Touching The Untouchables #6: Vimy Ridge
"Oh the First World War, boys
It closed out its fate
The reason for fighting
I never got straight
But I learned to accept it
Accept it with pride
For you don't count the dead
When God's on your side"
- Bob Dylan, "With God On Our Side"
Vimy Ridge Vimy Ridge Vimy Ridge, all this drama over Vimy Ridge. If you live in Canada then you know what I'm talking about. If you don't, then I should tell you that this weekend has been the 90th anniversary of the Canadian victory over the Germans at Vimy Ridge during World War I. Yes, 3,600 Canadian soldiers died and more than 7,000 were wounded during the four-day assault (while 20,000 German soldiers were killed or injured), but why all the glorifying of a battle in such a meaningless war, I ask?
I'm not in any way criticizing the soldiers. I have tremendous sympathy for all those who were brainwashed or, especially, drafted to go off and fight in someone else's meaningless war.
I mean, yes, Canadian soldiers killed a whole bunch of German soldiers and took a hill, but so what? Yes, I know it was a relatively significant victory, but, really, it was just another battle in the mass slaughter known as WWI. The slaughter of poor, working-class men on all sides. A slaughter directed by the upper-class officers, who stayed far behind the front lines and far away from danger and ordered wave after wave of young men to their deaths, day after day, month after month, year after year. It sure as hell wasn't the rich and powerful's young sons and husbands being used as cannon fodder as the front lines moved a few hundred meters back and forth over a four year period. No, to them it was just a giant chess game. So, again, I have tremendous sympathy for the common men who were mowed down in the millions during those four years, but no more so for the Canadians than for the Germans, or for the people of any of the other countries involved.
I think there's a tendency for people to mix up their history a bit and group the Germany of WWI in together with the Germany of WWII, but that's simply not legitimate. The Germans of WWI were not some sinister force intent on world domination, genocide of the Jewish people, and the implementation of Fascism across Europe. No, they were just one of the Great Powers playing in the great power games of the day.
I'm not denying the horrendous sacrifice of the Canadian (and all other) troops, I'm just talking about the notion that it was somehow a just cause, somehow a war of Good vs. Evil. Again, we're talking WWI here, not WWII. Doesn't anyone remember their history? WWI was fought over NOTHING. They all died, all 10 million of them on all sides, for NOTHING!! And that's not including the millions of civilians who died on the sidelines. They were all victims, the Canadians, the Germans, the French, the Austrians, the Russians, etc. etc. - all of them.
In all, Canada lost 65,000 soldiers in the war, which is a horrific number, but the Germans lost 2 million, the French 1.4 million, and the Austro-Hungarians 1.1 million, to name just three other countries of the two dozen involved. And those are just military deaths. Again, millions of civilians also died across the continent (largely from famine and disease).
Anyhow, what I'm saying here is that the young Canadians used as cannon fodder were no more brave or heroic than their German counterparts. They were all drafted and/or brainwashed into thinking they were fighting on God's side, when in fact no God would cheer for any side in such a barbaric and senseless war fought over nothing more than power politics and greed for territory.
And now - TODAY!! - you have the bloody Queen talking about "a stunning victory", as if winning or losing that one battle had any real moral significance. Ninety years on and she, and others, are out there boasting of a victory, when all they should be doing is lamenting the horrible loss of life. Do these people have no shame? No historical perspective? No decency?
But, of course, it's not just the Queen, we also have our beloved Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, telling us that "The First World War and the Battle of Vimy Ridge is essential to this country". What a load of crap!! 3,598 young men dying to take a hill in a meaningless war is not what this country was built on. And WWI sure as hell wasn't essential to ANYTHING!
Still others talk of "fighting for Canadian ideals" when we clearly weren't there to fight for any ideals whatsoever, we were simply there to back up the British in their ongoing power games in Europe. There were absolutely no ideals involved in this war, unless you count the peace activists here in Canada who, to the disdain and ridicule of a brainwashed and gung-ho war-loving public (outside of Quebec, at least), opposed the war as senseless right from the beginning.
And don't even get me started on how Canada was immediately at war the moment the supposedly "former" colonial master declared war against the Germans and their allies. What did this ridiculous war have to do with us anyway?
Pawns in their game. Whether it was Aussies and Kiwis getting slaughtered by, and slaughtering, Turks at Gallipoli or Canadians getting slaughtered by, and slaughtering, Germans at Vimy Ridge, it was all just a tragic and meaningless waste of life.
Again, this was no ideological war, like the battle against Fascism. No, this was just "Great" Powers playing power games. We weren't the good guys. We shouldn't have even been there. Seriously, what the #@%& were Canadians (or Aussies or Kiwis, let alone Indians) even doing over there?
Screw all this "heroic Canadians" talk and let's simply mourn the loss of all those millions who died needlessly and pointlessly while those in power played their pathetic games. Yes, all the soldiers on all sides can be described as heroic if you like, but I'd say they were all just trying to survive the horrors of life in the trenches on the Front so they could make it home again to their families someday.
So, could someone please tell these bloody Queens and politicians to shut up already.
Get it through your heads, any victory by "us" was no more glorious or important than any victory by "them". All it was was one horrible tragedy. There is nothing to be celebrated! Period.
Mourn and grieve, most definitely, but for God's sakes don't cheer and celebrate such horrendous and meaningless loss of life. I mean, what are you, sick?
Mike Cowie (Oredakedo)
Monday, April 9th, 2007
And, if you like history, may I suggest The Winston Churchill Rant