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The War to End All Wars

Commemorations are all well and good. They're a time for reflection. Maybe a period of reconciliation. But I can't help but feel I'm gagging on a firing pin every time I hear a political leader say that we will "learn from the mistakes of the past."

It's patently obvious, they should.

The First World War - the war to end all wars - began one hundred years ago. Once Gavrilo Princip, described as a Bosnian-Serb radical, had fired the pistol that killed Archduke Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, the road to war was paved with intent.

The whys and the wherefores of this catastrophe have been written about at great length, and expanded upon for this anniversary.

If you've studied European history or literature you have probably hit upon the subject and been horrified at the conditions the combatants faced. The chilling pictures and descriptions of battles at Passchendaele or the Somme are reminders of war and what it does to the human spirit and body. No one in their right mind would want to revisit the scene of 1914-18 Europe. The powers that be decreed that there be insane mayhem forced upon the innocent towns and fields.

We know that leaders, from whatever hue, will inflict conflict on their own country and abroad with almost casual abandon. Throughout the ages Kings, Queens, Parliamentarians and Despots have been members of a club that will stoke the fires of division and conflict.

Did the First World War end future wars with all it's evident grotesqueness? No. It simply led to the Second World War, where a jumped up Corporal drove his country at breakneck speed towards another bloody onslaught. Since, we've had Korea, Vietnam, the Falkland/Malvinas, the Balkans, Iraq (twice), and Afghanistan, to name but a few.

And have we learned?

We are faced with constant conflict. Almost daily we are watching horrific scenes from Syria, Israel and Gaza. Not to mention Iraq, again. Not only are wars being fought in far away lands, but also close to home here in Europe in the Ukraine. Nowhere and no one is safe from the terror.

The arms manufacturers, like the gravediggers, will never be out of work. Profits soar from the doom that is war.

The language of it is always the same. It's about freedom, defence, helping our neighbours, people who have the same values, putting aggressors back in their cage.

We all know what it is really about: power, money, land and resources.

No amount of speeches in parliaments around the world extolling the reluctant need for conflict will absolve the perpetrators of blame. They are the architects of their own history, and ours. They are the true arbiters of who lives and who dies. A leader that sends a soldier onto the battlefield is the true war criminal. Despite our history books and newspapers telling a story about our leaders stoical belief in our treasured freedoms, and that they are defending this, an alternative perspective lies behind the mask. It is one of megalomaniacs chancing their arm, forever attempting to strengthen their hold on power in an ever increasing circle of influence. The end justifying the means. Power at all costs - in financial and human.

The reality is that their is very little chance of them being held to account for their actions. If you're the leader of a small, almost insignificant country the odds are not in your favour, it has to be said. There is a random chance you'll make a one way trip to The Hague for a Crimes Against Humanity trial. In the extreme, your own countrymen will exact revenge. If you're Bush, Blair, Putin or the like, there's not a cat in hells chance of you being held to account for your actions. For you it is commentators having a little bash at you very now and again, while your bank balance fills to bursting.

It's obvious the Prime Ministers and the Presidents have learned from the past: there is gain to be made from war.

It's the poor that haven't learned from war. It's high time the people refuse to do battle in the name of a freedom and prosperity they don't have and will never gain. It's time to stand up and to decline the invitation to be cannon fodder.

I propose the next time two leaders want to do battle, we go back to the old Frankie Goes to Hollywood video for Two Tribes, where Reagan and his Soviet counterpart fought it out in the ring. Let's see our leaders fight it out. See if they like!

Somehow, I think that would be the war to end all wars.

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