Blinded WW1 soldiers and blindfolded Iraqi prisoners  

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   in the beginning?  



Iraq 2002

From the distance it looks like one of those grandiose monuments to the vanity of Saddam Hussein. But up close you come to see that this is the creation of a lost imperial age.

A walkway extends for several hundred yards into the semicircular ground and set into the stone are the names of hundreds of dead British and Commonwealth troops.

These are the names of men who died in the Iraq 'campaign' of 1914 to 1921. They fought the soldiers of the declining Ottoman empire and then they fought the Shia of southern Iraq who rose to claim their own freedom.

Curiously, Saddam preserved this monument.

  


Starting at the beginning is not always easy. How do we decide where the beginning is? Where would you start with the Remembrance story?

Books and films have a beginning and an end. The day begins in the morning and ends at night. History books tell us of events that start and finish on certain dates. The First World War began in August 1914 and ended in November 1918, but look at some war memorials and you will see they refer to the 1914-1919 and even 1914-1920 war, dates which can also be found in some government papers. What's going on?

We need to organise the flow of time in order to examine it, communicate about it, and understand it. But we also need to understand that beginnings and ends are simply convenient conventions, which are often influenced by the political and ideological values of those who choose them. Perhaps all this is obvious, but it's important to keep this constantly in mind, otherwise we can easily draw unwarranted conclusions. History, like statistics and the Bible, is used to support almost any point of view. In the case of statistics and history this need not be the case. There are facts and there is interpretation, and the two often get muddled together and sometimes over time become hard to distinguish. In studying the past, some may say this doesn't matter very much - it's all in 'history'. That would be a mistake.

Past events influence the present and so contribute to the shape of the future. Our understanding, misunderstandings or distortion of past events can influence the course of action we take. In human relationships and even more so in international relationships, misunderstandings do have tragic consequences. The events of the First World War continue to influence our lives to this day.                                                               
   

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POLITICS

ideology

"The Legion is committed to ensuring that the ‘Torch of Remembrance’ is passed on to today’s school children. Our children are the world’s future - it is important that they understand the lessons of history so that the same mistakes may never be repeated." BL 2005

What exactly does all this mean? What is the 'Torch of Remembrance' and why should we care about it? What are the 'lessons of history' and which lessons should we 'understand'? What mistakes should not be repeated? Behind this bland statement lie the politics of war.