Why I pay for, but do not wear a poppy…

Malachi O’Doherty on the seemingly impotent power of Remembrance….

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  • “Absolutely! However our allies the Soviet Union were also involved in that game, the Tatar’s and Chechens to name but two”

    Last time I checked neither of these peoples were actually wiped out. They were punitively deported after WW2 which is in no way analgous to actually systematically destroying an entire race. Do you ever get any facts right?

  • Prince Eoghan

    Chekov

    A bit previous of you to assume that I don’t get any facts right, I suppose you would know. Anyway by my reckoning all the facts I’ve supplied recently should keep you googling for a while. best of luck trying to catch me out……………….Madre Mia!

    >>punitively deported<

  • Stalin had ample time to destory the Chechens and the Tatars, but he didn’t do so. Hitler was interrupted mid-project didn’t you know?

  • Prince Eoghan

    Checkov

    Naivety becomes you.

    Think of the horror surrounding the world wide reporting post 1945, old Uncle Joe busy bedding in puppet regimes in eastern Europe. Smiling glibly at Yalta and Potsdam at the benevolent acquiescence of the US to his policies.

    He is hardly likely to order a straight forward extermination of a people now is he. They were moved en-masse away from their home regions, all kinds of opportunities for murder, starvation, Siberian winters, long marches etc. I don’t know ig anyone knows the numbers, but an example of the more than 250,000 Germans captured at Stalingrad in 1943 might give a hint. Less than 10% made it back to germany in 1955.

    Think about it, more than one way to skin a cat.

  • Prince Eoghan

    Should read

    ‘of the holocaust’ after the post 1945 bit.

  • DavidD

    PE
    I suspect that your Anglophobic comments are tongue-in-cheek but try to stick to the historical facts. At Waterloo, for example, two-thirds of the UK infantry and 80% of the UK cavalry were from English units. I’m sure these had some Irish soldiers but the Scots and Irish regiments also had some English. Only the Scots were over-represented particularly amongst the officers so your picture of hapless Highlanders led to slaughter by chinless English wonders is the very opposite of the truth.

    On a more serious note I think Martin and Willowfield are spot on. A large percentage of the population after WW1 had lost husbands, sons, fathers, brothers and comrades. The trauma of this suffering reverberated down the decades and formed the backcloth to the lives of many in Britain and Ireland. The losses in WW2 re-enforced and lengthened the timescale of this experience. Remembrance for these people was (and is) simply that – a sharing and assuaging of individual grief in a communal remembering of their loss.

  • Prince Eoghan

    Hello DavidD

    >>I suspect that your Anglophobic comments are tongue-in-cheek but try to stick to the historical facts.< >I’m sure these had some Irish soldiers but the Scots and Irish regiments also had some English.< >Only the Scots were over-represented particularly amongst the officers so your picture of hapless Highlanders led to slaughter by chinless English wonders is the very opposite of the truth.<

  • Remembrance Day is a festival of the right because the left has had a significant history of victimising veterans and serving soldiers rather than laying the blame where it is deserved.

    If the left (both those reflexively anti-military and those who are not) want to retake the high ground from the right on issues of veterans affairs they could look at the appalling treatment many returning soldiers receive now that they are funnelled through the NHS rather than military institutions and also get behind the campaign for former Gurkhas to reside in the UK if they retired before 1997, after the recent outcry over Tul Bahadur Pun VC.

    In some ways it would be a viable anti-war talking point to point out that no amount of poppy ceremonies are superior to the proper regard for those injured in service to wrongful military action.

    I note the comments above re: poppy money going to Paras. I’d rather see it go to the Paras – yes even the ones at Bloody Sunday than see fat pensions go to their general officers and the political leadership of the day.

    Every military mis-action – every single one – is a failure of leadership, not a failure of the individual soldier, either through inadequate screening of recruits, inadequate training of recruits, inadequate mission planning, inadequate rules of engagement or all of the above.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Admin

    “Is inaction in the face of the systematic destruction of whole peoples not also morally suspect?”

    This assumes that for Britain, US and USSR, going to war with Nazi Germany was a means of preventing the “systematic destruction of whole peoples”. Of course this categorically was not the case. UK, US and USSR each had their own reasons for going to war with Germany – indeed only UK and France actually made the choice themselves to do so. UK and France chose to declare war before it was declared on them. US and USSR wrongly thought they could stay out of it. All countries looked to their own interests and based their peacetime and wartime strategies on those interests. Not one of them went to war to bring an end to the industrial-scale massacre of Jews, Poles, Romany, homosexuals, academics, communists, Slavs, trade unionists etc that the Nazis were engaged in.

    So your question (above) is fundamentally grounded in a lie. Furthermore, it perpetuates that lie.

    The poster who earlier said that in WWII, thankfully, the lesser of two great evils triumphed, had it exactly right. Far from being the last “good war”, WWII was the most thoroughly evil of all wars. The unprecedented wickedness of the Nazis does not make the Allies “good”. Nor does the fact that by 1938 and probably earlier
    the war was inevitable, make it any less evil for that.

    We fetishize WWII for the same reason Americans fetishize Lincoln – the bloodshed was on such a scale, and the carnage so unconscionable, that we must bathe the episode in the blinding light of “goodness”, lest we ever get to look too closely. We need the narrative of “good versus evil”, and we become hysterical in our defence of the lie. As I said earlier, we can’t handle the truth.

  • Mick Fealty

    Billy,

    “…we must bathe the episode in the blinding light of ‘goodness'”

    Hmmm… Bit of a straw man there Billy.

    My (for it was I) question again (it’s as relevant to your position as it was to PE’s): How are you assaying the lesser and greater evils here? Is inaction in the face of the systematic destruction of whole peoples not also morally suspect?

    Far be it from me to seek to justify the mass killing and human displacement that was WW2. Here’s the wikipedia estimate (I don’t have time to verify these with other more authoritative sources elsewhere) of its casualties:

    “The total estimated human loss of life caused by World War II was roughly 72 million people. The civilian toll was around 47 million, including 20 million deaths due to war related famine and disease. The military toll was about 25 million, including the deaths of about 5 million prisoners of war in captivity. The Allies lost about 61 million people, and the Axis lost 11 million.”

    For World War 1 the only figure I could dig up was 8.5 million military casualties. So I guess it’s a no-brainer on numbers. The great evil of WW2 was the unremitting targeting of civilian, from the Blitz, to Dresden, to the wholesale destruction of Jews, Romanies and Slavs, and the mass expulsions of ethnic Germans from East Europe after hostilities ended. And, of course, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    I’ve not argued anything beyond the proposition that action or inaction, both come with a moral cost. Act, and you align yourself with the inferior or morally indefensible as well as the potential for heroic liberation of others in extremis. Don’t act, and there is a sense of withdrawal from a moral question that is nonetheless just as intractable even for that withdrawal.

    In effect, the burden is taken up by others.

  • bertie

    Joe

    “I am a teeny bit surprised though that I somehow have transferred my status to that of unionist.
    Maybe it’s a side effect of those wee tablets.
    Even though I use them mainly to stop myself from rolling off the settee or out of bed.

    Posted by joeCanuck on Nov 12, 2007 @ 09:23 PM”

    I’ve been labelled a nationalist on more than one occasion. It is disconcerting but survivable 😉

    I tend not to wear charity badges as I don’t feel I owe a dept of gratitude etc to those who suffer or have died from cancer etc. When I contribute to those charities I am proably doing for myself, just in case!

    I also feel that it is a reminder of the terrible price exacted for freedom.

    A price that we are still paying to a degree that is impossible to determine in terms of the legacy from generation to generation of the trauma experienced in the past. There has been quite a tight lid on the impact on family life that a traumatised soldier has had.

  • Outsider

    Prince Eoghan

    Good to see you back.

    Regarding Malachi O’Doherty I would pay to never have to listen to his monotone voice again.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Mick

    “I’ve not argued anything beyond the proposition that action or inaction, both come with a moral cost.”

    Agreed.

    “Act, and you align yourself with the inferior or morally indefensible as well as the potential for heroic liberation of others in extremis.”

    Agreed.

    “Don’t act, and there is a sense of withdrawal from a moral question that is nonetheless just as intractable even for that withdrawal.”

    You are repeating again what I have already said is a retrospective lie.

    Sorry, but when Britain and France were debating with themselves whether to go to war in 1939, there weren’t ANY meaningful voices in British public life saying: “We must save the Jews” or “We must save the gypsies” or anything like that. The debates were all about British (and French, and American and Soviet) vital interests, and how they related to Germany.

    Jesus, the UK Prime Minister famously signed up to Peace In Our Time as late as 1938. Six weeks later came Kristallnacht.

    The details of the Holocaust only emerged AFTER the war ended, and though the Shoah undoubtedly give retrospective justification to the war on Nazi Germany, it’s dishonest to pretend that it was a significant factor in why Britain and France declared the war in the first place. (And as I’ve pointed out, the Americans and Soviets DIDN’T EVEN declare war themselves, yet still pretend their entry into WWII was a heroic humanitarian intervention!)

  • bertie

    I wonder how many people do the opposite of MoD and wear a poppy without paying for one.

  • kensei

    “Every military mis-action – every single one – is a failure of leadership, not a failure of the individual soldier, either through inadequate screening of recruits, inadequate training of recruits, inadequate mission planning, inadequate rules of engagement or all of the above.”

    http://www.arthist.lu.se/visualculture/Abu%20Ghraib%20Torture-715244.jpg

    Nope. There may be others at fault, but the individual soldier cannot escape responsibility for their actions.

    Mick

    “For World War 1 the only figure I could dig up was 8.5 million military casualties. So I guess it’s a no-brainer on numbers. The great evil of WW2 was the unremitting targeting of civilian, from the Blitz, to Dresden, to the wholesale destruction of Jews, Romanies and Slavs, and the mass expulsions of ethnic Germans from East Europe after hostilities ended. And, of course, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

    Wiki gives 20 million dead and 21 million injured.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_I_casualties

    I think you are right to finger the targeting of civilians as the key difference between the two wars (don’t forget the fire bomb attacks on Japan that preceded the Nuclear strikes – I recommend watching “Grave of the Fireflies” as a quick way to depression). I’d guess superior apparatus of killing played a big part too. Mathematics and these types of comparisons seem to fail however when you realize we are discussing a war where 10 million civilians died in some kind of positive light.

    Scarily, there were several Chinese civil wars conducted with medieval weaponry that approach the death toll of World War II.

  • Turgon

    kensei,
    I am about to go to bed and really do not want a debate but I am genuninely interetsed in this
    “Scarily, there were several Chinese civil wars conducted with medieval weaponry that approach the death toll of World War II. ”

    Do you have a link? It sounds absolutely incredible but I have no reason to doubt you on this.

  • kensei

    Turgon

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_toll

    I used to have a book on various military statistics that listed some of Chinese Death tolls higher than WW2.

  • The Raven

    George wrote: “Harry Patch (what a 109-year-old) is no fan of Remembrance Sunday and he made it clear that he felt it was more a glorification of war than a day of remembrance.”

    No doubting your words. Strange then, that Harry was the special guest of honour at the launch of the Somerset Poppy Appeal and County Memorial Stone Dedication, and accepted the invite.

    It’s only a guess, but I don’t think he’d be keen on you using his words in a thread which is arguing the validity of a symbol of remembrance. But there u are. We’ll never know.

  • Mick Fealty

    Billy,

    It is probably true to say that the main European states were almost dragged into the conflagration despite a determination to stay out of it until the last minute.

    Still a ‘lie’ is a pretty big accusation to have to prove. To make it stick, you have reduce the whole of British public opinion in the pre-war period to the actions (and inactions) of Prime Minister Chamberlain, which in turn necessitates turning a blind eye/ear to Churchill’s expressions of public concern for the treatment of German Jews as early as 1937.

    That said, I know for certain that my friend Phil was not prepared for finding what he did at Bergin Belsen. Whatever the motives of the army that sent him, or how he got there as an individual, his actions at that moment were both profound and highly moral. And they were in turn bought by the countless deaths of soldiers and civilians.

  • Mick Fealty

    Ken,

    Just read a few pages of John Keegan’s book on WW2, in which he ties both wars to the massive industrialisation process in the previous century, and the social disruption that came from that process. He also argues that the UK population would have tripled over the 19th Century but for the Irish famine, which claims reduced the whole UK population by some 8 millions.

    The massive increase in wealth and industrial and military strength pushed the world into a conflict it might only have avoided with a quick defeat for the French and British on the Marne. What followed was a human tragedy on an unprecedented scale.

  • Dewi

    Keegan is probably counting “lost births” in his famine loss calculation – still seems a million or two high though.

  • DK

    “I don’t know ig anyone knows the numbers, but an example of the more than 250,000 Germans captured at Stalingrad in 1943 might give a hint. Less than 10% made it back to germany in 1955.”

    Memory tells me it was 250,000 surrounded and about 90,000 taken prisoner with about 5,000 returning. But its a bad example as they were taken prisoner nearly dead from starvation in the middle of Russian winter, and then marched through a land where even the locals were starving to hastily constructed camps where disease was rife. Survival rate of German prisoners was more normal elsewhere.

    Also, all the stuff about Wellington’s army being majority Irish is rubbish. At Waterloo they were mostly German and in the peninsular a good third were Portuguese, plus a lot of Germans still and even some token Spanish. If you just concentrate on those regiments actually from the “British Isles” to suggest that somehow the majority came from Ireland means that after the Welsh and Scots are taken into account, the English must have been in a tiny minority in their own army. It just doesn’t make sense – especially as most troops were volunteers from local militias that the regiments were named after – nearly all English. And these volunteers were not poor people but rather from the equivalent of the lower-middle classes then.

    The only example I can find by a brief trawl is the nation breakup of the Scottish lowland regiments (http://www.btinternet.com/~james.mckay/account5.htm). In these the English are the dominant nationality, followed by the Irish and Scots at about even numbers. And that’s Scottish regiments, so you’d expect the English to be more numerous in English regiments!

  • Dewi

    For those of a strong disposition try “At the Court of the Red Tsar” Simon Sebag Montifiore – harrowing account of Stalin’s reign. Fascinating stuff Kensei – Mao’s rule in China lead to about as many deaths as WW2.

  • Harry Flashman

    *USSR wrongly thought they could stay out of it.*

    Not so Billy. The USSR was very happy to get stuck in to the Second World War right at the beginning, it’s just that they were forced to change sides in June 1941.

    Just ask the Finns, the Latvians, the Estonians, the Lithuanians and of course the Poles.

  • Harry Flashman

    For Eoghan and others, a table from Lawrence James’ “Warrior Race”, make of it what you will;

    1830

    England & Wales
    UK population 58.2%, British Army 43.2%
    Scotland
    UK population 9.5%, British Army 13.6%
    Ireland
    UK population 32.2%, British Army 42.2%

    1870

    England & Wales
    UK poulation 72.1%, British Army 60.3%
    Scotland
    UK population 10.5%, British Army 9.6%
    Ireland
    UK population 17.4%, British Army 27.9%

    Eoghan my sympathies to your mother on her Uncle Pat but if it’s any consolation I don’t think you can dismiss the Malayan campaign as merely a war to protect rubber plantations. Malaysia today is a thriving, peaceful, democratic nation (of sorts), modern and dynamic.

    The children of Malaysia grew up in peace and were spared the horrors of things like Mao’s Cultural Revolution, Pol Pot’s Year Zero, Kim Il Sung and Ho Chi Minh’s re-education camps thanks to the efforts of Pat and his brave comrades. You do the man’s memory a grave injustice by dismissing him as merely some tool of colonial rubber planters.

  • Joey

    This lad very sadly calling himself ‘Flashman’ appears to have monopolized this debate on here through the pure density of his posts. 99% of what I’ve caught seems to be recycled neo-Conservative garbage about the ‘necessity’ of war bringing democracy and freedom through the barrel of a gun. Much nonsense, actually horsehit when I think of it, about Germany being a lovely place because it was ravaged by war. I think that’s one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard though it has made me laugh. Go and fight in Iraq if British servicemen mean so much to you; you appreciate their sacrifices – go off and fight in these wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, soon to be Iran. Also seems to have misunderstood that Vietnam invaded Cambodia TO REMOVE Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. So stop lying left, right and centre. It all seems to descend into some rant about Marxists and dangers of socialism, so if you don’t go off and fight in Iraq then go and compose a song, ‘Cold Warrior Blues’ or the like.

    First off – the more reactionary responses attacked Malachi O’Doherty as anti-British and somehow pro-republican. This is frankly wrong and highlights how superstitious some are. No-one who’s ever read anything else he wrote could conceiveably argue this.
    Second – a detail about the rather obnoxious though successful US general Curtis LeMay. He said after the Second World War that if the States lost the war in the Pacific against Japan, that the US generals would be tried as war criminals. That is a telling statement: history is more often than not written by the victors. And so the poppy is worn.

  • It’s a long way to Tipperary.

  • bollix

    Living in NI makes you see remembrance sunday through the prism of NI. We do try and reduce it down to a sectarian issue (we do this for every subject under the sun of course, showing our insularity).

    It doesn’t reduce down very well to a simple sectarian argument though. Witness the host of NI people (myself included) who can point to family members in the British Army along with family members in various paramilitaries. I can’t comprehend how my grandfather felt, having fought for the Brits in WWI when his son ended up in crumlin road jail for IRA crimes in the 50s.

    Living in england now, it is strange to how the debate looks without the NI prism inserted in front of it. I attended my first remembrance service yesterday, at my local catholic church. Our priest is strongly anti war. We got lots of stuff about how futile war is, how we should remember all the victims and soldiers, and how we should strive to prevent current wars. We also had a chat from Bruce Kent (one of the founders of CND) asking that we not meet violence with violence and that we cease our “war on terror”. He actually served with the army in Northern Ireland many years ago.

    I also got a lesson in what it means to stand up and be anti war, anti imperialism and anti militaristic when i heard the story of my wife’s grandfather. he refused to serve in WWI and was jailed as a conscientuous objector. This, whilst my so called irish catholic grandfather took the shilling and fought for the brits!

    And to add another layer of complexity, it was the British Legion who helped my grandfather get a job back in NI after he suffered the standard petty anti catholic discrimination.

    I’m with wilfred owen, it is not sweet and fitting to die for ones country.

  • Roadkill

    Hmmm reading these posts, the thing that really stands out for me is that generally speaking, nationalists myopic, narrow minded view of global events prevent them from making any sort of objective analysis. But then again there were alot of Nazi sympathisers in Ireland,

    http://www.thehistorychannel.co.uk/site/tv_guide/full_details/Conflict/programme_3495.php

    maybe theres more to the old SF/Nazi alliance alive and kicking that we realise ?

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2005/01/16/do1606.xml&sSheet;=/portal/2005/01/16/ixportal.html

  • overhere

    I usually buy a poppy and wear it, don’t wear it depending what day the 11th falls on. If it is like this year a sunday I don’t go very far (the the newsagents for the Sunday paper) so don’t bother, if it is on a week day and I am at work then I wear it.

    I used to wear a white one as I caould get one from my local church but have moved away from the area now.

    What really gets on my goat is that you have people here in London wearing them from the 1st November (Rememberemce Day is the 11th you numpty), stange thing is that the very same sentiment was expressed by one of my English work colleagues. To make matters worse you see the self same people dandering about the following week still with the poppy on their coat/fronmt of their taxi cab/car. So just how much did they Remember over Rememberence Sunday.

    Usually these are the same people who shriek when Christmas cards go on sale in September

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Mick

    “Still a ‘lie’ is a pretty big accusation to have to prove.”

    I don’t mean to personally accuse you of lying. I mean it more in the sense of Wilfred Owen’s “the old lie”. Though I do think you are (either consciously or unconsciously) guilty of colluding in that “old lie”.

    “To make it stick, you have reduce the whole of British public opinion in the pre-war period to the actions (and inactions) of Prime Minister Chamberlain…”

    No I don’t. I won’t collude in that other “old lie” that Britain’s disastrous 1930s policies can be singularly blamed on one man.

    a) Chamberlain was the democratically-elected leader of the UK, so therefore the UK public cannot pretend his actions had nothing to do with them. (They do, though. Chamberlain went to his grave a scapegoat and pariah by a nation that needed to lie to itself.)

    b) When Chamberlain returned from Munich he was greeted by ecstatic crowds at Heathrow and as he waved his little piece of paper, he was almost universally hailed as a national hero.

    c) The British press overwhelmingly backed the policy of appeasement throughout the 1930s.

    d) The policy of appeasement began under the hugely-popular Baldwin. It didn’t stop him winning a thumping majority two years AFTER Hitler came to power. Indeed, it probably helped.

    “…which in turn necessitates turning a blind eye/ear to Churchill’s expressions of public concern for the treatment of German Jews as early as 1937.”

    Not so. Churchill spent the 1930s as a lone voice in the wilderness. It’s important to remember that WWII saved Churchill’s career. Prior to the war he was yesterday’s man, the villain of the Dardanelles, a raving, warmongering crank on the backbenches. An embarrassment. It was just that he turned out to be right.

    Still, it’s fair to point out that Churchill DID make occasional reference to the plight of the Jews and others under the Nazi regime, and that only a minority in Britain were actually fans of the Nazis during the 1930s.

    However, even Churchill wasn’t saying “we must save the Jews”. Churchill’s concern was for British interests, which he rightly saw as coming under threat. He opposed appeasement not because he was morally outraged by the Nazis but because he believed it made Britain vulnerable.

    Now, this was indeed a very good reason to oppose the policy, and a very good reason to support the military confrontation of a growing threat. But please, spare me the lie that Britain (or France or US or USSR) went to war with Germany out of moral outrage.

    “That said, I know for certain that my friend Phil was not prepared for finding what he did at Bergin Belsen.”

    Which was in 1945. As in, AFTER the war. So yes, the Holocaust does provide retrospective moral justification and does reflect back a relative “goodness”, in that it demonstrated the quite unbelievable wickedness of the Allies’ enemy. But it most certainly does not mean that this was the reason the Allies went to war in the first place.

    And the hugely widespread idea that it DOES, can only – as I have said – be named as the lie it is.

    “Whatever the motives of the army that sent him, or how he got there as an individual, his actions at that moment were both profound and highly moral.”

    I agree. But here you seem to be saying that when an individual soldier liberates a concentration camp, he’s entitled to be lauded as a hero, but when an individual soldier kills thousands, it’s the fault of the generals and politicians? How can we square this sense of responsibility? How can individual Tommies be “profound and highly moral” when liberating Auschwitz, without other individual servicemen being monstrous murderers when bringing holocaust to Dresden and Tokyo and Hiroshima and Hamburg and Nagasaki?

    That doesn’t change the fact that the liberation of the death camps WAS highly moral. Of course it was.

    “…And they were in turn bought by the countless deaths of soldiers and civilians.”

    But my point is that the liberation of the death camps and the halting (millions of deaths too late) of the Holocaust was a by-product of the war and those deaths. It was a bonus, a retrospective moral justification, but it certainly was not the objective of the war. Those soldiers and civilians died for the interests of their country – real interests, important interests, no doubt about it (most profoundly, their political independence). But they certainly did not kill millions and die in their millions so that the prisoners of Auschwitz could be free. Had the Holocaust been the only thing the Nazis did that the other powers objected to, there would have been no war.

    Harry

    “The USSR was very happy to get stuck in to the Second World War right at the beginning, it’s just that they were forced to change sides in June 1941.”

    Fair point. I’ll rephrase, and say that the USSR wrongly thought they could stay out of war with Germany.

  • DK

    Good posts from Billy and bollix.

    I just remember something I heard (wish I could remember where) that if levelling a city by an atom bomb would save one allied life then in a war situation you would drop the bomb. War isn’t pretty – its a minor miracle that chemical warfare has been largely un-used since the first world war, although I suspect that a nuclear-style mutual deterrance may be the real reason rather than any moral objections.

  • Mick Fealty

    Thanks for that Billy. It never occurred that you were accusing me personally of lying.

    “How can individual Tommies be ‘profound and highly moral’ when liberating Auschwitz, without other individual servicemen being monstrous murderers when bringing holocaust to Dresden and Tokyo and Hiroshima and Hamburg and Nagasaki?”

    You are confusing things somewhat, I think. I clearly connoted that his action was ‘profound and highly moral’: I did not claim that he was the personification of either of those two things. Although as a doctor, I would guess he would have a better shout at that status than most of us.

    It is certainly not something I ever heard him claim. Indeed, for all the time I knew him, doubt was his most natural condition.

    But in what way can this individual action not be seen as ‘moral’? That his opportunity to act in this way was morally tainted is beyond dispute (at no point in this thread have I argued otherwise).

    But as result of this precise action those of my friends whose families escaped the Nazis and fled to England, have always looked upon England as ‘a place of safety’. So much so that some of them were right into old age afraid to leave it, even for Ireland, long after the real danger of the Nazis had passed into distant memory.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Mick

    “But in what way can this individual action not be seen as ‘moral’?”

    I agreed that it was “moral”. I simply pointed out the natural corallary of this – that if we are to throw moral garlands on individual servicemen when they behave morally, surely we must also dispense with the lie that polticians and generals are uniquely to blame for all the other stuff – the real stuff – of war.

    I’m simply arguing for a greater moral seriousness – something which contrasts sharply with the pomp and ceremony and yes, the propaganda, of the 11/11 “Remembrance”.

    “It is certainly not something I ever heard him claim.”

    Indeed, I’d say actual veterans would tend to be the last people who would make such claims – given that they have seen war for real, have seen death, have killed, have created victim. I’d say most probably wince when younger people tell them they’re “heroes”. Such talk, I would imagine, probably mocks the actual memories that most of them have, perhaps even conjuring up images of the people they killed long ago. Any combat veterans I’ve ever spoken to tend not to like talking about their experiences. But then it’s a lot harder to live with ACTUAL MEMORY, as opposed to looking back to a time before you were born and spouting pious, ultra-nationalist propaganda out of your hole. Which is what most people do.

  • Harry Flashman

    What perhaps comes across most depressingly from this thread is the maundering knee-jerk “oh dear war is always bad” sentiment to which we’re all supposed to automatically subscribe.

    It’s a testament to the successful feminisation of society which began as a deliberate leftist policy in our schools some time around the 1960’s and which judging by the majority of posts here seems now to be accepted without argument.

    Yes, war is awful. Peaceful, quiet, law abiding, liberal democracy is of course a hugely beneficial alternative, but guess what? The peaceful bourgeois societies are a minority in this world, they came about as the result of terrible warfare and the only way they will be preserved is by resorting to war if anyone tries to take them away.

    I have no problem in asserting that often war is an acceptable and indeed glorious course of action if faced by alternative, worse options.

    I am not a pacifist, I believe sincerely that it would be better for any man to die young in a battle for freedom than to live to old age as a slave. I would never, never accept slavery as a life choice and I believe it is perfectly justifiable to fight and to kill to achieve or to preserve one’s freedom.

    Can we at least try to accept that war is not always the worst option and that often we should salute brave men and women who are prepared to fight and die, and yes to kill, for a legitimate cause and that there is no shame in acknowledging or indeed glorifying such a noble sacrifice?

    War never solved anything, right? Well except for the problems of slavery, Nazism, fascism and Communism, that is.

    Millions live today in freedom and security because thousands of brave young men were prepared to fight, die and kill for that freedom, let’s not forget that.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Harry,

    a slight touch of the Padraig Pearce’s about that one – and if you replace the words ‘slavery’ and ‘communism’ from your second last para with the words ‘British’ and ‘Imperialism’ it could have been a P O Neill special. Though I dont disaggree with a lot of what you are saying I dont think Grace O’Malley would be too keen.

  • Prince Eoghan

    Outsider

    Never knew you cared ;¬) Glad to be back!

    Harry

    Perhaps I do do his memory an injustice. Malaysia has thrived, KL the last time I was there was a fantastic looking city although the open sewers are a bit pongy. however facts are that at the time the communist insurgents were probably fighting the good fight, trying to free the people from the colonial yoke. Sure slanty eyed men held power but the real power was in the hands of the rubber barons. Anyway, apart from the slightly dodgy bumiputra policy of years gone by Malaysia has been a success.

    Your @ 01:17 PM comments are pretty spot on. Being naturally quarrelsome this is why we war so much. Much better *if possible* to explore jaw jaw than war war you’d agree.

    DK

    Take your point over Stalingrad, it was merely used as a hint(which I duly mentioned) as to how mass casualties may be caused without recourse to outright extermination. We only have to look to the Armenian experience.

    >>Also, all the stuff about Wellington’s army being majority Irish is rubbish. At Waterloo they were mostly German and in the peninsular a good third were Portuguese, plus a lot of Germans still and even some token Spanish< http://www.napoleonic-literature.com/Articles/28th_Foot/Chapter_2.htm

    If this was near to across the board then I won’t be too far off. Another, http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/trail/wars_conflict/soldiers/soldier_trade_in_world_02.shtml makes the point that;

    “Irish soldiers not only filled the ranks of Irish regiments, like the famous 88th Regiment (the Connaught Rangers), but often constituted a high proportion of ostensibly English ones.”

    DK the link you provided tells us that there was a lot of English in a regiment that was recruited on BOTH sides of the Scottish/English border, no surprise there. Even then they were stationed in Egypt and took no part. It does not substantiate a claim that this was repeated throughout the rest of the Irish and Scottish regiments as you are perhaps claiming. I have definitely read the fact in several books on the Napoleonic wars that Irish troops made up the bulk of the British infantry, even yir man Richard mustache Holmes, him that does all the documentries on the telly said it. I’ve not made it up…………..Honest!

    Billy

    Your crucial point still stands. Britain did not go to war with Germany to stop the holocaust. It had not even got beyond the talking stage in 1939. Nor, despite several warnings towards the end of the war, did they even begin to begin to understand the enormity of it all until 1945. The retrospective reasoning does not stand up.

  • Harry Flashman

    *KL the last time I was there was a fantastic looking city although the open sewers are a bit pongy.*

    KL pongy? Pah, you wimp! Try Jakarta the next time you’re in the neighnourhood, boy it stinks, but it’s a lot more fun than KL.

  • Kathy C

    posted by Kathy C

    Poppies…poppies…poppies…if you are a loyal brit you will wear a poppy

    The war of 1830…the Opium wars…where China fought the brits because they didn’t want the brits to sell opuim to their people…and brits went to war over that…..yes….if you love the brits and all they stand for wear the opuim poppy proudly. Gee I wonder just what 1 billion Chinese think of the brits wearing and promoting their poppies…..