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.



  1. Still though, aren’t you looking forward to some future day where the military (hopefully with UN or NATO forces) steps in to give aid or stop atrocities like for instance a Darfur and when these ignorant fucks get all, “who cares about dem people over there?” you can say, “why aren’t you supporting our troops? Don’t you love America?”

    I know, juvenile, but still, it would be funny, no?

    The ‘support our troops’ bullshit is dangerous and, as I described above, can turn around to bite them. Of course most of their shenanigans work that way, for they’re short sighted. Essentially, this bullshit means that never, at any time, can we as citizens ever doubt the wisdom of either our government or our military leaders or else you’re not supporting the troops and thus, are an America hating douche.

  2. Philly: Remember when Clinton committed US forces to the Balkans? The right wing tried (numerous times) to cut off funding for the troops in Kosovo. They also were quite unhappy about Bush I’s mess in Mogadishu (but only after it became Clinton’s problem). Doubting our government and military leaders is patriotic if there is a Democrat in the White House. It’s only verbotten if a Republican occupies the Oval Office. So, I have to disagree with you, Philly — it does not work both ways. It can only turn around and bite them if they are consistent. Which (don’t know if you have noticed this or not) Republicans are not.

  3. Well no one would have dreamt of using anything comparable to the “support our troops” trick before. Now that that’s out of the bag, I can’t wait to use it and then wait for the stammering “uh, uh, that’s different!” Along that line, did you catch Joe the Plumber called out on having been on Welfare before? “Th-that’s different!” LOL! Yes, it always is isn’t it? Again, and again, and…

  4. Wasn’t ‘support our troops’ (or some euivalent) prevalent during the waning days of the Vietnam conflict (I’m not old enough to remember)?

    I do laugh at the “but that’s different” excuse. Of course, that one can also be turned back upon progressives: I said that Bush should be impeached within earshot of a Republican fruitcake. He immediately countered with, “But you said they shouldn’t impeach Clinton.” I replied that it was different — Clinton didn’t start a war using lies, spy on Americans and allow torture. Of course, he saw Clinton’s blowjob as much, much, much worse than any of Bushes crimes.

  5. When getting blown is worse than getting thousands of people blown up, then it’s time to check yourself. No, perhaps call in a professional for an evaluation.

    I hadn’t started kindergarten yet when the Vietnam war ended.

  6. Yet I have heard an Iraqi vet say that to ‘support the troops, not the war’ is as hollow and hurtful as ‘hate the sin, love the sinner’.

    As a veteran, what do you think? I’d still have to be against the war.

  7. Powerful post. Most of the wars you listed have occurred in my lifetime. They’re always just names, and they’re almost never called wars; they’re insurrections, uprisings, rebellions, interventions…. These euphemisms help us downplay how serious the conflicts are. Both the maimed and the dead don’t really care what you call it, a rose by any other name… and all that.

  8. Kate: Whether or not I am a veteran, whether or not I (and everyone else in the military) volunteered has nothing to do with supporting either the war or the troops. It is perfectly acceptable to support an individual, or a group of individuals as human beings while disagreeing with their bosses. I fully support the workers at Walmart who are fighting for the right to unionize, for better working conditions and for better health insurance; I will not shop at Walmart because they treat their workers like shit. I fully support the soldiers who have been put into an impossible situation with inadequate training, second-rate personal and vehicular armour, and clueless officers; I will not support a war based upon lies, smoke and mirrors, and a faith-based planning system.

    Chappie: The term ‘war’ seems to have gone out of favour. I guess that after WWI and WWII, our mental threshhold regarding what qualifies as a full-blown ‘war’ has risen. Popular uprisings, externally fueled rebellions, civil insurrections, anti-terrorist and anti-leftist and anti-rightist actions and police actions just seem to describe reality. Then again, idiocy like the Soccer War get to actually be called a war.

    One of my friend’s uncle fought in Korea. He always thought it odd that his best friend died in a police action, not a war. He always joked that it was good training for being a state trooper.

    Dead is dead is dead. War is war is war. Definitions matter to some extent, but armed combat is a war.

  9. Great post as usual, (((Billy)))

  10. Thanks, Sarge. Depressing looking at all those ‘wars’ listed in one place. And I know I’ve missed bunches.

  11. I’ve got a bit more control here, so I’ll go on.

    Me, I’m fully disabled due to combat wounds, I see the young folks coming back from the present crock of shit, do my best to help them out and adjust. It’ll take it a while, years, before they can actually look at it objectively. My youngest was at Falujah, navy medic. He hadn’t called me “daddy” since he was eleven, but when he talked to me about it I wound up with tears and weep snot all over my neck and shoulders. He’s not the only one that contributed, though.

    You think it’s gone, but it always comes back. I know a man who assoon as he wakes up in the morning breaks into tears. In 1952 he was with his brother in Korea and watched him die from grenade wounds. He’s done that every day since he saw it.

    Me? I feel pain, see scars, walk with a cane, and a whole lot of things get into bed with me at night. I went to to the Viet Nam memorial a few years back, and I mentioned to a person with me that it was strange. Very quiet, peaceful place, nothing hostile going on, but I had a thing happen to me that happened in Viet Nam when I was on point or on an ambush, my mouth had a taste like it was full of pennies. I mentioned this to one of the people I was with, this man is a psychologist with a police department, and he told me that I was still experiencing an extreme stress rection That taste was an indication that I was ready to vomit I was so aggitated. Then last Tuesday at the VA the oncologist and dermatologist took what was in a lump they’d found on my side. They’d done a cat scan and saw that there was something in it like I’d said. It wasn’t metal. It was a piece of a button from a man near me when he stepped on a mine.

    But people change. Support The Troops. Well, too bad they only mean the rah-rah stuff.

    Bill Mauldin had a post WWII cartoon in which he showed civillian Willie And Joe visiting a person in a VA hospital. The man in the bed asks if he’s still considered a hero or is now now a drain on the taxpayer? Good question. I remember in the 70’s when ol’ Tricky Dicky cut VA funding even while people were dying in his war. Claimed the VA was an “unconscionable extravigance”.

    Views change, though. I was back home in the eighties, I’d been retired by then, and a ran into a person I’d known in high school. He was living in the area and invited me and my wife to his place for a BBQ. There were some other people there including a friend who I hadn’t seen. She had her husband with her, former F105 pilot, wounded and confined to a wheelchair. Me and my face and cane, him and his wheel chair. But we were just talking about airplanes.
    There was anopther person there. He’d graduated same class, didn’t really know him, his father worked for the state department, but rather than be drafted he ran to Sweden, wrote all kinds of things denouncing the war. The amnesty came, he came back and lo! he was now working at the state department himself! And he was giving us the Stink Eye and looking angier by the second. He started over to us and my companion said, Get ready for it, here comes the ‘baby killer’ diatribe”. Heard it before, but he was wrong.
    This man stopped in front of us, looked us up and down with contempt and said, “Humh! Look at the big heroes. Maybe if you’d have fought harder and not been candy-assed pussies we’d have WON the war”. Huh!!??
    It seems that a “they” had become a “we”. Thus the chicken hawks.

    My father-in-law was a WWI veteran, and he remembered when the whistles blew and it was over. Well, the fighting was, anyway. He was in a railway engineer battalion, they repaired locomotives and rolling stock. And that unit stayed right where they were until the railroads of France and Belgium were up and running. For soldiers pay. But he said that word was passed and he just kept working. A lot of guys just downed tools and went off to party but he kept working. I asked if he was sorry. He said no, there were gangs of men roaming around looking for anyone who wore rank of any kind, and if they laid hands on them, they REALLY LAID HANDS ON THEM. Wasn’t sorry he missed that even a bit.

    Sorry I rambled.

  12. Sarge: No need to apologize.

    I suffer from PTSD thanks to the World Trade Center. I served in a psychologically damaging situation for all of three weeks. Seven years later, it’s still there (though the agency finally admits that part of it is the agency’s fault). Men and women, like you, who served for a year or more in worse situations have my profound sympathy. I don’t think I could have handled it.

    Peace. Salaam.

  13. WWI isn’t over yet. The world is still trying to settle the hash that the nations made of the Middle East back then. Battle on, young feller!

  14. Ric: Actually, it’s the Franco-Prussian War which hasn’t ended, along with the Crimean War. Both of which were, of course, outgrowths of the Napoleonic Wars which were descended from the Wars of the French Revolution which were descended from the dynastic struggles of . . . . Well, you get the massage.

  15. The other piece of verse that is pertinant is the chorus of “where have all the flowers gone”: ‘when will they ever learn, when will they ever learn’.

    We really don’t.

  16. Sarge: Pete Seeger’s version, from his album by the same name, ends on the verse which ends, “They’re all in uniform, everyone. When will we ever learn.” And I don’t know if we ever will. The fact that the USSR and the US never fought the big one shows hope. The fact that the right is trying to create a new USSR (out of Iraq, then Iran, North Korea, Russia) depresses the hell out of me.

  17. Those damned Trojans…

  18. November 11 occasions “Lest We Forget” north of the 49th. Hamlets disappeared because the men had died in war. It was a ‘colonial’ joke that the British Empire would fight to the last Canadian ( or AnZac for that matter ).
    “Flanders Fields’ is memorized by schoolchildren. I can’t overstate the revulsion ingrained to war. Thus no Vietnam for us.
    Afghanistan ? Some remember the history of when India was inclusive of today’s Pakistan and Pashtun nomads freely passed through their desolate home : and the Brits took a pounding for the exploits of their ‘Trading Companies’ – which we had a belly full of here.
    Talking about what has happened is as bad as trying to hold a conversation with somebody who can’t remember what they’ve heard or seen.
    Check out my Overton Window links for a hint of the mind fuck games played on us all.

  19. I meant to say – before I got distracted with my own windiness – that Broken Soldier posted perhaps the best takedown of Support the Troops that I hope to see. Check my Friends links.

  20. Opit: Welcome. I always thought that “Flander’s Field” was both the best war poem ever, and also the most depressing. We died, so you need to take up the fight.

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