Eight decades on

I once wrote a column on an anniversary of the Battle of Verdun (February through December, 1916). This was a memorably destructive event in the Great War, in which Germany and France combined to eliminate more than 300,000 of their respective soldiers, and maim another half-million or so. The Germans struck first; the French eventually “won.” I was defending, not so much the French, but the willing sacrifice of French youth, fed into a (highly efficient) German meat grinder.

It would have been better if the generals on both sides had not been so wasteful of human life. But they were very wasteful, and as “Jerry” ascended the Meuse Heights — at incredible cost — “Marianne” replied, not for liberty, equality, and fraternity, but for everything.

Our Canadians on Juno Beach in Normandy also understood the meaning of, “No price too high!” They also triumphed when they had no option, among many incidental deaths.

Readers of the newspaper with my Verdun column (the Kingston Whig-Standard) were scandalized, as they often were, by me. (It’s a commie town.) How dare I advocate for the deaths of so many, especially when an Iraq war was approaching, and “NBC” weapons might be used? Not for the first time, I was hazed on the street, by pacifist ninnies. Perhaps I encouraged this by calling them “poofters.” All had missed my delicate reasoning; I was not defending war for the sake of war. I was not half-cracked, like them.

There are times when you just have to fight. There may even be times when you are in the right. Operation Overlord was a good example; we must be ready to go there again. For there are times when the man who is running from danger lives a worthless life, compared to the man who gets killed.