Saturday, June 28, 2014

A century of total war

Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated 100 years ago today.  It's the event that the popular imagination holds sparked an unavoidable series of events leading to the First World War and the succeeding century of bloodshed.

We're still letting blood today as a consequence.
At war’s end, (T.E.) Lawrence’s vision of Arab independence was shattered when the Versailles peace conference confirmed the carving of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine into British and French spheres of influence; arbitrary boundaries drawn in the sand to satisfy the appetites of empire – Britain’s Foreign Office even called the former Ottoman lands “The Great Loot.”

The hopeful Lawrence drew his own “peace map” of the region, one that paid closer heed to tribal allegiances and rivalries. The map could have saved the world a lot of time, trouble and treasure, one historian said, providing the region “with a far better starting point than the crude imperial carve up.” Lawrence wrote to a British major in Cairo: “I’m afraid you will be delayed a long time, cleaning up all the messes and oddments we have left behind us.”
100 years later we're still trying to maintain the arbitrary boundaries of the "Great Loot." We've gotten really good at lying about it, though.
But this week, Meet the Press is evidently doing something different. They're putting the Iraq question to former President Bill Clinton. There's an excerpt up at the Meet the Press website, which they're headlining this way:

Clinton on Cheney: 'If They Hadn't Gone to War in Iraq None of This Would Be Happening'

It's a good line. But history will recall Bill Clinton as someone who supported the Bush administration's drive to war in 2003–even though Clinton has at times tried to claim otherwise. As FAIR noted in 2007 (Action Alert, 11/29/07), Clinton said he'd been against the war "from the beginning." But he had a funny way of showing it–writing a column for the Guardian (3/18/03) the day before the invasion headlined "Trust Tony's Judgment" (as in former British Prime Minister Tony Blair), explaining on 60 Minutes (3/30/03) that "I support our troops in Iraq and the president," and telling Time magazine (6/28/04) that he had "repeatedly defended President Bush against the left on Iraq."
Publishers, anticipating the Great War centennial have put out a raft of new books over past few years.  Here are two recommendations.

Cataclysm: The First World War as Political Tragedy by David Stevenson -- Lot of stuff about the stupidity of generals slow to realize that charging men and horses toward machine guns is kind of a bad idea. But really this is a book about the stupid political leaders and the fact that this was very much a war of choice.

To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918 by Adam Hochschild -- Tells the stories of anti-war resisters in Great Britain.

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