It’s All Happened Again, and Again, and Again, and Again, and Again.11 November, 2008
Ninety years ago, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the Great War ended. It was the longest war in Europe in a century and the bloodiest war in Europe since the 30 Years War in Germany. It was also the War To End All Wars in which, under the leadership of America, the world would be made Safe For Democracy.
Well, I can’t help but wonder now, Willie McBride,
Do all those who lie here know why they died?
Did you really believe them when they told you the cause?
Did you really believe this war would end all wars?
Well, the suffering, the sorrow, the glory, the shame,
The killing, the dying, it was all done in vain.
For William McBride, it’s all happened again,
And again, and again, and again, and again.
The Green Fields of France, by Eric Bogle
The Great War (now called the First World War) was followed by the Second World War which split the world into two armed camps. Most thought that the showdown between democracy and communism would be settled on the battlefield, settled by violence. The United States and the Soviet Union showed, on both sides, admirable restraint. Democratic Capitalism versus Communism looked to be the Last Great Battle. Yet the great war, World War III, never came. To some of my friends, the period since World War II has seemed peaceful, a period absent major wars.
There were wars, though. Lots more wars: the Greek Civil War (160,000 dead); the Indonesian Colonial War (5,000); the Chinese Civil War (2,000,000); the First Indochina War (600,000); the Colombian Civil War (300,000); the Israeli War of Independence (20,000); the Madagascar colonial uprising (5,000); the Indian Partition (800,000); the Burmese ethnic insurrections (40,000); the Malayan Communist Insurrection (13,000); the Indonesian insurrections (5,000); the Korean War (1,500,000); the Philippines Communist Revolt (9,000); the Chinese invasion of Tibet (65,000); the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya (10,000); more Indonesian insurrections (30,000); the Algerian colonial insurrection (100,000); the Castro rebellion in Cuba (5,000); the Cypriot colonial war (359); the Camerounian colonial insurrection (32,000); the Hungarian insurrection (10,000); the Suez invasion (10,000); the Rwandan Hutu massacres of the Tutsi (20,000 (in 1959)); the Second Indochina War in Laos (24,000) and in Vietnam (2,000,000); the Congo (Zaire) civil wars (100,000); the Angolan Colonial War (90,000); the Guatemalan peasant uprising (100,000); the Iraqi Kurdish revolt (50,000); the North Yemen civil war (100,000); the India-China border war (4,500); the Portuguese Guinea colonial war (15,000); the Sudanese civil war (400,000 (through 1972)); civil disturbances in the Dominican Republic (3,000); the 1965 India-Pakistan border war (20,000); the Mozambique colonial uprising (30,000); the Namibia – SWAPO insurrection (40,000); Chadian civil war (50,000); more Indonesian insurrections and repression (400,000); the Baganda massacres in Uganda (2,000); the Nigerian Biafra secession movement (1,000,000); the Six Day War (25,000); the war of atrrition between Israel and Egypt (3,000); the Soccer War between El Salvador and Honduras (2,000); border fighting between the USSR and China (1,000); the Northern Ireland IRA terrorism (3,000); the NPA insurrection in the Philippines (100,000); Black September in Jordan (2,000); the Indochina war in Cambodia (150,000); the Pakistan civil war (300,000); the India-Pakistan War (11,000); left wing insurrection in Sri Lanka (2,000); civil wars and massacres in Uganda (300,000); Rhodesian (Zimbabwe) civil wars (12,000); Tutsi massacre 2,000 Hutu and Hutu massacre 200,000 Tutsi in Burundi (202,000); Chile’s dirty war (25,000); the Yom Kippur War (25,000); the Baluchi insurrection in Pakistan (9,000); the Cypriot Civil War redux and Turkish intervention (5,000); Ethiopian civil wars (2,000,000); Iraq and the Kurds (20,000 (in 1974)); Muslim insurrection in the Philippines (60,000); civil war in Lebanon (150,000); Cambodian genocide (2,500,000); East Timor(100,000); Western Sahara war with Morocco (50,000); Argentine dirty war (15,000); Angola Unita rebellion (150,000); insurrection and repression in Turkey (5,000); Ogaden War (9,000); anti-Somoza insurgency in Nicaragua (10,000); revolution in Iran (20,000); Afghan civil war (includes USSR invasion and post-withdrawal civil war) (1,500,000); Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia (150,000); Tanzania and Uganda (4,000); civil war in El Salvador (65,000); Iran-Iraq war (600,000); China and Vietnam (20,000); Ugandan civil wars (300,000); Nicaraguan Contra rebellion (15,000); Mozambique civil war (400,000); Muslim Brotherhood insurrection, Syria (20,000); Falklands/Malvinas (1,000); Israeli invasion of Lebanon (50,000); Shining Path insurrection in Peru (20,000); Tamil insurrection in Sri Lanka (22,000); civil war in Sudan (1,000,000); Sikh (and other) insurrections in India (15,000); South Yemen civil war (10,000); Burundian reciprical massacres (Hutu and Tutsi) (150,000); Kuwait war (15,000); Liberation of Kuwait (25,000); Rwandan massacres (250,000); Afghan ‘war on terror’ (300,000); Iraq invasion, occupation and civil war (1,000,000); Chechen War (100,000); Georgia (100,000). Of course, one should also add the displaced persons arising from these wars (double or triple the fatality numbers).
The number of wars is numbing. The number of war dead is numbing. The place names run together — third world lands of which most Americans know nothing (and would still know nothing if they were stationed there). The world is addicted to war.
I am a veteran. I am a disabled veteran (non-combat). Do I support our troops?
That hollow phrase, ‘support our troops,’ has become a cliche. It is right-wing shorthand for ‘are you a Republican.’ If you are not a supporter of Bush, you don’t ‘support the troops.’ If you wonder what in the name of hell we are trying to do in Iraq, you don’t ‘support the troops.’ If threatening Iran bothers you, you don’t ‘support the troops.’
I support our troops. I do not support the idiocy, blind ambition, wishful thinking and faith-based politics which created the quagmires of Iraq and Afghanistan. I do not support the politicians who mouth platitudes about ‘supporting our brave men and women’ while cutting VA spending, forcing doctors to misdiagnose mental disabilities, denying body armour and adequately armoured vehicles.
On this veterans day, please remember not only our troops (soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines), but also the victims of war — the servicemen and servicewomen, the civilians, the children, the innocent. War is the ultimate evil. It can (in limited circumstances) create positive results (the defeat of NAZI Germany). It can force advances in medicine. It can spur invention. On the downside, though, add up the numbers listed above — men and women, soldiers and civilians, adults and children.