If we don't learn the lessons which history teaches, just how civilised can we claim to be?
Study the 'causes' of the First World War, ask a handful of travellers on the Clapham Omnibus, and the answer will probably along the lines of 'wasn't some aristo in Sarajevo shot or something?' But in reality a complicated chain of alliances between foreign powers which were hustling for supreme power saw the result of european countries' militaries rushing into battles in which over 37 million deaths and wounded totalled amongst military and civilians world wide. Meanwhile the ordinary volunteer/conscript believed s/he was fighting for the honour of his/her country. Was s/he? Or was s/he in fact just fighting to keep the word of some Minister given over 'talks' in another country many years before, which may have been given as much for trade agreements as anything else?
And for what? Many say the the seeds of World War Two were planted in the 'peace' treaty and reparation deals of World War One. At least 60 million people were killed worldwide in what many describe as the deadliest military conflict in history with innumberable injuries. [For a breakdown - world wide - of casualties click here ]
All the major 'campaigns' since WW2 have called for similar alliances from the major powers. Harold Wilson refused to support President Johnson in Vietnam - the US government 'took over' that conflict from the French when the latter pulled out in 1965 - for a really good lesson in the history of Indo China/Vietnam this link as taught in GCSE is a great help. Tony Blair rushed to the aid of President Bush over Iraq. 'Historic alliances' are still quoted - yet how many really understand why and for what reason/benefit this alliances are quoted. How many in power question whether war of any kind is just and right?
This is a very roundabout way of discussing the debate in the House of Commons on Thursday evenings which resulted in the decision not to take immediate military action in Syria. Last weekend William Hague seemed ready to rush into Syria behind the US without any cautions such as UN intervention/inspectors. Hague suggested it was 'clear' that the Syrian regime was behind an alleged chemical attack on its people without any hard evidence. Did the electorate support his assertions?
David Cameron did at least recall parliament to vote on Syria And The Use of Chemical Weapons [text of the debate available on that link] on Thursday 29th August. Ed Milliband posted an amendment and of course there were many recriminations from speakers from both sides. Cameron's final remarks when his motion fell were:
It is very clear tonight that, while the House has not passed a motion, the British Parliament, reflecting the views of the British people, does not want to see British military action. I get that, and the Government will act accordingly.
were a huge relief to so many of us who campaign for peace. William Hague looked extremely angry and it was said the Michael Gove had a tantrum and shouted at his colleagues who had not voted with the government. Oh well.
Just a few thoughts:
War is wrong in any context
Chemical weapons kill indiscriminately but so do bombs and other weapons
Isn't Napalm - as developed and used by the US -a chemical weapon?
How does any army really know that they have God on their side?*
*Bob Dylan: With God on Our Side
The photograph above is a WW1 Australian soldier, http://www.awm.gov.au/visit/first-world-war-galleries/