The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month

Armistice. While less than 90 years ago, perhaps more ages have come and gone since than did before it. 1918. Women could not vote. A railroad carriage. Joseph F. Smith, Hyrum’s son, had one week left to live. The beginnings of peace. Gordon Hinckley was eight years old.

Consider those whose name adorns this day. The killers and the killed.

It was a new war with new ways to die. Fritz Haber invented an industrial method for manufacturing chlorine gas. The old ways, too, remained. Ten more years until penicillin.

They are martyrs for our freedom. But, was it our freedom that was bought with such a price? 15.1 million dead and it was just the beginning.

There are poignant stories of the quick and the brave. I also have this hope – that the Lord shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

[Previously published on November 11, 2006]

Comments

  1. And the winners made sure the losers would bring WWII. Not that they could see the future, but they weren’t thinking of anything other than retribution.

  2. I grew up with stories of WWI, Flanders Field, the Somme. I studied it at school. Now I am in Vienna again, the city of Frank Josef and Franz Ferdinand.

    I still don’t know why 15 million people died in the Great War or what freedom they were protecting.

    We remember them, but above all, we remember the folly and devastation of war that spilled their blood and made the poppies a deeper hue of red.

    ****

    And now…3000 coalition troops dead in Iraq. Tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians.

    And next…?

  3. Kevin Barney says:

    I enjoyed last year’s Joyeux Noel, which was about how the soldiers sang Christmas carols together. With Christmas fast approaching, that might be one to put on your viewing list.

    (I also liked “A Very Long Engagement,” which was set in the Great War, but then, of course I did, since it starred Audrey Tautou.

  4. Ronan,

    Your English-ness is showing.

    Nobody in the U.S. grows up hearing anything of World War I, and wouldn’t know Franz Ferdinand from Ferdinand the Bull. And nobody knows why all those British politicians appearing on the TV these past few days are wearing red poppies.

    Maybe if GW Bush had known, or if he had heard of the 20,000 lost in the first day of the Somme, or of the useless slaughters at Passchendaele, Ypres (how many times?), Gallipoli (ok, I know they were all colonials), Verdun (ditto–they were French), maybe he wouldn’t have been so gung-ho about starting a war in Iraq.

  5. Re: #3, look for John McCutcheon’s “Christmas in the Trenches”at iTunes or somewhere. It’s the same story, in a song.

  6. Mark,
    Which makes Tony Blair Satan incarnate, doesn’t it? What the hell is his excuse?

  7. It’s hard to understand how card carrying Mormons can go to the Temple month after month and year after year and listen to that drama about the treasures of the earth and the buying up armies etc. and reigning over the earth in blood and horror and then continue voting for the status quo.

  8. gate, to be fair, the Book of Mormon is replete with support for the righteous war. You may feel that it is wrong, but there are many good people who feel differently.

  9. No, Stapley, gate’s got us dead to rights. I support this war because I’m Satan incarnate. I should surrender my recommend, I suppose.

    Also, today is Corduroy Appreciation Day.

  10. You better make sure that your war is righteous. As the inspectors were in Iraq at the time and reported that they could finally work unimpeded there was no reason to go to war, much less a righteous one.

    By the way, I have never heard any political leader proclaim an unrighteous war. Somehow all wars are righteous when they begin.

  11. I guess I should have thought of that.

  12. Molly Bennion says:

    Since the Lord could just take care of identifying us in due time for temple work, I’ve always seen the greatest benefit of geneology that of personalizing history. Still in his teens, my Scottish great uncle died at Flanders. An American great uncle missed dying on the front lines in France by a fluke. Just before a battle that killed his entire unit, he was pulled out to the rear to care for horses, as he had cared for them on the farm. Family stories send us to the history books and to deeper thought about war.

  13. In case you missed this interesting story on NPR about an independent researcher who travels the country recording interviews with the remaining WWI veterans, it’s here.

  14. They are martyrs for our freedom.

    Interesting philosophical point–a martyr is typically described someone who is killed for their beliefs. Yet many of those who fought and died in the World Wars were draftees.

    It wasn’t really about their beliefs, they merely had no choice but to go and fight.

  15. Martyrs or not, what really gets me that there are still homeless Vietnam veterans disabled by PTSD. . . . and there still is not enough capacity to treat PTSD of the Iraq occupation force.

  16. Re #2

    And now…3000 coalition troops dead in Iraq. Tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians.

    I’m sure there have been at least over 100,000 Iraqi civilians, either in violent deaths or due to the collapse of the infrastructure. The study published in the Lancet recently was compelling, and the methodological details the authors were provided were so well documented that I am sure they will be used as a standard by epidemiology instructors for years to come. I personally know one of the referees for the article, and he is quite conservative sociopolitically, so I trust his objectivity–he judged that paper on its merits. Even if one accepts the lower bound of the range estimate they provided, it is over 100,000 excess Iraqi deaths.

  17. We don’t believe, as a people, in what Isaiah 2:4 really says. Rather, we call the entire prophecy “millenial” and continue to wave the flag.

  18. From being mad at the government for not fortifying the troops to calling out his enemy for launching a war based on fraud and deceit, I like to think Capt. Moroni wouldn’t have put up with any of Dubya’s crap.

  19. I don’t think Capt. Moroni would have put up with the United Nations crap. As for the 3000 dead, if you can’t take that many than the West is going to go down in flames. Frankly, I will not shed a tear when that happens. Muslims at least believe in God and live their lives with that in mind. The West doesn’t believe in anything anymore – other than gluttony, vice, and sex.

  20. Jettboy,
    I’ve heard it argued that these Qaida types could do with a little more sex, at least with women. After all, their dream is of the virgins in heaven. Clearly their mind is on sex.

  21. You won’t shed a tear if the west burns in flames? You are neither Christian or a brother.

  22. Muslims at least believe in God and live their lives with that in mind.

    eh… I’m not convinced that their display of zealotry is any more sincere than the displays of zealotry offered up by the most public of Christians. It’s all a big show while in their backrooms at night they are downloading just as much porn as the westerners. You know the drill about how the most self-righteous ministers are typically the ones with the worst skeletons in their closets.

  23. Please don’t make enemies of the millions upon millions of peaceful, gentle, intelligent, wise, and hardworking Muslims in the world who are our natural allies. How many Islamic families are you friends with? I know one as neighbors, another as dear friends, and several more as coworkers. They are all excellent, good people, and I believe they are the norm. When people over and over seem to equate Islam with violence and extremism, they are doing themselves and our country a great disservice. It’s about as smart as equating Mormons with the Mountain Meadows Massacre, that we must therefore be a violent and unstable religion.

  24. Steve Evans says:

    Ryan, you of course have not a shred of evidence for the outrageous claims against Muslims you make in your comment 22, aside from transposing the hypocrisy of American Christians. I would retract that remark if I were you, as it’s little more than highly insulting and completely ignorant.

  25. Steve,

    Your bias is showing. Ryan’s comment would certainly be over the top if it were applied to all Muslims–not just the overzealous types. And what about the context of his comment? He was responding to Jettboy’s rather outlandish statement about the west. Why don’t you challenge Jettboy’s perception of the west? You know–nothing but gluttony, vice, and sex?

  26. Just as WWI set the stage for WWII, WWI and WWII set the stage for the messes in the Middle East we have now. Only God knows what wars we’re setting the stage for now. How about a “peace to end all peaces?”

  27. Why should I honor those that serve Satan (something about buying up armies and navies to oppress)?

    God gave us the 10 commandments including “thou shalt not murder”. He is the only one that has the authority to override these commands (think Nephi and Laban).

    Has God, via His prophets, approved this slaughter? Without moral authority aren’t those that “make war” guilty of murder, attempted murder, or accomplice to murder?

  28. Steve Evans says:

    Jack, is Jettboy’s commentary on the West worth debunking? I thought it so extreme a stereotype that I didn’t bother. That doesn’t make Ryan right, though — not by a long shot. In terms of hypocrisy, I’ll take the overzealous muslim over the overzealous Christian any day of the week.

  29. ed, consider reading the First Presidency message on the culpability of those in war…and consider repenting.

  30. So the big question is, “How do we fix it?” What are we supposed to do about this war? and all wars? What is it that “the enemy”(meant to be read as “terrorists” NOT muslims) need so that they can live happy peaceful lives? I just don’t see any way that we can baby Al-Qaida into peace. They are driven by hate and what they want we cannot give to them. I think that is why many people are fighting in this war, because there is no easy answer. I wish there was peace, I desperately do, but I just don’t know how to bring them to peace when that is not what they seem to want.

  31. Jettboy, the West believes in tolerance, equality, and freedom.

    Just because people are not willing to accept the self-inflicted disaster in Iraq, does not mean that we lack the fortitude to defend liberty.

    Because of liberal democracy, you can be Mormon in Europe and Catholic in the USA. Because of liberal democracy, the life expectancy of my children is longer than ever before. Because of liberal democracy, we are wealthier than ever before. Because of liberal democracy, our armed forces are more powerful than anyone else’s.

    The only reason why we enjoy all these benefits is because whatever shortcomings western governments have, they work. Unfortunately, most of our Muslim siblings do not enjoy the benefits of effective governments. That is the root cause of the inequality between Westerners and Arabs.

    Therefore, I cannot understand your complaint about the weakness of the West. In truth, the relative strength of Westerners and Muslim zealots is reverse. They are confined to crime and cruelty.

    No matter how intensely Muslims worship, they have reason to begrudge Western governments and societies. And they do.

    However deadly, Islamic terrorism is in no position to defeat the western powers. It never will be unless we surrender our values when we overreact to the provocations of zealots.

    Have faith. Abandon the fear. Democracy still works. As long as we are faithful to Western values, we will prevail.

    That’s what Franklin Roosevelt meant when he said that we have nothing to fear than fear itself. That applied during the Great Depression and World War II and applies even more when you are fighting fear mongers.

  32. Steve Evans says:

    Hellmut, see my comment #29.

  33. You know, I would rather a people have faith in God than all those other things you say are so great. The only part of your argument I agree with is that a Muslim society is far less free to believe what they want. As such, I will never be able to move to a Muslim society where God comes before all else. At the same time, I am stuck in a “Christian” society that doesn’t believe in its own faith, and laughs and taunts those that do.

    What is long life, wealth, and security when most people are unrepentant sinners and faithless? There is nothing to save. Many have said what I said was hyperbole. Perhaps at this time it is. However, as soon as the Muslim nations get nuclear warheads then it is all over. They don’t even need that really. All they need is a lot of people pouring into the battlefield with nothing to lose – and everything to gain. Not only that, but they have enough resources that the West cannot function completely without them. Most important of all is that the Muslim nations have resolve that the West has lost in their fantasy “perfect world without violence” dreams.

  34. Also in 1918, an influenza pandemic began which would kill around 50 to 100 million. That outbreak is comparable to the current experience with SARS and West Nile virus to about the same extent that WWI is comparable to current U.S. military involvement. Based on the sequence he laid out, the answer to Ronan’s question (comment #2) “And next … ?” would be a few dozen dead.

  35. Because of liberal democracy, the life expectancy of my children is longer than ever before.

    Do you have data to support that assertion? Because the last time I checked, the infant mortality rate was much more favorable in Cuba than the U.S. It may have changed recently, but was certainly true for more than a decade up until 2003 or so.

    Because of liberal democracy, we are wealthier than ever before.

    I am not so sure about this. Income per se may be high, but that does not make someone wealthy. So many USAmericans do not have health insurance, and thus are one ER visit away from bankruptcy. The single most common reason for personal bankruptcy is medical bills.

    I appreciate that countries that do have effective healthcare systems, such as Canada, Australia and Great Britain, are also democracies, but I don’t think the USAmerican way of life is much to brag about.

  36. Ronan,

    Finally, to your number 6:

    Maybe Tony Blair also studied too many of those nasty little Colonial wars fought by the British in the 19th century, where the numbers involved were small, the outcomes all ultimately favorable, the white man’s burdens always carried off triumphantly, and the deaths of the brave British soldiers (as Gordon’s in Khartoum) glorious. Perhaps Blair saw himself another Churchill at Omdurman, or even a Lawrence–just a bit to the northeast.

  37. Naismith, I believe he was speaking of Liberal Democracy qua Occident, not US. There has been research to show that the more “democratic the society” the fewer “disasters” there are within it. There will be outliers, but typically there is good reasons for them (e.g., Cuba’s economy being artificially sustained by ex-pat dollars and cheep energy on credit from ideological allies).

    I think that it is quite demonstrable that wealth is higher in democratic nations.

  38. There has been research to show that the more “democratic the society” the fewer “disasters” there are within it.

    I’d very much like to know what you are talking about as far as “research” and “disasters.”

    From where I sit, a capitalist USAmerican system seems like social Darwinism, and I see carnage all around me. Come to the ER at a teaching hospital, and meet the folks who are in pain and need help, and have no place to turn.

    I know young people too old for mom and dad’s health insurance but haven’t gotten a first real job yet, who will be in debt for their entire working career because of a car accident or diagnosis with a chronic illness (and they will never be hired by a small employer because of the pre-existing health issues.) I know student families whose medical bills for delivering a baby are having to be paid off years after any student loans. I know talented people with great ideas for starting a business, who can’t give it their full attention because they have to keep their job with the state or school system so that they have reliable health care for a family member with a condition.

    And don’t even get me started on folks whose problems happen to be with their brain rather than a limb or organ. In my state, it is very difficult for adults to get any mental health treatment without private health insurance, and they can’t get private health insurance without having a job, and they can’t get a job without treatment for their disorders, and so on in a vicious cycle. So the prisons and homeless shelters serve as defacto mental health treatment facilities.

    You may be correct that wealth is higher in Democratic nations, but that would include places like Germany, UK, etc. where health care is a given. In those places, one really can keep one’s income. By contrast, in the US, where health insurance is most often job related if available at all, we are all very vulnerable, until we reach age 65.

  39. Naismith, Ronan, et al,

    Mt grandfather was at the Somme, Vimy Ridge, and other WWI battles. I know what he fought for – he told me. I know how he cared about the enemy, but he knew which side was right.

    My father fought in WWII and was at every major battle in Italy. I know why he fought and what he fought for – he told me. He too cared about the enemy, but he knew which side was right.

    My 3rd great-grandfather was one of the Boston Tea Party. I know why he did what he did – we all do.
    My 2nd great-grandfather fought in the Civil War on the side of the North. He knew what was right and who was right on the issue of slavery.

    My ancestors came over on the Mayflower, and some shortly afterwards. They came because they sought freedom to worship as they chose. What a dumb place to come to – right?

    I have relatives on my mother’s side who came over here at the end of WWI from Holland. Can’t imagine why?
    Things aren’t perfect in the United States and Great Britain – name one place in the world where they are – but I’ll tell you now, they are a damned sight better than most any other place in the world you might choose to live. The mere fact that you can travel, worship, and work where you choose is a testament to those who sacrificed before. We all know what sacrifices you are prepared to make – French style.

    And for those who choose to be politically correct, do some serious homework. Take a look at Lebanon, and what is going on there right now, and you will see the future.
    Whoever wins that battle . . . wins.

  40. There is the democratic peace theory, which is widely published on. You have Amartya Sen’s stuff on famine. There is some as of yet unpublished stuff on the democratic response to all types of disasters by my brother Craig.

    Are you saying that someone in N. Korea or Burma have more wealth and access to better care? Sure there are some holes in the US safety net, but in real terms even the poorest Americans have a tremendous amount of wealth.

  41. Steve Evans says:

    Larry: “Things aren’t perfect in the United States and Great Britain – name one place in the world where they are”

    Canada.

    Thank you! You’ve been great. I’ll be here all week, try the veal, it’s spectacular.

  42. Steve,

    Did you just quote Shrek 1? After he beats up all the knights?

  43. Though I have not yet heard the explanations of your forbears, Larry, I expect that I am more likely to agree with your father than your grandfather. It is very difficult to sustain ethical arguments about World War I.

  44. May I add the domestic peace argument by people like Rudi Rummel to your list, Jeff? Rummel and many others document that democratic governments are less likely to kill their residents than their autocratic counterparts.

  45. bbell, Shrek was quoting a tradition of hack stand-up comedian sign-off lines. Believe me, I wasn’t meaning to quote Shrek itself.

  46. Hellmut,

    The argument about WWI is debatable – see J. Reuben Clark. He also maintains that those who drafted the Treaty of Versailles knew that they were precipitating WWII.

    My point should be that for the ordinary soldier the perspective was different than the elites who create war. They knew what they were fighting for, and what they were fighting against. For them it was freedom.

    Steve,

    As a fellow Canadian I can tell you must be on something other than veal.

  47. Are you saying that someone in N. Korea or Burma have more wealth and access to better care?

    No, but I do think that people in Costa Rica or Canada or Japan do.

    Sure there are some holes in the US safety net, but in real terms even the poorest Americans have a tremendous amount of wealth.

    I am not so sure about that, by the time net worth and debt ratios are factored in. No doubt they have more toys–in our ward in Brasil, half the folks did not have a telephone or car. But is that wealth?

    I see true wealth as security. And our USAmerican way of life is so volatile. There is the capacity to really do well, but the holes that so many USAmericans fall into are much deeper than is possible in other places.

  48. Larry,

    I agree that Lebanon is an example where demographics and religion provide a example that could be where the West is headed as Demography works its magic.

    Bosnia and Kosovo also have similar lessons. Demographics are important. MAcedonia is on the list and bears watching as the percentages change demographically in that country.

    WW1 was a waste. I have a relative that died in France. If there was ever a war that needed not be fought WW1 was it.

    Steve,

    Just say it. You like Shrek?!!

  49. Total threadjack, but Naismith, those countries are democracies.

    No doubt they have more toys–in our ward in Brasil, half the folks did not have a telephone or car. But is that wealth?

    Yes. If they chose to live on less than $2.00 a day like billions on the planet, they would find out how wealthy they are.

    are much deeper than is possible in other places.

    What percentage of the world population might these other places account for? 3%?

  50. Things aren’t perfect in the United States and Great Britain – name one place in the world where they are – but I’ll tell you now, they are a damned sight better than most any other place in the world you might choose to live.

    Just curious–how many other places have you lived? I’ve lived in Germany and Brazil, and I don’t find this rhetoric to hold up upon close examination.

    You won’t convince the Dixie Chicks that we Americans are allowed to say whatever we want and work at whatever career we want.

    We all know what sacrifices you are prepared to make – French style.

    You mean like the French who fought and died in the American Revolution?

    I’m an Army veteran, so I don’t think I have to prove my patriotic credentials further. Funny thing, Larry, you bragged about your relatives yet somehow neglected to mention your own service. Which was….?

  51. bbell,

    My grandfather was wounded shortly after Vimy Ridge, went to England to recover, and then returned. The stories he told of battles, the death and destruction, the misery, and the Christmas experience always left me in awe. Whether we agree, or not, that WWI needed to be fought, the forces that brought it together are the same forces that keep this world on the verge now. They have one master, and his objectives have never changed.
    When our soldiers go into battle they have only one objective in mind, and that is to remain free. That alone is reason to honor them and the sacrifices they make.

    You are right on demographics. Now watch it spread.

    Is there a reason Steve likes Shrek?

  52. Larry, I just love how clever and insightful and subversive Shrek is. That darned ogre! With his rapier wit!

  53. Naismith,

    Very selective argument. No, I didn’t serve in the military – they wouldn’t take me for health reasons. However, I have a step-brother who retired as a major.
    If you like Brazil, then I assume you would want them to defend your freedoms. As for Germany – weren’t they the ones who received Marshall Aid? What would have been the reciprocal program had Germany won WWII?

  54. You won’t convince the Dixie Chicks that we Americans are allowed to say whatever we want and work at whatever career we want.

    Ah yes, the incident when the Dixie Chicks were dragged off of their tour bus in the dark of night then beaten and executed is ever-present in our minds. Never forget.

  55. Sorry for the threadjack, but Naismith,

    I must ask whether the standards are the same with respect to infant mortality rates. It is my understanding (which may be wrong) that the United States calculates mortality rates differently that much of the rest of the world (we include those that many other countries consider “stillborn” and as such have a lower infant mortality rate than the statistics may indicate.

    Although Wiki is not necessarily the best source, it is what I offer on short notice http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infant_mortality

  56. It’s only in the movies and in old soldiers’ tales that they fight for high principles.

    In reality, they go into battle to do right by their brother soldiers, and they kill, as Patton said, because the way to win a war is to make some other poor s.o.b. die for his country. See John Keegan, The Face of Battle.

  57. I must ask whether the standards are the same with respect to infant mortality rates. It is my understanding (which may be wrong) that the United States calculates mortality rates differently that much of the rest of the world (we include those that many other countries consider “stillborn” and as such have a lower infant mortality rate than the statistics may indicate.

    Craig, it is a very good question. You are surely correct that the data collected and rates calculated for internal use are different from place to place, depending on local custom.

    But I have always looked at the WHO (World Health Organization) data for that kind of cross-country comparison, and the epidemiologists at the WHO do attempt to standardize so that their reports offer an apples-to-apples comparison (there is very detailed methodolgical explanations available with their reports, which is fascinating reading). And the comparisons I have used, like the reports in the Wikipedia article, give rates at various ages expressed specifically in “mortality rate per 1,000 live births.”

    So are you saying that the data from the US is so limited that the WHO analysts can’t sort out the stillbirths, and thus the US number includes stillbirths there as well?

    And if so, why isn’t such data reported in enough detail by American doctors? The WHO has been using that kind of standard report for years and years, and I would think we might want to paint an accurate picture.

    Is this American arrogance to think our way is better? Or an ongoing excuse for our perennial poor showing?

  58. Mark B.,

    You must be a Democrat. What would my Dad and Grandfather know about war? After all you know more already, because you read Patton. Only Democrats know more than those who really fight on scene.

  59. in the US, where health insurance is most often job related if available at all, we are all very vulnerable, until we reach age 65.

    I know talented people with great ideas for starting a business, who can’t give it their full attention because they have to keep their job with the state or school system so that they have reliable health care

    I’m an Army veteran, so I don’t think I have to prove my patriotic credentials further.

    Hmm… I get the feeling you joined the Army for more pragmatic reasons that patriotism.

    See, for example:

    Numerous benefits are available as an Army officer to include medical and dental care, an accession bonus and educational loan repayment.

    Looks like the Army is the USAmerica (because there are so many other Americans out there to get confused with) answer to poverty.

  60. Larry,

    I’m not sure what being a Democrat or Republican or Communist for that matter have to do with my previous comment.

    And, I haven’t read Patton–I just saw the movie. If you’ll reread my comment, you’ll see a reference to John Keegan’s The Face of Battle, one of the best studies of why men fight.

    I suspect that high principles (love of freedom, love of country) may well move men to join the armed forces, but one study after another shows that when it comes to going over the top at Vimy Ridge or the Somme, or leaving the cover of the landing craft and heading onto the shore at Omaha Beach or Dieppe or wherever else men have given their lives in war, it’s loyalty to the small group–both the desire to protect his buddies in the platoon or squad and the desire not to be seen as a coward or as letting them down–that impels men to fight.

    I don’t think this impugns the integrity of those who fight, or of those who talk years afterwards about their experiences in fighting. It’s just that in the heat of the battle, it’s what has been shown as the thing that drives men.

  61. Steve Evans says:

    OK, can we go back to talking about Shrek?

  62. Larry #47

    My point should be that for the ordinary soldier the perspective was different than the elites who create war. They knew what they were fighting for, and what they were fighting against.

    Notice that your statement contradicts itself. If there is a discrepancy between the intent of elites and soldiers then the soliders don’t know what they are fighting for.

  63. My contention is that at its core WW1 was a waste. It was about Empire, Alliances, and Militarism.

    That being said France did need to be defended from the German invasion. But the invasion should not have happened in the first place.

  64. Larry #54

    As for Germany – weren’t they the ones who received Marshall Aid?

    Wikipedia’s entry on the Marshall Plan appears to be excellent. Notice that Germany is among the smaller recipients, especially once you control for population.

    According to Wikipedia, the Marshall Plan aid to Germany was also smaller than the nation’s reparation payments. I would have to double check before I accept that claim.

    The Marshall Plan was great not because it was “generous” but because it served US interests. The dilletants in the current administration could learn a lesson from Harry Truman and George Marshall.

  65. You must be a Democrat. What would my Dad and Grandfather know about war? After all you know more already, because you read Patton. Only Democrats know more than those who really fight on scene.

    These personal attacks are getting tiresome, and I am sorry that I gave into the baiting about the French. Fact is, no soldier is asked to report political party on our dog tags. John Kerry, John Murtha and Al Gore served during Vietnam and chose to be Democrats. Let’s please not pretend that Democrats never fought.

  66. “I’m an Army veteran, so I don’t think I have to prove my patriotic credentials further.”

    Hmm… I get the feeling you joined the Army for more pragmatic reasons that patriotism.

    First of all, I was not an officer. I was enlisted. Huge difference.

    And if I had joined for those reasons, why would it matter? In reality, a lot of the soldiers who fought and died in American wars have been draftees. Many of them have not even been citizens. Does that somehow make their sacrifices less?

    In my case, I was covered under my parents’ health insurance until age 25, so that was not an issue.

    My motivation was something that I think more of civic duty than patriotism (partly because folks like Toby Keith have given “patriotism” such a negative connotation). I had read Heinlein’s STARSHIP TROOPERS, which describes a society in which only veterans are allowed to vote or hold office. That made sense to me.

    Also, my family has a history of military service. Both my mom and dad served in WWII. I have a brother currently serving in Iraq.

  67. …wherever else men have given their lives in war, it’s loyalty to the small group–both the desire to protect his buddies in the platoon or squad and the desire not to be seen as a coward or as letting them down–that impels men to fight.

    And also turning back to the earlier comments on Vietnam vets and PTSD, I have to say that the one thing that I like about the way the Iraq war is being handled is that units are being kept together, rather than the revolving-door, spare-part strategy used in Vietnam.

    In the earlier wars of the last century, soldiers were formed into units and then shipped out as a group, staying together as a group. This is why Spencer W. Kimball was drafted, but never served–there weren’t enough men to form a unit in his area. I have in-laws from Utah who served with their brothers and cousins during WWII, staying together the entire time, which allowed support in the gospel, trusting each other, and caring about each other as described above.

    In Vietnam, there was no attempt to do that. New recruits came in, and people didn’t try to get to know them, because the chances of a greenie dying in the first two weeks was so high, why bother? Your best friends were constantly leaving. And it was much less likely that you would see your buddies after the war, so there was nobody to discuss things with later.

    This decreased the esprit de corps that is such a strong motivator, and increased rates of PTSD in the years to come.

    At least in Iraq, many units are being kept together. My brother already knows his personnel, their strengths and weaknesses, because he’s trained with them for years. They’ll be there for him when they all go home.

    It’s a much more civilized way to run a war, if that’s not an oxymoron.

  68. Mark B.,

    What you say is correct in the heat of battle. It also reveals itself in athletic endeavours.
    What motivates them in the beginning differs, I suppose, from soldier to soldier. Some enlisted just to get away from their mothers according to a study done here in Canada (re:WWII).
    In the end, though, the overarching reality to us who live on, is that they preserved for us the freedoms we enjoy. For that we owe their service deep gratitude, in spite of the conditions to which we have allowed our countries to fall. They are still better than most, if not all, other parts of the world.

    Hellmut,

    There is no contradiction in what I said, only in your interpretation.
    As for your comments on the Marshall Plan being great because it served U.S. interests, would you care to elaborate.

    Naismith,

    My apologies for the caricature. If your example of loyal service is Gore and Kerry well . . .
    Murtha I will give you.

  69. #30 First Presidency Statement. Perfect.

    This reminds me of an excerpt from one of my chapters comparing the concurrent rise of the “inerrancy” and “indulgence” doctrines in the Holy Catholic church with their Christian crusades:

    “When individuals chose, despite changing church doctrine, to remain conscientious objectors to state sponsored wars and crusades, the concomitant doctrine of inerrancy and infallibility was also becoming increasingly entrenched. The inerrancy and infallibility of the Pope allowed among others things a central authority that could decide for all Christians whether a war was justifiable without requiring them to give any thought to choosing for themselves. Moreover, to take any path other then a Pope endorsed policy was subject to recriminations and even condemnation. With this official and then increasing acceptance of inerrancy came the final coup de grace—“Indulgences for Fighting the Heathen, 878” issued by inerrant Pope John VIII:

    “Those who have recently died in war fighting in the defense of the church of God and for the preservation of the Christian religion and of the state, or those who may in the future fall in the same cause, may obtain indulgence of their sins. We confidently reply that those who out of love of the Christian religion, shall die in battle fighting bravely against pagans or unbelievers, shall receive eternal life.”

    The Christian soldier now was not only forgiven his sins, but he was promised paradise for his state service in slaying unbelievers. In 1095 Pope Urban II at the Council of Claremont inspired the first Crusade to free the Holy Lands from pagans:

    “All who die in battle against the pagan, shall have immediate remission of sins. This I grant through the power of God with which I am invested.”

    Onward Christian Soliders!

  70. For the love of God, people. Must we fight on Veterans Day?

  71. #72…actually “fighting” is the tradition we enshrine this day. Carry on.

    I think the exchange and robust debate is healthy and needed. It begins IMO with recognizing that the 12th Article of Faith does NOT require us to pledge allegiance to any war our particular host nations requires us to support. Our right to follow our conscience trumps the general rule (12th Article of Faith). With each conscience we begin to “beat” these swords into plowshares. I personally consider our wars from Viet Nam forward to be founded on deceit leading to murder, and in the words of Tolstoy the fact that the state endorses it or that we do it as a large group does not remove the stain from each of us personally. http://themormonworker.wordpress.com/2009/02/02/the-12th-article-of-faith-not-to-be-used-as-an-excuse-for-murder/

  72. I really fail to see why we should feel anything but sorrow for those who were manipulated to fight and murder their fellow man by plutocrats and evil men in high places.

    General Smedley Butler called the whole mess a racket:

    “War is a racket always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.

    A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of people. Only a small “inside” group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.

    In the World War a mere handful garnered the profits of the conflict. At least 21,000 new millionaires and billionaires were made in the United States during the World War. That many admitted their huge blood gains in their income tax returns. How many other war millionaires falsified their income tax returns no one knows.

    How many of these war millionaires shouldered a rifle? How many of them dug a trench? How many of them knew what it meant to go hungry in a rat-infested dugout? How many of them spent sleepless, frightened nights, ducking shells and shrapnel and machine gun bullets? How many of them parried the bayonet thrust of an enemy? How many of them were wounded or killed in battle?

    Out of war nations acquire additional territory, if they are victorious. They just take it. This newly acquired territory promptly is exploited by the few -the self-same few who wrung dollars out of blood in the war. The general public shoulders the bill. And what is this bill?

    This bill renders a horrible accounting. Newly placed gravestones. Mangled bodies. Shattered minds. Broken hearts and homes. Economic instability. Depression and all its attendant miseries. Back-breaking taxation for generations and generations.”

    or for those of you more poetically inclined I suggest we remember Wilfred Owens great words and poems

    “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
    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”.
    Wilfred Owen

  73. And not ALL Americans sleep through World History. Some of us actually know about WWI.

    Even if we are democratic. Loosely speaking.

  74. I’ll keep this personal. My grandfather was a doughboy. He survived the war, barely, having been on the receiving end of some nasty chemical warfare.

    Having been gassed in some muddy trench in northern France, his health was permanently damaged. He died before I was born, when he was younger than I am now.

    I never knew my grandfather. And that’s one very personal reason I hate war.

  75. I agree that WW! was a total waste. That being said what was the French government supposed to do in 1914 when the German military marched across the border? Surrender? That did not work out to well for them in 1940

    Furthermore many times Esp during WW2 bad people need to be defeated. This is why most people find pacifism to be misguided. Like in WW2 or if you are the French government in 1914 or if you are a slave in 1860. The pacifist finds it easy to be a pacifist after somebody else has already fought to defend the pacifist.

  76. I once heard the saying “Fighting for peace is about as effective as f—ing for chastity”. While it rings especially true for preemptive attacks with fuzzy motive (such as Iraq) or fighting a war with fuzzy goals and strategy (Vietnam), it leaves one without a workable solution for those on the defensive side of an attack (WWII).

    When a nation is faced with a determined aggressor, the only way to find peace is to destroy the enemy’s capability or will to fight. The gap from point A to point B will invariably require soldiers and civilians dying. We have not yet found any other way to get there. Until we do thank God for the soldiers who have made and continue to make that sacrifice.

  77. Annie St. John says:

    I see a number of commenters waxing lyric about World War 2. Don’t forget that seven out of every eight Germans killed met their demise on the Eastern Front. The Soviet Union, to a very large extent, won WWII.

  78. Ron Madson says:

    Steve_G,

    Good points. However, I would disagree that “we have not yet found any other way” yet. I believe we have the way but we really do not believe it. Peacemaking involves determined pacifism. But real pacifism is anything but “passive.” It is very, very aggressive and pro-active when properly applied. Take modern day Israel for example. They hold the solution in their hands but they continue to choose the zealot option rather then the Christ option of defeating their enemies with love. Sound ridiculous doesn’t it. Anyway, I know it is not kosher to link one’s posts but this topic is too important for me not to. Here is my suggestion as to telling those voices that say “there is no other way” that in fact there is starting with the seemingly most insolvable area of the world: http://themormonworker.wordpress.com/2009/01/06/what-would-you-do-if-you-were-the-israeli-pm/

  79. 79, when one side kills most of their prisoners it sort of skews the statistics. But the point is taken Russia bore the brunt of the German war machine longer than the rest. But for some reason I thought Japan was involved in WW2 as well. Although if you read the wiki page on the Soviet invasion of Manchuria it reads in a way to credit the Russians with the Japanese surrender too.

  80. 81 — The USSR beat the Nazis if anybody did. The Ostfront makes the Western Front look like a picnic. But the Soviets were not decisive in the Pacific War, declaring war on Japan only after the atomic bombs had been dropped, and only so they could snatch the Kuril Islands. The Japanese only surrendered under the belief that the US could continue dropping atomic bombs on them every week until their people were obliterated, along with the Emperor taking the indecision that made among the military leaders to claim divine authority on behalf of the Japanese people to take command and order the surrender. It very nearly went the other way, with the Japanese commanders ordering their people to fight to the last civilian life — Saipan writ large.

    War is Hell. Nobody understands that more than those who fight in them. I look forward to the day they are no longer necessary.

  81. 81 Your comment exposes a vast quantity of ignorance. I’d suggest that you go read some books about the war (skip Tom Brokaw and Stephen Ambrose) and then come back and try again.

  82. Ron (80)

    Thanks for the link your essay was very good and gives me something to think about. Certainly the cause of Germany’s pre-WW2 grievances were a result their treatment post-WW1. Had the world treated them with an outpouring of love afterward, perhaps WW2 in Europe might have been unnecessary, as the extremists wouldn’t have had an argument for power.

    On the other hand, I ‘m not so sure it works as well for WW2 Japan. Manifest destiny was the motive. An outpouring of support there may have simply fed into that nation’s meglomanic thirstings. I am very interested to listen if you disagree however.

  83. 83, you might want to put your gun on safe.
    T of F? The Russians did bear most of the brunt.
    T of F? The Russians did do most of the killing (including prisoners).
    T of F? Japan was involved in WW2 (contradicting the assertion above that Russian won WW2 even though they were pretty much “only” involved in Europe)
    T of F? The wiki page does seem to bizarrely suggest that the Soviets are a primary reason for Japan’s surrender.

  84. teehee… of = or

  85. I’m still with Kevin Barney on all guns literally being beaten into plowshares for the Church Farms. :) Viva la peacemakers!

  86. Annie St. John says:

    I disagree with Blain @ 82. For the bulk of WWII, Russia and Japan had a nonagression pact in spite of them being on different sidesw; this was necessary because Russia and Japan shared a border in Manchuria as well as on Sakhalin Island (the northernmost Japanese island.)

    Now, back to the bomb. The Americans targeted Hiroshima and Nagasaki because both cities were among the very few (4) that weren’t already completely destroyed because they had no military value. Bombing anywhere else would just have made the rubble bounce. Nagasaki was bombed on Aug. 9th.

    On Aug. 11th, Russia invaded the Japanese half of Sakhalin Island. Japan surrendered on Aug. 15th.

    Because Japan was already pretty much entirely rubble, the feeling of many historians is that two more cities pulverized didn’t make that big of a difference. You may remember that firebombing Dresden just made the Germans madder.

    The Japanese surrendered only after Russia actually invaded. So, yeah; Russia pushed that one over the finish line too.

  87. Eric Russell says:

    Holy nutterfest.

  88. Laurence Vance had a good article today as well on thanking vets called “Why thank a vet?” Money quote below:

    “Why should we call them heroes, give them military discounts, grant them veterans preference, express our support for them with ribbons on our cars, honor them with a holiday, hold military appreciation church services for them, and thank them for their “service”?

    Veterans Day began as Armistice Day to commemorate the signing of the armistice that ended World War I. It had nothing to do with honoring current and former members of the military like Veterans Day is celebrated today…

    Britain’s last World War I combat veteran, Harry Patch, died last year at the age of 111. He boasted that he hadn’t killed anyone in combat. “War isn’t worth one life,” Patch said, it is “calculated and condoned slaughter of human beings.” In his autobiography The Last Fighting Tommy, Patch wrote that “politicians who took us to war should have been given the guns and told to settle their differences themselves, instead of organising nothing better than legalised mass murder.” In the last years of his life, Patch warned some young naval recruits that they shouldn’t join.”

  89. “Nobody in the U.S. grows up hearing anything of World War I, and wouldn’t know Franz Ferdinand from Ferdinand the Bull.”

    Not so. I’m American and I know Franz Ferdinand. In fact, I think Franz Ferdinand is one of the better bands to emerge in the last five years. “Take Me Out” is particularly good.

  90. Annie St. John says:

    On to comment 1; in 1918 Germany signed a treaty with Russia, allowing Russia to exit WWI– the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. In this treaty, Germany was supposed to receive, from Russia, about the same amount of war reparations that Germany was later forced to pay in the Treaty of Versailles that ended WWI. Yes, the reparations from Germany were high, but Germany itself set the standard.

    Of course, Russia weaseled out of paying all but a fraction of the amount by having a revolution, but still.

  91. Eric Russell says:

    And then Madson here goes and tops the list.

  92. glad to oblige Eric.

  93. Eric

    rather than quote others, let me make clear my thoughts. I dont think there was anything particularly honorable or good about WWI. The nations of Europe gave up a generation of young men for redrawn borders and the honor of a few noblemen. These young men were sacrificial victims offered on the altars by men who instead of offering the Ram of Pride, refused and instead slew half the seed of Europe, one by one.

    If its nutty to think WWI a complete and utter waste and a tragedy to be mourned then count me a nut. If it is insane to count yourself with those on the 11th hour of the the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 who had fought in The Great War and swore it would never happen again, then i count myself nuts.

    I know its not considered ok to rail against the evils of war in these parts, but as long as we keep making excuses for war and calling them justified we will likely never see our swords beat into plowshares. We have witnessed some of the worst violence in history in the past century and we are now engaged in the longest war in US history where the President claims authority to torture, kill US citizens absent trial, and manless drones named reaper kill innocents on a daily basis. Im sorry but its getting harder and harder to stomach the death and mayhem done to others.

  94. re # 95, I think I agree that WWI was truly an unjust war. As you say, it was the callous result of outdated and out-of-touch nobilities pursuing nineteenth-century bellicose aims with twentieth century technology and an industrialized economy and working class to pull it off.

    Something to think about from The Magus (1966, p. 127):

    “Then we were running towards the village. We came into what must have been once a street. Desolation. Rubble, fragments of plastered wall, broken rafters, the yellow splashes of lyddite everywhere. The drizzle that had started again gleaming on the stones. On the skin of corpses. Many Germans had been caught in the houses. In one minute I saw a summary of the whole butcher’s shop of war. The blood, the gaping holes, the bone sticking out of flesh, the stench of burst intestines — I am telling you this only because the effect on me, a boy who had never seen even a peacefully dead body before that day, was one I should never have predicted. It was not nausea and terror. I saw several men being sick, but I was not. It was an intense new conviction. Nothing could justify this. It was a thousand times better that England should be a Prussian colony. One reads that such scenes give the green soldier nothing but a mad lust to kill in his turn. But I had exactly the contrary feeling. I had a mad lust not to be killed.”

    I do not necessarily think that this would hold true for WWII though.

  95. Eric, are you saying that disagreement with the notion that WWI was an unalloyed good is a sign of mental illness? Is this view based on your own experience with serving in a war?

  96. bbell,

    #77,

    I agree that WW! was a total waste. That being said what was the French government supposed to do in 1914 when the German military marched across the border? Surrender? That did not work out to well for them in 1940

    How little you seem to know of the history of World War I. It’s not like the French were innocent and overrun by an aggressive German military that wanted to destroy the French. The French were waiting for the Germans along with a large group of British soldiers. If not for the British soldiers, the Germans would have actually made it into France and won the war quickly.

    Stop being stuck in 1939, bbell. Not everything is about the Nazis.

  97. J Madson,

    I know its not considered ok to rail against the evils of war in these parts, but as long as we keep making excuses for war and calling them justified we will likely never see our swords beat into plowshares. We have witnessed some of the worst violence in history in the past century and we are now engaged in the longest war in US history where the President claims authority to torture, kill US citizens absent trial, and manless drones named reaper kill innocents on a daily basis. Im sorry but its getting harder and harder to stomach the death and mayhem done to others.

    Well said.

  98. John Mansfield says:

    Regarding the USSR at war with Japan, according to David McCullough’s Truman biography, the prinicpal aim Truman sought at the Pottsdam conference was for Stalin to follow through with his agreement at Yalta to enter the war against Japan following Germany’s defeat, and Truman was very happy about accomplishing that. The timeline was: May 8, Germany surrendered. July 26, Pottsdam Declaration (“The alternative [to surrender] for Japan is prompt and utter destruction.”) Aug. 6, Hiroshima. Aug. 8, USSR declared was on Japan. Aug. 9, Nagaski. Aug. 15, Japan surrendered.

    My opinion is that being about to receive the attention of Soviet forces then freed up by victory against Germany factored even larger in Japan’s choice to surrender than the atomic bombs.

  99. John Mansfield,

    Gotta give lots of credit to Truman for deftly managing the Soviet Union with the end of the war in Europe, making them turn their attention immediately to Japan way on the other side of their vast country. I don’t know the details, but I bet it helped reduce Russia’s actions in Eastern Europe somewhat.

  100. It is my understanding that one of the reasons Truman dropped the A-bombs was to prevent the Russians from entering the war with Japan and getting half of Japan for the fighting there(?) Anyhow, how was a meaningful Russian Army going to get to Japan?

    I don’t see WWII having any higher moral standings/standards them WWI.

  101. Is your opinion, John Mansfield, based upon an analysis of the discussions held by the Imperial General Staff and the Emperor, or your view of the relative danger posed to Japan by the Russian Army and the U.S.A. and it’s atomic bombs? Frankly, I would be more inclined to rely on the former.

    To reply to Bob’s question, it would have been a logistical challenge of the first order to get much of the Red Army to the Far East, to say nothing of Japan. The Russians had no shipping to speak of, and the U.S. merchant fleet was busy transporting American soldiers and materiel home from Europe, and to the Far East in preparation for the invasion of Japan. So the Russians would have had to try to move all those men and their equipment by way of the Trans-Siberian Railroad. That’s a big load for one line to carry.

    But as their attack on the Japanese in Manchuria in August 1945 showed, they would not have had to transport their army across the Sea of Japan. The bulk of the Imperial Army was in China in Summer 1945, and the Russians could have fought and destroyed them there without having to make an amphibious assault on the home islands. (Because of U.S. naval and air superiority–actually, monopoly is a more accurate description of the situation in summer 1945–there’s no way that the Imperial Army in China could have been transported home to aid in the defense of the home islands.)

Trackbacks

  1. [...] I completely missed out on Corduroy Appreciation Day, celebrated on 11|11 because it is the date that most resembles corduroy. (hat tip: GST) [...]

  2. [...] I find myself in agreement with Molly Bennion: Since the Lord could just take care of identifying us in due time for temple work, I’ve always seen the greatest benefit of geneology that of personalizing history. Still in his teens, my Scottish great uncle died at Flanders. An American great uncle missed dying on the front lines in France by a fluke. Just before a battle that killed his entire unit, he was pulled out to the rear to care for horses, as he had cared for them on the farm. Family stories send us to the history books and to deeper thought about war. [...]

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