11h-11d-11m. Remember.

I wrote yesterday of war in the abstract, of the sorrow to be read in the numbing, enormous tallies of weapons bought and sold.

Today, on Armistice Day/Veterans Day itself, it seems to me more appropriate to center on the individual experience of war that the day itself evokes.

So, with apologies for republishing old material, here are a couple of stories from that eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month from the year 1918 — the root of memory that we revisit today:

Those final six hours of the war were surreal.  The news of the cease-fire order passed swiftly down the line, but the fighting did not stop.  U.S. Army captain Harry Truman, commanding an artillery battery, fired under orders until 10:45 a.m.  British troops were ordered forward, with instructions to achieve their objectives by eleven.  German fire persisted too.  Among those killed were British soldiers wearing the Mons star, veterans of the first battle of the war.  Within the German lines, troops waited for news of the negotiations in the midst of preparations for a last battle.  Early that morning Georg Bucher went to his company commander to beg for more machine gun ammunition.   At 7:15, an attack came; Bucher’s machine guns broke it up before the Americans facing him reached his barbed wire.  His company’s casualties were light.  One new recruit went down with a chemical burn.  Bucher comforted him by telling him how much worse it could have been, how he could have lost his leg.  “The youngster seemed, God knew why, to find comfort in my words,” Bucher wrote. At that moment, Bucher’s company commander returned, leaping along like a mad man, shouting “Cease fire at eleven a.m..  Pass the word along, cease fire at eleven.”

__

Hearing that, Bucher wrote, “all we could think of was how to survive the next three hours.”  But within minutes, the neighboring  section of the line came under artillery fire, though Bucher knew the Americans across no-man’s land must have heard the news too.  Soldiers of proven courage began to waver, gathering their gear for flight.  At 10:30, the wounded newcomer cheered up, calling out the time left.  As he spoke, the allied artillery shifted aim, and began to shell Bucher’s position.  Gas came next, and “everyone cowered in the shelters with clenched hands.  The thought that death might overtake them a hundred times in that last half hour had completely unnerved them.”  The shelling died down, and the gas lifted.  Bucher and his company returned to the forward trench, grenades and rifles at the ready to repel any last charge.  At ten minutes to the hour, he stared over the parapet, watching the shell smoke drift in the breeze.  There was still just time for something to happen.  Time ticked on.  He stared at his watch.  The hand moved.  It was over.

Bucher’s experience was representative, but he did not experience the ultimate evil the war had to offer in those last hours and minutes.  There was one incident that captured the essence of war on the western front, the distillation of its arbitrary violence.

There was one incident that captured the essence of war on the western front, the distillation of its arbitrary violence.  At two minutes to eleven in the vicinity of Mons a Canadian private named George Price was hit by a sniper’s bullet.  He died instantly.  The man who killed him remains unknown.  That man made a choice.  He was a marksman, a skilled soldier.  He had just moments remaining in which it was legal for him to kill.  There was no need to fire, no purpose, and some risk at least to himself and any comrades near him.  If he waited until eleven, and then put his gun down, the only consequence would be that a young stranger would go home.   Instead, the shot rang out.  Two minutes ticked past.  The war ended.  George Price lay dead.

This passage comes from Einstein in Berlin, a book I published a few years ago.  Bucher told his tale in his memoir, In the Line, 1914-1918 published in England in 1932; Martin Gilbert wrote about the death of George Price in his one volume history, The First World War.

__

I’ve never served.  I’ve reported on one war, that parody of imperial ambitions in collision that was the Falklands conflict of 1982.  I say “reported” — but I was doing so from the safety and comfort of London, talking to Green Jackets in Whitehall and going for lunch with men who sold Rapier missiles to the armed services. No risk of dulce et decorum for me.

__

That little fight was memorialized in this, my favorite — if that’s the word — recent song to capture the pity and misery of war.
__


__

Wars are only little from the outside, of course.  A friend of mine lost her brother, a member of the SAS, in a quiet op on West Falkland.  I was with him on the farm to which he had long since retired from the Royal Artillery when my uncle learned that a brother officer had just been killed in Northern Ireland.  The son of a  member (when on this side of the water) of my synagogue died in the last days of perhaps the most pointless conflict in recent memory, the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 2006.  I have thoughts of them in my heart right now. You, I’m sure, have yours.

Not to be forgotten — them, or this:

There are no small wars.

And with that, I’ll leave this as it stands, but for one last thought.  I think this is a subject and a day for memory, not for politics.

So without naming names, let me just say that when I recall George Price, shot down for…what? Fun? Because he was there?… I cringe every time I hear any valiant keyboard kommandos baying for wars they will not fight nor begin to imagine.

That is not OK.

Not today, not tomorrow, not ever.

Image: Royal Irish Rifles ration party, 1 July, 1916 (probably) — the first day of the Battle of the Somme.






94 replies
  1. 1
    steviez314 says:

    In Flanders Fields
    By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
    Canadian Army

    In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
    Between the crosses row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
    Scarce heard amid the guns below.

    We are the Dead. Short days ago
    We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie
    In Flanders fields.

    Take up our quarrel with the foe:
    To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
    We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
    In Flanders fields.

  2. 2
    c u n d gulag says:

    It was “The War to End All Wars.”
    But, it wasn’t. An even more horrific one followed. And we continue this “fine” tradition to this day.
    Will the people on this planet ever be able to say,
    “R.I.P. War?”
    Sadly, I don’t think so.

  3. 3
    Bob L says:

    So without naming names, let me just say that when I recall George Price, shot down for…what? Fun? Because he was there?…

    So some ‘tard could have the highest kill verses deaths ratio.

    You do got to wonder how computer games play into this. One of my friends brother was deployed to Iraq and told us when his until was in camp they played from first person shooter about fighting a war in the desert.

  4. 4
    Tom Levenson says:

    @steviez314: An image of this poem in McCrae’s handwriting can be found here.

    This is a tough poem for me to read. When it was written, McCrae had already seen the waste and futility of the way the war was being fought up and down the Western Front. He retained (as the so-called “War Poets” — Owen, Sassoon and the rest — did not) just enough of a romantic view of war to write that last verse. He certainly isn’t celebrating the battle, but the poem, for me, captures the extraordinary power of the love of brother/sister soldier to power people through conflicts they know intellectually make no damn sense at all.

  5. 5
    Scott de B. says:

    Will the people on this planet ever be able to say,
    “R.I.P. War?”
    Sadly, I don’t think so.

    Large swaths of this planet (and not just Antarctica) have not seen organized armed conflict in living memory, even larger swaths have not seen conflict in the last fifty years. This is the only time in human history that that could be said.

    We’re not there, but it’s not nothing either.

  6. 6
    kdaug says:

    @Bob L:

    Um, they didn’t have computer games in 1918.

  7. 7
    Rick Massimo says:

    While the Vietnam comparisons were obvious, I always thought there was/is more than a bit of World War I in our glorious Iraq adventure:

    “This NEW general has a NEW idea that will surely work: We’ll throw EVEN MORE men and bombs at the enemy!”

    “But that’s what we’ve already been doing, and it hasn’t worked.”

    “Didn’t you hear me? I said EVEN MORE! That’s totally different. We’ll kill even more of them, and they’ll get demoralized and quit.”

    “But won’t that result in more of US getting killed? Won’t WE get demoralized and quit?”

    “No. We’re better people than they are.”

  8. 8
    El Cid says:

    The YouTube video of the last section of Michael Palin’s great BBC documentary series entirely focusing on the last day of World War I (the Great War), this is the part which goes through the last hours and minutes.

    This section begins with the Allies meeting the Germans at just after 5 am to negotiate the Armistice, to be concluded at 11 am.

    On-location scenes, interviews with experts and descendants, photos, sound, film. This clip 9’37”.

  9. 9
    dirk says:

    Those are well-chosen and moving words.

    There are many indicators of the futility of war, and of the Great War especially. One which hit me early in life was seeing the plaque marking the site of the first engagement of WW1 near Mons when I lived for a spell in Belgium. It is mere yards from the site of the last engagement.

  10. 10
    flukebucket says:

    Happy Birthday Kurt Vonnegut

  11. 11
    Napoleon says:

    @Scott de B.:

    I have read a few times in the last few years that it has been calculated that with each passing century less people are dying at the hands of other people (not just war, but murders, etc, not including accidents, I assume). The best century ever was the 20th, and that was with WWII, The Holocaust, forced collectivization in the USSR, etc. Much of it is actually due to society getting a firm handle around things like murder, honor killings, revenge, etc, etc

    That aside what commander orders his troops into a fight knowing that a cease fire is coming down?

  12. 12
    stuckinred says:

    be the first one on you block
    to have your boy come home in a box

  13. 13
    cmorenc says:

    These is the kind of real-men-at-war historical accounts that fill me with respect for those who lived through the arbitrary capriciousness and hell of real combat conditions, and drives me to furious disgusting contempt at the sort of gung-ho cowards like George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Saxbe Chambliss, and Rush Limbaugh who made amply sure to avoid any risk they’d ever be put anywhere within thousands of miles of harms way of war (or even much inconvenience) themselves, and are cynically always ready to paint any political opponents, especially those who served in combat in the military themselves, as weak and unpatriotic, lacking the proper backbone to defend the country.

    What a bunch of fucking COWARDS these asshats appear beside REAL MEN like those in the picture of WW1 in the title post in this thread, waiting in the trenches for the next burst of mortal, horrific pain-risking danger, hoping just to survive and live to the next day, and the next after that, while holding up their end among their fellow soldiers…

  14. 14
    Tom Levenson says:

    @El Cid: Thanks for that link; I hadn’t seen that before.

    From around the 9 minute mark: “Just looking at the 11th of the 11th, 863 Commonwealth servicemen and women died” on that last day of the war.

    It’s a quirk, I guess, but I feel this sick and pointless rage everytime I think of the First World War. What a f**king waste — and one from which, we know now, so many of our troubles flowed.

  15. 15
    Comrade Mary says:

    Blackadder Goes Fourth: the final scene. And the making of the scene, which, as gawky and deconstructed as it is, still makes me sob.

  16. 16
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @stuckinred: Country Joe and the Fish. Memories from childhood.

  17. 17
    aimai says:

    @Scott de B.:

    Really? Large Swathes? North America and Great Britain, France and Germany excepted what are we talking about? And all of these have fought wars right along elsewhere–simply reserving the mass killing and destruction for other peoples.

    aimai

    But what I really meant to post was “great post, Tom.”

  18. 18
    Smurfhole says:

    @Bob L:

    Some people like killing.

  19. 19
    El Cid says:

    @Tom Levenson: Each time I visit a war memorial, I feel horror and rage as well as great sorrow that our leaders (not just our but other nations) let this happen.

  20. 20
    El Cid says:

    @Comrade Mary: I loved that. One of my favorite scenes from Black Adder.

    That, and when he faced the firing squad and expected a reprieve due to his contacts (from Hank Laurie) and at the last minute the squad leader rushes in and says to wait, that a note just arrived; Black Adder is relieved, and asks what it says. Guy reads out, “Bet you thought this was a reprieve! From, your friends in the firing squad.” They all laugh.

  21. 21
    Cris says:

    There are no small wars.

    And I’ll even go further, and quote WWII veteran Howard Zinn: There are no good wars.

  22. 22
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    @Tom Levenson:

    Tom,

    I’m curious – if the Great War was a colossal waste (not in a moral sense but in the sense that it was avoidable) then what sort of counterfactual history do you have in mind, in which the First World War (and presumably the Second as well) never happened? Would we still live in a world with functioning monarchies and multi-national empires across much of central and eastern Europe? Could that system have survived to the present day without undergoing some sort of violent crisis? Is there a path you can imagine from the pre-1914 world to something resembling what we know today, but without the abattoir?

    Or was the pre-1914 world about as stable as Krakatoa circa 1882, and destined for the same fate in some fashion or another regardless?

  23. 23
    El Cid says:

    It should be remembered that unlike Memorial Day, which honors those who died in war, Veterans Day honors the service of all veterans, including those happy and healthy today. It’s not just a sad holiday, but a holiday of appreciation and gratitude.

  24. 24

    Thank you for this.

    I keep thinking today that the best way for me to honor the dead — all the war dead, everywhere, are our collective dead — is to keep working for peace.

    And: I literally don’t know a single American soldier. That seems very, very wrong to me.

  25. 25
    Tom Levenson says:

    @El Cid: Absolutely. But for me the strong connection to WW I drives my mind in the direction you see in the post above.

  26. 26
    SadOldVet says:

    And it’s one, two, three,
    What are we fighting for ?
    Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn,
    Next stop is Vietnam;
    And it’s five, six, seven,
    Open up the pearly gates,
    Well there ain’t no time to wonder why,
    Whoopee! we’re all gonna die.

    Yeah, come on Wall Street, don’t be slow,
    Why man, this is war au-go-go
    There’s plenty good money to be made
    By supplying the Army with the tools of its trade,
    Just hope and pray that if they drop the bomb,
    They drop it on the Viet Cong.

    War is still very, very good for the wealthy!
    Substitute Iraq/Afganistan/Iran for Vietnam and change the Viet Cong to Raghead/Muslim and Country Joe is still up to date.

  27. 27
    New Yorker says:

    I have many relatives who are veterans, but (thankfully) only a few who died in a war, one of whom was my great-grandmother’s older brother who died in “The War to End All Wars” in 1917, fighting for Austria-Hungary.

  28. 28
    New Yorker says:

    and yes, since this is not a wingnut “America! Fuck Yeah!” blog, I will recognize those who died fighting for other countries, even if they were “the enemy” as Austria-Hungary was in World War I. The men who fought for the other side were no different than those who fought for the USA.

  29. 29
    aimai says:

    “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”

    via Americablog:

    One of the most outspoken critics of the war in Iraq is heading back there on military assignment, likely as part of the last arm of a U.S. mission he has vehemently opposed.__
    Jon Soltz, the chairman and co-founder of VoteVets.org, a leading critic of the Iraq war, told the Huffington Post on Wednesday that he was taking a year of absence from the group to deploy to Iraq as part of Operation New Dawn.__
    “This has always been a possibility,” he said. “I have always been a member of the army reserves, it is just not anything I talk about for legal reasons. The bottom line is, I can’t if I’m on active duty, be in charge of VoteVets anymore.”__
    “I’m not an idiot. I’ve known the possibilities of this for a long time,” he added. “I get the honor to be probably in the last rotation in Iraq. My order is for 12 months and if you take a look at that timetable, December 2011 will be when all U.S. troops come out anyway.”

  30. 30
    Tom Levenson says:

    @ThatLeftTurnInABQ: Good question, and I hate counterfactual history, so it’s one that skewers me as well. (See e.g., what I see as the nonsense of Niall Ferguson’s “Britain should have let Germany roll over France and all would have been well for the Empire” crap.)

    Acually Ferguson’s follies illustrate the problem. I think, for example that the rise of the SPD in Germany before the war suggests that a transition to a kind of bourgeois social democracy there was not out of the question. If it had arrived, then the impact on Austro-Hungary and Russia would have been profound.

    Germany was already on the leading economy of Europe, heading towards true dominance; it would have had enormous soft power, while the older imperial powers would have continued to discover that the cost of empire was substantially larger than anticipated…

    You could go on — but all of that tracks my own sets of assumptions on all kinds of things, beginning with the notion, now so often challenged, that people will act to secure their long term interests when they know them.

    But on one aspect of waste I think there is broad agreement: the generalship on the Western Front was abysmal, worse on the Franco-British side than on the German, but terrible on both. The war, as fought, was the worse for the blind acceptance of the logic of attrition on either side of the line. For more on this, see the invaluable Strategy by B. H. Liddell Hart.

  31. 31
    SadOldVet says:

    Maybe Soltz should start quoting Country Joe…

    One, two, three, four,
    We don’t want your fuckin’ war,
    A, B, C, D,
    Get someone else, hey don’t get me,
    Left, right, left, right,
    You know the whole damn thing puts me uptight.

    I done my duty and I fought my fight
    And I thought I knew I was doing right,
    But that’s all over, I’m free at last,
    An’ if they want any more, they can kiss my ass.

  32. 32
    Thoroughly Pizzled says:

    @ThatLeftTurnInABQ: Without WWI, nationalism would have torn apart Austria-Hungary and the other Eastern European states eventually, I think. Russia might have become a constitutional monarchy, but probably wouldn’t have been angry enough to overthrow the czar.

    I still think there would have been a war, though, because the balance of power in Europe was completely upset by the unification of Germany. Bismarck was skillful enough to keep the system stable, but no one else could, certainly not Kaiser Wilhelm II. Every nation believed that a (quick) war was inevitable, and that the first attacker would necessarily win (memories of the Franco-Prussian War), which is why there was such a massive military buildup.

    This is a simplification of what actually happened, and I’m not an expert on any of this, but I’m fairly sure that Austria-Hungary would have split apart and that the Eastern European states (Poland, Baltics) would have achieved independence. In the modern era, the nation-state is king.

  33. 33
    aimai says:

    @ThatLeftTurnInABQ:

    I’d love to see what Tom does with that question. To me it seems a little strange to argue that the kind of mass slaughter we saw in WWI and its follow on WWII would have been duplicated anyway even in an alternate Europe that didn’t even get into WWI in the first place.

    I don’t think the monarchies were that unstable–pace Tsarist Russia–would they have *had* to die in a different abbatoir if not for the shooting of the crown prince? I just don’t see it. However you slice it any individual country’s problems–like Russia’s, say–still wouldn’t have devolved into a situation as serious as the mass slaughter of all the countries involved in WWI. It was the total domino effect of the interlocking agreements and then the mass mobilization that made “the War” so deadly and so absurd. Would we ever have reached such a death toll if, say, independent worker’s groups had overthrown their own monarchies and instituted republican rule without help or hindrance from outside? Or if the monarchies had stayed in place with more internal repression, would we have ever reached the same level of mass death achieved by all out war? Again, its hard to see it.

    aimai

  34. 34
    Stefan says:

    Would we still live in a world with functioning monarchies and multi-national empires across much of central and eastern Europe?

    Well, we do still live in a world with functioning monarchies in much of western and northern Europe (Great Britain, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Holland, Spain). While the Austro-Hungarian Empire was certainly destined for an eventual crackup, it might have devolved into a British Commonwealth style continental system, in which the constituent parts achieved independence but the Hapsburg monarchy remained as a sort of ceremonial head of state. The German Empire might also have gradually moved towards a more parliamentary system such as we see in Britain nowadays, with actual power being held by the chancellor, while the Kaiser became more of a figurehead and locus of national sentiment.

  35. 35
    Michael says:

    @ThatLeftTurnInABQ:

    Or was the pre-1914 world about as stable as Krakatoa circa 1882, and destined for the same fate in some fashion or another regardless?

    WWI was completely stupid and pointless, but was bound to happen, being the product of the diseased minds that ran government, finance and industry in Europe and North America in that period.

    Sadly, it didn’t go on for quite long enough to inspire the slaughter of the plutocrats by the thousands, in a fit of revolutionary zeal.

  36. 36
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @aimai: Given the tensions and the default decisions built into the international system in 1914, I tend to think that the war was virtually inevitable. If it hadn’t been Princip assassinating an Archduke, it would have been some other incident. A soldier on patrolling on the border between two countries who strayed across to the other side, someone who shoots him, a refusal of either side to apologize or recognize that shit sometimes happens and it’s off to the races.

  37. 37
    Neutron Flux says:

    Said better above, but thank you for this.

  38. 38
    Michael says:

    @Stefan:

    The German Empire might also have gradually moved towards a more parliamentary system such as we see in Britain nowadays, with actual power being held by the chancellor, while the Kaiser became more of a figurehead and locus of national sentiment.

    I read an interesting account, penned and published in early 1918 by the last American ambassador to the Imperial German government (he was obviously expelled at the time of the declaration of war). He warned of two major aspects of German culture – a tendency to aggressive militarism throughout the leadership strata of the society, and some really nasty strains of anti-semitism that he felt were pervasive to the point of presenting future problems.

  39. 39
    Maude says:

    @Tom Levenson:
    I read a book about the monarchs George, Wilhelm and Nicholas recently. It covered their relationship with each other and the time before WWI.
    I have read a lot about the time from the late 1800’s to the end of WWII.
    WWI was a horrid war. The insanity of starting the mobilization is something I can’t understand.
    A general at that time called premptive war a form of suicide.

  40. 40
    SadOldVet says:

    “… was bound to happen, being the product of the diseased minds that ran government, finance and industry in… …North America in that period” is probably what bloggers will be discussing 80 years from now about Viet Nam, Iraq, Afganistan, and Iran in 2013 (if not sooner).

  41. 41
    aimai says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    Yeah, I guess I was imagining a world in which you didn’t have those “default decisions” or something intervened to prevent the total slippage. IIRC a lot of people thought that nothing as trivial as what started it would have led to actual war. This makes me think that the international agreements (which I will def. have to go read up on again) were like the AIG insurance scams and credit default swaps of their day–agreements that everyone entered into freely without thinking through the cascading problems if everyone called in their claims simultaneously.

    aimai

  42. 42
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    Excellent post, and many thoughtful comments here.

    I watched the Ottawa Remembrance Day ceremonies on CBC this morning. As ever, started sobbing with the first notes of The Last Post, and didn’t stop until the last wreath was placed. The thing that always gets me, as much as the music and readings and cannon salutes, are the close-ups of weathered, creased, grey old faces — veterans wearing perhaps their berets or caps, and their medals, and their poppies — and the fresh young unlined faces of today’s Canadian Forces — and the families and government workers who come out on a brilliant blue-sky November morning to honour their veterans and war dead. It is invariably a beautiful and moving ceremony.

  43. 43
    stuckinred says:

    @El Cid: Thanks for that. It too often gets lost.

  44. 44
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @aimai: I think that is actually a very good parallel.

  45. 45
    Napoleon says:

    @Tom Levenson:

    I think, for example that the rise of the SPD in Germany before the war suggests that a transition to a kind of bourgeois social democracy there was not out of the question.

    If you are talking about before WWI Germany was basically every bit as democratic as GB at the time. Painting them as not really being democratic was a propaganda win by the anglophiles in the US.

    WWI was a straight out great powers war with no bad guys/good guys or redeeming social or moral goals or secondary effects, like, say, WWII or the Civil War. It was just the kind of war the founders (and conservatives of the isolationist flavor) thought/think was/is idiotic to be involved with.

  46. 46
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @Maude:

    Was it Catrine Clay’s King Kaiser Tsar? I jsut finished it a couple of weeks ago. Fascinating book.

    There’s another similar triple biography in my TBR pile: Miranda Carter’s George, Nicholas and Wilhelm. It also looks extremely interesting, and I hope to start it soon and see what the side-by-side comparison is like.

    And on a somewhat lighter note, for those of you who appreciate classic English mysteries, this would be a perfect time to read Dorothy L. Sayers’ The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club. The main action (or inaction, on the part of the corpse) takes place during the two-minute silence on an early Armistice Day in London.

  47. 47
  48. 48
    Tom Levenson says:

    @Napoleon: (a) I think the Kaiserene govt. retained a lot more direct access to the levers of power than did the British monarchy;

    (b) the perceived Rote Berlin/SPD threat to the Prussian/Junker aristocracy over the medium and long term is one of the motivations historians have ascribed to the war party in Germany — which is one of the confounding issues in counterfactual history. (That is — would the war crowd have found a causus belli no matter what?); and

    (c) I didn’t say the Wilhelmine Reich did not have democratic elements; of course it did — hence (b). What I did say that it was not yet a bourgeois social democracy; the SPD did not hold power, and there were plenty at the top of German society who were determined to keep it that way. This was the obstacle to be overcome by what seemed to both its friends and foes to be a demographic/class mobilization inevitability.

    Which suggests some thoughts in our own political context…but that is, as I said, for another day.

  49. 49
    MaximusNYC says:

    I always thought it was odd that 11/11 is both Veterans Day & my dad’s birthday. He was briefly a soldier, but not a warrior. He opposed most of this country’s wars.

    Now that 11/11 coincidence is all too meaningful. He was exposed to Agent Orange during his year in Vietnam. 40 years later, he developed multiple myeloma, a vicious cancer of the bone marrow. Less than 2 years after being diagnosed, he died this past June.

    When the war machine is activated, we can never know how far its effects will reach or how long it will go on killing.

    Dad now lies in a military cemetery in Bushnell, Florida, in one cell of a vast concrete grid hidden under the grass. Modern war is industrialized to the end.

    “The old Lie: Dulce et Decorum est / Pro patria mori.” http://warpoetry.co.uk/owen1.html

  50. 50
    Maude says:

    @SiubhanDuinne:
    I read Miranda Carter’s book.
    The descriptions of Queen Victoria are really wonderful.
    I will look for Clay’s book Saturday at the library.
    Let me know what you think of Carter’s book and I will let you know what I think of Clay’s. And then we can start the BJ book club.
    I don’t know anyone who reads these kinds of books, so I discuss them with myself.
    btw Warlord by Carlos Estes is the best book on Churchill, IMHO.

  51. 51
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    Thanks everybody for some very thoughtful responses.

    Here’s my take: some sort of 20th Century crisis involving mass killing in central and eastern Europe was going to be the inescapable result of the importation into that region of a ideology which was orginally developed elsewhere: ethno-centric nationalism and the modern centralized nation state, a very simple and thus powerful idea concerning the source of the legitimacy of the state and how to manage it, but tragically an idea which was spectacularly ill-suited for the very complex demographics of the region, in which ethnic, sectarian and linguistic groups were intimately intermixed with each other on a very small scale.

    The evolution of the nation state in northwestern Europe (e.g. France and the British Isles) was a very bloody process, but less conspicuously so from our modern point of view because it took a very long time to unfold – which spread out the carnage so it isn’t as noticeable unless you start to tally up the casualties from multiple different sporadic conflicts (see for example the emerging ethnic character of the wars in Great Britain from the time of Edward Longshanks thru the multiple civil wars of the 17th century)

    In the 19th century this idea of basing states on nations defined in ethno-linguistic terms was imported into parts of Europe which had a very different history and then put on hold as a result of the failure of the 1848 revolutions. When that genie came back out of the bottle it had been stuffed into, the result was to try to achieve within a matter of a few decades what had taken centuries to work itself out further to the west. There was no way this was going to happen without at a bare minimum ethnic cleansing on a very large scale.

  52. 52
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @MacsenMifune: Christ, that song always chokes me up. I had never heard the Dropkick Murphy’s version before. It is quite well done.

  53. 53
    Napoleon says:

    @Tom Levenson:

    I look forward to another days discussion then. My undergrad degree is history but primarily modern American, and since I got it I have read very little on European, except for a brief fore into the Spanish Civil War and Soviet/Nazi conflict.

  54. 54
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Tom Levenson: @Napoleon: I look forward to a post and discussion on this as well.

  55. 55
    Napoleon says:

    @Tom Levenson:

    PS, by the way, since I was not clear, it is not that I think the Germans were all that democratic, I just think that the British were not as democratic as some would have liked to have thought they were here in the US.

  56. 56
    stuckinred says:

    @MaximusNYC: I’m sorry to hear about your dad. My birthday was yesterday and I went in the Army on my 17th. I’ve been lucky as far as my health but know many others who served in the Nam that have not been. As far as I am concerned his name should be on the Wall.

  57. 57
    Ruckus says:

    Tom L.
    So without naming names, let me just say that when I recall George Price, shot down for…what? Fun? Because he was there?… I cringe every time I hear any valiant keyboard kommandos baying for wars they will not fight nor begin to imagine.

    That is not OK.

    Not today, not tomorrow, not ever.

    This is a comment that I posted in the war re-enact post a few days ago. I think it’s appropriate here as well.

    Study history. I can absolutely see that, there’s quite a bit to learn, if one tries. But reenact war? War is brutal, war is inhuman(not that we’ve let that stop us), war is not just death, it is also maiming and life altering for a very large percentage of the participants and spectators. War should be studied to see how not to have to do it, not to see how glorious it never, ever is. I do not understand how one learns this from reenacting battles without the bleeding. So what does one learn from reenacting?

    How much fun wars are?
    Wars are grave inhuman atrocities that sometimes have to be fought to keep them from being bigger and worse than they end up. Nothing more.

  58. 58
    Joe says:

    I have always thought that the First World War is best summed up by that Bertrand Russell’s dictum “War does not determine who is right – only who is left”.

  59. 59
    aimai says:

    @SiubhanDuinne:

    I was thinking of that while reading this thread! Thank you for mentioning it. I’d like to also give a shout out–if I didn’t already–to “The Great War in Modern Memory” by Paul Fussell which makes a weird but intriuging pair with his wife, Betty Fussell’s “My Kitchen Wars” (Ma Batterie de Cuisine) which reveals that he was an entirely closeted gay man struggling with his own issues while writing that magisterial work. Also, from a woman’s perspective, the fictional but really wonderful “Not So Quiet On the Western Front.”

    aimai

  60. 60
    aimai says:

    @Maude:

    Count me in! I’d love to be in a history/non fiction book club.

    aimai

  61. 61
    debbie says:

    Ah, my absolute favorite Dire Straits song! Wasn’t that the same concert where Bruce Springsteen sang Dylan’s “Chimes of Freedom” that was equally moving?

  62. 62
    Fuzz says:

    WW1 produced some really amazing literature. Robert Graves, Sigfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen, Eric Maria Remarque, etc. Very moving.

  63. 63
    John says:

    @Napoleon:

    I think it’s fair to say Britain was not all that democratic in 1914. For one thing, Germany actually had a broader, universal manhood suffrage, while Britain had only householder suffrage, or something similar, with about 60% of adult men eligible to vote.

    That being said, British government was far more liberal than German. By 1914, the House of Commons was effectively sovereign in Britain – the Lords had been defanged in 1911, and that act had also stripped most of the monarch’s remaining leverage in domestic affairs, which could only really be exercised in tandem with the upper house.

    It is true that foreign policy remained a royal prerogative, which allowed the more hawkish liberal imperialists to run British foreign policy in ways that the more dovish radicals who were numerically much stronger in the commons greatly disliked. The king was key to this process, and although George V himself was basically a willing figurehead, he was the king who created that role – his father and grandmother had been far more active in involving themselves in foreign policy, and it was basically a voluntary choice by George V to leave it to ministers.

    That being said, the hawkish foreign policy which led Britain into World War I, while not supported by a minority of the Liberal governing coalition, certainly did have the support of a majority in the Commons – virtually all of the Conservatives supported it. When war came, the vast majority of the radicals wouldn’t even resign in protest, because they knew that this would only lead to a coalition between the Liberal Imperialists and the Tories, with them on the outside.

    So, in Britain, policy decisions were, genuinely, in the hands of ministers who had the confidence of the majority of the commons.

    In Germany, this simply was not the case. The Chancellor was “responsible”, but it was unclear if he was responsible to the Reichstag or the Emperor. There wasn’t even a proper German cabinet (there was a Prussian cabinet, but that’s obviously not the same thing). Chancellors occasionally acted as if they were British-style prime ministers, but this facade disappeared as soon as they lost a parliamentary majority, at which point their real status as agents of the monarch became apparent. The set-up of the German government also left a great deal of power in the hands of the monarch. The army was almost wholly under his personal control. The upper house of the legislature consisted of weighted representation of the governments of the individual German states, and thus essentially was controlled by the Emperor in his capacity as King of Prussia. Furthermore, many of the most important functions of government were left to the states, and in Prussia the legislature was constituted on a very limited franchise that left power in the hands of the Conservatives, who could generally be counted on to support monarchical powers.

    Furthermore, while all significant political groupings in the UK supported the basic idea of parliamentary government (although the Tories, admittedly, had been pushing at the edges of it over Ireland in the years immediately preceding the war), in Germany the far right was essentially opposed to it, and really believed in absolute monarchy. In the highest court circles in Germany there was constant talk of coups to suspend the constitution and re-establish absolutism in order to suppress the Social Democrats, and there was real fear on the part of left-liberals and social democrats that such a thing might really occur.

    German government certainly had democratic and liberal features (universal manhood suffrage, a Reichstag that had the power of the purse, a free press, and so forth), and Britain certainly wasn’t perfect, but, on the whole Germany was considerably further from true democracy than Britain in 1914.

  64. 64
    Ruckus says:

    @aimai:
    Very good point.
    Without looking beyond the next quarter/election no one knows what will/can happen when complex deals that all interact fall apart. The real problem is that no one really seems to care what is possible/probable. So we have wars or financial ruin for millions or ?

  65. 65
    justawriter says:

    And the band played Waltzing Matilda
    When they carried us down the gangway
    But nobody cheered, they just stood there and stared
    Then they turned all their faces away

  66. 66
    MaximusNYC says:

    stuckinred: Thank you. Glad your health has been OK. Dad always seemed quite healthy and vigorous. It seemed as if he’d gotten thru Vietnam unscathed. He didn’t see combat — he was a clerk behind the lines. Thus the cancer, decades later, was a shock to us all.

    Our modern way of making war is not just a moral and political disaster, it’s also a medical, psychological, and environmental catastrophe.

  67. 67
    Zuzu's Petals says:

    My nephew, who just returned from Iraq, is named after my brother’s USAFA roommate who was shot down in Vietnam all those years ago.

    When my brother and his friends lift a glass to those who didn’t come back, it’s a lot more than empty sentiment.

  68. 68
    Phoenician in a time of Romans says:

    I read an interesting account, penned and published in early 1918 by the last American ambassador to the Imperial German government (he was obviously expelled at the time of the declaration of war). He warned of two major aspects of German culture – a tendency to aggressive militarism throughout the leadership strata of the society, and some really nasty strains of anti-semitism that he felt were pervasive to the point of presenting future problems.

    And now we have the greatest power in the world – with a tendency to aggressive militarism, and a nasty strain of anti-Muslim bigotry running through it. There’s a lot of good people in it who have learned from history – but a lot of people who haven’t.

    “But that’s different – our armies bring Freedom and Democracy and Peace, and Muslims really are an evil enemy intent on bringing us down and…”

    Been there, done that before.

    And as to war, two comments (pardon the length, but the entire song is necessary)

    —-

    When I was a young man I carried my pack
    And I lived the free life of a rover
    From the Murrays green basin to the dusty outback
    I waltzed my Matilda all over
    Then in nineteen fifteen my country said Son
    It’s time to stop rambling ’cause there’s work to be done
    So they gave me a tin hat and they gave me a gun
    And they sent me away to the war
    And the band played Waltzing Matilda
    As we sailed away from the quay
    And amidst all the tears and the shouts and the cheers
    We sailed off to Gallipoli

    How well I remember that terrible day
    How the blood stained the sand and the water
    And how in that hell that they called Suvla Bay
    We were butchered like lambs at the slaughter
    Johnny Turk he was ready, he primed himself well
    He chased us with bullets, he rained us with shells
    And in five minutes flat he’d blown us all to hell
    Nearly blew us right back to Australia
    But the band played Waltzing Matilda
    As we stopped to bury our slain
    We buried ours and the Turks buried theirs
    Then we started all over again

    Now those that were left, well we tried to survive
    In a mad world of blood, death and fire
    And for ten weary weeks I kept myself alive
    But around me the corpses piled higher
    Then a big Turkish shell knocked me arse over tit
    And when I woke up in my hospital bed
    And saw what it had done, I wished I was dead
    Never knew there were worse things than dying
    For no more I’ll go waltzing Matilda
    All around the green bush far and near
    For to hump tent and pegs, a man needs two legs
    No more waltzing Matilda for me

    So they collected the cripples, the wounded, the maimed
    And they shipped us back home to Australia
    The armless, the legless, the blind, the insane
    Those proud wounded heroes of Suvla
    And as our ship pulled into Circular Quay
    I looked at the place where my legs used to be
    And thank Christ there was nobody waiting for me
    To grieve and to mourn and to pity
    And the band played Waltzing Matilda
    As they carried us down the gangway
    But nobody cheered, they just stood and stared
    Then turned all their faces away

    And now every April I sit on my porch
    And I watch the parade pass before me
    And I watch my old comrades, how proudly they march
    Reliving old dreams of past glory
    And the old men march slowly, all bent, stiff and sore
    The forgotten heroes from a forgotten war
    And the young people ask, “What are they marching for?”
    And I ask myself the same question
    And the band plays Waltzing Matilda
    And the old men answer to the call
    But year after year their numbers get fewer
    Some day no one will march there at all

    Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
    Who’ll come a waltzing Matilda with me
    And their ghosts may be heard as you pass the Billabong
    Who’ll come-a-waltzing Matilda with me?

    ——

    and

    “Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives… you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours… You the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears. Your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”
    – Kemel Ataturk

  69. 69
    Zuzu's Petals says:

    @SiubhanDuinne:

    I noticed John Oliver wore a red poppy on The Daily Show last night. Very touching.

    Even if they were making fun of the Queen.

  70. 70
    Bill Murray says:

    Anthem for Doomed — Wilfred Owen

    What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
    Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
    Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
    Can patter out their hasty orisons.
    No mockeries for them; no prayers nor bells,
    Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs, —
    The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
    And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

    What candles may be held to speed them all?
    Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
    Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
    The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
    Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
    And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

  71. 71
    Bill Murray says:

    Reconciliation
    Siegfried Sassoon

    When you are standing at your hero’s grave,
    Or near some homeless village where he died,
    Remember, through your heart’s rekindling pride,
    The German soldiers who were loyal and brave.

    Men fought like brutes; and hideous things were done;
    And you have nourished hatred harsh and blind.
    But in that Golgotha perhaps you’ll find
    The mothers of the men who killed your son.

  72. 72
    Stefan says:

    Sadly, it didn’t go on for quite long enough to inspire the slaughter of the plutocrats by the thousands, in a fit of revolutionary zeal.

    Well, it did in Russia, but perhaps that’s not the best example of that being a desirable outcome….

  73. 73
    Tax Analyst says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    @stuckinred: Country Joe and the Fish. Memories from childhood.

    Speaking of Country Joe McDonald and “War”, in 1971 he recorded an album called “WAR, WAR, WAR”, in which he took the WWI poems of Robert W. Service (better known for his writings about the Yukon, but he also served as an ambulance drive for the Canadian Red Cross in WWI) and put them to music. It’s quite a mesmerizing and bracing listen.

  74. 74
    Stefan says:

    I read an interesting account, penned and published in early 1918 by the last American ambassador to the Imperial German government (he was obviously expelled at the time of the declaration of war). He warned of two major aspects of German culture – a tendency to aggressive militarism throughout the leadership strata of the society, and some really nasty strains of anti-semitism that he felt were pervasive to the point of presenting future problems.

    I’d take that with a large grain of salt. While there was a tendency to aggressive militarism, it was (a) not unique to Germany but also present (though in smaller doses) in the other imperial powers, and (b) more a part of Prussian culture in particular than the larger German culture per se. And these tendencies come and go; in the the 18th century Germans were considered fairly unwarlike bumblers while the French had the reputation as fearsome warriors.

    As to anti-Semitism, again it was obviously there but no more so than in many other European nations (and far less so than in Eastern Europe). By the time of WWI German Jews had were extremely integrated, and while one can’t deny Hitler, that was as much a function of a particular confluence of post-war events as it was anything foreordained in German society. Or, in shorter words, no WWI, no German defeat and natioal trauma, no Holocaust.

  75. 75
    New Yorker says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFCekeoSTwg

    Since the song has already been quoted, here’s a good one of the many versions of it that have been done.

  76. 76
    Calouste says:

    @Bill Murray:

    Iron Maiden uses the first verse of that poem as the introduction to Passchendale at concerts.

  77. 77
    tesslibrarian says:

    For the most beautifully written (fictionalized) account of a horrifying war, read Sebastian Barry’s A Long, Long Way. I will never get over that book.

    I also thought it was nice Oliver was wearing a poppy on TDS last night. Great Britain has integrated that tradition much more completely than the United States. For a little history on the poppy, I’ll shamelessly pimp/direct toward what I wrote about “The Poppy Lady” for the history blog I do for work; the links in the other countries show which other nations use it as a symbol of remembrance, but I get the idea its only still used regularly in GB and Canada. (McCrae was Canadian.)

  78. 78
    Smurfhole says:

    @Napoleon:

    In fairness, the British were a bit on the fence about declaring war on Germany until the Germans marched into Belgium and started slaughtering whole villages on the basis of individual threats from shadowy bands of “franc-tireurs.”

    What came later, came later. But the Germans were nasty brutes in the First World War right from the get-go.

  79. 79
    Phoenician in a time of Romans says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFCekeoSTwg

    Since the song has already been quoted, here’s a good one of the many versions of it that have been done.

    I propose that any politician voting for a war be condemned after leaving office to spend the rest of their days running errands, cleaning up, and wiping the arses for the broken and maimed human debris such wars fling back home.

  80. 80
    serge says:

    When I was young, I used to idealize war. My father had fought in the war that ended nine years before I was born in 1954. He had been wounded, twice, and had received several medals, but he never really talked to us children about it. We knew had been wounded because he had this nifty double-scar in his leg. The bullet went in, and the bullet came out.

    Forty-four years later, talking to him during the anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge where he had been, he told me that a sniper had hit him in leg and he fell; the sniper hit the soldier behind my father exactly between the eyes. I had long since stopped idealizing war. He told me the reason he never took us camping was because he had vowed to himself never to carry a backpack again after slogging through the Ardennes in winter in 1944-45. I respected that…

    A few years later my father became sick with the sort of cancer there’s no point in treating, and I was lucky to be with him in DC the last week of his life. When he passed, my brother and I went to make funeral arrangements (always fun), they asked if he’d been a veteran? Yes…that got us a flag. Had he been decorated? Yes…in what way? Silver Star and some Russian medal we could never figure out. That got us into Arlington National territory. We didn’t have any funeral plot and money was tight so that sounded pretty good. The funeral director made all of the arrangements, and we just showed up.

    We were escorted by the army to the grave site, the hearse arrived with my father, we sat in the chairs provided and we saw the honor guard approach to give him a twenty-one gun salute. I had no idea they put out this much.

    He would have been horrified to know that this much attention, pomp, and circumstance had been paid to his shuffling off the mortal coil. What we didn’t know at the time, but maybe the military did, was that he’d also been recommended for the Congressional Medal of Honor, one of three men who saved the occupants of a burning tank. One of the other two was awarded the honor, I’m sure my father felt relieved.

    He was deeply religious, taught medieval philosophy at the bigger Catholic university in DC for over forty years, and never paid any notice to his past during the war. I know he had pretty deep scars, though. I need to go visit his grave.

    I apologize for the length…

  81. 81
    Phoenix Rising says:

    @Emily L. Hauser/ellaesther: I’ll share.

    My cousin M goes back to the Afghan war in three weeks…third trip for him. Navy snake eater with a wife and three kids. His first battle was Kuwait, 20 years ago. He has done no work in his life other than law enforcement and war.

    My cousin J is retiring after 30 years next spring. Navy intel trainer is his current role.

    My dad served 35 months in the sixties. On Memorial Day, I remember his staf sergeant Cliff Mckittregde, without whose active support I would not be here today–average lifespan of a 2nd Lt in artillery was short, but my dad came home from the jungle alive…thanks to Cliff.

  82. 82
    Batocchio says:

    Thanks for this one. I studied WWI in college, and the histories, memoirs, fiction and poetry have always stuck with me and resonated. I wish that confict was better remembered. Last year, I wrote a series of six related posts for 11/11. I prefer the name Armistice Day. As Walt Kelly wrote:

    The eleventh day of the eleventh month has always seemed to me to be special. Even if the reason for it fell apart as the years went on, it was a symbol of something close to the high part of the heart. Perhaps a life that stretches through two or three wars takes its first war rather seriously, but I still think we should have kept the name “Armistice Day.” Its implications were a little more profound, a little more hopeful.

    (I’m doing a round-up of 11/11 posts, and I’ll include this one. Thanks.)

    Also, the Balloon Juice book club sounds like a cool idea, although my stack is ridiculous enough as it is.

  83. 83
    Mike in NC says:

    Recently picked up an excellent book called, “A Corner of a Foreign Field: The Illustrated Poetry of the First World War” by Fiona Waters.

  84. 84
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @aimai:
    @Maude:

    I love the idea of a BJ book discussion group! I used to participate in a Sayers-only Yahoo group, and it was a lot of fun — although the fourth or fifth time of reading and talking about a particular book got a bit, how shall I say? — granular. Still, Sayers is always good fun and provocative enough to keep things lively. the BJ group, I assume, would be much more diverse. Looking forward to it.

  85. 85
    HyperIon says:

    Vera Brittain’s “Testament of Youth” was a 1979 BBC series on one woman who lost her brother, her fiance, and many friends during the Great War. It is very good. As is “The Shooting Party” which describes the pre-war attitudes among the aristocracy.

    The 70s were a rich time for Great War stories from the BBC. They knew how to re-create the settings and the feel of the time. “Upstairs, Downstairs” also had some poignant war episodes.

    That was the first time I realized that shell-shocked meant “reduced to freaking out”. Previously I thought it meant “a little dazed from loud noises”.

  86. 86
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @Maude: By the way, thanks for the Warlord suggestion. It’s been a while since I read a decent bio of Churchill.

  87. 87
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @HyperIon: Yes indeed. Also a damned good read — I’m not sure whether the book is still in print (at least in the U.S.) but should be readily available in used bookstores, libraries, etc.

    The all-too-brief interlude between the two World Wars is a period that fascinates me. Has anyone read The Long Week-End: A Social History of Great Britain 1918-1939 by Robert Graves and Alan Hodge? Excellent study of the times. I must dig it out again and re-read sometime soon.

  88. 88
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @tesslibrarian: Very nice piece. Thank you. (And I see we have yet another denizen of Georgia in our Southern BJ midst. We really must all figure out a way to get together one of these times — there are a lot of us down here, mostly in Atlanta and Athens.)

  89. 89
    HyperIon says:

    @SiubhanDuinne wrote:

    I’m not sure whether the book is still in print

    I got it from the library and then I found a DVD of the BBC thing. I had never heard of Vera Brittain before watching the series in the 70s. It was so cool that she was connected to women’s rights, service in WWI, and the post-war peace movement. What a life. And Cheryl Campbell was excellent.

  90. 90
    debbie says:

    Another good movie about the aftereffects of WWI is “Regeneration.” It’s based on a book of the same title by Pat Barker. This book is part of a trilogy she did on WWI.

    From Amazon:

    Regeneration, one in Pat Barker’s series of novels confronting the psychological effects of World War I, focuses on treatment methods during the war and the story of a decorated English officer sent to a military hospital after publicly declaring he will no longer fight. Yet the novel is much more. Written in sparse prose that is shockingly clear — the descriptions of electronic treatments are particularly harrowing — it combines real-life characters and events with fictional ones in a work that examines the insanity of war like no other. Barker also weaves in issues of class and politics in this compactly powerful book. Other books in the series include The Eye in the Door and the Booker Award winner The Ghost Road.

    http://www.amazon.com/Regenera.....0452270073

    Sebastian Faulkes’ “Birdsong” is also really good and is about life in the trenches. It’s pretty harrowing.

    I’m not much of a fan of historical fiction, but these books are really well-researched and not cheesy in the least.

  91. 91
    Larkspur says:

    From the last verse of a poem by John Balaban, a Vietnam-era conscientious objector who nonetheless went to Vietnam with the International Volunteer Services, initially teaching, then working with burned and injured civilian children, and in close acquaintance with U.S. soldiers and journalists who covered the war. He was injured by shrapnel and evacuated in 1969, but returned in 1971, and often thereafter. The book is Blue Mountain (1974); the poem is In Celebration of Spring:

    “…Swear by the locust, by dragonflies on ferns
    by the minnow’s flash, the tremble of a breast,
    by the new earth spongy under our feet:
    that as we grow old, we will not grow evil,
    that although our garden seeps with sewage,
    and our elders think it’s up for auction – swear
    by this dazzle that does not wish to leave us –

    that we will be keepers of a garden, nonetheless.”

    Yes, it’s not spring. Winter’s on the way. Our elders always think it’s up for auction. But regardless, you can still glimpse the dazzle, and we will keep the garden, even when we think it’s hopeless.

  92. 92
    Larkspur says:

    @HyperIon: Oh, yes, Vera Brittain’s chronicle is harrowing. From Wikipedia: “…Her fiancé Roland Leighton, two other close friends Victor Richardson and Geoffrey Thurlow, and her brother Edward Brittain MC were all killed during the war….”

  93. 93
    gocart mozart says:

    @ThatLeftTurnInABQ:
    I’ll take a crack at your question LT@A.

    No WWI / No humilation of the Germans at Versailles / No rise of German nationalism and Hitler 15 years later / No WWII at least not the Western Theater. Of course none of this can be proven but I think it is a strong ‘what if’ prediction.

    No WWI / No Russian revolution / No Cold War.

    Russian peasants were under supplied and many had inadequate weaponry. They were canon fodder. It was the Tzar’s war and he became hated for it. After the first Revolution, Prime Minister Kerensky continued to support the war. Lenin and the Bolsheviks came to power promising to end Russian involvement in the war which they did.

    I am over simplifying things a bit for the sake of brevity. For more detail, here is a wikipedia link for a good starting point on Russia and WWI.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Kerensky

  94. 94

    […] haven’t posted since, I will repeat this paragraph from Tom Levenson at Balloon Juice (via Edge of the American West) which I just now read, and which brought tears to […]

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] haven’t posted since, I will repeat this paragraph from Tom Levenson at Balloon Juice (via Edge of the American West) which I just now read, and which brought tears to […]

Comments are closed.