Saturday, May 13, 2006

Some Things Never Change

'When I was a small boy, my father would take me each year around the battlefields of the First World War, the conflict that H.G. Wells called 'the war to end all wars.' We would set off each summer in our Austin of England and bump along the potholed roads of the Somme, Ypres and Verdun. By the time I was 14, I could recite the names of all the offensives: Bapaume, Hill 60, High Wood, Passchendaele...I had seen all the graveyards and I had walked through all the overgrown trenches and touched all the rusted helmets of British soldiers and the corroded German mortars in decaying museums. My father was a soldier of the Great War, fighting in the trenches of France because of a shot fired in a city he'd never heard of called Sarajevo. And when he died 13 years ago at the age of 93, I inherited his campaign medals. One of them depicts a winged victory and on the obverse side are engraved the words: 'the great war for civilisation.' To my father's deep concern and my mother's stoic acceptance, I have spent much of my life in wars. They, too, were fought 'for civilisation.''
--from Robert Fisk's preface to his new book, The Great War for Civilisation--The Conquest of the Middle East


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