War really is hell!

By David Wesley Tonkin

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The United States of America sent its young men to Europe to fight for something they were told was called “freedom”. To help protect our allies Great Britain, France, The Netherlands and Belgium  against the evil of the Central Powers; Germany, the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, Italy, the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria.

It had started out so splendidly well! All was a jolly patriotic adventure. All was a noble and moral cause as illustrated by the recruiting posters of the time. The lyrics of the immortal George M. Cohan song said it all …

“Over there, over there

Send the word, send the word over there

That the Yanks are coming

The Yanks are coming

The drums rum-tumming

Everywhere

So prepare, say a prayer

Send the word, send the word to beware

We’ll be over, we’re coming over

And we won’t come back till it’s over

Over there”

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What happened?   After more than four years of bitter fighting, eight and a half million soldiers had been killed; and millions wounded and maimed forever, including more than 100,000 Americans, and seven million civilians were dead.  Europe was a smoldering shattered ruin. Old empires were gone forever and the dead-eyed refugees by the melancholy millions wondered without hope along bomb cratered roads across the continent. Pestilence and starvation would stalk men, women and children for years to come. The war to end all wars was over. Getting the boys back on the farm after they had seen Paris was the least of our problems at that time!

The poetry also changed its tone; like Laurence Binyon’s “For the Fallen” …

“They went with songs to the battle, they were young

Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow

They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted

They fell with their faces to the foe

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old

Age shall not weary them, nor do the years condemn

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them”

The epic photographs taken in locations like the Place de la Concorde in Paris, the Admiralty Arch near Trafalgar Square in London and in the crowded streets of New York City clearly illustrate the relief and delirious joy of World War One ending.

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However, not too long after the celebrations …

World War begat World War Two, The Korean War, The Vietnam War, The Cold War Era global conflicts,  The wars in the Congo and wars of unspeakable genocide throughout the rest of Africa, the Israeli – Arab Wars (Israel’s War Of Independence 1948–1949 , the Six Day War in 1967 and the Yom Kippur War in 1973), the  Suez Crisis, The Angolan-Cuban-South African War,  continual large and small South American civil wars, The Falklands War, The Gulf War, The Balkan War, The Iraq and Iran Wars, and the War in Afghanistan. It seems that we have learned very little from the stark lessons of the war to end all wars. Countless millions have died or irrevocably maimed in these wars.

Mao Zedong (a Chinese communist revolutionary who became the founding father of the People’s Republic of China) said “Politics is war without bloodshed while war is politics with bloodshed” Obviously the politicians around the globe are downright stupid and have bloated egos … they certainly have not prevented too many wars!

Several other thoughtful people have come to similar conclusions; “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting” Sun Tzu (a Chinese general, military strategist, writer, and philosopher) and “The best way to solve problems and to fight against war is through dialogue” Malala Yousafzai (a Pakistani activist for female education and the youngest Nobel Prize laureate).

“Where have all the young men gone?

Long time passing

Where have all the young men gone?

Long time ago

Where have all the young men gone?

Gone for soldiers every one

When will they ever learn?

When will they ever learn?

 

Where have all the soldiers gone?

Long time passing

Where have all the soldiers gone?

Long time ago … “

Excerpt from “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” by Pete Seeger.

I do not have the answer … I really hope someone finds the answer soon.

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