The Armistice Centenary, War, and who we are.

I recently read that David Cameron said that he wanted to see a 100th Armistice commemoration "that, like the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, says something about who we are as a people".

Armistice was signed on Nov 11 1918, but the British blockade of German ports was only lifted in March 1919. The blockade killed some 800,000 Germans, mostly in the end phase, and the majority civilians. The blockade was used to impose the 'war guilt' reparations of the Versailles treaty which arguably led to WW2.
"The hundreds of thousands of noncombatants who have perished since November 11 because of the blockade were destroyed coolly and deliberately, after our opponents had won a certain and assured victory. Think of that, when you speak of guilt and atonement."

 - a senior German delegate at Versailles.
One of the reasons that the blockade took so long to stop was that the British civil service thought it was an elegant system:
"The Blockade had become by that time a very perfect instrument. It had taken four years to create and was Whitehall's finest achievement; it had evoked the qualities of the English at their subtlest. Its authors had grown to love it for its own sake; it included some recent improvements, which would be wasted if it came to and end; it was very complicated, and a vast organisation had established a vested interest."

 - John M. Keynes, "Two Memoirs"

"I have watched fighters in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, the Sudan, the Punjab, Iraq, Bosnia and Kosova enter villages, tense, exhausted, wary of ambushes, with the fear and tension that comes from combat, and begin to shoot at random. Flames soon lick up from the houses. Discipline, if there was any, disintegrates. Items are looted, civilians are battered with rifle butts, units fall apart, and the violence directed at unarmed men, women and children grows as it feeds upon itself. The eyes if the soldiers who carry this orgy of death are crazed...

"As long as we think abstractly, as long as we find in patriotism and the exuberance of war our fulfillment, we will never understand those who do battle against us, or how we are perceived by them, or finally those who do battle for us and how we should respond to it all. We will never discover who we are. We will fail to confront the capacity we all have for violence. And we will court our own extermination. By accepting the facile cliché that the battle underway against terrorism is a battle against evil, by easily branding those who fight us as the barbarians, we, like them, refuse to acknowledge our own culpability. We ignore real injustices that have led many of those arrayed  against us to their rage and despair."

 - "War is a force that gives us meaning" by Chris Hedges
"Aim ... to defend the Enlightenment hope of a world that is more peaceful and more human, the hope that by understanding more about ourselves we can do something to create a world with less misery. I have qualified optimism that this hope is well founded. There are more things, darker things to understand about ourselves ... We need to look hard and clearly at some monsters inside us. But this is part of the project of caging and taming them."

 - "Humanity" by Jonathan Glover (also the source of the blockade info)
If the 100th anniversary of Armistice next year is to mean anything, it should be this. Say something about who we are as a people, by all means, but please, be honest.

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