Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. A generous donor is matching all donations of $100 or more! So please donate now to double your punch!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

To End All Wars

As the numerologists note our arrival at 11/11/11, our attention is better focused on this day as the anniversary of the end of the useless, worthless, horrifying war that turned so much of 20th Century into a twisted, violent mess. And on how we must prevent the same from happening to our shiny new millennium.

A superb route to that understanding comes through a modern masterpiece, TO END ALL WARS: A STORY OF LOYALTY AND REBELLION, 1914-8, by Adam Hochschild.

A seasoned author and social critic who helped found Mother Jones Magazine, Hochschild’s page-turning account of the “Great War” in Great Britain is both a joy to read and a tragedy to digest.

Its glory lies in Adam’s ability to penetrate the human core of the arrogance, foolishness and utter senselessness of a conflict that for no real reason killed at least ten million people outright and tens of millions more (including 500,000 in the US) by disease, most notably the influenza, which struck just prior to humankind’s ability to mass-produce penicillin.

The author (by way of disclosure, a friend of mine for decades) is an extraordinary writer of history. His prose is fluid and clear, unpretentious and at all times accessible. He manages to balance devastating accounts of lethal folly with the human dimension behind even the cruelest military martinet.

Adam’s story is of a nation—and a continent—that embarked on a war it thought would be a cake walk. Europe had been at peace since Bismarck’s Prussians left Paris in 1871. For more than four decades, an unimpeded industrial revolution took the US and western Europe—as well as Japan—to levels of imperial wealth undreamed of before. The Great Powers had achieved by 1914 a level of technological affluence that might have been described as science fiction a century prior.

But the literature of the time was polluted by an astonishing ennui, a bizarre discontent with the ease of middle and upper-class life that is staggering to comprehend. The prose of the rich is filled with the “need” for war to “stir the blood” and “further the race.” Theodore Roosevelt, Rudyard Kipling, Winston Churchill and their ilk glorified mass gore as if were some kind of vital tonic for the deadening sink hole of peace and prosperity.

That war finally came for no real reason thus comes as no surprise. As Hochschild deftly shows, much of the upper crust of England welcomed it as a cross between a fox hunt and a garden party, and sent its sons off to die miserable deaths in mud and blood almost too ghastly to describe.

But there were those who knew better, and these are Hochschild’s true heroes. The war aroused great pacifist activists like Bertrand Russell, and created others from the horrors of the struggle itself. Male and female, rich and poor, Adam introduces us to a panoply of truly great human souls whose desperate warnings about the insanity of armed struggle resonate ever more powerfully through history.

On the other side, one can hear in the pro-war ramblings of so many insulated English aristocrats the prelude to this century’s excursions into Iraq, Afghanistan et. Al. Dick Cheney predicting an Iraq throwing flowers at our troops’ feet merely rephrased the ravings of the Empire’s minions heralding the “grand adventure” in France, where the Bosch would “be sent running in days.”

Run they did, of course, but after years, not days, transforming themselves into Nazis who would deliver even greater horrors to us all.

Hoschild’s genius in TO END ALL WARS is to seamlessly weave the lives of the working class and the rich, the militarist and the pacifist into the single human fabric, and then to show how it was tragically ripped apart and burnt to cinder.

As a global organism we are, each of us, deeply harmed by all mass slaughter, whether our actual bodies are on the killing field or not. No carnage was as devastating in terms of where it led than the imperial madness of World War I.

Now, with a new millennium upon us, we are again tested by America’s imperial attacks in the oil fields and wherever else an insatiable war machine—the SAME war machine—can sell its message of fear and violence.

Reading Adam Hochschild’e elegant, compelling narrative of how “civilized” England turned into a barbarous killing machine, we come away knowing that the function of such great writing is to teach us above all not to repeat this kind of history.

Given our imperial presence around the globe, and reading here of the shining lights of those who opposed that absurd carnage, our path of action should be clear. TO END ALL WARS is a compelling, inescapable elegy that leaves us no room for excuses.

Harvey Wasserman, a co-founder of Musicians United for Safe Energy, is editing the nukefree.org web site. He is the author of SOLARTOPIA! Our Green-Powered Earth, A.D. 2030, is atwww.solartopia.org. He can be reached at: Windhw@aol.com

More articles by:

Harvey Wasserman wrote SOLARTOPIA! Our Green-Powered Earth. His Green Power & Wellness Show is at www.prn.fm

Weekend Edition
October 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jason Hirthler
The Pieties of the Liberal Class
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Day in My Life at CounterPunch
Paul Street
“Male Energy,” Authoritarian Whiteness and Creeping Fascism in the Age of Trump
Nick Pemberton
Reflections on Chomsky’s Voting Strategy: Why The Democratic Party Can’t Be Saved
John Davis
The Last History of the United States
Yigal Bronner
The Road to Khan al-Akhmar
Robert Hunziker
The Negan Syndrome
Andrew Levine
Democrats Ahead: Progressives Beware
Rannie Amiri
There is No “Proxy War” in Yemen
David Rosen
America’s Lost Souls: the 21st Century Lumpen-Proletariat?
Joseph Natoli
The Age of Misrepresentations
Ron Jacobs
History Is Not Kind
John Laforge
White House Radiation: Weakened Regulations Would Save Industry Billions
Ramzy Baroud
The UN ‘Sheriff’: Nikki Haley Elevated Israel, Damaged US Standing
Robert Fantina
Trump, Human Rights and the Middle East
Anthony Pahnke – Jim Goodman
NAFTA 2.0 Will Help Corporations More Than Farmers
Jill Richardson
Identity Crisis: Elizabeth Warren’s Claims Cherokee Heritage
Sam Husseini
The Most Strategic Midterm Race: Elder Challenges Hoyer
Maria Foscarinis – John Tharp
The Criminalization of Homelessness
Robert Fisk
The Story of the Armenian Legion: a Dark Tale of Anger and Revenge
Jacques R. Pauwels
Dinner With Marx in the House of the Swan
Dave Lindorff
US ‘Outrage’ over Slaying of US Residents Depends on the Nation Responsible
Ricardo Vaz
How Many Yemenis is a DC Pundit Worth?
Elliot Sperber
Build More Gardens, Phase out Cars
Chris Gilbert
In the Wake of Nepal’s Incomplete Revolution: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian 
Muhammad Othman
Let Us Bray
Gerry Brown
Are Chinese Municipal $6 Trillion (40 Trillion Yuan) Hidden Debts Posing Titanic Risks?
Rev. William Alberts
Judge Kavanaugh’s Defenders Doth Protest Too Much
Ralph Nader
Unmasking Phony Values Campaigns by the Corporatists
Victor Grossman
A Big Rally and a Bavarian Vote
James Bovard
Groped at the Airport: Congress Must End TSA’s Sexual Assaults on Women
Jeff Roby
Florida After Hurricane Michael: the Sad State of the Unheeded Planner
Wim Laven
Intentional or Incompetence—Voter Suppression Where We Live
Bradley Kaye
The Policy of Policing
Wim Laven
The Catholic Church Fails Sexual Abuse Victims
Kevin Cashman
One Year After Hurricane Maria: Employment in Puerto Rico is Down by 26,000
Dr. Hakim Young
Nonviolent Afghans Bring a Breath of Fresh Air
Karl Grossman
Irving Like vs. Big Nuke
Dan Corjescu
The New Politics of Climate Change
John Carter
The Plight of the Pyrenees: the Abandoned Guard Dogs of the West
Ted Rall
Brett Kavanaugh and the Politics of Emotion-Shaming
Graham Peebles
Sharing is Key to a New Economic and Democratic Order
Ed Rampell
The Advocates
Louis Proyect
The Education Business
David Yearsley
Shock-and-Awe Inside Oracle Arena
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail