More Lessons Not Learned

If I told you that 67,000 Canadians were killed and another 150,000 were wounded because one ‘guy’ from another country, on another continent, was murdered, would you believe me?

As implausible as it may seem, it’s true. In fact, nearly 17 million people from all over the world died as a result of this ‘one guy’ being murdered.

How is this possible you ask? Well, here’s what happened … the cole’s notes version.

In 1914, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austria-Hungarian Empire (AHE), was assassinated by a Serbian national. Why this assassination took place is not important … at least not as it relates to this blog. What is important, are the events that followed this one simple, albeit, heinous act, because in response, the AHE declared war on Serbia.

A response of this magnitude (the declaration of war) would be akin to my entire family ,,, brothers, sisters, parents, cousins, aunts, uncles, etc. … marching on my neighbour’s house because their ten year old son punched my son in the nose. However, the AHE’s response had more to do with their desire to recapture lands that had been surrendered in an earlier conflict. It seems that they had been looking for an excuse to attack Serbia and the assassination was just the motive they needed.

Now, if this had been all there was to it, the conflict would have been limited and 67,000 Canadians would not have died, however, this wasn’t all there was to it. You see, Russia had an alliance with Serbia, so they declared war on the AHE, which prompted Germany, who had an alliance with the AHE, to declare war on Russia. Quite the domino effect.

If you’re still wondering how Canada got involved in this mess, rest assured, I’m getting to it, because the game wasn’t quite over.

The next domino piece to fall involved France. You see, the French had an alliance with Russia, so they then declared war on Germany and the AHE. Again, if it had stopped here Canadian lives might have been spared, but unfortunately, it didn’t. That’s because Great Britain was part of a three-way alliance with France and Russia, so that brought Britain into the fray.

I’m guessing by now, you’ve figured out how Canada got involved … and you’re right.

Canada was, and still is, part of the British empire and as might be expected of a loyal former colony, Canada declared war on Germany. After all, if your older brother got into a scrap with a kid down the street, you’d likely be in there like a dirty shirt, too. And so, as a result of something that had absolutely nothing to do with Canada, WWI ensued and 67,000 Canadians died and another 150,000 were wounded.

So why am I dredging up this insanity almost 100 years later? The answer is simple. It seems that history has a way of repeating itself because humans (aka, governments) don’t learn from past experiences. Let me explain.

In the past ten years, over 150 Canadian soldiers have died in Afghanistan. Why? Because Canada’s closest ally, the United States of America (our best friend), declared war on Afghanistan. This because the country’s ruling party, the Taliban, had been harbouring the Al Qaeda terrorists who brought down the World Trade Centre in New York in 2001.

The Taliban came into existence in the 1990s in response to a brutal civil war that had erupted in Afghanistan as a result of the power vacuum that had been created following the departure of the Soviet Union in 1989. The Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1980 to quell a civil war that had been going on since the the late 1970s.

And what does all this have to do with 67,000 Canadians dying in Europe during WWI and 150 more dying in Afghanistan in the 2000s? Well, it seems that the original civil war that erupted in Afghanistan in the late 70s was fueled by our good friend, the United States of America. You see, the Cold War between the United States and Soviet Union was in full swing in those days, and the USA wanted to draw the Soviets into a Vietnam-type conflict, so they supplied one of the warring factions with arms in order to ensure the civil war and the Soviet’s involvement. So, if the US (aka, US government) had minded its own business, Canadians wouldn’t be dying, just like if Russia, Germany, France and Great Britain had minded their own business in 1914, Canadians wouldn’t have died.

I suppose one could argue that Canada has no one to blame but itself, because we too could have minded our own business, and you’d be right. But this creates in interesting dilemma. What do you do when one country invades another country or commits atrocities against its own people, much like what was happening in Iraq and Afghanistan and is happening now in Syria and Iran?

A dilemma indeed!

To answer this question, one need only look at the list of innocent civilian deaths from various conflicts: WWI – 7 million; Vietnam – 843,000; Iraq – 120,000; Afghanistan – 40,000. These numbers are based on estimates provided by various sources and are likely vastly understated, but I think you get the point. This is insanity!

To argue that the deaths of innocent civilians is the unfortunate cost of war, likely means that they weren’t related to you. To say that war is justified in order to topple brutal regimes is foolhardy. To claim that we learn from the past is just plain wrong. We don’t.

If war is not the answer and we can’t simply mind our own business in the face of such atrocities, then we need a different solution. We need to find a way to resolve things peacefully. If we lived in a society where people felt good about themselves we would have our peaceful solution, because when you feel good about yourself you simply don’t mistreat other beings. You don’ t create war! You live in peace!

Please understand, this is not about pointing fingers or blaming others for the hardships of Canadians. Yes, I am a Canadian and I wrote this blog from a Canadian perspective. But the same could be said from the perspective of an American, Frenchman, Brit, German, Russian, Austrian, Serbian, Iraqi, Afghan, Syrian, Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean or any other Nationality. War does not bring peace. It never has and never will.

Oh, by the way, Austria-Hungary, the empire that initiated WWI over a piece of property, suffered 1.6 million casualties, including a half million innocent civilians.

Have a peacefully involved day!


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