Sunday, January 29, 2017

Sticking my neck out.

The is just a short one. I've finished my packing with my computer the last item to be unplugged. But first - a thought that's been on my mind for a long time. It's a little dangerous as thoughts go. It's critical about how we recognize Nov. 11 Armistice Day, the rememberance of those who have served in the military. It's also critical of the Canadian Legion, Canada's organization  for veterans.
Some years ago, I appeared before a very, very political Canadian government committee.  It had been assembled in response to complaints from veterans about a film series from the National Film Board - "The Valour and the Horror".  Veterans were furious about it. The film showed the bombing of Germany, for example, when allied bombers deliberately targetted civilians in what can only be called terror bombing. They were also angry at the suggestion that Canadian troops murdered prisoners.
So they put the heat on the Harper government to conduct hearings. The hearings would show, of course, that Canadians never, ever did anything wrong; and they were as good as choir boys in church. So I volunteered to give testimony.
Murdering prisoners? EVERY army in world war 2 murdered prisoners on a grand scale, often by the millions. I spoke to a Canadian general who had seen German prisoners being marched over a bridge. He later saw their bodies floating down the river.
As for the deliberate, terror bombing of civilians, Every air force in World War 2 did at as a standard practice. Perhaps the leading pioneers of this were the British who conducted raids on defenceless Kurd villages in 1920. The Germans used it  in the Spanish Civil war of the 1930s. Everybody did it in World War 2. And the leading exponent of it was the RAF. Since the war, the U.S. has become far the biggest killer by such terror bombing in history.
None of this should be taken as a criticism of the veterans. It's a criticism of all us humans. But the Legion sees it as its role to proclaim that all Canadian military were and are without fault.  And it becomes much worse than that.
Every Nov. 11, we read and talk of nothing but how we owe it to our military to remember them and their sacrifices. So we should. But that is not all we remember. And the legion, of all organizations, owes it to those who served to remember WHY they died.
In World War 2, we were constantly told that this was a war aimed at bringing a permanent peace, equality, democracy  to the world. That was why the UN was formed. But the peace never happened.
The worst offender, by far, in creating wars has been the United States. Officially, it has invaded some 70 countries since 1945. In reality, counting drones, assassination squads, the number is higher. We have not criticized one of them. In fact, we have sent troops, at the request of the U.S., to wars that had nothing to do with us.
That's why Canadian died in Afghanistan. It had nothing to do with serving Canada. In fact, there is no evidence that AFghanistan had any connection with 9/11. (Almost all the known villains were from   those good friends of the U.S. in Saudi Arabia.)  We bombed and killed people in Libya who had nothing to do with us. For a time, we committed troops to Syria and now to Iraq. We have them on what could well be a suicide mission to Eastern Europe at the request of the U.S. None of this has anything to do with defending Canada. We have become an obedient colony doing what our imperial masters tell us to do.
On Nov. 11, we should hear about - and the Legion ( not to mention the clergy) -  should be eager to tell us about what we told of soldiers of World War Two they were dying for. I'm quite sure it was not so their grandchildren could fight wars for American oil billionaires.
We are now in an extremely dangerous situation. We have allowed ourselves to become a colony of the U.S. We have abandoned everything we said we fought for in World War Two. We have betrayed those who died for us. We are now going to be under increasing pressure to follow the U.S. with its extremely dangerous and murderous policies.
By all means, remember those who died. But while doing it, remember why they died. It was surely not to follow a nation that has come to bear a strong resemblance to all those things we fought against in World War Two.
It is particularly dangerous to do this for a mentally disturbed president.
And to the Legion, you owe that to those who went before you.


  1. I was in the UK taking a Masters in 1972 when the 30 year rule on releasing secret cabinet papers revealed Bomber Harris's plans for area-bombing German civilians. No one seemed startled at all by these "revelations". Wasn't even page one in the Grauniad - page 3 if I recall. Why? Well it's obvious. Nobody in 1972 UK presumed that bombing was "precision" in WW2 (except the Americans hoodwinking themselves for the first year or so on the "strength" of the Norden bombsight) so civilian deaths were assumed.

    In addition, Britain had been bombed by Germany in the Blitz, my parents went through it, Home Guard and firespotting, so nobody had pie-in-the-sky ideas that bombs were targeted only at "military" installations. WW1 Zeppelin raids over Blighty had proved that lie well before Churchill bombed Iraqi tribesmen. And Britain had sent squadrons of Handley Page bombers in retribution to "smarten up" the Germans in 1918 - my mother's second uncle had a Military Medal (second to a VC) from that programme and he refused to talk about it in any way whatsoever in the 1950s to me, a little boy already reading the Dam Busters etc., because Dad had been an MO in the RAF post-war and I "woke-up" in British-Occupied Germany at age three. Have always been interested in WW2. Plus, there was no doubt about it in 1942, people felt that Germans needed to have a taste of their own medicine, not surprisingly. My parents had no qualms about it - Hitler was not a popular bloke at all, let me tell you. Those living in Canada and pontificating decades later have no idea whatsover.

    Also Len Deighton's docu-novel Bomber was released in 1970. Apparently unread by anyone at the Royal Canadian Legion.

    Why the Legion then made such an uproar over the same UK cabinet material incorporated into an early 1990s TV documentary almost 20 years later was surprising to me. Couldn't understand it at all. Obviously the Legion had few members surviving who had actually been involved in a real war, and the remainder were so uninformed they hadn't even kept up with the news. Disregarded it completely in fact, regarding themselves as lily-white knights in shining armour. Hypocrites. Not a single bomb fell in anger on this fair land.

    I'd endured stupid people during the 1960s complaining about rationing in WW2 when there was obviously food aplenty at the Debert, NS airfield and at Cornwallis near where we lived - just dumb stolid Nova Scotians out of touch with what happened and how things were organized. Some were students at Acadia, whoop-de-doo. Locally, my mother told off these people in no uncertain terms - she went through real rationing and thought the complaints frivolous, which they were. And she could get going, let me tell you, all five foot two of her, and as I realized later, beautiful. Amazingly enough, a physically beautiful person with a brain and a tongue gets listened to. Canada liberated her, and Dad finally realized he'd had a tigress with opinions that mattered all those years and never realized it. She pre-empted the women's movement by getting a real job in 1963 in rural NS, with four kids!, and he argued incessantly against it. No luck. She won and bought herself a Volvo two years later. Free at last.

    Judging by the big sign outside the local Legion, the important news is corn beef Tuesdays and fish and chip Fridays. And beer, lots of it. Same since 1985 when I moved to these parts.

  2. Have we seen the Legion officially get up in arms over the ridiculously poor treatment our soldiers returning from Afghanistan with PTSD receive from Veterans Affairs? I must have missed it if they have. My local ex-MP Peter Stoffer was the man who stood up to be counted, and he was an immigrant like me, but from the Netherlands.

    I'll honour the poor bastards who went out and fought for us and others no matter whether they or we were hoodwinked by greedy capitalists to do so, and who were killed and wounded - I lost family. I also know for a certainty that other people appreciated the sacrifice.

    On a time out from study in 1972, I went with English university friends on a camping tour of France by Land Rover. Somehow, well after dark one evening in Northeastern France we got lost and ended up in a tiny hamlet at the bottom of a confluence of three hills, all lit up by a strong moonlight. Picture perfect. We got there by driving around the perimeter of a giant cabbage field, rabbits scampering in front of us in the headlights, since roads seemed nonexistent. Hungry, lost.

    But there was a pension among the about ten buildings, where local farmers were pouring back the wine. We asked for an evening meal as we were ravenous, but the owner, a ferocious little late middle-aged woman, basically snarled at us to get lost. Past meal time, obviously Anglais, why should she care. The place was falling down, huge swaths of plaster missing from the walls, a dump.

    One of our guys kept wheedling at her for even just some bread, so she contemptuously asked for our passports, not unknown if you travelled France in those days; inns kept them overnight despite the warning printed inside to never surrender it to foreigners. The French had a more pragmatic view - no passport, no bed. So, seven British, one Canadian - me, a mere naturalized one.

    Brings tears to my eyes even today as I type this. The attitude changed IMMEDIATELY. She hugged and embraced me, all the drinkers stopped and shook my hand as she roared instructions at them, probably all "family" anyway. We were ushered into the living room, even more disrepair but a huge table and giant TV! First, bread, wine, smoked pilchards in a tomato sauce, cold cuts. Delicious. The woman's two sons sat in armchairs, smiled, smoked, refilled glasses, brought more bread. We thought that was it - it wasn't quite enough to fill us up but far better than nothing. But no. The woman was cooking up a storm! Slight delay. Then the main course, pork cutlets, mounds of fresh-picked veggies, wine. Then fresh salad with light oil, not the backwards way the Americans do it by serving it first! One must clear the palate for dessert! Followed by plums, pears, grapes and an entire runny cheese, brandy etc. Out of this world, and easily as good as the Parisian restaurants I had visited on weekend trips many times before, as I had a friend with French wife living in Paris.

  3. /2
    Canadians liberated that area of Northeastern France from the Germans in 1944. I and my pals were recipients of the goodwill such sacrifices our countrymen made for other people to be free. And it was so appreciated by them - I had never understood that part before. Being under the German jackboot had obviously been no fun whatsoever. Emotional, emotional evening being waited on hand and foot, and happy, happy people. I shall never forget it, nor the legacy that was bequeathed me by some unknown Canadian lads almost 30 years before. In addition, the usual bantering I received from my English friends about being a colonial, despite being born in Oxford, went away. Canadians were suddenly real to them because of that French reaction. Canada AOK, Blighty um, not so much.

    The Legion is an entirely separate thing from the people they claim to honour. It's a business.

    Meanwhile, Canada has frittered away any goodwill and independence of thought that Pearson and PET gave us, in slavish obedience, bar Chretien and Iraq, to the US hegemony which replaced the British. We are a nation of bootlickers. It's depressing at my now-advanced age to witness the stupidity. We could have been so much more, but nobody cared. And the Americans voted in Trump who now is showing signs of complete madness beyond greed and a need for people to cheer him as if he were a gladiator facing lions. He's obviously personally deranged and wants to be needed, to be feted. We have seen this all before. Yes I know hillary is useless too. It just bothers me that I spent a working life so busy I missed the manipulations of greedy uncaring oligarchs who harness common folk to their plow while proclaiming freedom. I'd probably have topped myself in despair if I knew then what I know now, and my utter inability to change things.


    PS Have a good move!

  4. I agree with you completely Graeme, but I do not see Trudeau saying NO to the US's military and neoliberal requests.Trudeau is completly subservient to the USs imperial foreign policy. As to the corporate elite who are behind the neoliberal "trade" deals, Trudeau has fully embraced them and actually thinks they are about trade.

    Trudeau is sending troops, tanks and weapons to Latvia at the behest of the US. We need to have an independent foreign policy, but this wont happen under the Liberals.

  5. I have been reading the blog from a German writer who spend a lot of time in the United States during the last election. His perspective on Donald Trump is interesting and much the same as your own. Here is the link to his blog.