Another Futile War or God Bless America by Trevor Plumbly
Living Through World War II
I was born in the early years of World War II. Living about 30 miles from London, I can vaguely remember being able to hear the sounds of bombs falling and the whistle of doodlebugs en route to the capital. It was a time of enormous personal suffering for those living in the targeted areas; it was also a time of individual sacrifice, heroics and possibly the last totally unified expression of national pride to grip the British public. As a result, my inherited knowledge of the war was that British was best and that good defeated evil. Much later on, learning of the Holocaust and the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I realised that the British cost was relatively minor by comparison and that innocent humanity had little meaning or value for the modern warriors. War as such wasn’t about territory or nationhood, it was about race or religion and in an uglier way than ever conceived, people were slaughtered for having conflicting beliefs or simply wiped out en masse to emphasise which country could inflict the most damage on another without using too many soldiers.
Sadly, the Korean War had little effect on me; it seemed then that it was somebody else’s business not Britain’s. Things changed for me in the 60s with the rise of the CND and the peace movement: suddenly we weren’t traitors or drug-fuddled beatniks, we were protesters, we marched, we sat, we got arrested and we got ridiculed. We didn’t bring about world peace or change the scheme of things greatly, but looking back I honestly feel that we provoked an awareness that hadn’t existed before and by the time the war in Vietnam had escalated, politicians were being asked serious questions about the validity of war and, worse still, some of the modern-day cannon fodder simply didn’t want to fight. And who could really blame them? Vietnam was a futile war, followed by the stupidity of the involvement in Afghanistan that continues to this day, costing billions of dollars and God knows how many wasted lives, innocent and otherwise, to achieve very little.
Upheaval in the Middle East
These days, it seems that the Middle Eastern and North African countries take turns in minor wars and internal strife of one sort or another, largely for religious dominance, or to change despots.
The astonishing thing is that despite the incredible progress in technology, communication and education, a fair proportion of these relatively small countries’ leaders still believe that there is something to be gained by war, civil or otherwise, ignoring the loss of civilian lives, the strain on international relief agencies and the tides of refugees flocking to neighbouring countries. For all their meetings, statements and lofty ideals, I don’t really have a great deal of optimism when it comes to the UN or the Security Council, rhetoric seems about as effective now as it was in Neville Chamberlain’s time. By past standards these are petty little wars that would have been controllable had it not been for the sophisticated weaponry freely supplied by America, Russia and England, the same countries that claim the moral ground when discussing whether or not to intervene. The talking within the UN will continue, as will the vetoes by the Russians and Chinese which render the whole process useless. It’s time to introduce a majority vote system and to fund a multi-national strike force to stamp these things out before they escalate. Will the Americans and French intervene in Syria? I hope they do: I’ve always hated war and wasted human life, but seeing photographs of women and children gassed to death twice in one lifetime is simply too much for tolerant debate.