Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day coincide this year, as they did in 2007.
While Armistice Day, the anniversary commemorating the end of World War 1 falls on 11 November, Remembrance Sunday is on the second Sunday in November.
I’ve written various posts before on roughseas.
Today, I thought I would write about current wars. Who is still killing who?
On Remembrance Day, when we remember people who died for their country or what they believed was a valiant cause, why are we still killing each other?
According to one web site there are currently 60 countries with wars or conflicts. Conflicts? Wiki describes a
war ongoing military conflict as more than 1000 deaths a year.
Numbers, statistics, always the same.
Let’s look at a couple of totally unrelated ‘conflicts’.
1) Afghanistan. More than three mill deaths. I wrote about Afghanistan a few years ago. What on earth are boring old Western so-called super powers doing messing around there? For more than 30 years (let alone in previous years).
2) Western Saharan conflict between Morocco and Western Sahara – between 14000 – 21000 deaths since 1973.
3) Nearer to home, Northern Ireland. Since the sixties, three and a half thousand people have been killed, of whom half were civilians. Northern Ireland doesn’t make the Wiki list because it didn’t achieve 1,000 deaths a year. I would think that residents of Northern Ireland, and serving members of armed forces would consider it to have been a conflict or a war.
When I worked in the civil service in London, the noticeboard had various forms of alert. Because the blunt truth was, we could have been blown up. Government buildings were targets and when the situation was tense, we went onto red alert.
While Northern Ireland suffered the brunt of the IRA attacks, forays into mainland Britain made their mark on all of us.
No-one living through the seventies can forget the M62 coach bomb, and the Guildford and Birmingham pub bombings, a total of 38 people killed. And later the Brighton hotel bombing in 1984 when five people were killed.
Reading Wiki, I was surprised to see that the 1974 coach bombing could be heard several miles away.
Lying in bed aged 14, I was woken up by a rather loud, reverberatory bang. On hearing the news the next day, it had obviously been the bomb. And we were more than ‘several miles’ away from it. I dread to think what it was like for anyone on board the bus.
I read recently that terrorist attacks are focused on public transport (London, and Madrid), public places (the Arndale shopping centre in Manchester) because it disrupts people’s lives. We have to use public transport and we have to go shopping. And the fear of the unknown threat is a powerful weapon.
I find all war abhorrent. And killing civilians, and describing their deaths as ‘collateral damage’ is even worse. Surely most of us want a peaceful life and to be able to go about that without fear.
But for many people in 60 countries there are continual killings.
It’s important to commemorate the bravery of people who have died in previous wars. But while ever we continue to kill each other, one questions whether they died in vain?
Remembrance Day shouldn’t just be about looking back to the past and honouring our dead. To truly honour them, we should stop our current wars, invasions, occupations. It won’t happen of course. But apathy doesn’t get us anywhere either.
The Wiki list, the date refers to the start of the conflict/war:
1991 Somali Civil War
2001 Al Queda insurgency in Yemen
2004 War in North West Pakistan
2006 Mexican Drug War
2009 Sudanese nomadic conflicts
2011 Sudan internal conflict
2011 Syrian civil war
2011 Iraqui insurgency (post US withdrawal)
2011 Libyan factional fighting
2012 Northern Mali conflict
I’ll end with an Owen poem, as ever, because to me, he is the war poet par excellence. Read it, and if you don’t shiver, you have no feeling.
Disabled by Wilfred Owen
He sat in a wheeled chair, waiting for dark,
And shivered in his ghastly suit of grey,
Legless, sewn short at elbow. Through the park
Voices of boys rang saddening like a hymn,
Voices of play and pleasure after day,
Till gathering sleep had mothered them from him.
About this time Town used to swing so gay
When glow-lamps budded in the light blue trees,
And girls glanced lovelier as the air grew dim,-
In the old times, before he threw away his knees.
Now he will never feel again how slim
Girls’ waists are, or how warm their subtle hands.
All of them touch him like some queer disease.
There was an artist silly for his face,
For it was younger than his youth, last year.
Now, he is old; his back will never brace;
He’s lost his colour very far from here,
Poured it down shell-holes till the veins ran dry,
And half his lifetime lapsed in the hot race
And leap of purple spurted from his thigh.
One time he liked a blood-smear down his leg,
After the matches, carried shoulder-high.
It was after football, when he’d drunk a peg,
He thought he’d better join. – He wonders why.
Someone had said he’d look a god in kilts,
That’s why; and maybe, too, to please his Meg,
Aye, that was it, to please the giddy jilts
He asked to join. He didn’t have to beg;
Smiling they wrote his lie: aged nineteen years.
Germans he scarcely thought of; all their guilt,
And Austria’s, did not move him. And no fears
Of Fear came yet. He drought of jewelled hills
For daggers in plaid socks; of smart salutes;
And care of arms; and leave; and pay arrears;
Esprit de corps; and hints for young recruits.
And soon, he was drafted out with drums and cheers.
Some cheered him home, but not as crowds cheer Goal.
Only a solemn man who brought him fruits
Thanked him; and then enquired about his soul.
Now, he will spend a few sick years in institutes,
And do what things the rules consider wise,
And take whatever pity they may dole.
Tonight he noticed how the women’s eyes
Passed from him to the strong men that were whole.
How cold and late it is! Why don’t they come
And put him into bed? Why don’t they come?