Saturday, January 29, 2005

Thanks to Daniel Davies on the Crooked Timber site for a reference to Marc Mulholland and a thoughtful re-appraisal of the Iraq War legitimacy from an initial supporter.

Mulholland says: "My view has been that war, in shattering the institutions of tyranny, provided opportunity for democratic structures to consolidate. This was, and remains, true. One's hope is that something tolerable will emerge from the January elections. But this was never a sufficient case for war in itself. It was a kind of revolutionary defeatism, in which it was legitimate to welcome Saddam's fall. But, it will be noted, that in the classic case of revolutionary defeatism - the Liberal-Left's hope for Tsarism's defeat at the hands of Japan in 1905 - there was no assumption that Japan's war had to be defended in itself. Wars, both good and ill, often provide opportunities for democratisation, but this has never intrinsically justified them. ...

Torture, and with it the mass killing of non-combatants, is repugnant because it is anti-human. A war that is not forced upon a belligerent, and which unleashes disproportionate human cost, cannot be justified even if it creates potential for liberation in broad swathes of society. This is not to say that progressives should not work to realise emancipatory impulses, but they should also decry the war which heralds barbarism. Even if the whole of the Middle East goes democratic as a consequence of war, the Coalition will still have committed a horrible mistake in igniting a war that extinguished 100,000 lives."

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Wednesday, January 26, 2005

One day in the life...
I think I have taken a step away from one of the great nightmares. For the first time I have met people who were at Belsen and although neither of them remebered my father it was still an important and moving day for me. It helped me to put his memories into context.

My dad ( a Royal Engineers officer) had to bury the dead at Belsen and try to count how many died. Rabbi Hardman described how bodies were scattered around the camp, in ditched and in hedges. Dad had to collect these bodies, find bones of earlier deaths, identify and count the numbers found of two 'target bones' for a forensic census, estimate how many bodies it would take to produce the volume of human ash discovered..

He built the great burial mounds at Belsen. He was a technical witness at the War Crimes Tribunals. He met the SS guards and was present at the executions of some of them.

Since Anne Frank died at Belsen shortly before the liberation, if anyone buried her remains it was dad and his team. And because that iconic picture of a young girl is flashed up for every otehr Holocaust story in TV and films, he was never allowed to forget it. When he died, almost exactly two years ago now, one of my feelings was relief that at last he had some release from those memories.

When Rabbi Hardman quetly turned to me on monday and gave a sponaneous blessing for my Father I felt as if at last his quiet pain was recognised and embraced.

And I too can move on a little. Never forgetting though...

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