THIS is what Remembrance Day is all about. Recognizing our dead and fallen. I will get into this more later on. Now I must go and justify my belief.
Like I said, I believe in war. I don't find it glorious or charming. It's one of those forces that must be endured and weathered when it's time comes. In all of modern history, or ancient history for that matter, there has been only decades of peace. Every where you turn in history there's been battles, strife, and wars. As we have moved on from swords and shields, warriors to soldiers, it has been a constant of human existence. Many people have tried for peace, some have succeeded, most often they haven't. Wars have been started over trivial matters, to matters of great importance. Could they have been avoided? Possibly.
It matters though that there are always two sides in a war, us and them. I won't try to debate who's right and who's wrong. I may dabble a bit here and there, but I will leave the big questions to philosophers and armchair generals. War can be seen though as a final resort. Yes, I know, all peace protesters will say that violence is the last resort of the incompetent. On this belief I will agree.
Heads done exploding yet? Yes that's right, I agree violence is the last resort of the incompetent. But I believe in war, and no that's not an oxymoron or cognitive dissonance. For most of modern history soldiers haven't been a part of the political process. The military has been a tool of governments enacting their will. So when a country goes to war, it's usually because the politicians have failed in their duties. There are always exceptions to these rules, but generally they hold true. After all, Von Clausewitz said in his tome "On War", "War is just politics by other means".
So to set things straight. Soldiers don't cause wars. Generals don't cause wars. Politicians are the one major cause of military conflict in the military age. Things go to hell politically and the prime minister/president/king picks up his phone and tells his generals to kit up and move out. War is a horrible thing. The violence, the bloodshed, the horror, and atrocities. It is a necessity though. Wars must be fought to protect liberties and freedoms. We have fought several wars over that question. Most people living in today's modern world seem to have forgotten that. We don't fight wars for fun, we fight them because we get backed into a corner and have to come out swinging. Any other wars we have been involved in recently, Afghanistan and Iraq for example, have been about ensuring other people have the same freedoms we enjoy. Okay those might not be proper examples, after all they were both terrorist states, or on the other hand, the people of both states were trod under by autocratic regimes that told them what they could and couldn't do. Another discussion to be left for other people, and it has been hashed, re-hashed like leftover potatoes for breakfast...mmmm breakfast...
Do soldiers look forward to war? In a way, yes. Why do they? Well, that's a complicated answer. Here's one way to look at it. Soldiers are craftsmen. For their entire career they train in all skills and tools of war. On the range in the field they practice their craft, honing their skills. Most consider themselves lucky if they can go their entire career without having to put into action what they have put into practice. All soldiers are aware of what war is. They have heard the stories older vets won't tell families or other civilians. They have heard the stories of stark terror as a soldier huddles in a trench in the middle of a long artillery barrage, or as he comforts a friend that's bleeding out because there is no medical facilities close by to save his life. We as soldiers are aware of our mortality on the battlefield. In fact numbers have been compiled from many modern conflicts on how long we can expect to last on the modern battlefield. Think about having the phrase beaten into your head that you can be expected to last for seconds or minutes once the fit hits the shan. Yes that's right, some units had a life span of seconds, 17 seconds for armoured reconnaissance if I remember correctly.
So we know the horror, the short life spans, the misery, and practice as much as possible in conditions that are as close to the real thing as possible. Are we mad men for doing this? Well some consider us that, including spouses and girlfriends/boyfriends. Why do we do it? There's only one real answer to that, someone has to, why not us? The best quote I can think of is "People sleep peaceably in their beds because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." Violence is the soldiers lot. We do it so that we have a peaceful, and free life to return to when our duty is done.
There is a purpose to war as well. The main purpose to a war is to beat your opponent so viciously that they don't even want to think about it again. You take all your tools, all your learning in the craft of war and apply it totally to your opponent. You don't just want peace, you want peace on your terms with them understanding that if they were ever to try it again bad things would happen to them. That's how wars are won, lost, and prevented. Wars are won when soldiers are unleashed to apply their knowledge and craft. That's why I believe in war. That's why it's necessary. Unfortunately it's a lesson that must constantly be taught and re-taught to all the despots and tyrants around that would try to take our freedom and liberty away. You can have freedom or you can have peace. Peace doesn't really mean freedom, freedom doesn't really mean peace.
Now onto the article I stumbled across that was linked to from Scaramouche.
The article, written by Susan G. Cole, that got me seething and fuming was from Toronto's Now Magazine. The usual collection of leftists and such. The title was "Going to war over poppies", subtitle "War has other victims. It’s time for a new ceremony that remembers all who suffer."
Opening paragraph lays it all on the line:
If you’re like me, Remembrance Day makes you a bit uneasy.
You want to identify with the ever-dwindling numbers of soldiers who’ve survived the war trauma of their youth. But all that pro-army pageantry seems to romanticize war when we should be spending the day assessing the damage of military conflict, not celebrating it.
The ceremony to remember our fallen makes her uneasy. Somehow I don't sympathize with her feeling. Maybe because I am a cruel man, or perhaps I know more about the costs and trauma of war then she does. The article continues on and on ad nauseum about how all sides are bad, how all sides commit atrocities, how all war is bad. She's entitled to her opinion, no matter how much it stinks. She has her forum, this is mine. As for atrocities on all sides? There's one small difference about that. Guilt, and punishment. We have punished our criminals for the atrocities, they don't get swept under rugs. One example is a Canadian highlander unit here in Ontario. Forgive me I don't remember the unit, but I do remember the story. Most highland units were a tam, type of hat, that has a feathered plume behind the cap badge. There are different colours, mostly white though. I forget the colour they wore, when I asked what the colour represented I was told after the fellow soldier dropped his head. It was a hackle of shame. Apparently a squad of troops was found guilty of raping civilian women during a battle. They were tried and punished, but the unit still bears the shame. The shame of having such troops among their ranks. The hackle is to be worn for a hundred years after the fact. That's how we deal with atrocities.
As to the other dead in war? They are remembered as well. Remembrance Day and the red poppy are not just for soldiers, they are for ALL war dead.
Now this whole white poppy idea. It isn't new at all, in fact it was first floated back in the 1920's in the United Kingdom to promote peace.
In 1926, a few years after the introduction of the red poppy in the UK, the idea of pacifists making their own poppies was put forward by a member of the No More War Movement (and that the black centre of the British Legion's red poppies should be imprinted with "No More War"). Nothing seems to have come of this, until in 1933 the Women's Co-operative Guild introduced the White Poppy. Their intention was to remember casualties of all wars, with the added meaning of a hope for the end of all wars; the red poppy, they felt, signified only the British military dead. The Peace Pledge Union (PPU) took part in its distribution from 1934, and white poppy wreaths were laid from 1937 as a pledge to peace that war must not happen again. Anti-war organizations such as the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship now support the White Poppy Movement.
Those who promote the wearing of white poppies argue that the red poppy also conveys a specific political standpoint, and point to the divisive nature of the red poppy in Northern Ireland, where it is worn mainly by the Unionist community. They choose the white poppy over the red often because they wish to disassociate themselves from the militaristic aspects of Remembrance Day, rather than the commemoration itself.
Now the Peace Pledge Union is an interesting organization. They backed Neville Chamberlains 1938 peace conference with Adolf Hitler and Germany. We know where that lead to. They were against a lot of war time preparation and so on. Talk about backing the wrong horse. Or did they just think that if Britain rolled over and played dead they would be spared?
I find most "militant" pacifists, love that oxymoron, to be an interesting subset of the human race. They tend to deny human nature, side with the tyrants, show their underbellies at the first sign of war with said tyrants, and are willing to scream about their rights and freedoms.
The modern day pushers of the white poppy movement seem to be set in their paths. Their arguments are similar to all those peace protesters. War is wrong, soldiers are criminals. It sickens me to have to read this tripe that they come out with year after year. If any of you have the stomach, I urge you to read the comments at the now article. One commenter, nevilleross, seems to have sipped a bit too much from the kool-aid.
I think that I will call this an end for now. I have shone the light on some dark territory. And it's been a long day/week for me. Take care.