How should we remember?

Poppy field on a June evening by Jeremy Bolwell is licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0

Today, here in the UK we keep a two minute silence for rememberance day, inaugurated, at least in part, to help us hold in our minds the futility and brutality of the War to End All Wars (which turned out to be wrongly named.)

Despite (or perhaps because of) the increasing historical distance from the last great war, my impression is that rememberance day in Britain is becoming a bigger deal. Celebrations are more elaborate than decades ago. Silences are held in supermarkets. Social media feeds are full of Sasson and Owen poetry and the US cult of the soldier-hero has cross the Atlantic.

I often wonder if it would be the same if there had been no second world war. Much of the modern popular cultural idea of ‘Britishness’ seems to have been defined by this conflict- the spitfires and the plucky island standing as a last bastion against oppression. We case ourselves not only as victors, but as noble warriors. As if the Empire never happened. Brexit, cast in this light, is both logical and correct. Other parts of the world have a very different idea of Britishness- after all, there are only 22 countries on the planet that we have not at some point invaded/annexed/otherwise appropriated.

This matters. Consider the amount of wars since the end of the last ‘world war’. Below is an alphabetical list, which is far from complete. Most are directly related to the mess left behind by Empires, and we had the biggest of all. (Taken from here.)

  • Afghanistan: Civil War, 1989
  • Afghanistan: Soviet Invasion, 1979–1989
  • Afghanistan: U.S. and NATO Invasion, 2001–
  • African Union conflicts
  • Albania: Civil Conflict, 1990s
  • Algeria: Fundamentalist Struggle Since 1992
  • Algeria: War of National Liberation, 1954–1962
  • Angola: First War with UNITA, 1975–1992
  • Angola: Second War with UNITA, 1992–2002
  • Angola: Struggle over Cabinda Since 1960
  • Angola: War of National Liberation, 1961–1974
  • Anticolonialism terrorism
  • ANZUS Pact
  • Arab League
  • Argentina: Dirty War, 1960s–1970s
  • Argentina: Falklands/Malvinas War, 1982
  • Armenia: Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict, 1990s
  • Bahrain: Anti-Regime Uprising, 2011
  • Bolivia: Revolution, 1952
  • Bosnia: Civil War, 1992–1995
  • Brazil: Generals’ Coup, 1964
  • Burkina Faso: Coups, 1966–1987
  • Burundi: Ethnic Strife, 1962–2006
  • C
  • Cambodia: Civil Wars, 1968–1998
  • Cambodia: U.S. Interventions, 1969–1973
  • Cambodia: Vietnamese Invasion, 1978–1979
  • Canada: Quebec Separatist Movement, 1960–1987
  • Central African Republic: Coups Since 1966
  • Central Treaty Organization (Baghdad Pact)
  • Chad: Civil Wars, 1960s–2000s
  • Chad: War with Libya, 1986–1987
  • Chile: Coup Against Allende, 1973
  • China: Border Clash with the Soviet Union, 1969
  • China: Border War with India, 1962
  • China: Civil War/Revolution, 1927–1949
  • China: Invasion of Tibet, 1950–1959
  • China: Quemoy and Matsu, 1954–1958
  • China: Tiananmen Violence, 1989
  • China: War with Vietnam, 1979
  • Cold War Confrontations
  • Colombia: Internal Insurgencies, 1970s–2000s
  • Comoros: Coups, 1980s
  • Congo, Democratic Republic of: Invasions and Internal Strife Since 1998
  • Congo, Democratic Republic of: Kabila Uprising, 1996–1997
  • Congo, Democratic Republic of: Post-Independence Wars, 1960–1965
  • Congo, Republic of: Civil Conflict, 1997
  • Coups
  • Croatia: War with Serbia, 1991–1995
  • Cuba: Bay of Pigs Invasion, 1961
  • Cuba: Communist Revolution, 1956–1959
  • Cuba: Missile Crisis, 1962
  • Cyprus: Communal Conflict Since 1955
  • Czechoslovakia: Coup, 1948
  • Czechoslovakia: Soviet Invasion, 1968
  • D
  • Djibouti: Civil Conflict, 1991–2000
  • Dominican Republic: Coup and U.S. Invasion, 1965
  • E
  • East Timor: Independence Struggle, 1974–2002
  • Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)
  • Ecuador: Border Dispute with Peru, 1941-1998
  • Egypt: Anti-Mubarak Uprising, 2011
  • Egypt: Nasser Coup and Its Legacy, 1952–1970
  • Egypt: Sinai War, 1956
  • Egypt: War of Attrition, 1967–1970
  • El Salvador: Civil Wars, 1970s–1980s
  • El Salvador: Soccer War with Honduras, 1969
  • Eritrea: Border War with Ethiopia, 1998–2000
  • Eritrea: War for Independence, 1958–1991
  • Ethiopia: Civil War, 1978–1991
  • Ethiopia: Revolution, 1974–1978
  • Ethiopia: War with Somalia, 1977–1978
  • Ethnic and Religious Conflicts
  • European Defense Community (EDC), 1952–1954
  • F
  • Fiji: Ethnic Conflict and Coups Since 1987
  • G
  • Georgia: Civil War, 1990s
  • Georgia: South Ossetia War with Russia, 2008
  • Germany: Berlin Crises, 1948–1949 and 1958–1962
  • Germany: East German Uprising, 1953
  • Ghana: Rawlings Coups, 1979–1981
  • Greece: Civil War, 1944–1949
  • Grenada: U.S. Invasion, 1983
  • Guatemala: Civil War, 1970s–1990s
  • Guatemala: Coup Against Arbenz, 1954
  • Guinea: Coup and Massacre, 2008–2009
  • Guinea-Bissau: Civil War, 1998–2000
  • Guinea-Bissau: War of National Liberation, 1962–1974
  • Guyana: Ethnic Conflict, 1960–1992
  • H
  • Haiti: Civil Conflict, 1990s–2000s
  • Hungary: Soviet Invasion, 1956
  • I
  • India: Ethnic and Separatist Violence in Assam Since 1979
  • India: Invasion of Goa, 1961
  • India: Jammu and Kashmir Violence Since 1947
  • India: Naxalite Maoist Uprising Since 1967
  • India: Nuclear Standoff with Pakistan Since 1998
  • India: Partition Violence, 1947
  • India: Sikh Uprising, 1970s and 1980s
  • India: War with Pakistan, 1965
  • India: War with Pakistan and Bangladeshi Independence, 1971
  • Indonesia: Aceh Separatist Conflict Since 1976
  • Indonesia: Communist and Suharto Coups, 1965–1966
  • Indonesia: Irian Jaya Separatist Conflict Since 1964
  • Indonesia: Wars of Independence, 1945–1949
  • International Arms Trade
  • International Criminal Court
  • Invasions and Border Disputes
  • Iran: Coup Against Mossadegh, 1953
  • Iran: Islamic Revolution, 1979
  • Iran: Nuclear Standoff Since 1979
  • Iran: War with Iraq, 1980–1988
  • Iraq: Gulf War, 1990–1991
  • Iraq: Kurdish Wars, 1961–2003
  • Iraq: Revolution and Coups, 1958–1968
  • Iraq: U.S. Invasion, 2003–2011
  • Ireland: The Troubles, 1968–1998
  • Israel: Attack on Iraqi Nuclear Reactor, 1981
  • Israel: Conflict with Hamas and Hezbollah, 2006
  • Israel: Palestinian Struggle Since 1948
  • Israel: Six-Day War, 1967
  • Israel: War of Independence, 1948–1949
  • Israel: Yom Kippur War, 1973
  • Italy: Anti-Mafia Campaign Since 1980
  • Ivory Coast: Civil Disorder, 1999–2004
  • J
  • Jordan: Civil War, 1970
  • K
  • Kenya: Mau Mau Uprising, 1952–1956
  • Kenya: Post-Election Violence, 2007–2008
  • Korea, North: Nuclear Standoff Since the 1990s
  • Korea, North: Seizure of the Pueblo, 1968
  • Korea, South: Invasion by the North, 1950–1953
  • L
  • Laos: Pathet Lao War, 1960s–1970s
  • Lebanon: Civil Conflict, 1958
  • Lebanon: Civil War, 1975–1990
  • Liberia: Anti-Taylor Uprising, 1998–2003
  • Liberia: Civil War, 1989–1997
  • Liberia: Doe Coup, 1980
  • Libya: Anti-Qaddafi Uprising, 2011
  • Libya: Qaddafi Coup, 1969
  • Libya: U.S. Air Attacks, 1986
  • M
  • Macedonia: Ethnic Conflict, 1990s
  • Madagascar: Independence Movement and Coups, 1947–2008
  • Malaysia: Communist Uprising, 1948–1960
  • Mali: Ethnic and Political Conflict, 1968–1996
  • Mauritania: Coups Since 1978
  • Mexico: Drug War Since 2006
  • Mexico: Zapatista Uprising Since 1994
  • Middle East Negotiations
  • Mozambique: Renamo War, 1976–1992
  • Mozambique: War of National Liberation, 1961–1974
  • Myanmar (Burma): Civil Wars and Coups Since 1948
  • N
  • Namibia: War of National Liberation, 1966–1990
  • Nepal: Maoist Insurgency, 1996–2006
  • New Caledonia (France): Independence Struggle, 1970s–1990s
  • Nicaragua: Contra War, 1980s
  • Nicaragua: Revolution, 1970s
  • Niger: Ethnic and Political Conflict Since 1990
  • Nigeria: Biafra War, 1967–1970
  • Nigeria: Coups and Ethnic Unrest Since 1966
  • Non-Aligned Movement—The Bandung Conference
  • North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
  • O
  • Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC)
  • Organization of American States (OAS)
  • P
  • Pakistan: Taliban Conflict, 2004–
  • Palestine: First Intifada, 1987–1992
  • Palestine: Gaza Conflict, 2008–2009
  • Palestine: Second Intifada, 2000–2006
  • Panama: Torrijos Coup, 1969
  • Panama: U.S. Invasion, 1989
  • Papua New Guinea: Bougainville Independence Struggle, 1988–1998
  • People’s Wars
  • Peru: Shining Path Rebellion, 1970s–1997
  • Philippines: Huk Rebellion, 1948–1953
  • Philippines: Moro Uprising Since 1972
  • Philippines: War on Islamic Militants Since 1990
  • Poland: Imposition of Martial Law, 1981–1983
  • Puerto Rico: Anti-U.S. Terrorism, 1934–1954
  • R
  • Romania: Fall of Ceausescu, 1989
  • Russia: Chechen Uprising Since 1994
  • Rwanda: Civil War and Genocide Since 1991
  • S
  • Serbia: Kosovo Secessionist Movement, 1990s
  • Sierra Leone: Civil Conflict, 1990–2002
  • Solomon Islands: Separatist and Ethnic Conflict, 1999–2003
  • Somalia: Civil War Since 1991
  • South Africa: Anti-Apartheid Struggle, 1948–1994
  • Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO)
  • Soviet Union: Conflict with Iran over Azerbaijan, 1945–1946
  • Soviet Union: Conflict with Turkey, 1945–1953
  • Soviet Union: Downing of Korean Airliner, 1983
  • Spain: Basque Uprising Since 1959
  • Sri Lanka: Tamil Uprising, Late 1970s to 2009
  • Sudan: Civil Wars in South, 1955–1972; 1983–2005
  • Sudan: Conflict in Darfur Since 2002
  • Syria: Anti-Assad Uprising, 2011
  • T
  • Tajikistan: Civil War, 1990s
  • Terrorism: Global History Since the 1940s
  • Thailand: Military Coup, 2006
  • Thailand: Muslim Rebellion, 2004–
  • Togo: Coups and Political Unrest, 1963–1990s
  • Turkey: Kurdish War Since 1984
  • U
  • Uganda: Anti-Amin Struggle, 1971–1979
  • Uganda: Civil Conflict Since 1980
  • United Nations
  • United States: War on Terrorism, 1990s–
  • Uruguay: Tupumaro Uprising, 1967–1985
  • Uzbekistan: Conflict with Islamists Since 1999
  • V
  • Venezuela: Anti-Chávez Movement Since 1999
  • Vietnam: First Indochina War, 1946–1954
  • Vietnam: Second Indochina War, 1959–1975
  • W
  • War and Weapons Conventions
  • Warsaw Pact
  • Western Sahara: Polisario-Moroccan War Since 1975
  • Y
  • Yemen: Anti-Government Uprising, 2011
  • Yemen: Civil War, 1960s–1980s
  • Z
  • Zimbabwe: Anti-Mugabe Struggle Since 1983
  • Zimbabwe: Struggle for Majority Rule, 1965–1980

Perhaps wars are inevitable. Perhaps some evil always needs to be resisted, and this sometimes requires us to kill people. You could even take this logic from the Bible, despite the correctives made by Jesus recorded in the same.

Here is a poem from Listing which I offer as my qualified remembering of what war is, grateful that I have lived in peace, despite what was happening in other parts of the world where soldiers were fighting in my name.

A time for war

There is a time for all things under heaven

A time to dig trenches and put up barbed wire

Then run to our deaths into withering fire

A time for mass graves, for mums to wear black

Time to kill and to maim- a time to attack

.

A time to dehumanise, a time to breed hate

A time to decide the whole nations fate

A time when all truth is wrapped up in lies

For secret policemen and neighbourhood spies

A time to manipulate the news and the media

A time of unassailable powerful leader

.

A time of expedient centralised power

Cometh the man in this our dark hour

A time for Guantanamo, a time for Auschwitz

A time of gas chambers and motherless kids

A time to throw rocks and let loose the rockets

A time for dead eyes to be fixed in dead sockets

.

A time for insurgents, a time to suppress

To disappear dissidents, and people oppress

Of brave freedom fighters and terrorist cells

For Robin to Hood and William to Tell

In some foreign field or in our back yard

In red sucking mud or in ground frozen hard

.

Lie bones of our children who answered the call

Now ‘glorious dead’ with their names on a wall

A time to break up and time to destroy

A time to make men of every small boy

Over by Christmas or just a bit more

Now is the time for us to make war

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