Category Archives: World War I

WW2 Veteran Says The ‘Politicised’ Red Poppy Is Used To ‘Sell’ The Government’s War On Terror

Kathryn Snowden reports for The Huffington Post:

harry leslie smith

[…] Harry Leslie Smith, a former RAF serviceman, does not wear a red poppy. He announced in 2013 that he would no longer allow his “obligation as a veteran” to be manipulated by governments to promote present-day wars.

Speaking to the Huffington Post UK, Mr Smith said: “Unfortunately, since we fell into the quagmire of the Iraq war and the ubiquitous war on terror, Armistice Day and the wearing of the poppy have been not only politicised but also commercialised.

“It is now almost a month long dirge of patriotism without context and without understanding the true cost of war.”

But the Royal British Legion maintains that the red poppy raises funds for veterans and their families and is “non-political and does not depict or support war”.


Harry Patch: Anti-War Hero

The British Legion and the Control of Remembrance

Rod Tweedy writes for Veterans for Peace UK:

With its links to the arms trade, increasingly militarised presentation of Remembrance, and growing commercialisation and corporatisation of the poppy “brand”, it’s time to reconsider whether the Royal British Legion is still suitable to be the “national custodian of Remembrance”.

My Name is Legion: The British Legion and the Control of Remembrance explores how the Royal British Legion’s status as the self-appointed “national custodian of Remembrance” has been compromised through its collaboration with some of the world’s most controversial arms dealers, its increasingly militarised presentation of Remembrance, and its commercialised and trivialising corporatisation of the poppy “brand”.

It draws on the work of a number of journalists, campaign groups, veterans, and religious organisations who have expressed concern at the direction the Legion is taking, and asks whether the charity is still fit to be the “national custodian of Remembrance”.


Puritan poppy-shamers should find a better use of their time

Simon Kelner writes for The Independent:

Poppy fascists[…] We never used to worry, or possibly even notice, whether someone was wearing a poppy or not. Now, the outcry starts weeks before Remembrance Day if anyone in public life, newsreaders and politicians especially, appears with an unfurnished lapel.

Why Sienna Miller should be subject to the same reactionary tendency is beyond me. I only wish that the actress, brave enough to take on the big media battalions over phone hacking, could have faced down those who criticised her and told them to mind their own business.

Opinions don’t need to be worn like badges, or indeed poppies.

Feeling compassion for fallen servicemen is no more noble a sentiment than supporting our fellow citizens to express their opinions without fear or favour. After all, that was one of the freedoms our soldiers were fighting for.



Kim Kardashian Tweets Selfie With Armenian Genocide Flip-Flopper Hillary Clinton

Jon Schwarz reports for The Intercept:

It turns out Kim Kardashian isn’t as politically sophisticated as I’d hoped.

Kardashian’s father Robert was Armenian, and I was impressed when she traveled to Armenia with Kanye West in a blaze of publicity this past April 24 to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the Armenian Genocide. At the same time she wrote a piece for Time describing her father’s family’s escape from Armenia and her deep disappointment that Obama had broken his iron-clad promise to call what happened there genocide.

There aren’t many celebrities who’ll stick their necks out on anything at all, so this was brave, even though it’s unlikely that talking about the Armenian Genocide will screw up your endorsement deal with Carl’s Jr.

So I’m bummed out to see Kardashian kvelling about her selfie with Hillary Clinton at a Hollywood fundraiser Thursday night. Just like President Obama, Clinton has cynically abused the trust of Armenian Americans by calling it genocide when she was looking for votes, but not when it mattered.


Sailing And Sinking The RMS Lusitania: A Century Of Lying America Into War

Doug Bandow writes for Forbes:

RMS LusitaniaThe British luxury passenger liner RMS Lusitania was torpedoed a century ago. The sinking was deemed an atrocity of war and encouraged American intervention in World War I. But the ship was carrying munitions through a war zone and left unprotected by the Royal Navy. The “Great War” was a thoroughly modern conflict, enshrouded in government lies.

Indeed, the British were propaganda pros, creating an entire “information” operation based in the U.S. dedicated to misleading America into the conflict. London began with a brilliant campaign built on the faked “Belgian atrocities” allegedly committed by the German Army. Years after the Lusitania went to the ocean’s bottom the British government still obstructed efforts to learn the truth about the ship.’


Litany of suffering: Selected mass killings in the 20th century

Litany of Suffering - Selected Mass Killings in the 20th Century

A People Expunged: Marking the 100th Anniversary of Armenian Genocide amid Ongoing Turkish Denials

‘This week marks the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide. On April 24, 1915, the Young Turk government of the Ottoman Empire began a systematic, premeditated genocide against the Armenian people — an unarmed Christian minority living under Turkish rule. An estimated 1.5 million Armenians were exterminated through direct killing, starvation, torture and forced death marches. Another million fled into permanent exile. Today, the Turkish government continues to deny this genocide, and since becoming president, President Obama has avoided using the term “genocide” to describe it. We’re joined by Peter Balakian, professor of humanities at Colgate University and author of “The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America’s Response”; Anahid Katchian, whose father was a survivor of the 1915 Armenian genocide; and Simon Maghakyan, an activist with Armenians of Colorado. We also play a recording of Armenian broadcaster and writer David Barsamian’s mother recalling her experience during the Armenian genocide as a young girl. Araxie Barsamian survived, but her parents and brothers did not.’ (Democracy Now!)

What Obama’s Refusal to Acknowledge the Armenian Genocide Tells Us About the U.S. — and the Rest of the World

Jon Schwarz writes for The Intercept:

‘[…] During Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, he explicitly promised that “as President I will recognize the Armenian Genocide.” Samantha Power, author of A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide and now Obama’s ambassador to the U.N., recorded a video urging Armenian Americans to support him because he would acknowledge the genocide: “I know [Obama] very well and he’s a person of incredible integrity. … He’s a true friend of the Armenian people, an acknowledger of the history … he’s a person who can actually be trusted.”

Obama’s commitment was quietly removed from his website sometime afterDecember 2010, and this Armenian Remembrance Day, he broke his promise for the seventh year in a row.’


The Gallipoli centenary is a shameful attempt to hide the Armenian Holocaust

Robert Fisk wrote for The Independent back in January:

An image from 1915. Turkey deported two thirds of the Armenian population; many were either killed or died of starvation during the journeyWhen world leaders, including Prince Charles and the Australian and New Zealand prime ministers, gather at Gallipoli to commemorate the First World War battle at the invitation of the Turkish government in April, the ghosts of one and half million slaughtered Christian Armenians will march with them.

For in an unprecedented act of diplomatic folly, Turkey is planning to use the 100th anniversary of the Allied attempt to invade Turkey in 1915 to smother memory of its own mass killing of the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire, the 20th century’s first semi-industrial holocaust. The Turks have already sent invitations to 102 nations to attend the Gallipoli anniversary on 24th April — on the very day when Armenia always honours its own genocide victims at the hands of Ottoman Turkey.

In an initiative which he must have known would be rejected, Turkish President Recep Erdogan even invited the Armenian President, Serge Sarkissian, to attend the Gallipoli anniversary after himself receiving an earlier request from President Sarkissian to attend ceremonies marking the Armenian genocide on the same day.

This is not just diplomatic mischief. The Turks are well aware that the Allied landings at Gallipoli began on 25th April – the day after Armenians mark the start of their genocide, which was ordered by the Turkish government of the time – and that Australia and New Zealand mark Anzac Day on the 25th.’


Gallipoli: Churchill’s Disaster

Eric Margolis writes:

One hundred years ago this month -April 1915 – the Allies and Germany were stalemated on the Western Front. Winston Churchill, the young, ambitious First Lord of the British Admiralty proposed a scheme first advanced by France’s prime minister, Aristide Briand.

The best way for Britain and France to end the stalemate and link up to their isolated ally, Russia, would be a daring “coup de main,” or surprise attack, to seize the Ottoman Empire’s Dardanelles, occupy Constantinople (today Istanbul) and knock Turkey out of the First World War. Though rickety, Austria/Hungary and the Ottoman Empire were Germany’s most important wartime ally.

Churchill’s plan was to send battleships of the British and French navies to smash their way through Turkey’ decrepit, obsolete forts along the narrow Dardanelles that connects the Aegean and Mediterranean with the Sea of Marmara, Constantinople and the Black Sea, Russia’s maritime lifeline.

This bold naval intrusion, that some predicted would rival Admiral Horatio Nelson’s dramatic attack in 1801 on Danish-Norwegian Fleet sheltered at Copenhagen, would quickly win the war and achieve for  Churchill  his ardent ambition of becoming supreme warlord.’


Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Robert Fisk, author of The Great War For Civilisation, writes for The Independent:

At seven o’clock on Thursday evening, a group of very brave men and women will gather in Taksim Square, in the centre of Istanbul, to stage an unprecedented and moving commemoration. The men and women will be both Turkish and Armenian, and they will be gathering together to remember the 1.5 million Christian Armenian men, women and children slaughtered by the Ottoman Turks in the 1915 genocide. That Armenian Holocaust – the direct precursor of the Jewish Holocaust – began 100 years ago this Thursday, only half a mile from Taksim, when the government of the time rounded up hundreds of Armenian intellectuals and writers from their homes and prepared them for death and the annihilation of their people.

The Pope has already annoyed the Turks by calling this wicked act – the most terrible massacre of the First World War – a genocide, which it was: the deliberate and planned attempt to liquidate a race of people. The Turkish government – but, thank God, not all the Turkish people – have maintained their petulant and childish denial of this fact of history on the grounds that the Armenians were not killed according to a plan (the old “chaos of war” nonsense), and that the word “genocide” was anyway coined only after the Second World War and thus cannot apply to them. On that basis, the First World War wasn’t the First World War because it wasn’t called the First World War at the time!’


100 years later, Armenian genocide still not universally accepted

Roy Gutman reports for McClatchy:

In the swank shops and tidy cafés that line the new pedestrian zone in Armenia’s capital, there’s barely a hint that nearly everyone here is the descendent of a generation that escaped with their lives in a harrowing flight from Ottoman Turkey in the midst of World War I.

On the eve of the centennial commemoration of what Armenians call Meds Yeghern, or “the great calamity,” posters featuring a violet forget-me-not and a slogan, “We remember and we demand,” dot Yerevan.

The symbol hasn’t caught on, even in government offices.

Yet Armenia, and the slaughter, is at the center of world attention as the April 24 anniversary nears.’


Anything Learned from the ‘Christmas Truce’?

Greg Maybury writes for Consortium News:

British and German soldiers exchanging headgear during the Christmas Truce of 1914. (From The Illustrated London News of Jan. 9, 1915)‘At this point in our history – and especially at this time of the year – it is perhaps instructive for us all to reflect on the following: Amid the apocalyptic destruction of the First World War which began a few months earlier, exactly 100 years ago this Christmas the combatants – all God fearin’ folks one and all – downed the tools of war for a few short, precious hours to break bread and exchange gifts with each other amid the blood, guts, smoke, fire, rubble and carnage of Hell on Earth.

It was time for them to remember when there wasn’t a war and to celebrate Christmas.

Along with being one of human history’s most jaw-dropping moments of irreducible, pitch-black, granite-thick irony, it was a singular pointer to the inarguable absurdity, futility, and ignobility of that war. Indeed, any war. The great satirist and literary misanthrope Jonathan Swift himself – he of Gulliver’s Travels – could not have dreamed this shit up. But one imagines it would not have surprised him.

Given that the war’s precipitators, promoters and the pundits infamously anticipated – and told anyone who would listen – the war would be done and dusted by Xmas, this itself adds an additional measure of tragically indelible poignancy to the proceedings. (Are there any better examples of the all too human propensity for hubris than when it comes to waging war?) With the possible exception of Armistice Day itself on Nov. 11, 1918, this was arguably the only time when it truly was All Quiet on the Western Front.’


The ‘crass insensitivity’ of Tower’s luxury dinner for arms dealers, days after poppy display

Cahal Milmo reports for The Independent:

‘The Tower of London has been accused of “crass insensitivity” by hosting a £240-a-head networking dinner for arms manufacturers days after its hugely popular sea of poppies made it the focus of the First World War commemorations.

Nearly 200 representatives of Britain’s arms industry, along with senior Ministry of Defence officials and foreign defence attachés, attended the unpublicised London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) event on Tuesday night.

The annual dinner, described by organisers as “acclaimed and influential” and a chance to “make new business connections”, was co-sponsored by Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest defence company. The Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Nicholas Houghton, was the guest of honour.

In an apparent attempt to prevent the gathering becoming a focus for protests, the venue for the LCCI Defence and Security Dinner was kept quiet. Corporate guests paying up to £3,000 per table were told they would be advised of the location “upon registration”.’


Remembrance isn’t only about those who fought, but also those who refused

RAF Veteran Harry Leslie Smith writes for The Guardian:

‘As an RAF veteran of the second world war I know that November is a cruel month for both remembering and forgetting the cost of armed conflict. During these past few days when the light grows dim, I have stumbled around London and remembered a time when, as a young man, I witnessed our capital face death from swarms of Nazi bomber planes.

In this day and age we like to impose uniformity on our past conflicts. We see them through a nostalgic lens of wartime propaganda films in which the hero gladly sacrifices his life for a green and pleasant land. But the past is not as simple or as clear-cut as our TV presenters like to suggest during Remembrance Sunday services. For every act of unique heroism we remember, we often forget or ignore all those who, because of post-traumatic stress disorder or moral or religious objections, were unwilling to put their lives on the line for king and country.’


How our governments use military charities to evade the real cost of their wars

Sam Walton writes for Ceasefire Magazine:

The names of 600,000 soldiers are engraved in alphabetical order at the The Ring of Memory international memorial, in Notre Dame de Lorette, France. (Credits: AFP)Say one thing about the British public, we will fill collecting tins for armed forces personnel. The Charities Directory lists 276 army, 188 Royal Marines and Navy, 70 RAF and 90 ex-services (military) charities in the UK, and those numbers are growing every year. The Royal British Legion is by far the biggest in terms of income, with over £100m in turnover, and shares the biggest profile with ‘Help for Heroes’. Almost all of these charities have come into existence since 1999, the majority in the past decade.

However, is the government avoiding the full cost of going to war by getting these charities to take care of soldiers after their return? If a fire-fighter, nurse or other government employee was killed or seriously injured in an industrial accident at work, the government would assume responsibility, rehabilitation and care would be provided and compensation would be paid. Surely, if a national decision is made to go to war then care for the people thrust into that war must be something that the government takes responsibility for.

Looking into some of the service personnel relief charities, their relationship to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) certainly raise some questions.’


The Tower of London poppies are glorious but let’s learn their lesson

Simon Jenkins writes for the London Evening Standard:

‘[…] The danger is that this ritualised memorial does indeed make war seem a normal, even heroic, response to world events. There is nothing in Remembrance Day that preaches caution or reconciliation, let alone sympathy for the dead in all wars. As the toll of British soldiers continues to rise — last year David Cameron even wanted to fight Syria — it is fair for Jones and others to ask what exactly these lessons are that we are supposed to be learning.

There is four years of this commemorative orgy still to come. Next year we also have the battles of Agincourt and Waterloo to remember. I wonder what we have learned from them. I prefer just to admire the poppies.’


Germany’s secret plan to invade America before WW1

George Dvorsky writes for io9:

The Secret German Scheme To Invade America Before The First World WarNearly two decades before the onset of World War I, Kaiser Wilhelm II set his imperialistic sights on the Americas. But to establish a presence there, Germany would have to put the U.S. in its place. To that end, it devised not one, but three plans to attack and invade America. Here’s how history could have unfolded very differently.

The plans for Imperial Germany’s invasion of the United States only came to light after the documents were found in 2002 at the German military archives in Freiburg. It was a remarkable and disturbing discovery, one which demonstrated the extent to which the Kaiser was willing to exert Germany’s presence onto the world — an urge that would continue well into the 20th century with the invasion of France in 1914 and the rise of Hitler’s Third Reich.’


How World War I led to modern propaganda and surveillance

John Maxwell Hamilton writes for The Washington Post:

‘Today we take for granted that information warfare — whether the disruption of other nations’ computer systems, the monitoring of citizens’ telephone calls to detect terrorist threats or the use of social media to shape foreign attitudes — is a key tool of national security. These measures, and the debates about their proper limits in a democracy, seem unprecedented because they are driven by new technologies. But virtually all our concerns about such tactics find their roots in the Great War, particularly in its first hours, when the Alert’s hatchet-wielding crew began its work.

The notion of winning the “hearts and minds” of local populations, so common to discussions of war today, played out not only abroad but at home a century ago. The unprecedented scale of World War I required mass domestic mobilization. Governments had to persuade their citizens to serve in the military or, if they stayed at home, to conserve precious resources, pay higher taxes, buy war bonds and patriotically stick with the war as it dragged bloodily along.’


Blame World War I For Whistleblower Persecution

J.D. Tuccille writes for Reason:

Edward Snowden‘Earlier this year, CNN’s Jake Tapper pointed out that the Obama administration, after bringing charges against Edward Snowden, “has used the Espionage Act more to go after whistleblowers who leaked to journalists not just than any previous administration, but then more than all previous administrations combined.” The claim was subsequently endorsed by PolitiFact as “true.” That’s a shocking use of government power to punish those who would call government officials out for their misbehavior, but hardly an unaccustomed role for for a law passed during World War I and quickly used to muzzle critics of official policy.

In fact, the “war to end all wars” left a legacy of government dominance and intrusive power in its wake that officials still exploit, and from which the country continues to suffer.’


Humanity marks WW1 anniversary with wars

From The Daily Mash:

h‘Mankind has commemorated World War One with armed conflicts around the planet.

From Eastern Europe and the Middle East to regions of Africa, humans marked the 100th anniversary of the first global conflict by shooting at each other.

A spokesman for humanity said: “If there’s one lesson we must take from our past, it’s that war is really good and always ends well. Any veteran will tell you that being in a war is pretty much the best thing they’ve done.

“Some cynics thought that traditional war motivators like religion and nationalism might fall away as we became more ‘evolved’ but I’m proud to say they are as popular as ever. And even better we’ve now got the planet’s dwindling natural resources to fight about.

“Right now it feels like there’s enough enthusiasm for war to keep it going for another hundred years or the end of civilization, whichever comes first.”’


Why WW1 was Such a Blood Bath: Interview with Adam Hochschild

Editor’s Note: In this interview Thom Hartmann talks about World War One with Adam Hochschild, journalist and co-founder of Mother Jones. Hochschild is the author of several books, among them is ‘To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918‘.

Century of Violence: What World War I Did to the Middle East

Editor’s Note: This piece was written in back January, so obviously before the turn of events involving ISIS in Iraq and Syria. 

Bernhard Zand write for Spiegel:


‘In no other theater of World War I are the results of that epochal conflict still as current as they are in the Middle East. Nowhere else does the early 20th century orgy of violence still determine political conditions to the same degree. The so-called European Civil War, a term used to describe the period of bloody violence that racked Europe from 1914 onwards, came to an end in 1945. The Cold War ceased in 1990. But the tensions unleashed on the Arab world by World War I remain as acute as ever. Essentially, the Middle East finds itself in the same situation now as Europe did following the 1919 Treaty of Versailles: standing before a map that disregards the region’s ethnic and confessional realities.

In Africa, Latin America and — following the bloodletting of World War II — Europe, most peoples have largely come to accept the borders that history has forced upon them. But not in the Middle East. The states that were founded in the region after 1914, and the borders that were drawn then, are still seen as illegitimate by many of their own citizens and by their neighbors. The legitimacy of states in the region, writes US historian David Fromkin in “A Peace to End All Peace” — the definitive work on the emergence of the modern Middle East — comes either from tradition, from the power and roots of its founder or it doesn’t come at all.’


Remembering Britain’s Conscientious Objectors

100 years since WWI, experts say shells still explosive

1914: the Great War has become a nightly pornography of violence

Simon Jenkins writes for The Guardian:

Pudles jenks war‘[…] The most sensible commemoration of any war is not to repeat it. Hence, presumably, the constant references by this week’s celebrants to “drawing lessons” and “lest we forget”. But this is mere cliche if no lessons are then drawn, or if drawn are then forgotten. The Great War centenary should indeed have been a festival of lessons. Historians have had a field day arguing over its enduring puzzle – not its conduct or its outcome, but its cause. I have come close to changing my mind with each book I have read, veering from Chris Clark’s cobweb of treaties and tripwires to the majority view that firmly blames the Kaiser and Germany. But I have read precious few lessons.

The truth is that Britain is as bad as America at learning from old wars. The American defence secretary during Vietnam, Robert McNamara, remarked that every lesson of Vietnam was ignored by the invasion of Iraq. In the past decade Britain has waged three unprovoked wars – on Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya – at a vast cost in lives and destruction, and no obvious benefit to anyone. The invasion of Afghanistan ignored the lesson of all previous conflicts in the region and is duly being lost. The truth is that “drawing lessons” has become code for celebrating victory. I doubt if any lessons will be drawn next year from the anniversaries of Agincourt (1415) or Waterloo (1815) – and certainly none from the Battle of New Orleans (1815). We will just ring bells, bake cakes and put on costumes.’


World War I Propaganda 100 Years On

From Disinfo:

3g10883u-23‘100 years ago this month, hostilities broke out in the most hellish war the world had seen at the time.  Naively, we thought that this was the “War to End All Wars,” as though the memory of atrocity and suffering were the best safeguard against it!  Here is some World War I propaganda various nations used to incite people to participate in throwing away lives for no reason. What will the propaganda inciting people to participate in throwing away lives for no reason look like in our next war?

See more propaganda on a previous post here.

Head over to WW1 for the entire collection.’


40 Maps Explaining World War I

Zack Beauchamp, Timothy B. Lee and Matthew Yglesias write for Vox:

‘One hundred years ago, on June 28, 1914, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary was assassinated by Serbian terrorists. The murder set off a chain reaction that plunged much of the world into war. The Great War killed 10 million people, redrew the map of Europe, and marked the rise of the United States as a global power. Here are 40 maps that explain the conflict — why it started, how the Allies won, and why the world has never been the same.

European alliances in 19141. European alliances in 1914

Immediately prior to the war’s outbreak in 1914, Central Europe was dominated by two powerful states: Germany to the north and its weaker cousin, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, to the South. The two countries formed the core of the Central Powers, also known as the Quadruple Alliance because they were joined after war began by Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire (modern Turkey). The other major pre-war alliance was the Triple Entente, a pact between Russia, Great Britain, and France (called the Allied Powers during the war). These alliances set the stage for a massive war: any dispute between two members of these blocs could pull in all of the others, as the treaties committed these states to defending their allies. And that’s exactly what happened.’


The Western-Imposed Partition of the Middle East Is Dead

Robert Fisk writes for The Independent:

‘“Sykes-Picot is dead,” Walid Jumblatt roared at me last night – and he may well be right. The Lebanese Druze leader – who fought in a 15-year civil war that redrew the map of Lebanon – believes that the new battles for Sunni Muslim jihadi control of northern and eastern Syria and western Iraq have finally destroyed the post-World War Anglo-French conspiracy, hatched by Mark Sykes and François Picot, which divided up the old Ottoman Middle East into Arab statelets controlled by the West.

The Islamic Caliphate of Iraq and Syria has been fought into existence – however temporarily – by al-Qa’ida-affiliated Sunni fighters who pay no attention to the artificial borders of Syria, Iraq, Lebanon or Jordan, or even mandate Palestine, created by the British and French. Their capture of the city of Mosul only emphasises the collapse of the secret partition plan which the Allies drew up in the First World War – for Mosul was sought after for its oil wealth by both Britain and France.

The entire Middle East has been haunted by the Sykes-Picot agreement, which also allowed Britain to implement Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour’s 1917 promise to give British support to the creation of a Jewish “homeland” in Palestine. Perhaps only today’s Arabs (and Israelis) fully understand the profound historical changes – and deep political significance – that the extraordinary battles of this past week have wrought on the old colonial map of the Middle East.’