Dispatches from Wolf Country — Dulce et Decorum

Sacrifice, valor and selfless service, so often in the defense of nothing worthwhile, following orders from idiots, executing strategies defined by fools, to at best achieve dubious goals.


Moving up into the line, 3rd Ypres, Imperial Army Museum, London

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind...
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, 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.--From Dulce et Decorum, Wilfred Owen, 1917


Commonwealth Soldiers Cemetery, Paschendaele

While it’s not at all impossible to find one or more of us who will be, most people writing for, editing or reading any of the work of Veterans Today are avowed pacifists. Kind of goes with the turf, I suspect. It’s harder to find those amongst us who think war is glorious or glamorous or any thing else. We honor the warrior despite the world in which they serve. Sacrifice, valor and selfless service, so often in the defense of nothing worthwhile, following orders from idiots, executing strategies defined by fools, to at best achieve dubious goals.

The Trump Administration, to top off a week of exceptional statecraft culminating in cascading debacles, greets the latest North Korean missile test with the reiteration of the pledge that “the United States will not permit North Korea to have nuclear weapons.” Well, that’s not shutting the barn door after the horse got out…that’s pretending that the horse was never there in the first place!

The Battle of Polygon Wood by George Edmund Butler

So much loss and so much horror because of the inability to accept reality. There was an interesting discussion on Brian Williams’ The Eleventh Hour last night between Williams, General Barry McCaffrey; retired Colonel Jack Jacobs, a Vietnam War recipient of the Medal of Honor; and Jeremy Bash, former Chief of Staff to the Director of the CIA and the Defense Department under Leon Panetta. The discussion was initially about General John Kelly moving from Homeland to Chief of Staff at the White House — they all know him well, they all think he’s a wonderful leader, a great American, a true public servant, and doomed to fail in that sea of chaos, incompetence and orgy of ego maniacal narcissism and bile. They then turned to the latest North Korean missile test, and General McCaffrey, echoed by Colonel Jacobs and Mr. Bash, shared the “good news.”

The only bit of good news is that this is a criminal regime…the only thing the regime is interested in is the survival of regime.

In this era of insanity, vulgarity, greed and power-mad ignorance, aren’t they all?

So, as we approach the Centennial of Paschendaele. we should perhaps reflect for a moment on that Third Battle of Ypres which involved a number of “cunning plans” as Baldric and Blackadder and General Melchett spent so much time discussing over the years on BBC. It could have been any of the battles of Ypres that inspired this exchange.

Stretcher Party, Paschendaele

–Not to worry, Blackadder. You see we have a top secret cunning plan.
–Does it involve walking forward slowly in a straight line?
–Damn it Blackadder, how did you know! That’s classified!
–Oh, just a wild guess, General, just a wild guess.

On reflexion, it’s hard to top this from The Guardian’s editorial board. 

 It was a story of dreadful losses transformed into crushing failure. Such an annihilation of hope is hard to draw lessons from. It is hard even with confidence to say “never again”. The richest and most technologically advanced continent on the planet tore itself apart after 1914. Not all its idealism, wealth and organisation could save it. Without wisdom, compassion and humility they won’t save us either.


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Posted by on July 29, 2017, With 0 Reads, Filed under Heroes, Of Interest, Support the Troops, World War I (1914-1918). You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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