The Plastic Hippo

August 4, 2014

All over by Christmas

Filed under: History,Politics,Rights,Society,World — theplastichippo @ 4:00 am
Tags: , , , ,
Ypres 1918

Ypres 1918

Today, the beginning of the First World War will be marked with solemn remembrance of the soldiers who fell and the civilians who perished; there is little point in commemorating the 1918 Armistice.

On 3 August 1914, the then Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey delivered a rousing speech intended to prepare the nation for war. Filled with tub-thumping patriotism extolling honour and courage and sacrifice, the Viscount Grey of Fallodon`s call to arms displayed the time-honoured and continuing skill of a politician to say one thing and know the exact opposite. On the evening before war was declared, safely in the privacy of the Foreign Office, Sir Edward Grey is reported to have looked out of the window at the gathering dusk and said; “The lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our time.”
Now that his time has long gone, the lamps are still going out and not just all over Europe but all over the planet. The only light in this terrible history are candles lit to the memories of lives lost in Guernica, Coventry, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Hanoi, Halabja, Basra, Vukovar, Kosovo and so many other attacks on civilian populations.

Morality has not moved on very much in 100 years but technology certainly has. As catalysts go, there is nothing quite like a large patriotic conflict to develop more ingenious and efficient ways of killing people which, by happy coincidence, can also prove to be rather profitable. In just 100 years, the human race has progressed from conducting wars where huge, static armies slug it out with crude, heavy weaponry to the sophistication of the remote control destruction of women and children from the safety of a computer terminal well out of harm`s way. Ground troops are so 20th century.

Dresden 1945

Dresden 1945

Today, “world leaders” with serious faces will embrace each other and stand shoulder to shoulder in their condemnation of the barbarity of war, express righteous outrage at the deaths of innocent non-combatants and pledge that this must never happen again. Like their predecessors in 1918 they will move themselves out of harm`s way of cameras and microphones to conduct lucrative arms deals and decide how best to profit from human misery. The current madness engulfing the Middle East can be directly linked to the decisions made by the victors following the fall of the Ottoman Empire after the war to end all war. This time, the “world leaders” are bugging each others` mobile phones. Sending a terse note to an ambassador is so 19th century.

Back on camera, the “world leaders” will talk of peace and reconciliation and repeat that this should never happen again and one or two of the more courageous ones might even give a passing mention of Iraq, Libya, Ukraine, the Central African Republic, Syria, the Maghreb, Sudan, the Niger Delta, Somalia or even Gaza. Others, though, will shy away from controversy and maintain a diplomatic silence regarding the order book for weapons, the exploitation of natural resources and the growing peril of refugees that will threaten the very existence of affluent western civilization. Colonialism is so 18th century.

Gaza 2014

Gaza 2014

In 1914, Sir Edward Grey made the mistake of underestimating the scale of the coming conflict and like his modern successors was quite happy to send off other people`s children to kill the children of other people along with their mothers, fathers, siblings and anyone else who got in the way. Inevitably, the politicians on the other side were happy to do the same in the name of patriotism. In a rare literary gaff and expressing concern over Prussian militarism, it was none other than HG Wells who coined the now discredited phrase “the war to end war”. In his defence, it seems it was an aside rather than a prophecy but that didn`t stop David Lloyd George commenting that “this war, like the next war, is a war to end war.”

The Paris Peace Conference of 1919 led to the formation of the League of Nations, the Treaty of Versailles and “mandates” that carved up the planet for the benefit of the victorious allies. Some of the territories involved included Korea, the Caucasus, and Ukraine and, would you believe it, Palestine. It seems that the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 did not go terribly well which led to Field-Marshal Earl Wavell who had earlier lost an eye at the Second Battle of Ypres to comment; “after the war to end war, they seem to have been in Paris at making the Peace to end Peace”.

There is no point in commemorating the 1918 Armistice; the First World War isn`t over yet.

Leave a Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: