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High life

We're still repeating the mistakes of the first world war

In the Big Bagel this week, it was just like the heady days of 2002

11 October 2014

9:00 AM

11 October 2014

9:00 AM

The time-honoured saying that England’s great battles have been won on the playing fields of Eton is a lot of hooey. Blücher was the real winner against Napoleon at Waterloo, and the only thing he said to Wellington after the battle was ‘Quelle affaire!’ (Hardly an Old Etonian expression.) England’s great battles have been won by some Old Etonians, to be sure, but the heavy lifting has been done by England’s allies, such as the Yanks in the first world war and the Russians in the second. If that ogre Woodrow Wilson had not sold his soul to the bankers and kept America out of the war, I am convinced we’d be in far better shape today. The bankers had loaned lotsa moolah to the Anglo-French but Germany was winning the war and the money men were up shit creek. So Wilson sent in the doughboys, as they were called, and F. Scott Fitzgerald movingly wrote about American farm boys dying on the Somme.

What bothers me is that no one ever learns from the past. Our politicians are by far the worst we’ve ever had, certainly in America, which is totally controlled by special interests and the Israeli lobby. And the news media are just as bad. Bill Kristol is a small, fat, ugly man who wants Uncle Sam to bomb and invade countries he and Israel don’t like. Dick Cheney is a cowardly person who avoided the draft during Vietnam (six deferments) but is now asking for more blood to be shed. The neocons and the George W. gang lied us into war 11 years ago, but none of them has lost his place on think tanks or in the media. Today, if they could, they’d fight on three fronts: Syria, Iran and Ukraine. When I say they would fight, I of course mean that others would do the dying.


There is an unbridgeable existential divide between those who do the fighting and the cowardly sofa samurai who bang the war drums. Papa Hemingway once wrote that abstract words such as honour, glory and courage were obscene, and the only words that had dignity were the names of villages and rivers, and the number of regiments. Unlike Blair, Cheney, Kristol, Podhoretz, the Kagans and their ilk, Hemingway had seen war from up close and had been seriously wounded in 1917 in the Tyrolean Alps. He spent the Spanish Civil War in Madrid, boozing it up and servicing Martha Gellhorn, and never flinched during the bombing, refusing to go to the shelter. He then led his own army of hangers-on to Paris and liberated the Ritz while some German units were still in the suburbs. Yet this very brave man called the words used by Tony Blair and other physical cowards exhorting us to back wars obscene, nothing but warmongering slogans.

This week I flew into the Big Bagel and it was just like old times. Netanyahu was ranting against Iran at the UN and was warning the consumer zombies that the end was nearer than they thought. Strike early and strike often is his message, year in and year out. Last year he got 40 standing ovations while addressing both houses of Congress — a Congress, mind you, whose great majority of men and women have been conceived by chimps with a dose of the clap. Never mind. Instead of making our peace with Iran, an ancient and very large country that we Greeks kicked the shit out of 2,500 years ago, we are siding with those who financed terror long before 9/11. Go figure, as they used to say in Brooklyn when Brooklyn was Brooklyn and not the name of some football player’s son.

Another recent warmonger — this one wants us to fight Putin — was once the richest man in Russia. Mikhail Khodorkovsky has been doing the rounds in Washington and New York and has been treated like the great Lindbergh was on his return from Paris in 1927. I guess heroes are easier to come by nowadays. Putin threw him in jail where he cooled his heels for ten years before being freed with a pardon. Instead of loving Putin for helping him to cleanse his soul and ennoble his spirit through suffering — a great theme in Russian literature — this bum wants Uncle Vlad to be overthrown. And Vlad even let him keep some of his millions, taking only the billions away. Khodorkovsky is no hero back home. Again, never mind. Washington and New York and London and Paris and, yes, Switzerland adore him, and if he writes a book about his ten years in protective custody he’ll most likely be a new Solzhenitsyn, awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. And now I have to cut this column short and go and puke. Arrgh!


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