Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Historical amnesia and lack of political context marks World War I commemorations

The commemoration of the 100 year anniversary of the outbreak of World War I has been moving but totally lacking in political context. The appalling loss of life in this grotesque conflict marked a total breakdown of the international political system. The historical memory has also been selective. There has been no mention of the economic and political landscape of Europe at the time. It was not just in Russia that revolutionary forces were stirring, in Britain too there was huge industrial unrest and in other countries in Europe. It is not a cynical view that the rulers of the time might well have welcomed a war that would suddenly draw working people into another bloody conflict on the behalf of those who owned capital. Listening to some, it would seem that the ludicrous propaganda that this was the war to end all wars is still believed. The reality is that 20 years later an even bigger and more costly war broke out. Nothing had been learned, the seeds of World War II were laid in the Versailles peace accords, punishing Germany in the way that they did. What the past century has really marked is the evolution of ever more deadly weaponry. By 1939, war could be taken much further into civilian centres, thereby increasing the number of civilians killed. Out of World War II came the ultimate weapon the nuclear bomb, that could destroy the whole planet. Within 17 years of the end of World War II, the world was brought to the brink of destruction as it looked as though a nuclear conflict was about to erupt over the Cuban missile crisis. The progression of ever more dangerous weaponry continues with drone warfare. This remotely controlled technology allows the leaders of the aggressor nation to operate even more easily in their own moral vacuum. Unless checked, in time drone warfare will make the slide to total war even quicker to achieve. Then the final great irony of this commemoration is that it comes at a time when thousands of people are being slaughtered with high tech weaponry in Gaza whilst the world looks on. There is a hollowness about the words of politicians like David Cameron about the 1914/18 war, when it is remembered that Britain continues to supply weaponery to Israel to kill Palestinians in Gaza. It was this type of double standard that brought about World War I in the first place, so maybe the real reflection should be what has really changed in 100 years? * Independent - 6/7/2014 * Ilford Recorder - 7/7/2014 * Wanstead Guardian - 14/8/2014

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