Thursday, November 15, 2007

Awesome Editorial

From 1914, The Toronto Star, at the outbreak of War. Keep in mind, you who don't understand irony, that it's entirely sarcastic, save for the last paragraph:

The curious fact is that Emperor William can stand up before members of the Reichstag, as he did yesterday, and show to the satisfaction of its members and to that of Germans all over the world, that the war is not of his making, but that Russia, ignoring overtures for a peaceable adjustment, began to take such war measures as left Germany no alternative but to begin action.

It is curious that the Kaiser can do that, because the Czar can do it, too. He can prove to the entire satisfaction of every loyal subject that Russia did not want war, but that Germany, being all ready, caused Austria to attack Serbia, so that Russia must stand by and see a Slav country conquered, or must accept the challenge and make ready.

The President of France, too, can tell the Chamber of Deputies that ... (he) sought peace up to the last moment — used the utmost patience, and only accepted war when her territory had been invaded and war against her declared by Germany.

Great Britain, as British subjects all over the world know, has held back to the very last, refusing to admit that the possibilities of peace had been exhausted.

Nowhere is there a people who admit, or whose rulers admit, that they caused this war and chose to precipitate it. Even Austrians will argue that their country made no demands on Serbia but those that were justified and ought to have been accepted. They will claim that but for the meddling of Russia there would have been no trouble with Serbia.

On one side it is claimed that Russia has been seeking this trouble for years, and that France, ever since she has felt British support behind her, has been trying to tease Germany into action. On the other side, it is claimed that Germany, having for years been organizing for war as if it were a great national business undertaking, in which each detail had to be worked out in advance, now gives the signal for "Der Tag" to Austria, and the war is on.

And the most curious and humanly interesting fact of all is that in Germany and Austria, in Russia and France, in Britain and Belgium, wherever people are sharpening their swords or loading their muskets, pious persons are addressing prayers in their various languages to the same throne of heaven, asking for aid in their warfare and for success to their arms in the struggle that has been unjustly forced upon them by their enemies.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


The first comment to this post proves the point I was making exactly.

Some questions for our semi-literate commenter, Fred:

1) Quantify and source everything you've said.

2) Explain how you're any different from any jingo about rah rah war.

3) You beat the drums of war. Have you enlisted? Why not?

4) By what metrics, other than rhetoric, is the US the greatest country in the world? By what do you mean "greatest"?

On beating the drums of War

One of the reasons I think there is so little meaningful opposition to war in this country is because it lacks an ancestral memory of it, and is ruled by a class that's never had any experience in war.

It is Veterans Day here in the US, and apart from a few official activities, I can't really see any evidence that anyone cares, apart from Veterans' Day sales at the mall. This in marked contrast to the Commonwealth.

To Americans, war is something theoretical. War has not touched American soil this century. The American memory of war is one of Victory--the saviours of the World in the Second and First World Wars (forget they stood on the side for years while the youth of Canada, Newfoundland, Australia, New Zealand, and Great Britain died). Viet Nam is an exception, but I would suggest that the cultural impact of it sweeps away the military memory.

Yet as a kid in Canada, I was always aware of the War. I can remember being a kid in a mall and the PA announcing that there would be two minutes' silence. Every day at the great doors of my high school, I walked past two plaques with the names of the dead from my high school in the two Wars. We had a long Remembrance Day ceremony every year, and in my last year I played The Last Post and Reville. When I got to Cambridge, in my college boathouse was a plaque commemorating the hundreds who died in the war. The same with our college chapel.

And I think the ancestral memory for Canadians, and far more for the English, French, Germans, etc., is that war is cataclysm. War is massive personal loss on a titanic, universal scale. War is sacrifice. Canada sent 1 million soldiers to the First World War, out of a population of 7 million. England, France, and Germany saw their cities destroyed. The little countries of Europe can remember occupation. The city of Halifax was destroyed.

The United States exited the Second War as the greatest power on earth. France, Britain, the Empire were bankrupt. German was in ruins.

This, to the war-cheering classes here in the United States, seems to be forgotten. It is easy for Cheney or Bush to send other peoples' kids to die. It plays into Americans' self-confidence, their self-assuredness, and their memory of war--the US coming to save the day.

That crowd might do better to read Wilfred Owen's poem, Dulce et Decorum Est:

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hootsOf tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!–An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime...
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,–
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Remembrance Day

Just watched the ceremony at the National War Memorial, and now killing time at work watching a rebroadcast of the Vimy Ridge Memorial rededication. Always on Nov 11, I think of my grandfather.

My grandfather was a bomber during the Second World War. He served mostly in Asia--in Burma. He speaks very little of the War, and the stories he does tell are mostly about his friends or about things they did when they weren't fighting. He rarely ever mentions bombing, and rarer still speaks of friends that were killed.

He enlisted when he was 18. There's a picture of him and his crew, a few years into the war, and the faces are all young. That always strikes me: That was asked a generation of young men from all over our young country to fight and die for others, and they answered (my grandfather volunteered). At 18, my grandfather was serving in the RCAF. He was watching friends die, fighting for people he had never met, in countries he likely knew little about.

Yet he would never call himself a hero. It was duty, it was what had to be done. The loud noise we hear now about how everyone who fought in the War, and in any subsequent war, being a hero isn't him and I don't think he would embrace it. He is what he always has been: a kind, gentle, caring man. He speaks at schools about the War, he attends Remembrance Day ceremonies every year, but there is never bluster.

And so I always think of him on this day when we commemorate the hundreds of thousands of young Canadians, like him, who stood up and put their lives on the line for others. Our little country sent the flower of its youth to die on the fields of Europe and in the skies of Asia, and today is the day to remember them.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Have cake. Will eat it too.

How is it that Quebec can demand to be consulted for Senate reform, and insist that it requires a constitutional amendment with Quebec's consent, while at the same time moaning about how it's excluded from the Constitution and bitch about how it was patriated without Quebec's consent?

Monday, November 05, 2007

Not all lawyers are evil

I'm impressed that it's lawyers in Pakistan who are standing up for the rule of law.

And part of me thinks that if Bush tried the same thing, there would be plenty of lawyers who'd sit back and cheer him on. After all, we have John Yoo, who penned the infamous torture memo, John Ashcroft (who today is defending warantless wiretapping), Al Gonzales (um, where to start)--lawyers all, all of whom seem to have forgotten that the constitution exists.

Early in my (still short) career, I was at a cooking class with my mom. One of the women in our group asked me what I did, I said I was an attorney, and she went on about how she hoped I was Republican because "we need more Republican lawyers!" Another person in our group--also an attorney--leaned over and said that she didn't know how someone could stay loyal to their Bar oath and still be Republican. I agreed.

But apparently others see no problem at all. The Anonymous Liberal has this excellent post on the subject. He concludes

When future generations look back on this era of American history, I'm increasingly convinced that the harshest verdicts will be saved for the lawyers, people like David Addington, John Yoo, and Alberto Gonzales. These were the people who were supposed to be the brakes, not the gas. They're the people who were supposed to speak up for the law and for the Constitution, the people whose job it was to ensure that we are governed by laws and not men. And not only did they abdicate this responsibility, they chose to use their power of interpretation to make a mockery of the law.


Sunday, November 04, 2007

Mad Christians

No matter how many times I see those mad Christians, be it on TV, film, or in person, I always shudder. I'm simultaneously scared, contemptuous, outraged, and a little amused. I mean, if I'm going to hell, what do you care? More manna and virgins to go around for you.

Still, this trailer looks worth watching: