Ten Lies Told About World War I

Hits: 182

This Remembrance Day will doubtless see strenuous efforts by some to justify the fruitless bloodbath that was the First World War. Revisionist commentators have long attempted to rehabilitate the conflict as necessary and just, but the arguments do not stand up. It does no service to the memory of the dead to allow any illusions in the justice or necessity of war, particularly so when the precedents will be used to argue for the next ‘necessary’ conflict. From the causes of the war, to its prosecution and its results, here are the counter-arguments to ten common pro-war ploys.

1. The war was fought in defence of democracy

This is contradicted by the basic facts. Germany had universal manhood suffrage while in Britain, including Ireland, some 40% of men still did not qualify for the vote. In Germany also, there were attempts to justify the war on the grounds that it was being fought to defend civilised values against a repressive, militaristic state, in the form of Russian autocracy.

2. Britain went to war due to a treaty obligation to defend the neutrality of Belgium

There was no clear and accepted obligation on Britain to do this, and, in fact, before the Belgian issue appeared, the war party in the cabinet was already pushing for British intervention on the entirely different ground that there were naval obligations to France. These obligations had been developed in secret arrangements between the military of both countries, and were never subject to any kind of democratic accountability. The Germans even offered guarantees over Belgian integrity, which the British government refused to consider at all.

3. German aggression was the driving force for war

However aggressive the German leadership may have been in 1914, the British establishment was at least as determined to take the opportunity to go to war with its imperial rival. At one point the Foreign Office even seized on imaginary German incursions into France to justify a British declaration of war on Germany. The declaration letter had to be retrieved from the German ambassador and rewritten when it was discovered that the stories were false. The enthusiasm of the British ruling class for war undermines any justification for it based on German aggression.

4. Germany had started a naval arms race with Britain

Imperialist competition between the two states over markets and resources preceded the arms race in the fifteen years before the war. Britain’s naval power was the vital element in its ability to restrict German access to markets and resources across the world. Unless Britain was willing to allow Germany to expand economically, the logic of capitalist competition meant that Germany was bound to challenge British naval supremacy. The latent violence of the leading imperial nation is always the context for aggressive challenges to the status quo on the part of rising powers.

5. German imperialism was uniquely vicious and had to be challenged

The atrocities committed against the Herrero people in Namibia were indeed terrible crimes, but were hardly unique compared to the horrors committed by all those involved in the rubber industry in the Belgian Congo, to take but one example. Also, European opinion had only a few years before 1914 been horrified by the brutality of another colonial power when it was engaged in ruthlessly expanding its dominance over independent states in Africa. This was Britain in its wars of aggression against the Boer states in South Africa, during which concentration camps were first used in order to control a civilian population.

6. Public opinion was united in favour of the war, as shown by images of cheering crowds in 1914

It is now usually admitted that the degree of enthusiasm for the war was strictly limited, and the evidence is that the crowds who gathered at the outbreak of war were by no means united in martial enthusiasm. In fact sizeable and widespread anti-war demonstrations occurred in both Britain and Germany. Had the leaderships of Labour and Socialist parties across Europe not caved into demands to support their national ruling classes in going to war, it is quite possible that the conflict could have been stopped in its tracks.

7. The morale of British troops fighting on the Western Front remained intact to the end of the war

While Britain may not have suffered quite the same scale of mutinies as in the German and French armies, at times there were whole stretches of the front where troops became so unreliable that generals did not dare order them into combat. The evidence for widespread cynicism about war strategies, contempt for the military leadership, and grave doubts about the purpose of the war, cannot be wished away by the revisionists. In so far as soldiers carried on willingly fighting the war, the explanation needs to be sought in the habituation to obedience, as well as the threat of court-martial executions. There is no need to invoke either fervid nationalism or any kind of deep psychological blood-lust as explanations.

8. The military leadership, notably General Haig, was not a bunch of incompetent ‘donkeys’

Attempts to rehabilitate the likes of General Haig founder on some of the basic facts about the tactics he relentlessly employed. Repeated infantry attacks on opposing trenches consistently failed to gain any clear advantage, while causing colossal casualties. On the first day of the battle of the Somme, 1st July 1916, 57,000 troops out of 120,000 were killed or wounded. Despite continuing carnage on an incredible scale, Haig carried on ordering further attacks. When any hope of a breakthrough against the German lines was clearly lost, the purpose of the battle was shifted to attrition pure and simple. The plan now was to kill more German troops than the British lost. Since there was no way of reliably measuring the casualties on the other side, Haig relied on estimating it through the losses of his own side. On this basis he began to be angered when the army suffered too few losses, as when he complained that one division in September had lost under a thousand men. There can be no defence for this kind of disregard of human life.

9. The end of the war saw the triumph of liberal capitalism, against collapsing autocratic Empires

In fact all states involved in the war were deeply destabilised. Even the United States, whose involvement was the most limited, experienced the ‘Red Summer’ of 1919, with unprecedented labour revolts, such as the Seattle general strike, alongside savage repression of socialists and black Americans. Britain saw the beginning of the Irish war of independence, and increasing unrest in India, which marks, in effect, the point at which the Empire began to unravel. Domestically, there was also a wave of radical working-class unrest, particularly in the ‘Red Clydeside’, which culminated in troops being sent into Glasgow to impose martial law.

10. The war achieved anything worthwhile whatsoever

The war opened up a period of endemic economic dislocation, and outright crisis. In Britain there was a decade of industrial decline and high unemployment even before the Great Depression. In effect, it was only the Second World War which brought the major capitalist powers out of the slump. The First World War saw the point at which capitalism became addicted to war and to a permanent arms economy. The war demonstrated the capacity of capitalism to create industrialised waste, carnage and destruction on a colossal scale. The remembrance of the war is appropriately a time for mourning the horror, the loss and the waste of it all, but it should also provoke a determination to resist our rulers’ insistence on promoting war to further their interests. War can achieve nothing other than to create the conditions for further wars.

Popular opinion has, ever since its ending, remembered the First World War as a time of horrendous and futile misery and slaughter, as epitomising political and military leaders’ incompetence and callous disregard for human life. That popular judgement, which has helped turn common opinion against war in general, was correct, and we must not let the war mongers dismiss this instance of the wisdom of ordinary people.


Originally published on 2014-11-09

About the author: Dominic Alexander is a member of Counterfire, for which he is the book review editor. He has been a Stop the War and anti-austerity activist in north London for some time. He is a published historian whose work includes the book Saints and Animals in the Middle Ages, a social history of medieval wonder tales.

Source: Counterfire

Origins of images: Facebook, Twitter, Wikimedia, Wikipedia, Flickr, Google, Imageinjection & Pinterest.

Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement!

Donate to Support Us

We would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations.

 
READ MORE!
The Western “Math-Gangsters” and the Kosovization of Macedonia
Introduction After the referendum’s results held in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on September 30th this year and the Western reactions on it (by the EU & NATO) it is absolutely clear that this small Balkan country is finally proven to be the Western puppet colony without its own real Government and above all the national sovereignty. To remind ourselves, the people of Macedonia were called to express their wish to change or not a state’s name into the Northern Macedonia and, therefore, its national name into the Northern Macedonians, in order to avoid further obstructions by neighboring Greece in ...
READ MORE
Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
Maybe it is the best agreement ever signed… Maybe by applying it, Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, will enter an era of great friendship and enormous prosperity… Maybe… The only small detail is the majority of the deputies of the Greek Parliament do not know the agreement is so good. Their parties declared they are opposing the agreement and they won’t ratify it. Even the An.Ell. party, which is the junior partner of SYRIZA in the government, does not know how profitable is this agreement. They said they would vote No to the agreement when introduced in the ...
READ MORE
Bismarck, the United States and the Pomeranian Grenadier
All of the Balkans, legendary German Reichskanzler (Imperial Chancellor) Otto von Bismarck famously said, were not worth the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier. And Bismarck, a Prussian landowner or junker had nothing but amused contempt for Pomeranian grenadiers who were regarded as a standing joke in the German Army. In 1890, brash, young new German Emperor Wilhelm II fired Bismarck after 28 years as minister-president of Prussia and then first Imperial Chancellor of Germany. He abandoned the priority policy of maintaining warm ties and close communications with Russia that Bismarck had always followed and scrapped the Dreikaiserbund, the League of ...
READ MORE
British Colonials Starved to Death 60 Million-Plus Indians
The chronic want of food and water, the lack of sanitation and medical help, the neglect of means of communication, the poverty of educational provision, the all-pervading spirit of depression that I have myself seen to prevail in our villages after over a hundred years of British rule make me despair of its beneficence. — Rabindranath Tagore If the history of British rule in India were to be condensed to a single fact, it is this: there was no increase in India’s per-capita income from 1757 to 1947.[1] Churchill, explaining why he defended the stockpiling of food within Britain, while millions died ...
READ MORE
Origins of the American Empire
Russia, Oil and Revolution By the 1870s, John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Empire had a virtual monopoly over the United States, and even many foreign countries. In 1890, the King of Holland gave his blessing for the creation of an international oil company called Royal Dutch Oil Company, which was mainly founded to refine and sell kerosene from Indonesia, a Dutch colony. Also in 1890, a British company was founded with the intended purpose of shipping oil, the Shell Transport and Trading Company, and it “began transporting Royal Dutch oil from Sumatra to destinations everywhere,” and eventually, “the two companies merged ...
READ MORE
ISIS is a US-Israeli Creation: Top Ten “Indications”
Makia Freeman is the editor of alternative news / independent media site The Freedom Articles and senior researcher at Tools For Freedom.com (FaceBook here), writing on many aspects of truth and freedom, from exposing aspects of the worldwide conspiracy to suggesting solutions for how humanity can create a new system of peace and abundance. ISIS is a US-Israeli creation, a fact as clear as the sky is blue. It’s a truth as black and white as the colors on their flag. For many alternative news readers, this may be patently obvious, but this article is written for the large majority of ...
READ MORE
Fake News on Russia and Other Official Enemies
It has been amusing to watch the New York Times and other mainstream media outlets express their dismay over the rise and spread of “fake news.” These publications take it as an obvious truth that what they provide is straightforward, unbiased, fact-based reporting. They do offer such news, but they also provide a steady flow of their own varied forms of fake news, often by disseminating false or misleading information supplied to them by the national security state, other branches of government, and sites of corporate power. An important form of mainstream media fake news is that which is presented while ...
READ MORE
The West Against the Rest or the West Against Itself?
What is the bigger story? The West Against the Rest or The West Against Itself? The Illiberal Quartet of Xi, Putin, Rouhani and Erdogan is in the line of fire of haughty homilies about Western “values.” Illiberalism is arrogantly and provocatively depicted in the West repeatedly as a Tartar Invasion 2.0. But closer to home Illiberalism is responsible for the social, civil war in the U.S. as Trump’s America has long ago forgotten what the European Enlightenment was all about. The Western view is a maelstrom of a Judaeo-Greco-Roman, pseudo-philosophy steeped in Hegel, Toynbee, Spengler and obscure biblical references decrying an Asian attack ...
READ MORE
The Western Russophobic Paranoia after the Cold War and Global Security
In regard to international relations (IR), power is understood as the ability of state or other political actors to impose its own control or influence over other state(s) or other political actors, or at least to influence the outcome of events on the local, regional or global level. Power politics as a phenomena has two dimensions: internal and external. The internal dimension is applied in the inner policy of the state and the external in the foreign affairs or outside of the home politics. The powerfulness of a state depends on its real independence or sovereignty from outside influence on ...
READ MORE
Western Imperialism ‘Must Go’
For years now, the Western elite have been incessantly pushing the slogan that ‘Assad must go.’ Under the pretext of removing an ‘evil’ dictator and helping the people of Syria, the West has been funding, arming and training an array of Al-Qaeda affiliated legions to force regime change in the country. Contrary to helping the people of Syria however, this has only worked to bring pain, misery and tragedy to Syria. Even the former US Defense Secretary, Chuck Hagel, admitted that the insistence on ‘Assad must go’ has “paralyzed” any rationale Syrian strategy.  Whenever the West appears to have moved on ...
READ MORE
Trump and the Wolfowitz Doctrine
As President Trump affirms publicly his commitment to friendly relations with Russia at an economic summit in Hanoi, (the first President since Franklin Roosevelt to do so), the press backs the special prosecutor seeking to indict him, while NATO continues to ramp up its forces on Russia’s borders with Europe by bringing in tanks and other ‘defensive’ weapons.  Although the United States was founded on Christian principles, and has one of the highest percentages of people practicing a religion of any Western country, most Americans seem not to realize that their country is building a case for nuclear war with the ...
READ MORE
The Nagorno-Karabakh Story the US does not Want You to Know
In the early morning hours of April 1-2 Azerbaijan launched a major military offensive into the disputed region Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) that’s been controlled and defended by NK Armenian forces since the Russian brokered truce ended a bloody three year war in 1994. While Azeri President Ilham Aliyev was flying back to Baku after meeting 24 hours earlier with John Kerry in Washington who claimed “an ultimate resolution” had been reached, Azerbaijan was already once again at war with the NK Armenians. The surprise element combined with the full scale major military operation spearheading a three pronged attack on Nagorno-Karabakh contact line from the southern, ...
READ MORE
Cold War Then, Cold War Now
The anti-Russian/anti-Soviet bias in the American media appears to have no limit. You would think that they would have enough self-awareness and enough journalistic integrity -– just enough -– to be concerned about their image. But it keeps on coming, piled higher and deeper.One of the latest cases in point is a review of a new biography of Mikhail Gorbachev in the New York Times Book Review (September 10). The review says that Gorbachev “was no hero to his own people” because he was “the destroyer of their empire”. This is how the New York Times avoids having to say anything positive about life ...
READ MORE
NATO Attack on Serbian State TV Wiped from Record
On 23 April 1999, a NATO missile attack on Radio Television of Serbia (RTS) headquarters killed 16 employees of the state broadcaster. The forgotten war crime occurred during the Kosovo War (March 1998-June 1999), and was part of NATO’s aerial campaign alongside the US-backed Kosovo Liberation army, in opposition to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.In the aftermath of the attack there were no great public campaigns launched for the 16 murdered journalists and employees, no outpouring of emotion for those killed, no calls for solidarity and togetherness in the face of aggression. On the contrary the West justified this grievous ...
READ MORE
Disappeared People in Kosovostan
During and after the the Kosovo conflict in 1998-1999, the KLA abducted and kidnapped over 2,000 Kosovo civilians, Serbs, Roma, and Albanians that opposed the KLA, who were tortured and murdered. Ten years after the conflict, these 2,000 remain missing. Approximately 1,000 to 1,3000 Kosovo Serbs are missing and presumed dead. How did they die? UNMIK occupation forces have been reluctant to investigate these mass murders of Kosovo civilians. What happened to them? Evidence has emerged that the KLA ran a series of prison camps, in Kosovo and in Albania itself, where they tortured and murdered Kosovo Serbs, Roma, and ...
READ MORE
The Naksa: How Israel Occupied the Whole of Palestine in 1967
More than 50 years ago, the state of Israel shocked the world when it seized the remaining Palestinian territories of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza Strip, as well as the Syrian Golan Heights and the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula, in a matter of six days. In a war with Egypt, Jordan and Syria, known as the 1967 War, or the June War, Israel delivered what came to be known as the "Naksa", meaning setback or defeat, to the armies of the neighbouring Arab countries, and to the Palestinians who lost all what remained of their homeland. The Naksa was a continuation of a ...
READ MORE
McCain Against the World
In his militarist lust he was near lunacy; his ignorance: profound; he was, in many respects, conventional—numbingly conventional—on Washington’s global role. That was John McCain. This was a man who, post-9/11, promoted measures expected to boost foreign terrorism. “Within hours” of that morning’s carnage, he made himself “leading advocate of taking the American retaliation against Al Qaeda far beyond Afghanistan,” to countries—like Iraq—with no Qaeda ties, where revenge, really, would be aggression. On CNN, aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, on “Face the Nation” he pushed for assaulting Iraq, stressing the “need to keep telling the American people” about Saddam’s menace, to ...
READ MORE
Kosovo Albanian “Skanderbeg SS Division”
The historical and political precedents for the creation of a greater Sqiperia or Greater Albania was set during World War II when the Kosovo and Metohija regions along with territory Southwest of lake Skutari from Montenegro and the western region of Southern Serbia, or Juzna Srbija (now part of Macedonia), were annexed to Albania by the Axis powers led by Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, under a plan devised by Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler to dismember and to destroy the Serbian Nation and people, which the Germans and Italians perceived as the main threat to the Axiss powers and ...
READ MORE
Ukraine Provocation in the Black Sea is Directed Against Russia
Ukraine is a virtual US colony – the way it’s been since the Obama regime’s February 2014 coup, replacing democratic governance with fascist tyranny in Europe’s heartland. Ukraine shares a near-1,500 mile land and sea border with the Russian Federation, the longest Western frontier with the country. The regime running things is a hotbed of militarized extremism, waging war on its own people, committing appalling human rights abuses – with full support and encouragement from Washington and key NATO countries. Stop NATO’s Rick Rozoff earlier explained that Ukraine is “the decisive linchpin in plans by the US and its NATO allies to effect ...
READ MORE
Ukraine’s State-Sponsored “Azov Battalion” Expands Use of Nazi-Inspired Symbols
On September 22, Ukraine’s Azov Battalion had a ceremony honoring its fighters who were killed in combat in eastern Ukraine’s Donbass regions. It is natural for any military unit to honor its dead. But it is evident from the images on Azov’s own website that this ceremony used iconography that is disturbingly reminiscent of the 1930s Nuremberg rallies, including the use of searchlights, the banners with Waffen-SS stylized logos and the flames. The background of Azov, its leadership, its recruitment and emblems are all deeply disturbing. It grew out of the Social-National Assembly of Ukraine (S.N.A.), a group of far right and neo-Nazi organizations ...
READ MORE
The Western “Math-Gangsters” and the Kosovization of Macedonia
Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
Bismarck, the United States and the Pomeranian Grenadier
British Colonials Starved to Death 60 Million-Plus Indians
Origins of the American Empire
ISIS is a US-Israeli Creation: Top Ten “Indications”
Fake News on Russia and Other Official Enemies
The West Against the Rest or the West Against Itself?
The Western Russophobic Paranoia after the Cold War and Global Security
Western Imperialism ‘Must Go’
Trump and the Wolfowitz Doctrine
The Nagorno-Karabakh Story the US does not Want You to Know
Cold War Then, Cold War Now
NATO Attack on Serbian State TV Wiped from Record
Disappeared People in Kosovostan
The Naksa: How Israel Occupied the Whole of Palestine in 1967
McCain Against the World
Kosovo Albanian “Skanderbeg SS Division”
Ukraine Provocation in the Black Sea is Directed Against Russia
Ukraine’s State-Sponsored “Azov Battalion” Expands Use of Nazi-Inspired Symbols
Global-Politics.eu

Written by Global-Politics.eu

SHORT LEGAL DISCLAIMER: The website’s owner & editor-in-chief has no official position on any issue published at this website. The views of the authors presented at this website do not necessarily coincide with the opinion of the owner & editor-in-chief of the website. The contents of all material (articles, books, photos, videos…) are of sole responsibility of the authors. The owner & editor-in-chief of this website is not morally, scientifically or legally responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in the contents of all material found on this website. The owner & editor-in-chief of this website is not responsible for the content of external internet sites. No advertising, government or corporate funding for the functioning of this website. The owner & editor-in-chief and authors are not morally, scientifically or legally responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in the text and material found on the website www.global-politics.eu

Website: http://www.global-politics.eu