100 years later, what have we learned?

In today’s blog post we first wish to highlight two thought-provoking articles as we near the 100th anniversary of the World War I Armistice.

In the first, entitled  “Don’t misunderstand the true message of wearing a poppy,” William Ray, a veteran and the son of a veteran, challenges his colleagues to speak with power and conviction against the scourge of war and calls on the rest of us to honour their sacrifice by doing everything we can to live together in peaceful community.

Every day that we do whatever small thing is in our power to advance the condition of those in our communities and build bridges of understanding and tolerance, then we make their sacrifice a little more meaningful. And that is an act of remembrance each of us can, and should, do every day of our lives.

The second article considers how a “flurry” of new books marking the hundredth anniversary largely fail to consider the hugely negative consequences of the Armistice itself.

Despite its flaws, the treaty [of Versailles] was far less harsh than many imposed on other nations that had been defeated in war. The problem was something else: when the war came to an end, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, few Germans considered themselves defeated. The resentment that led to a new cataclysm two decades later was really forged by the Armistice.

For the full article, see: A Hundred Years After The Armistice (Adam Hochschild, New Yorker, 5 November 2018 issue).

In Canada our commemoration of the signing of the Armistice jars up against a terrible reality.

Through our government’s refusal to stop arms shipments to Saudi Arabia, we find ourselves complicit in a conflict where air strikes on children and the imminent starvation of millions are weapons being wielded by a country we call an ally.

At a press conference on Parliament Hill, Rideau Institute President Peggy Mason asked:

What price Canada’s soul? We call on the Government of Canada to end all further arms exports to Saudi Arabia.

Alex Neve, Secretary-General of Amnesty International – Canada, also participated in the press conference along with representatives from Project Ploughshares and Oxfam Quebec:

Canada should [also] intensify efforts to secure a wider global ban on all arms deals with Saudi Arabia and any other country party to the war in Yemen.  A UN Security Council arms embargo on Yemen is desperately needed.  Canada, a country that aspires to be a voice for human rights on the Security Council, should be outspoken and active in pressing for that embargo.  That means, however, that we must take the first step and suspend our own Saudi arms deal.

Such actions — now long overdue — would be a fitting honour to the countless Canadians who have died fighting for the values that they fervently believed this country represents.

Photo credit: CC BY 2.0 image “Rememberence [sic] Day 2007” by Douglas O’Brien on Flickr

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16 Responses to “100 years later, what have we learned?”

  1. Angus CunninghamNovember 12, 2018 at 5:40 pm #

    I hope this comment — just made on the story by Peter Baker in the New York Times about President Emmanuel Macron’s success in attracting country leaders to France for yesterday’s Remembrance Day — will be useful to Ceasefire:

    As an Englishman born in India during WWII of an British Colonel and an Australian mother, as someone who received my education in both England and the US, someone who is now retired as a Canadian citizen, I read both Peter Baker’s account of President Macron’s success in attracting so many countries’ leaders to participate in this past Remembrance Day’s activities in France and the many comments on his story, I am experiencing a flood of searing emotions:

    . grief that Theresa May opted to skip the Macron activities entirely
    . anger that she did so almost certainly because she has felt unable to educate her political associates into working harder and more constructively making the best of their country’s membership in the EU
    . anger that she almost certainly got to that feebly dsreputable place because she could not muster the political energy to call the Brexit referendum what it was and what she appeared at first to consider it to be: a calamitous result of an England First fraud perpetrated by a treacherous bevy of Tory reactionary oligarchs
    . relief that Trump opted to stick with the speech written for him for the occasion
    . sorrow for myself and fellow human beings whose lives were badly affected by WWI and WWII
    . determination to honour the fallen of all wars by continuing my writing work in the field of finding and sharing LINGUISTIC HONESTIES that will make this world safer and a better place for my children.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/11/us/politics/macron-trump-paris-wwi.html

  2. Bonnie DenhaanNovember 10, 2018 at 3:43 pm #

    The causes of WW1 and certainly WW2 are well known. You need to be able to talk and reason with “the other”, and reasonable conversation with Hitler was impossible. However, the seeds of WW2 were indeed sown in the meanspirited and vengeful settlements after WW1. We reaped the whirlwind as a result.
    In today’s world, things are less black & white. We need always to take into account the kind of leadership we put in place, ALSO who has the most influence on them. Sadly, the Hawks of the world are still mostly in charge. Being peaceful is regarded as weak and vulnerable. Seems we still want everything good vs bad, which it never really was.

  3. Pete KirbyNovember 10, 2018 at 10:32 am #

    Despite the clarity of 20/20 hindsight, the Liberals, under Freeland and Trudeau have learned nothing from the horrors committed during the endless wars of the last century. Surely Canada, having rejected the dark ugliness of Harperism, should stand with those other northern progressive nations to oppose the incredible wastefulness of military conflict in all its forms – and focus our energies on the daunting tasks ahead: the fires and floods of climate change; the dire threat of species extinction; the misery at home and abroad due to extreme income inequality…and the pressing need for electoral reform that will keep morons’ hands off the levers of power!

  4. Donald KerrNovember 10, 2018 at 10:03 am #

    We haven’t learned what causes wars and how to fight against the causes. In large part, it is the capitalist system, or in other words, economic liberalism in N. Americal and Europe which puts money before everything. The reaction to economic liberalism and its tendency toward inequality is populism and fascism which begets wars such as Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, all of which are supported by the western war machines. Jack Layton proposed mediation/diplomacy to end the fighting in Afghanistan but instead he was labelled Taliban Jack – and the war goes on..

  5. Anne StreeterNovember 10, 2018 at 8:59 am #

    Let’s face it. The Libs are a war party and any sanctimonious mutterings of “never again” is mere hypocrisy. They will not back away from arms sales to Saudi Arabia, they are not talking to Russia, they support the coup installed neo-nazi government of Ukraine, they have imposed harsh sanctions on the freely elected government of Venezuela, they have turned a blind eye to the suffering of the Palestinians etc. etc. The horrifying images coming out of Yemen should be more than enough to cancel that notorious deal – but apparently nothing stirs Trudeau and Freeland. Hypocrites!

  6. Vera GottliebNovember 10, 2018 at 5:33 am #

    We have learned ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. On the contrary, with ever more modern weapons, wars have become more vicious and deadlier. Yet, every year when Armistice Day comes around, oh how we mourn all the dead of WW 1 – while mindlessly continuing with our wars and destruction, while we continue profiting from all this. Hypocritical, no?

    • Ann CoffeyNovember 10, 2018 at 11:41 pm #

      Right. We have learned absolutely nothing.

      Article on the subject: Wearing a poppy was a pledge of peace. Now it serves to sanitise war.
      https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/03/wearing-poppy-pledge-peace-sanitise-war-remembrance

      “Yet, despite the extensive recent retelling of the history of the 1914 war and detailed analysis of its causes, governments appear to have learned nothing. There have been warnings that we may even be on the brink of a third world war.”

      “Lest we forget”? Yes, it’s hypocritical.

  7. Howard DoughtyNovember 9, 2018 at 8:25 pm #

    Two of my uncles went to war. They were born in the mid-1890s. They both died in the mid-1970s.

    One was a plumber. His skills were put to good use fixing latrines in England.

    The other was salesman for the Burroughs office machine company. His skills meant nothing as he fought in France, Belgium and Germany.

    The plumber came home and declared himself a hero – claiming that the war made a man of him.

    The salesman came home and declared himself a pacifist and a socialist.

    The plumber sent his son to fight in Italy in 1942. He was my cousin. I never saw him smile. We call it PTSD.

    The salesman had no children. I am, however, proud to be named for him.

  8. IngamarieNovember 9, 2018 at 7:11 pm #

    Why can’t a lot of us start demanding that they retool that damn plant making armoured vehicles for the Saudi’s into a factory to make Canadian electric cars??? There’s a genuine demand for that, and it would be providing clean transportation, not aiding and abetting a murderous regime in its proxy war against Iran.

    • Don McBainNovember 9, 2018 at 7:26 pm #

      Great idea, produce useful things rather than killing things.

    • Tom PNovember 9, 2018 at 11:17 pm #

      If only it wasn’t more profitable to make armoured vehicles than to make electric cars…
      The current economic system is fed by the war machine. It’s time again make war profiteering illegal.

      • Tom PNovember 9, 2018 at 11:19 pm #

        The current economic system is fed by the war machine. It’s time again TO make war profiteering illegal.

    • Ann CoffeyNovember 11, 2018 at 9:41 am #

      What we should be doing is investing heavily in developing and manufacturing clean energy technologies to replace those currently dependent on fossil fuels. Electric cars use electricity generated by burning fossil fuels, and roads are made from oil. The wars in the Middle East and North Africa (Iraq, Syria, Libya), and wars being planned (Iran, Russia, Venezuela, etc.), are engineered for the purpose of stealing other countries’ oil. The sooner we leave the Oil Age behind us the better.

      We are lead to believe that green energy technology is in its infancy, but this is not the case. There have been many viable green energy inventions over the past few decades but many of them have been suppressed because “they” want us to keep using fossil fuels. A partial list of cases involving the suppression of inventions and the suspicious deaths or disappearances of the inventors can be found here: http://www.theorionproject.org/en/documents/Gary_V.pdf

      Other examples can be found by googling “suppressed green energy inventions”.

  9. Heather BarclayNovember 9, 2018 at 6:57 pm #

    Can Ceasefire please begin a petition to stop the arms sales to Saudi Arabia? I live in London and do appreciate the deprivation this will cause to the employees of General Dynamics and to the city, but I think that we should encourage our government to help GD sell to other customers.

  10. Don McBainNovember 9, 2018 at 6:47 pm #

    We have learned nothing if profits can be made from war…

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