Balderdash and lies

Edward Horgan, in a letter to the Irish Times, echoes my views on the remarks of President McAleese in Belgium at the weekend.

Balderdash is how he describes her dangerous sentimentality, a sentimentality that ignores the brutal reality of war and thereby helps to build up the ranks of cannon fodder for future conflict.

People of influence like McAleese have an obligation to lead using the truth as their principal weapon.

Rudyard Kipling pithily sums up the matter.

“If any question why we died, tell them, because our fathers lied.”

Or in this instance, because our President lied.

Edward Horgan’s letter is worth reproducing in full.

Madam, – The colourful first World War commemoration ceremonies at Islandbridge in Dublin and at Messines in Belgium are truly sad when we examine the false heroism attributed to those who died in the most useless and wasteful of wars.
President McAleese spoke of the Irishmen from different traditions “who had a common cause . . . a goodness, a graciousness, a kindness, a love, a cherishing of one another. . .it is a shared memory and we need such shared memories”.
Balderdash. Most of the Irish soldiers who fought and died in that war were conned into joining up by Redmond, Carson and the Lloyd Georges of this world. The “shared memories” or myths that our President tells us we need would be better replaced by some home truths. The lies that fooled people into fighting in Flanders included fighting to “defend small nations” such as Belgium (but don’t mention the Congo). This was the “war to end all wars”, a war of liberty against tyranny.
Such lies have reappeared in recent times to justify the Iraq war – weapons of mass destruction, a war against terror, bringing freedom, peace and democracy to the Middle East. Tony Blair lied that the war in Afghanistan was partly to cut off the supply of drugs to the West. These wars, like the first World War, brought only death, more tyranny, torture of prisoners and crimes against humanity.
Most of the Irish soldiers who were lost in the first World War died miserably, not honourably. They went, scared, “over the top” because they would have been court-martialled and shot if they refused. The President fails to mention all the young German soldiers who were needlessly killed by Irish young soldiers. The youngest Irish “soldier” recorded as killed in action was a 12-year-old bandsman from Waterford. Surely that was child abuse, not heroism. Those who survived by deserting were the wise ones, and there were few heroes.
In order to get men in large numbers to do stupid and morally reprehensible things, you first have to find ways of getting them to switch off their minds. Imagined or invented shared memories, flags, bugles, pipers and uniforms are essential parts of this process of turning men into military morons. When war memorials are being called “peace parks”, the dogs of war are being trained for unleashing. Lest we forget, again. – Yours, etc,
EDWARD HORGAN, (Commandant, ret’d)