share that peace-loving sentiment. As firemen deplore fires, but stand ready to fight conflagrations when necessary, most military people deplore violence, but stand ready to counter those forces seeking to threaten our national security or to destroy our way of life.
And yes, I subscribe to the notion that a strong military can be a force for peace and a deterrent to aggression—hopefully until such time as threats recede on their own accord, as when the Soviet Union dissolved and the Berlin Wall came down.
And “Blessed are the peacemakers,” those inspired individuals who use their special gifts to counter conflict. On a macro level, these peacemakers win Nobel Prizes. On a micro level, they save lives and diffuse danger in homes, at schools, or on village streets.
Such a peacemaker is my friend Fahim Fazli, a native Afghan who escaped a war-torn nation to come to America. Here he became a citizen with a unique appreciation for his adopted country, and its wealth, opportunities, and tranquility. And yet, after becoming a successful Hollywood actor, Fahim left his career and family to return to his native homeland, so cursed with violence. He volunteered to be an interpreter for a Marine infantry company in dangerous Helmand Province. But while he wore a warrior’s uniform, he carried no firearm. His weapons were words and laughter, and he used those to bring people together, to such great effect that our enemy put a price on his head.
No civilians lost their lives where Fahim’s company operated. And not only did Fahim survive, but so did all his comrades. When they left Afghanistan, their area of operations was markedly more peaceful than it was before they arrived.
Blessed, indeed, are the peacemakers, particularly those like Fahim and company—those who don’t win Nobel Prizes but who bring a measure of peace to places where it is needed most.
Michael Moffett is co-author, with Fahim Fazli, of Fahim Speaks: A Warrior-Actor’s Odyssey from Afghanistan to Hollywood and Back. Moffett is a professor, writer, and reserve Marine Corps infantry officer who served in Operation Desert Storm in 1991. He returned to active duty with the Marines following the 9/11 attacks, working as a Ground Operations Officer for General Tommy Franks at Central Command. LtCol Moffett came back to active duty again in 2010 to travel to Afghanistan to visit Marine Corps combat outposts as a field historian for Marine Corps University. Fahim Speaks came about after LtCol Moffett met Hollywood actor and USMC interpreter Fahim Fazli in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province.
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Photos by smswaby and Michael Moffett