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Vimy: Was it worth it?

From Friday's Globe and Mail

Bravery and wasted lives ...Read the full article

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  1. janfromthe bruce from Canada writes: This is the real picture of war, instead of the distorted picture portrayed by the advertisement for military enlistment - come see the world, learn a new trade, become a hero. There should be 'truth' in advertising. This is demanded for products, why not in human life and limb?
  2. Vince Porter from Canada writes: Unfortunately, we never know the stupidity of any war until it is some years behind us. Vimy and its war was for democracy and civilization - until history revealed that it was really about a whole lot of things that few people would volunteer to die for, such as manipulated militarism/nationalism, preservation of some rotten crowned heads, etc. Brit PM Lloyd George confessed to intimates that "The people don't know and can't know..." otherwise they would not fill the ranks. Stephen Harper's private thoughts and full knowledge of the Afghan mess is certainly at variance with the brave face he reveals to the public. Someday history will reveal that, too. Truly sad war is.
  3. A Toronto Lad from the East from Canada writes: Coukl we say to the 19 year boy all fired up with national pride,"You are going to experience months of misery and danger in the mud and blood of the trenches in a far off land then you are going to die a horrible, bloody death, my boy but fear not your death will be honoured for a while and it will help the birth of your nation's independence so off you go & "pack up your troubles in your old kit bag and smile, smile, smile."
    I fear he might say, "Not bl**dy likely".
  4. A Toronto Lad from the East from Canada writes: What causes this? It is the ingroup/outgroup psychology. Us agin them. From earliest times we went to war in the name of our group whether it be
    faith or country.Whether it is Frenchmen against Germans; Israelis against Arabs; Islam against the West or vice versa in all cases. We are different; We are better; You have something that should belong to us. It is a question of education and enlightenment? Not only of those leading us to the slaughter but those being led.
  5. Les Caine from brampton, Canada writes: Many Canadians felt Canada was worth it. Unlike today.
  6. S. Ives from Ottawa, Canada writes: The reference to Harold Innes is appropriate. The biography 'Marginal Man' by A. John Watson (CARE president and recent participant in the 'Climbforcare' fund-raiser) describes Vimy and its aftermath in graphic and telling effect. I highly recommend it, and it is an extraordinary piece of concentrated historical writing.

    My grandfather lead a life remarkably similar to that described for Innes through to 1920, and his overall feeling seemed to be that of betrayal by those who stayed home and by the administration in Britain.

    Les Caine: The soldiers fought for their Canada. The English recognized those soldiers (and the Australians) as colonials and cannon fodder. The majority of Canadian soldiers did not join up for King and Country, but for God and democracy... which made the associated jingoism they encountered on their return even more retching. They became Canadians at Vimy, and came home to empire-worship.

    Some things don't change enough.
  7. Eye Sore from Dog Pound, Alberta, Canada writes: Rick Salutin opines: "We go to pay tribute not just to the bravery of Canadian soldiers but to their waste of their lives. To use this battle to justify further waste, in Afghanistan for instance, seems to me more obscenity."

    There's an episode of Black Adder, with Rowan Atkinson (a.k.a. 'Mr Bean'), that uses World War I trench warface as a motif for comedy. Satirized was the grotesquely stupid way in which the lives of brave young soldiers and
    their officers were wantonly and routinely sacrificed by the Lord Kitcheners
    of the day - on all sides of the conflict. No pornography I know of can even begin to match this level of military obscenity.
  8. Kris Warren from Canada writes: Well, after reading this, I sure wouldnt want to be fighting beside Rick Saultin on the front lines...
  9. tim white from Canada writes: Lest we forget ...

    In Flanders fields . . .

    This reality is far removed from our lives as Canadians but unfortunately not from the lives of others who's fate is to live in war's grim shadow.

    We must continue to remind our leaders that war is no answer at all.

    Thank you Mr. Salutin.
  10. Diane Schweik from EDMONTON, Canada writes: Yes,WW1 should never have happened and no doubt led to WW2.However, how can you say WW2 should have been avoided when Germany was ruled by a megalomaniac who led one of the most advanced societies in Europe on an expansionist course to satisfy his crazy ideas ? The end result we all know.France and England were governed by appeasers who buried their heads in the sand.The public went along with this because of the carnage of WW1.The one person who warned of what lay ahead,WSC,was villified as a warmonger and spent the 30s as an outcast in his own party.
  11. Eye Sore from Dog Pound, Alberta, Canada writes: Note for Diane Schweik re WSC:

    In 1937, Winston Spencer Churchill published Great Contemporaries which included his 1935 profile, "Hitler and His Choice," in which WSC expressed his "admiration for the courage, the perseverance, and the vital force which enabled [Hitler] to challenge, defy, conciliate, or overcome, all authorities or resistances which barred his path." Hitler and his cohorts, said WSC, had "showed... their patriotic ardor and love of country..." And, he added: [W]e may yet live to see Hitler a gentler figure in a happier."

    WSC continued: "[H]istory is replete with examples of men who have risen to power by employing stern, grim, and even frightful methods, but who, nevertheless, when their life is revealed as a whole, have been regarded as great figures whose lives have enriched the story of mankind.
    So may it be with Hitler."

    That was Winston Spencer Churchill, the allegedly diehard non-appeaser, weighing in on Adolf Hitler -- as late as 1937.
  12. Diane Schweik from EDMONTON, Canada writes: Eye Sore WSC in 1934 opposed the sale of RR Merlin engines to Germany because even then he foresaw the threat from German militarism.His admiration for Hitler's energy in 1935(published in 1937) does not preclude him being aware of the danger to peace in Europe posed by Hitler.You can respect an enemy while at the same time opposing them.Just as I respect some people who post here with opposing views to mine.
  13. Kim Huynh from Montreal, Canada writes: The story of Vimy is a war story just like the one described by Tolstoy in "Wars and peace". It's about the crueties and the and the sufferings of the common folks under order in wars. When you try to make sense of wars its' already three or four decades passed. Of course, war is a waste of lives, but in denying those sacrifices at Vimy of their virtue, we actually betray those young and innocent men who just followed the order from their commanders to fight for their country and what it stands for.
  14. glenn laine from waterloo, Canada writes: There is a time to fight. It takes courage, resolve and a heart to ensure that time never comes.
  15. Juan Acevedes from Vancouver, Canada writes: Shame on Mr. Salutin for implying that Iran's recent actions were tolerable. Improperly apprehended, coerced and threatened, then released as part of a massive PR stunt... did you actually fall for that? After giving credit to someone like Ahmadinejad, how can we take anything you say seriously?

    Salutin's romantic views of the world are warm and fluffy, but they ignore the dangers we face. Evil exists, injustice exists, barbarism exists... things that are worth fighting against exist. Lives have been wasted. War is awful. But would you rather have Hitler's ovens? Would you rather have the Taliban's insitutionalized rapings and stonings? Shame.
  16. Cryin Outloud from Canada writes: "War Is A Racket". What kind of leader can justify sending people into war for their agenda of power and greed? Only someone that cannot put themselves in the shoes of someone else, only someone with no compassion can "lead" in such a way. A gambler, an addict, a psycopath. Someone that uses others to make themselves feel more powerful. That is obscene.

    When will we erect monuments and have celebrations for those that have prevented wars? When will we erect monuments with thousands of names on them because those people stood up for peaceful solutions? As long as people give their power to individuals they elect we will remain powerless to stop them from starting or participating in wars. When will there come the day that no one shows up for war? Now that could be a day of celebration and remembrance!
  17. Irene Cornwell from Morinville, Canada writes: Thank you for this opinion piece. I find it very brave amid today's political climate. Yes, of course we will eventually sit down with our foes in the current conflicts. Just as mankind has forever. If the same energy were put forth beofre the conflict, then Canadians would still be peacekeepers between near foes ( not an uncourageous act). And, I do back the troops today and their family at home because I have a family too. I do resent the random way of war, knowing behind the scenes many interests from financial to ego to class hatred to oil are calling the tune and the literal shots. As for the Prime Minister. He needs to remember that young men who were members of the official opposition fell at Vimy too.
  18. Mr Fijne from Calgary, Canada writes: As for those who constantly need to rehash it... war is never ending: corcodile tears!
  19. Bob M from Grimsby, Canada writes: Wow, Harper said that! I support him, but that is getting too Bushie for me. Gilles Duceppe, of all people, got off the best comment, which fits here, too: "But what makes democracy great is that you treat your enemy like a human being which is something dictatorships do not do."
  20. John E7 from Salt Spring Island, Canada writes: My grandad was a highly decorated ww1 Canadian Officer. When he got wounded (3 times) he was patched up and sent back into the front. Enlisted men got to go home if they were wounded.
    I never had the opportunity to meet him because he died of mustard gas related complications after the war.
    My grandmother was a nurse and she worked at Sunnyside helping the mangled vets.
    They both shared the opinion that the next time we went to war it would be under Canadian military control - not British.
    Cannon fodder is aptly put. Galipoli is an example of the Aussies being treated as cannon fodder.
    There is no such thing as an honourable war.
  21. James McEwen from Belleville, Ont, Canada writes: As a retired soldier, I agree that war sucks and we shouldn't kill people just because they do bad things to others. After all, are we gods or judges capable of understanding the deep underlying reasons for the perverse actions of others, I think not. As long as the zealots keep their killing away from us we should just ignore them. The outdated concept of standing up to a bully to protect the weak has no place in our modern world. Actually, if we let zealots and bullies go about their business unfettered with morality, we play our part in ensuring only the strongest survive and the world will be a better place. To sooth our conscience, we could have canned manifestos decrying war that could be sent out to beligerents at the start of any warlike posturing so they will have serious and sobering second thoughts. If the Kaiser and hitler had only been sent such missives. A bright note is that no one interfered with the hutu's and tutsi's as they slaughtered each other and we didn't lose a single Canadian as a result of some silly intervention. It was really a good thing that our Canadian General/UN observer and his troops didn't have any weapons or ammo as they may have been moved to interfere and got some Canadians killed. Understand that he wrote some great letters to the UN though. I did note that the NDP asked daily questions in the house wanting to know what Canada was doing about the situation so they would know what on the ground assistance to block. The Vimy monument is not to glorify war; rather, it glorifies the gallantry and heroic deeds of Canadian soldiers in carrying out their mission for Canada. Canada did come of age as a result of Canadians being commanded by Canadians instead of our colonial master. This was a first large step toward the independence we now enjoy as a result of their efforts..Finally, don't know why the Lib and NDP leaders would even want to be at Vimy as they don't like the war and military stuff at all.
  22. Tony Cape from Toronto, Canada writes: What appalling statements on this board, which in the past few months has become increasingly hysterical, distasteful and hopelessly polarized. Likening our Chief of Defense to a Nazi? I'm all for free speech, but what possible benefit do the rest of us gain from reading such ludicrous vitriol spewed on this site?

    Almost as ridiculous is the statement that "war is never the answer". Absolute pacifism is dangerous, as well as immoral, for to stand by and do nothing while horrible deeds are done to others renders the bystander complicit. Of course not every war is justified, but to turn around and say that no war is justified is to close your eyes to injustice forever. The absurdity of absolute pacifism is summed up nicely by Hillaire Beloc:

    Pale Ebenezer thought it wrong to fight
    But Roaring Bill (who killed him) thought it right.
  23. Billy Pilgrim from Canada writes:

    Diane Schweik says: "ruled by a megalomaniac who led one of the most advanced societies on an expansionist course to satisfy his crazy ideas"

    Please leave your anti-Americanism off the posts!
  24. Uncle Elmer from Canada writes: Juan Acevedes, yours is about the only intelligent post I have read on this thread.
  25. Barb Smith from Canada writes: Rick Salutin states "That would be why the PM didn't invite opposition leaders to come until media pressure forced him to."

    Again the misinformation and bias of the G & M comes to the forefront.

    The fact of the matter is that the invitations were issued Thurs., Mar 29 and hand delivered to the party whips asking who in their respective parties wanted to attend. This ahead of any media coverage.

    The CPC announcement was made Apr 3rd stating that the PM and his family would attend.

    Some investigative journalism to get the facts instead of spin would be nice for a change.
  26. b M from ottawa, Canada writes: trying to gauge/judge the actions of people 90 years ago is just revisionist history. If the UK,
  27. Andrew Mulcahy from Victoria, Canada writes: What gets me is that the war was started over some nut killing an ambassador and I'll bet most of the men recruited in those days would not even know the names of the two countries involved, or at least could have cared less about what went on in far off Europe. And, worse, the outcome would be of little import to Canada, one way or another. Indeed, the biggest effect on our nation at the time was the loss of four thousand young men at a time when our population was limited--men who could have stayed home and raised families. What a waste!

    The politicians of the day ,however, no doubt were praised for their courageous stand
  28. Peter Kells from Ottawa, Canada writes: I think that Robbie Burns stated the soldiers dilemma many years ago in his famous lines "Welcome to your gory bed, or to victory!" And for all of the platitudinous statements about motivations - I had many older relatives who fought in WWII in both the Italian campaign and the liberation of Holland. Growing up, I also had neighbours who were Hong Kong vets and had suffered through the horrors of the Japanese internment camps. I don't recall a single one of these men who ever wanted to discuss what they experienced. There were never outpourings about heroics, noble deeds and great causes. Rather through the years till they died, all I detected was a sense of silent sadness whenever the subject of war came up.

    I respect immensly the sacrifice that these men and all of their comrades made. We must never forget. The best way to remember and honour their deeds is not through monuments of stone and mortar but by being absolutely committed to creating the institutions and the international culture that will once and for all give substance to the phrase attached to the Great War - "A war to end all wars..." As Lester Pearson (a veteran of the Great War himself) understood - Canada is in a unique position to lead the world in that direction. It seems in recent times we have forgotten that - if we don't lead, who else will?
  29. Jim **** from Canada writes: Diane: History has revealed that Chamberlain wasn't really an appeaser. He was actively seeking an alliance with Hitler because he believed that the Britain should be working with Hitler against the Soviets. Hitler didn't go for it because he didn't believe Chamberlain could deliver. Hitler was right, because Churchill, et al, understood the nature of the Nazi threat and pushed Chamberlain out.
  30. Diane Schweik from EDMONTON, Canada writes: JIm You might be right.There were many Nazi sympathisers in England in the 30s.The Cliveden set etc.Churchill encountered hostility in his own party even when the war was well under way
  31. Frank Madigan from Capreol, Canada writes: I never felt proud when I was at Vimy...Just a tremedous sense of sadness.

    I knew of the futility, the fact the battle was just one of the many slaughters, the one pretentious guide who didn't quite get it that he was there to honour the soldiers not himself and the many guides who wanted to know more of the ground where they stood, proud young Cnadadians all.

    I touched the gravestones od many and said hello to many who had never been visited and knew I was thanked by each young man's family where ever they are.

    I visited the german cemetaries and noted the number of Jewish headstones, placed a stone on each and wondered of the German soldiers who might have visited 20 years after the conflict and wondered what they thought of Christian and Jews lying side by side who died for Germany?

    We ought to teach about Vimy and WW1 and WW11 not for pride or the glory of war. Perhaps so we can remember those who never held their daughter/son or grandchild.

    I can think of nothing sadder or more deserving of rememberance than to the beautiful graves of the humanity wasted in Flanders.
  32. Tom Willette from Canada writes: Yes, of course war is obscene, etc, etc, but I find it ironic that Mr. Salutin, who makes his living tilting at the government, can only do so because our parents and grandparents took up arms to protect his right to do so. Perhaps he should move to "civilized" Iran and criticize their religious/political leaders. I don't usually get past the first paragraph or so Mr. Salutin's commentary and I don't see any reason to change that habit.
  33. John Buchanan from Cambridge,MA, United States writes: Valpy on Vimy reminds this son of a man who survived Vimy Ridge and Pachendaele that Vancouver of his early labour (1956-8) still breeds the Colonial-minded he was glad to leave behind. ("The Brits will fight to the last Aussie and Canuck", said dad).And telling Col. Stacey at the Senior Fellows table at then colonial-minded Massey College that "No, I've not seen the glorious memorial' at Vimy, but I was brought up by a gunner who said he'd like to get his hands on the Brits who sent us there !" The only thing to protest is that those who never served, the Harpers and Bush Jr. heyney lads, take advantage of the courage of those who did serve. Like Vincent Massey as a Bigadier at Victoria College courtind the Don, while Uncle John was being gassed in Belgium, 1917.
    John Buchanan, Jr., Commissioned in Armoured Corps (1951), Chaplain(P), 1956, Retd. Supp Reserve, 1962
    (Happily Mother's famililies went to New England 300 years ago.)
  34. randall hansen from United Kingdom writes: Although I agree with Rick Salutin insofar as World War I was an utterly pointless war, I find it incredible that he suggests moral equivalence between western liberal democracies and Iran. Torture is a violation of everything liberal democracies stand for; it is basic to Iran's theocracy.

    If this is not barbaric, Professor Salutin, what is?

    In case the link does not work, it shows two Iranian teenagers hanged in public. Their crime? Being gay. One might also reflect on underage girls who are executed for political opposition. As you cannot execute virgins under Sharia law, they are raped before they are executed, and their family is informed of the whole proceedings afterwards.

    If this is not barbaric, I would be glad to know the correct adjective.

    Prof. Randall Hansen
    Department of Political Science
    University of Toronto
  35. Rusty Shackleford from Canada writes: Salutin is right...Vimy was pointless. So is Afghanistan.
    All armed conflict is a terrible waste. Ideals are just myths, used to get young men and women to commit atrocities.
    For that matter, police forces are pointless. We don't need them.
    We should all just hug...a great big warm embrace of humanity that runs the world 'round.
    Of course, if he's wrong....there's some comfort in knowing they round up the journalists first.
  36. Jimmy K from Toronto, Canada writes: Everyone is missing the point. We shouldn't "celebrate" Vimy as some sort of massive Canadian triumph that won the war, for it was not. We remember Vimy to remember those who perished fighting for us. Some may argue that the entire exercise of WW1 was pointless, but does that mean the men and women who volunteered to die there are any less deserving of our praise and thanks? When they signed up, they did not think about whether this would be seen as "worth it" 100 years from now, they signed up in service of their country, when their country asked them to do so. Perhaps their country let them down by sending them to die in a pointless war that did little to spread our ideals and protect our freedoms, but the point is they died, for us, and for that we should be eternally grateful. Vimy, was it worth it? In my opinion, this anniversary belongs to the men who died there, right now I don't want to debate if it was worth it or not, let's instead remember and thank those who perished and fought there.
  37. Chrisco Lorno from kitchener, Canada writes: This must be the whiners thread - absolutley sickening to hear you PC lib left loonies disgracing our Vimy victory and fight in Afganistan.
    You are the same people who would blame Harper if an attack happened here and vote NDP as a result.
    If 3000 were killed in 1 day as at Vimy we'd see white flags hanging out of all your windows.
    My position is that we KILL every insurgent over there in massive numbers so that they dont waltz through our "immigration" non system and lay in waiting. Oh Yes Virginia they ARE HERE..
  38. Jack Profijt from Canada writes: I have read many of the comments posted here, and there are many valid points. However there are a few things that have been overlooked. Everyone blames governments for acts of war and causing the deaths of soldiers and so on, the last time I checked it was the people that chose governments and how they are led. It is the people that should hold their govnments responcible for these acts.
    Also many of you who have posted here imply that soldiers fight only because they are told to, what would any of you know about why soldiers fight? No one knows the horrors of war better than a soldier, and they also know that when it is time for governments to send soldiers, some of them will die. In the heat of battle they fight for only one reason the man on there left and the man on there right, thats it.
    let us also not forget that a large majority of canadian soldiers in all of canadas conflicts including the current mission to Afganistan were all volunteers. There is still no shortage of volunteers that is just a testiment to the type of people that become canadian solders.

    I any of this requires an explination, you were never a soldier and you will never understand

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