Tag Archives: World War II

REPEATED DIPLOMATIC GAFFES

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Fifty years ago this month, Sir Winston Churchill died.  Queen Elizabeth II ordered a state funeral, a rare honor, for the great war hero.

Six days later, 110 world leaders attended his funeral.  At the time, the number of countries in the world was not much greater.

Notably absent was the US president, Lyndon Baines Johnson.   It wasn’t just that the president failed to attend, citing illness.  The Vice President Hubert Humphrey was not sent in his place.   Even the Chief Justice failed to turn up.

Former President Dwight Eisenhower attended as a private citizen, honoring his old friend and comrade from the dark days of World War II.   Looking back, Eisenhower could have been sent as the official representative of the United States, but he wasn’t.

This was a serious diplomatic blunder at a time when the Cold War was at its height and America needed its European allies, particularly Britain.   It may, or many not, have been a factor in Britain’s continual refusal to send troops to Vietnam, the only US conflict the British have not supported since the end of the Second World War.

The same mistake was made just under two years ago when only a low ranking official was sent to Margaret Thatcher’s funeral.

Now, the Obama Administration has made a similar error of judgment, for which it has apologized.

This time, the failure was not to attend the demonstration of unity in Paris held on Sunday. 3.7 million people were in attendance throughout the country, most of them in the capital, Paris.

The British, German and Spanish prime ministers were all present; as were the prime minister of Israel and the Palestinian leader, two men who would not normally want to be seen with each other.

Neither the US president nor the Vice-President were there.   And nor was the Secretary of State, John Kerry.   In contrast, the President of France, Jacques Chirac, was the first world leader to visit Washington after 9/11.

Diplomatic gaffes like this can lead to serious problems.  I don’t think the Atlantic Alliance is going to disintegrate because the US president failed to turn up in France for the Unity rally, but repeated blunders like this one send a message, that Europe is now of little importance to the US.   The announced closure of 15 US military bases in Europe last week also sent a negative message, that America is losing interest in Europe.  The announcement came just after the Paris terror attacks.   That was also insensitive – at a time when Europe clearly needs some help, the US is withdrawing!

Washington should remember that only once has NATO’s Clause 5 ever been invoked.   This is the clause that states if one member country is attacked, the others must come to its aid.   The one time it was invoked was immediately after September 11th, 2001, when other NATO countries came to America’s aid.

Alliances, like friendship, work both ways.   If friends don’t support friends in times of trouble, the friendship could just fizzle out and die.

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REMEMBRANCE DAY OBSERVANCE

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Late night arrests at the weekend foiled a terror plot in London, England. Speculation was rife that the plot involved an attack on the Queen and other members of the Royal Family at the Cenotaph on Sunday morning. This did not deter the Queen from carrying out an annual duty, which she has never missed.

This was the occasion of the annual commemoration of Armistice Day, the day that ended World War I. “At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month,” was exactly when the war ended, having claimed almost a million British lives.   Observance is held on the Sunday closest to the actual day.

The Queen not only leads the nation at this ceremony. She is also leading the Commonwealth, that quarter of mankind that comprised the British Empire and Commonwealth during both wars. Without their contribution, the allies might never have won. Together with Britain, they were the only allied nations that were in both wars from beginning to end.

It’s hard to imagine now but a century ago when the Great War (World War One) began, hundreds of thousands of people around the world volunteered to fight. Many faked their age to qualify.

I read recently that many were motivated by deep religious convictions.   According to this website, a significant number of men in the trenches believed in British Israelism, that the British Empire and the United States were the fulfillment of the promises made to Joseph in Genesis chapter 48:

“15 And he blessed Joseph, and said:  “God, before whom my fathers Abra

ham and Isaac walked, The God who has fed me all my life long to this day,

16 The Angel who has redeemed me from all evil, Bless the lads;
Let my name be named upon them,

And the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac;
And let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.”

17 Now when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on the head of Ephraim, it displeased him; so he took hold of his father’s hand to remove it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. 

18 And Joseph said to his father, “Not so, my father, for this one is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head.”

19 But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He also shall become a people, and he also shall be great; but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations.”

20 So he blessed them that day, saying, “By you Israel will bless, saying, ‘May God make you as Ephraim and as Manasseh!’” And thus he set Ephraim before Manasseh.”

The United States is big at 3.9 million square miles but the British Empire was vast at 13.9 million square miles. Many believed it was the prophesied “multitude of nations.” Its formal name was the British Empire and Commonwealth, the latter being the independent countries of the Empire that remained loyal to the Crown. These nations, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, together with the self-governing colony of Southern Rhodesia, all sent troops to help “mother England” when the country was threatened by the Axis powers of Germany and Austria-Hungary.   As Germany had colonies close to South Africa and Australia, these nations also brought about German defeats on a regional level.

The independent nations that formed the Commonwealth were known as Dominions. Canada was the first country to become a dominion in 1867, independent but loyal to the Crown. The word “dominion” was taken directly from Psalm 72:8: “He shall have dominion also from sea to sea.” The fact that the term dominion was inspired by scripture shows the founders of Canada were far more biblically aware that most recent leaders, the current prime minister being an exception.

It wasn’t just the dominions that sacrificed for Britain.   In World War II, two million Indians volunteered to fight for Britain, the biggest volunteer army in history.

Even India’s sacrifice was not as great as that of Southern Rhodesia, proportionate to population.   Sir Winston Churchill lauded the central African nation’s loyalty by describing it as “the most loyal colony.” Sadly, twenty years later, one of his successors was to betray the country, which now no longer exists.

Other colonies also contributed. The Gold Coast, now Ghana, raised up the Royal West African Frontier Force, which saw action in Burma and Ethiopia.   Nigeria also sent troops to Burma. It was felt that Africans could handle the heat a lot better than the British in the steaming hot jungles of Burma and Malaya.   Indian troops comprised the majority of soldiers fighting against the Japanese in this particular theater of war. Many sacrificed their lives for King and Country.

The Queen appreciates the sacrifice of all these nations more than most, as she lived through World War II and knows how easily Britain could have been defeated. Memories of the bombing of Buckingham Palace will still be with her. She will also remember that the wartime leader, Winston Churchill, had lunch with her father, King George VI, every week, keeping the king abreast of all developments in the war. It is said that Churchill would give the young Princess and future Queen informal history lessons. Churchill was later to write his monumental “History of the English speaking peoples,” a book that thankfully was written before political correctness and revisionist history.

At the Cenotaph, the war memorial in the center of London, the Queen remembers, at 88, far better than most of her subjects, the sacrifices made and the struggles that still continue. Her grandson, Prince Harry, missed the service in London, choosing instead to commemorate the day with British troops in Afghanistan, where he served three years ago.

The Commonwealth will likely survive the Queen’s passing. Prince Charles, who will take over as king upon the death of his mother, is getting more involved with the organization while his son, Prince William, together with his wife, the Duchess of Cambridge, are immensely popular, especially in the Commonwealth Realms, those member countries that retain the Queen as Head of State.

The organization may survive but it will never again be in unison in fighting a global conflict. It is no longer a military force and its members now have conflicting loyalties that preclude action on a universal scale. And, with the Queen’s passing, remembrance of two world wars will further diminish.

REMEMBERING THE BERLIN WALL

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It’s been almost fifty years since I crossed the border between West and East and entered communist East Germany. As students, we had spent some time in Nurnberg with German families, a truly memorable experience. Our school had also planned a short trip to Berlin, which was then an enclave in the communist part of the country.

The country was officially called the German Democratic Republic. Don’t let names mislead you. It wasn’t democratic or a republic and, as it was controlled from Moscow, it wasn’t really German either. It was a communist dictatorship and totally different from its western counterpart.

I remember there were no toilet facilities on the long drive from the border to Berlin. It was bad enough that we had to wait a very long time at the border before they would let us in. A couple of communist soldiers spent their time watching a game of chess that two of our students were playing, deliberately holding us up, in an attempt to show they were in control. When they did finally let us in, we had to wait a few hours for a toilet facility – they did, however, make a stop in the middle of nowhere and said, “Men that side and women this side” of the road. That was it.

I remember touring East Berlin after we crossed through the Wall at Checkpoint Charlie. The wall had been built in 1961 to keep out the degenerate undesirables from the west. At least, that was the official version. Of course, the reality was very different. The real reason for the Wall was to keep their own people inside the GDR, to stop them escaping to freedom.   That didn’t stop them, though – hundreds of people tried to cross the Wall. Some succeeded, some were caught and shot to death.

One vivid memory I had was of an evening at the Berlin Opera House. We had gone to see Puccini’s “La Boheme,” one of the most popular operas. The opera was written by an Italian, is sung in French and was being performed in Germany! It was the first time I had seen grown men cry (German men, remember!). During the interval we had gone out on to the balcony and looked east, at East Berlin. On the western side, everything was lit up, inviting people to go downtown and have a good time; the east was in total darkness. Touring the city had revealed that all was dull and drab, service in the museum restaurant was slow and surly, the food limited, dry and hard. Soldiers seemed to be everywhere. There were very few vehicles.

It was not too difficult for young people from the West to see which society was the better. At a time when many people were becoming left wing to one degree or another, this was a stark reminder of the failure of centralized planning.

It’s not surprising that, exactly 25 years ago this weekend, the Wall came down.

People want freedom. I should add “up to a point.”

Reflecting on Germany’s past, we should never forget that freedom can and will be rejected when times are hard. High unemployment can so easily lead to a dictator who promises to give the people what they want, everything that is except freedom.

Another great lesson from the past is that borders are constantly changing.   This has been particularly true of Germany. The country was divided by the allies after World War II. The German Democratic Republic was absorbed into the Federal Republic of Germany in October 1990.