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Saturday, June 28, 2014

The War That Spawned Ever Worse Wars

French 87th regiment near Verdun, 1916
Today marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I, once referred to as "the war to end all wars".

Sadly, the effect of this senseless conflict proved to be the opposite.

According to the backers of the Great War Project, it "devastated much of Europe, killed some 10 million people, ended empires, gave birth to new nations, sparked conflicts from France to Persia and from Russia to the Pacific islands, created the conditions leading to World War II a generation later, and helped make the United States the preeminent global power. Yet it settled nothing, and many of the conflicts from Europe to the Middle East and beyond still simmer to this day."

What I find even more tragic is that supposedly Christian leaders on both sides urged their congregants to offer their lives in this crusade to preserve civilization and to avoid being subjugated by a vicious and evil enemy.

An extreme example was that of Arthur Winnington-Ingram, the bishop of London, who preached, "Everyone that loves freedom and honour … are banded in a great crusade – we cannot deny it – to kill Germans; to kill them, not for the sake of killing, but to save the world; to kill the good as well as the bad, to kill the young as well as the old, to kill those who have shown kindness to our wounded as well as those fiends who... superintended the Armenian massacres, who sank the Lusitania, and who turned the machine-guns on the civilians of Aerschott and Louvain – and to kill them lest the civilisation of the world itself be killed... I look upon it as a war for purity, and everyone who dies in it as a martyr."

One horrific result of this kind of call to human slaughter was the infamous Battle of the Somme. Five months of fighting there left 622,221 British and French troops killed, wounded, missing, or taken prisoner — all for the sake of a gain of six miles of territory. An estimated 465,000 German troops died, making a total of over a million casualties in that battle alone.

Are we humans capable of learning that wars, rather than settling conflicts, most often contain the seeds of future ones, each potentially becoming ever more brutal and inhumane?
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