• Books,  History,  War etc

    War Stories

    For years afterwards in the 1950s, the war remained an inexhaustible subject with a huge audience. The memory thus transmitted to later generations is a fragmentary one. An obvious reason is the unparalleled extent and complexity of Britain’s war. For Russians, arguably the war can be encapsulated by the sieges of Leningrad and Stalingrad, the core of Vasily Grossman’s… Life and Fate. For Americans, memory seems to focus on Pacific islands and D-Day. For the French, on the “syndrome” of occupation, collaboration and resistance. But for Britain, the only European country to have fought the whole war, it cannot be easily abbreviated. Dunkirk, the Battle of Britain, the Blitz, the…

  • Books,  War etc

    The World Federation

    One reason I like John Wyndham’s sci fi novels is that they happen in a recognisable political world.  A disaster happens, the Triffids take over and society falls apart, and when the world floods in The Kraken Wakes the government shows itself to be believably ineffectual. I’m not up with sci-fi  so don’t know how true this is:- In optimistic visions of the future, there is a liberal and democratic world government, or perhaps an interplanetary federation. In dystopias, there is a single global tyranny. In post-apocalyptic novels and movies set in the aftermath of a nuclear war, nuclear bombs seem to off gone off everywhere in the world, even…

  • Orwell,  Poetry,  War etc

    Orwell’s Blitz

    There was a piece about George Orwell: The Complete Poetry on Front Row this evening from 23:03 Orwell originally wanted to be a poet and did keep writing verse. A Dressed Man is a neat, sharp piece. His Memories of the Blitz is new to me. As the editor of his poems, Dione Venables says of his poetry in general, “It has its moments.” The Blitz has not figured much in poetry though it is prevalent in films and novels. I can recall some lines of Louis MacNeice’s:- As sometimes in the blackout and the raids One joke composed an island in the night. World War I, a war fought…

  • Syria,  War etc

    Their own agenda

    At such times as these I’m glad I don’t have to make a decision about military intervention in Syria.  It is a serious business, and one that should overshadow all smaller concerns. Not that stops some people of course:- And my favourite from Carlton Reid, who I admire as a cycling advocate and for writing an excellent book. But sometimes you really have to forget your main pre-occupation in life.

  • Turkey,  War etc

    ANZAC Day 100th Anniversary

    100 years since the landing on Gallipoli. I’m posting something I wrote back in 2010:- Today, 25th April is ANZAC day, which in Australia and New Zealand is the equivalent of Armistice Day.  It commemorates the landing of the ANZAC forces in Gallipoli during the First World War, where they were ultimately defeated by the Turks.  In Britain this is called the Dardanelles campaign, but in Australia and New Zealand it’s called “Gallipoli.“  This song by Eric Bogle tells the story of a crippled veteran:- (Link – can’t embed). Eric Bogle emigrated to Australia from Peebles in Scotland .  He does the odd tour in the UK and I have…

  • History,  War etc

    World War II: the awful price of victory

    The excellent historical Twitter account WW2 Tweets from 1943, which is following the war from 72 years ago on a day-by-day basis, reminds us of the sometimes horrible price of ultimate victory in even the most just cause. US air raid has missed target disastrously, killing 936 Belgian civilians: attempted bombing of Nazi-controlled aircraft factory In Antwerp. — WW2 Tweets from 1943 (@RealTimeWWII) April 6, 2015 200 US planes, driven off target by Luftwaffe, scattered bombs over Belgium; 209 of the dead are schoolchildren. pic.twitter.com/dPPazXWczG — WW2 Tweets from 1943 (@RealTimeWWII) April 6, 2015 24 tons of American bombs ripped through Belgian town of Mortsel in botched daylight raid. No…

  • Iraq,  War etc

    Publish the Blair/Bush Letters

    It appears the Cabinet Office has blocked publication of the George Bush/Tony Blair  correspondence that was written in the run up to the Iraq War.  All that can be published is the “gist” of what Blair said and nothing to indicate Bush’s views. The reason for blocking the publication is either for the Cabinet Office’s independent reasons or because they do not wish to antagonise the Americans. Writing in The Times (subscription required), Melanie Phillips has said: Publishing this correspondence would breach the understanding that dialogue between world leaders is necessarily private. It would undermine trust that any such future conversations would remain undisclosed, causing lasting damage to Britain’s relations with the…

  • History,  War etc

    What the red poppy means

    Guest post by Sackcloth and Ashes Every year, in the run-up to Remembrance Sunday, there is always some brave and noble soul who thinks he/she is telling truth unto power, who decides that now’s the time to have a pop at the red poppy. Through malice or stupidity, both Remembrance Sunday and the Royal British Legion’s fundraising appeal keep getting misrepresented, and so yet again it’s necessary to put the record straight. Firstly, the red poppy does not ‘glorify war’, as detractors claim. It is not a symbol of victory or jingoism, but of sacrifice. The inspiration for the poppy was John McCrae’s 1915 poem, ‘In Flanders Fields’, and it…

  • War etc

    Civilians in Post-9/11 Wars and U.S. Policy

    This is a cross-post from Mugwump One of my earliest posts argued against those who claimed that the U.S was offered Bin Laden on a plate in September 2001. This idea wasn’t particularly popular – it was restricted to elements of the “anti-imperialist left”. The argument handled below is somewhat more pervasive – you may even hear it in a pub.  It is the idea that the U.S (and more broadly, Western) military does not care about civilians when operating in war zones. This, it is claimed amounts to what is in effect a policy of targeting civilians either through wilful actions or gross negligence. To deal with some admin: I…