Category Archives: From War to Peace

What Mr Fox says

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Liam Fox, the UK Government International Trade Secretary, spoke at the DSEI Arms Fair and is quoted in The Independent as saying the following:
“If nations and peoples have an inalienable right to look after their own defence, those of us from advanced economies must remember that if we do not provide countries with means of defending themselves, then we will see a proliferation of uncontrolled and unregulated arms sales free from oversight or inhibitions. To allow such a situation to develop would be vastly irresponsible.”

Let us try to understand what Mr Fox means. First, we read, “If nations and people have an inalienable right to look after their own defence…” It seems to be that Mr Fox adds mentally, “and they do.” Because of that supposition, Mr Fox argues, “those of us from advanced economies must remember” . . . This is rather a strange thing to say. First, it implies that those of us from advanced economies are in danger of forgetting, might have an amnesia in this area, whatever it is. Second, it focusses on “those of us from advanced economies”, which of course might mean you and me, but does not because we have not even thought about forgetting our inalienable rights. Rather, what Mr Fox is doing is suggesting, or presuming, that the business of defence is on a par with the “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” mentioned in the Declaration of American Independence, an inalienable right. He is doing his best to legitimate the selling of arms and is speaking to mega arms dealers from “advanced” countries at an arms fair who are not likely to forget that they need to sell arms to provide countries with the “means of defending themselves”. It is an entirely concocted conceit.

But, Mr Fox is not actually talking about selling arms, which might bring to mind selling arms to dictators, to those who attack other countries, to human rights abusers, indirectly to terrorists and to those who have or might attack us. No. Mr Fox is talking about not selling arms. If we do NOT provide… This is a warning. But what kind of warning is it about not selling arms? What prophetic words are being laid before us if we are not supplying arms to those who would defend themselves?

This is where Mr Fox produces his supposed coup de grace. If we are not selling arms to those who would defend themselves, then “we will see a proliferation of uncontrolled and unregulated arms sales free from oversight or inhibitions.” There is only one response to this sentence, something like “Eh?” or “You what?” or “The logic eludes me.” Why should not selling arms to countries which would defend themselves lead to a proliferation of uncontrolled and unregulated arms sales? Would the US, UK, Japanese, German, French, Russian, Chinese and other Governments suspend all their regulations and allow a proliferation of uncontrolled and unregulated arms sales, when they have suffered from terrorism and opportunist wars? Would these Governments seek to allow North Korea and terrorist groups to buy arms because we are not selling arms to those who would defend themselves. It is flattery to call this an idea, or to seek for a causal relationship which inhabits Mr Fox’s word, “then”. There is no causality, but this is merely a scare dreamed up somewhere in Mr Fox’s head or left elbow. He is greasing the arms trade that he has served so well, but without the semblance of an argument. It is empty of any conceivable sense. It is a thought in absentia.

To “allow such a situation to develop would be vastly irresponsible”, but that is precisely why it is unthinkable and why Mr Fox is talking nothing in a long sentence. In fact, the real question to which Mr Fox might turn his mind is whether the West selling arms to Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Israel, Libya, Argentina, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan and throughout much of Africa and to countless dictators has helped world peace? We could wait decades for an answer. Meanwhile , it is through this kind of rubbishy scare that the trade in arms is justified by our Government. The question is whether the scare works, as other scares by the arms companies and their acolytes have. That is up to you.

A Christian Policy for North Korea

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The time has long come for some clear thinking about the North Korean military threat. But, of course, it is not the only military threat in the area. Another is the United States under President Trump. More widely, militarism is a world-wide problem encouraged by the arms trade. Most states have weapons, a visible sign of mistrust of other states and of domestic populations. Wars are often about the existence of these weapons and their destructive power around the globe is immense, causing grief, poverty, masses of refugees and the destruction of property and infrastructure. Militarism is the biggest failed experiment on the planet, causing perhaps 10% of total global warming, yet the big problem is rarely addressed. North Korea is a symptom of a bigger problem, but a serious one.

North Korea is now a nuclear crisis. The regime is testing nuclear weapons and missiles. We note nuclear tests have already killed an estimated 60 million world-wide through cancer. But now it seems there is a direct nuclear threat in the hands of a dictator who might use them.

It is time Christianity, espoused by well over two billion of the world’s population, made its contribution to world politics and to the increasing militarism around the world. Its principles and perspective should be there in the arena of world affairs. Sadly, Donald Trump has not undertaken any Christian thought beyond kindergarten and is completely unequipped to make any contribution.

There are three basic principles. Christianity sits under God’s commandment not to murder. Christ requires us to love our enemies, and we are to be peacemakers. Now we have threats, the building of hate and misunderstanding and war preparation. We are travelling exactly in the wrong direction, and need a rethink in the light of these Christian principles.

Christ deconstructed fear and trauma. Let us think in a different way. First, let us put North Korea in context. It has an economy half the size of Lancashire and a population which is poor. Second, we can understand that it has remained traumatized since the Korean War, when General MacArthur, had not Eisenhower firmly sacked him, would have happily nuked the North. It needs extracting from that past. Third, the United States and South Korea have undertaken forty years of joint military exercises against North Korea and subjected it to sanctions. As with Cuba, it has tried to make it into a failed state. No love there. Fourth, North Korea has built up its nuclear weapon capability partly through Pakistan, but also by buying bits and pieces from the nuclear and missile industries east and west; we have helped because we have not disarmed and removed the threat under which North Korea cowers. The United States has 9,600 nuclear warheads; it, and we, have killed vast numbers in a unilateral war in Iraq. North Korea can legitimately feel in danger. Finally, the double standard: – We can have nuclear weapons and you cannot – is laughable as well as violating our signing of the Non-Proliferation treaty.

The biggest point remains Christ’s insistence that we love our enemies. If you treat someone, or a state, as an enemy, for forty years, it is likely they will turn out to be an enemy, especially if bullying is involved, but if an enemy is loved and respected, they will grow not to be antipathetic and vindictive. As Christian leaders met after the intense hatred of the Second World War and vowed friendship and an end to conflict and have made European War unthinkable, so friendship and love can mark all international relations. Loving enemies is the basis of all international politics, not the UK’s frequently stated national self-interest, and it involves justice, closing down militarism and making sure that nation speaks peace unto nation. But we have wasted forty years and the danger is intense.

This perspective shows the way ahead. China, not the United States, should be the lead country. Actually, China has had a patient, long-term relationship with North Korea which has neither involved sloppy acceptance of faults nor threatening aggression. It is neighbour and a good neighbour to North Korea, and it also has good relationships with South Korea and very strong trading links. In other words, it is a close by, fair broker between the two regimes, and moreover its trading relationship and size gives it strong leverage. China advocates total nuclear disarmament, is totally against the first use of nuclear weapons, and it could make clear to North Korea that all external aggression is out, given the absence of the United States from immediate engagement with the area. The policy required is therefore the withdrawal of the United States from this situation. At the same time, if North Korea has no threat, it needs, and should have, no nuclear weapons, like the rest of us. Multilateral nuclear disarmament could happen here and begin now.

Background to Iraq – slaves to our history

kingghaziIraq seeks its Independence.
Iraq has a long history which goes back to the dawn of writing and even the Garden of Eden. Abraham journeyed from Ur. The Babylonian Empire rose and fell here, and after another two millennia and more, it was subject to the Arab Islamic conquest in the mid 7th century, and Baghdad became the capital of the Islamic world for another five centuries . It was sacked by the Mongols, suffered the Black Death in the fourteenth century, and was the focus of a rivalry between the Safavids of Iran and the Ottoman Turks from which the latter slowly assumed control. During the 19th century its population fell to five million from earlier figures of thirty million or more, but it remained a culturally rich area well capable of independence. As the twentieth century beckoned Iraq was looking for freedom from the Ottoman Empire and a new start.

The First World War and the Empire.
Our European War, the First World War, was fought throughout much of the globe, and it was also fought in Iraq. When the War arrived the Ottoman Empire sided with the Germans and Austrians. It fought tenaciously at Gallipoli, but gradually lost control of its territories including Iraq as the central powers were defeated. The war in Iraq was a major confrontation. The British moved in from the Gulf with some success and with support by the Kuwaitis. They were in Basra by November, 1914. In April, 1915 the British were successful in the battle of Shaiba, but in November that year they were surrounded at Kut, and under siege in December and early 1916. On the 29th April, over 13,000 soldiers surrendered and became captives. But in December 1916 British forces resupplied at the port of Basra advanced on Baghdad and General Maude and his troops captured Baghdad and some 15,000 Ottoman soldiers. Right at the end of the War British troops advanced into Mosul and captured the oilfields near there. So the First World War in Iraq was a major front. The British lost 92,000 soldiers in the area while the Ottoman Empire lost over 300,000 troops. Of course, many of those soldiers were from India and other parts of the Empire. Overall the cost of the War in Iraq was some £40 million, and it was carried through partly so that Muslims in other areas would not get the idea of revolting against the British. Strategically, Iraq was also seen as key to an overland route to India and part of a grand colonial design. With the collapse of the Ottoman Empire Britain’s empire in the East could grow yet more. Germany had been a rival planning a railway to Baghdad, but now that threat was gone and Britain had it all its own way, with a little accommodation to the French. The War in the East was a great imperial victory.
But the Americans, and native populations around the world were beginning to have a different view of Empire. A grand British Empire was not now so straightforward. The “Indian Mutiny”, as we called it, happened in 1857 and many people now knew that the Indian people should have their independence. The Boer war and concentration camps did not receive much approval, even in Britain, and people were beginning to question colonial savagery by the British, French, Belgians. Perhaps nations had the right to govern themselves.

T.E. Lawrence and Charles Doughty: being a guest.
The key British figure in the fight against the Ottoman Empire was T. E. Lawrence who worked with tribes and rulers in Palestine, Syria and Iraq to defeat the Turks throughout the region and was seen as the hero of the war in that area. He was a different figure, absorbing the cultures of the vast Arabian area, and coming to see things from their point of view, seeing that of course they needed and should have self government. He was one of a group of British people who understood the Arab people not in terms of power, but in personal terms. He depended in part on the great Charles Doughty, who earlier wrote Arabia Deserta, a travelogue of the desert people of the great space between Arabia, Syria and Iraq. From Doughty he got information, perspective and a sense of these desert people. It is worth dwelling with Doughty for a moment. In his introduction to the book, Lawrence writes,
“I have studied it [Arabia Deserta] for ten years, and have grown to consider it a book not like other books, but something particular, a bible of its kind…[Doughty] had many things against him. Forty years ago the desert was less hospitable to strangers than it is today. Turkey was still strong there, and the Wahabi movement had kept fanaticism vivid in the tribes. Doughty was a pioneer, both as European and Christian, in nearly all the districts he entered. Also he was poor. He came down a lone man from Damascus with the pilgrim caravan, and was left behind at Medain Salih with scant recommendation. He struck out into the desert… They tell tales of him, making something of a legend of the tall and impressive figure, very wise and gentle, who came to them like a herald of the outside world. His aloofness from the common vexations of their humanity coloured their imagination. He was very patient, generous and pitiful, to be accepted into their confidence without doubt. They say he seemed proud only of being Christian, and yet never crossed their faith. He was book learned, but simple in the arts of living, ignorant of camels, trustful of every man, very silent. He was the first Englishman they had met. He predisposed them to give a chance to other men of their race, because they found him honourable and good. So he broke a road for his religion. He was followed by Wilfrid Blunt and Miss Gertrude Bell, other strong personalities…No country has been more fortunate in its ambassadors. We are accepted as worthy persons unless we prove ourselves to the contrary by our misdoings..”
This then was the choice:- to be guests of these people or to be colonial overlords, to be humane or to go in with a gun. T.E.Lawrence fought with them against the Ottoman Empire, respected them deeply and was respected by them.He promised the rulers in the area that independence would follow at the end of the War and he thought the British Government had also agreed the same thing.
Indeed, he had good grounds for so doing. It was strongly stated in the Anglo-French Declaration made on the 9th November, 1918 as the Ottoman Empire fell and the Great War ended. It said:
“The object aimed at by France and Great Britain in prosecuting in the East the War let loose by the ambition of Germany is the complete and definite emancipation of the peoples so long oppressed by the Turks and the establishment of national governments and administrations deriving their authority from the initiative and free choice of the indigenous populations.
In order to carry out these intentions France and Great Britain are at one in encouraging and assisting the establishment of indigenous Governments and administrations in Syria and, Mesopotamia, now liberated by the Allies, and in the territories the liberation of which they are engaged in securing and recognising these as soon as they are actually established.
Far from wishing to impose on the populations of these regions any particular institutions they are only concerned to ensure by their support and by adequate assistance the regular working of Governments and administrations freely chosen by the populations themselves. To secure impartial and equal justice for all, to facilitate the economic development of the country by inspiring and encouraging local initiative, to favour the diffusion of education, to put an end to dissensions that have too long been taken advantage of by Turkish policy, such is the policy which the two Allied Governments uphold in the liberated territories.”
This is a strong, clear and hopeful document. It cannot be misunderstood. This is the British Parliamentary translation. But all was not as it seemed. A secret agreement, the Sykes-Picot Agreement, was negotiated between November, 1915 and March, 1916 and signed on 26th May, 1916 which carved up the area among the great powers. The French had the mandate for Syria and Lebanon and the British for Palestine and Iraq. President Wilson had intended Versailles to be the great treaty of national self-determination and independence following the American model of 1776, but the old colonial powers in part thought differently. Lloyd-George and Clemenceau met a few weeks after the Anglo-French Declaration on 1-4th December, 1918 and agreed on the spheres of influence which were to be exercised in a quasi-colonial way, with no immediate move to full independence and in denial of the Anglo-French declaration. Lawrence, betrayed by the British Government, was cut off from the people he loved, and later died.

Arabs and Jews.
Another part of the post war agreement was the Balfour Declaration that the Jews should have a homeland in Palestine. This partly arose out of Christian and Jewish Zionism and also out of anti-Semitism in Europe, including Russia, and in the Middle East. Balfour published a letter saying that this aim was government policy but this was not fully communicated to the Hashemite kingdom of Jordan. The letter of the 2nd November, 1917 was as follows:
His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.
The promise was for a home and not a state, though some of the people behind the declaration, like Leopold Amery, Lloyd George and Alfred Milner saw the possibility of Palestine becoming a Jewish Commonwealth when the Jewish population in the area had become a majority. However, the Palestinians did not much like part or the whole of their country being given away by a colonial power. They could give away Kent if they wanted to, but Palestine had been mandated near independence, and Britain was again exceeding its brief in a quasi-colonial way.
It is worth hearing the words of the Muslim-Christian Association in a petition a day after a Zionist Commission parade on the 3rd of November, 1918.
“We have noticed yesterday a large crowd of Jews carrying banners and over-running the streets shouting words which hurt the feeling and wound the soul. They pretend with open voice that Palestine, which is the Holy Land of our fathers and the graveyard of our ancestors, which has been inhabited by the Arabs for long ages, who loved it and died in defending it, is now a national home for them… We Arabs, Muslim and Christian, have always sympathized profoundly with the persecuted Jews and their misfortunes in other countries… but there is wide difference between such sympathy and the acceptance of such a nation…ruling over us and disposing of our affairs.”
Of course, there are two sides to this question. Jews had faced pogroms. But the motivation for the Balfour Declaration identifies the problem. Commentators agree that the main impetus to making the declaration was to bring the Jewish lobby in the United States firmly on board for the United States War Effort. The United States declared war against Germany on the 6th April, 1917. On the 5th May the British Foreign Secretary, Arthur Balfour addressed the United States House of Representatives eulogizing democratic institutions, and on the 18th July Lord Rothschild drafts the first version of the letter. So the formulation of the Balfour Declaration was partly about politics in Washington and London rather than a direct concern for persecuted Jews. If the motivation is in the wrong place, the outcome is likely to be as well. Carrying out this policy required a great deal of goodwill in the area and was likely to be difficult. It became more difficult because of what followed.
Churchill and the British War against Iraq Independence.
At the end of the War Iraq was mandated to the United Kingdom for military rule by the League of Nations. The terms of the Class A Mandate were set out in Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations. They were deemed to “… have reached a stage of development where their existence as independent nations can be provisionally recognized subject to the rendering of administrative advice and assistance by a Mandatory until such time as they are able to stand alone. The wishes of these communities must be a principal consideration in the selection of the Mandatory.” Iraq was a Class A mandated territory. The understanding in this arrangement was that mandated territories would quickly move towards independence.
Yet, the British occupation did not honour this principle, but sought to stay in control. The oil in the area was likely to be strategic for the oil companies and the Navy. In the language of the time, we had an interest in the area. The Iraqis were looking forward to independence and did not much like being occupied in a way which did not accord with the Mandate. A lot had fought to be rid of the Ottoman Empire and did not expect it to be replaced by the British. They thought they could govern themselves, but were not given the chance. In the Spring of 1920 they began peaceful requests for a route to independence. These escalated into coherent protest. There was agreement between Shia and Sunni groups about independence. Three anti-colonial groups formed – The league of Islamic Awakening, the Muslim National League and the Guardians of Independence and representatives were chosen to represent the case to the Civil Commissioner, James Wilson in May. He dismissed the possibility and in June armed opposition began which soon spread. By the end of July the Iraqis controlled most of the area round Baghdad and also much of the area to the North. David Omissi describes it thus.
“The revolt shook the very foundations of British rule in Mesopotamia, and brought about major changes in political and military policy. The rising, mainly a response to British tax policy, began in Rumaitha in early July and insurrection was general along the lower Euphrates by the middle of the month. After a column composed mainly of the 2 Manchesters was almost entirely destroyed by a rebel ambush, a division of Indian reinforcements was hastily summoned to Basra, but the first of these reserves did not arrive until 7 August. The situation was at its most serious during the last week of August when the rebellion spread to the upper Euphrates and to the countryside around Baghdad: there were also the first signs of unrest in Kurdistan. At the height of their effort the tribesmen fielded about 131,000 men, of whom perhaps half were armed with modern rifles. Their leaders were drawn mainly from those groups whose power had waned under British rule: Shia mujahids, former Ottoman civil servants and ex-officers of the Turkish armies. The leading Arab patriots in Baghdad and the wealthy merchants of Basra, men with more to lose, stood aloof and awaited the event. For the British the crisis had passed by mid-September but heavy fighting went on until the end of the following month.” The Kurds were organising their own rebellion at the same time, so the British Government was upsetting almost everyone.
Winston Churchill had been appointed Minister of War at the end of the War to clear up any unresolved problems, and he was not going to let go of any of the Empire. He had vast amounts of unneeded weapons left over from the War at his displosal. When he heard about local rebellions, he thought that aerial bombardment might be the answer to these disturbances and he sent in planes and dropped about a hundred tons of bombs on villages and troubled areas, an unheard of move outside the trenches of the Western Front. He engaged Hugh Trenchard to organize the bombing campaign and the Iraqis and Kurds were terrified into submission. The Air Minister, Lord Thomson, detailed how one district of “recalcitrant chiefs” was subdued in the Liwa region on the Euphrates in November 1923. He wrote: “As they refused to come in, bombing was then authorised and took place over a period of two days. The surrender of many of the headmen of the offending tribes followed.” Bomber Harris first learned his trade here. Churchill also suggested using gas from planes. As Catherwood points out, his impetus was largely to save money on the military; this was a quicker and more efficient way of ending the war than conventional troops. The Kurds were duly killed or subdued and also ceased their revolt. (In retrospect, perhaps independence to the Kurds then would have saved us all a lot of trouble.)
Churchill was happy to drop bombs on the natives to show them who was in charge. This move was quite momentous in two ways. First, for many the horrors of the Great War had led them to conclude that it was the War to End All Wars, and they wanted a full end to all military aggression. Churchill broke that barrier by carrying on with business as usual. Second, the idea of mandated rule became quickly distrusted; it was holding on to territory instead of launching countries towards democracy. Churchill faced a great deal of press criticism at home, partly because of the bombing, also because of the cost of the war and also because the war-time promises of independence had been broken. Quelling the rebellion cost some £20 million in 1920 just when Britain was trying to recover from the vast expenditure of the Great War. Churchill, the arch-colonialist, keen on a strategy for welding India into British control, was on the defensive and seen as a belligerent and dangerous politician.

The Post-War Client King.
Churchill set about rectifying the situation and trying to calm things down. He summoned a Conference in Cairo to sort out what should happen and it was agreed to appoint King Faisal as a client ruler. It is interesting how Churchill presented this move. “The main upshot as far as Iraq was concerned, was that the Emir Feisel was invited to proceed to Baghdad as a candidate for the throne of Iraq. Though not of Iraqi origin, he had very special qualifications for the post. He came of the Sharafinian family, which as guardians of the holy place at Mecca, commanded wide veneration throughout the Islamic world. His father, Sherif Hussein (afterwards for a time King of the Hejaz), had organised the Arab revolt against the Turks during the war.. He himself had fought gallantly on our side and had taken part in the various exploits of desert warfare with which the name of Colonel Lawrence will always be associated.” This is a politician trying to mend his reputation. But he is appointing someone “on our side”, a client king, and the king knew that his position as monarch depended on the British and therefore accepted what he could not change.. The threat of bombing remained if there was any trouble with the Air Force in Iraq increased to eight squadrons in 1921, and gradually the population quietened down accepting the British imposed status quo.
Thus, Faisal was chosen as king in a referendum and became the head of Government. During his time in power the representative institutions waned and the military became closer to the centre of government, partly because the British military were the power behind the throne. As well as the Iraqi army the British used Assyrian recruits as well. Churchill pointed out how the cost of the British Garrison dropped from £20m in 1921/2 to £5m in 1923/4 to £1.6m in 1927/8. This period after the Great War, when Churchill was organising fkingghaziighting the full length of the borders of the USSR to get rid of the Red Menace and in Iraq was where he learned another level of fighting war. He had already failed in backing the Dardanelles Campaign and was desperately trying to restore his reputation. But now he had brought Iraq back under control, and in his version of the history the Empire was back on track.

Oiling the Wheels
In the era after 1918 the British expected to dominate the oil territories of the Gulf area. They had an established position in Kuwait. As Fiona Venn notes, “In 1918, the Foreign Office stated that ‘It is imperative that . . . Great Britain should continue, as hitherto, to perform her special duties and to retain complete ascendancy in the Persian Gulf.’ It reiterated this belief in a 1926 general review of British foreign policy commitments.” At the time Kuwait was the most developed of the oilfields, but by 1927 it was clear that there was a major oil field in the Kirkuk region of Iraq. The Iraqis did not have the infrastructure, knowhow and independent access to markets to exploit it on their own, so the international oil giants were able to entrench and grow. The United States wanted to be in on the act, and they began bargaining strongly in the early 1930s. It was helped by the fact that Edwin Mellon, the Head of Gulf Oil, was also Ambassador to Britain and Britain might find herself defaulting to the States on its First World War debts. There were a variety of views in the Foreign Office and other departments, as Fiona Venn shows, but some accommodation was made to the Americans in Kuwait and also in Iraq.
There the Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC) was formed with Shell, BP, French and American companies having roughly a quarter each. The British mainly thought of oil in terms of fuelling their battleships and aircraft, because the British motor car industry remained quite small and elitist, but in the States under the impetus of Ford and General Motors the need for oil for car transport was expanding more rapidly. Broadly, there was enough oil for world demand in this period, and so the oilfields were only slowly developed. The Anglo-Iraqi Treaty guaranteed British interests in the area, partly because the British fleet commanded the Gulf and so the British oil interest was firmly established. Iraq was the main source of the wealth of Shell and BP, the great British petroleum giants. These companies had automatic access to government, especially when Conservative Governments were in power, and oil was to be a long term player in the area. It was not without significance that the two countries which controlled Iraqi oil from the beginning were also the ones which invaded in 2003.

The 1930s.
By this time the British policy of governing through the Sunni minority population had established a status quo. It coloured Sunni-Shia relations in the country with the latter feeling an underlying resentment which was to build over five decades or more, while the military became a Sunni cabal, formally working with the British, but really wanting to be rid of them. Iraq was technically made independent in 1932, though it remained in effect a British colony, with British military bases and strong protection of the oil installations and routes. A Treaty protected British bases and oil interests. Britain also had their own man in place, Nuri al-Said, who worked with the British and appointed his own people in the military and government whenever possible.
The new King Ghazi, son of Faisal I tried to move away from British control.. He had been Crown Prince since 1924. He was irked by being substantially being controlled from London. As he came to power in August, 1933, the Iraqi armed forces attacked Christian Assyrian groups living in the North East in what came to be known as the Simele Massacres. They were members of the ancient Nestorian Church, and had already been massacred in 1915 as part of the wartime fighting. They had trouble with the Kurds, partly because the British used them to fight their Kurdish neighbours. Tens of thousands died in 1915 and many more were relocated to refugee camps by the British. The massacre in 1933 was actually supported by King Ghazi and signalled a situation where the military were more or less in control to do anything.
In 1936 there was a coup d’etat overthrowing Prime Minister Yasin al-Hashimi. It was staged by Bakr Sidqi, acting Commander of the Iraqi Army. It was to be followed by six more coups in the period up to 1941. Sidqi was assassinated in 1937. By this time the country had moved from being a constitutional monarchy vaguely on the British model to being dominated by whatever faction in the Army happened to be dominant at the time. It was a massive failure in government reflecting the fact that the British had kept the military in control for a couple of decades and had prevented the moves towards representative independence after the Great War.
King Ghazi died in 1939 as a result of an accident involving a sports car. It may have been as assassination. His son, Faisal II succeeded him, although he was only four years old, and that further cemented the grip of the military on the country.

The Second World War.
When war was declared the Iraq Government broke off diplomatic relations with Nazi Germany, but then Rashid Ali replaced Nuri al-Said (the pro-British figure) as Prime Minister. On the 31st March, 1941 when it looked as though Britain was losing the War and was weak, there was a coup removing all the British sympathising people including the regent for the young King. By treaty, Iraq was pledged to provide assistance to the United Kingdom in war and to permit the passage of British troops through Iraq. The British decided to attack, partly to prevent other groups getting ideas about revolting. They had small number of troops in Kirkuk and some planes and bases, but acted effectively. Forces were diverted from Malaya and by the 2nd of May, 1941 had attacked from their Basra and Habbaniya bases and captured substantial amounts of arms. Soon German arms arrived from Syria, but in another confrontation Fallujah was captured and defended and further north, Glubb Pasha, a British legend, led legionnaires to control the area. British forces moved forward to Baghdad again in control of the country until a British sympathizing Government was re-installed. British forces remained in Iraq until October, 1947 to protect oil interests. Far from being independent Iraq was once more under British military control.

The End of the Monarchy and Military Dictatorship
Britain retained its military bases until 1953 and King Faisal II, now grown up was the Monarch, but really a client king like his grandfather. During this period Britain and the United States thought they could move back into supplying Iraq with weapons, but they were wary of one another. The American arms companies wanted to be in there, preferably with aid which would help pay for the weapons, but began vying to sell arms to the Iraqis. Nuri al-Said was back in power and negotiating, hoping for aid to buy weapons. John Foster Dulles was impressed that the Iraqis were anti-Communist and the British still wanted to maintain their hegemony in the area. In February, 1954 the British and Americans concluded a secret agreement about how they would supply arms and military support to Iraq. For a couple of years they vied with one another to supply the arms, with Anthony Eden especially keen to retain the special link and keep the Americans out. Suddenly, it all changed
On the 14th July, 1958 there was a revolution against the monarchy, the British and the Americans. A military dictator, British-trained Brigadier-General Abd al-Karim Qasim, came to power. The King and Nuri al-Said were killed and the Iraqis started to look to the USSR for their arms. He in turn was overthrown by Colonel Abdul Salam Arif in February, 1963, who in turn was overthrown by the Ba’ath Party in 1968. The Ba’ath (rebirth) Party had its origins in Syria and was an pan-Arab Socialist party. Its most prominent move was between 1958 and 1961 when Egypt and Syria united as the United Arab Republic, but the split occurred in 1961 and a further split emerged between the Syrian and Iraqi Ba’ath Parties. The focus was Arab nationalist rather than Islamic. Ba’athist organisation was anti-democratic and strongly militaristic. Really, it was a continuation of the pattern we have observed since 1918 of military dictatorship mirroring the focus of the colonial powers. General Saddam Hussein gradually controlled the Iraqi Revolutionary Command Council and became military dictator in July 1979 in a Sunni dominated government. He took a while to establish himself by killing off his rivals, and for a while the spotlight was on Iran, where Ayatollah Khomeini and the hostages dominated international concerns. Yet Saddam had already begun buying weapons wholesale with the country’s oil revenue and look set to become a great money spinner for the western arms companies. He was the classic military dictator, building up his own military position with the special Republican Guard as a crack force surrounding him. He was worried about an alliance between the Shi’ites in Iraq and those in Iran.

The trapped British colonial mindset.
A number of points arise from this history. First, Britain had a habit extending over half a century of interfering militarily in Iraq in a pattern of colonial control linked mainly to getting oil on the cheap. She would return to this pattern of behaviour. Second, the long military presence of the British in Iraq shaped the pattern of government so decisively that it was more or less inevitable that military dictatorships would follow, as they did. Third, Britain in seeking to control the government of Iraq to its own purposes repeatedly failed to let Iraq develop democratically and left it with retarded patterns of government involving militarism and a client monarch. Fourth, in its desire to have a military presence and supply arms, it encouraged a centrally militaristic view of government. Seeing King Ghazi in his uniform conveys that eloquently. Fifth, Britain’s engagement with Iraq has never been straight. It has always had other agendas, used the country to its own ends and manipulated the politicians to its own purposes. In the era of Saddam and Thatcher this became even more marked. Sixth, it has ignored the social complexities of the area – Kurds, Shia, Sunni, Assyrians, Christians and the problems of each of these groups. Finally, it has a long history of imperial superiority, believing that is has the job of sorting an area out, probably through fighting, of seeing the problems of Iraq but failing to see the problems caused by Britain. Sadly, dropping a hundred tons of bombs in 1920 pales into insignificance in the light of the devastation caused in Iraq in three wars dominated by our national self-righteousness. We have been locked in a colonial mindset for a long time.

One Victory for Peace – Christian Democracy in Europe after 1945

Chapter Twenty Five: One victory for Peace – Christian Democracy in Europe.
Militarism did not have it all its own way and there is one astonishing story which now enters the frame. Europe had been riven with hate, fighting, nationalisms, deep animosities and distrust for several hundred years, but starting in 1945 Europe found its way to peace. This warming story goes on at the same time as the emergence of the Cold War and its origin owes a lot to Christian principles and especially to Christian Democracy in Europe. Christian Democracy is not well understood in Britain and the United States even though it is one of the most important world political movements of the twentieth century. It has expressions which are Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed and Anabaptist and produced differently nuanced responses in Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway and more recently in South America, Eastern Europe and elsewhere. It engaged in most democratic elections in Europe from the 1890s to the present under a variety of labels and was in government after many of them. I should declare an interest here, for I stood in two UK elections in 1974 and 1997 as a Christian Democrat candidate. The Fascist groups of Europe tried to close down Christian Democracy along with other groups which stood against them. The Centre Party in Germany tried to oppose Hitler, finally compromised when Hitler was close to power and was then eliminated by the Nazis. Many party members carried their principles through the 30s and the Second World War waiting to pick up the pieces.

Konrad Adenauer and the German Christian Democrat Vision.
Konrad Adenauer was one of these. He was a Catholic who became head of the Cologne Government during the First World War. He was in favour of broadening the Catholic Centre Party into a more general Christian party including Protestant groups. When the Nazis come to power, he was in and out of prison and nearly died, but lasted through the War in some ill-health. After the War Adenauer, with others, quickly formed the Christian Democratic Union and when self-government was again entrusted to the Germans in the election of the 15th August, 1949, he was head of the largest party and became Chancellor on 15th September, 1949. He was a strong critic of Prussian militarism, which he saw as lying behind the development and success of the Nazi Party. Under Bismarck it had dominated Germany during the Kulturkampf era when it set out to suppress Catholic influence, and it later provided the main impetus for the First World War and the militarism which preceded the Nazis. When Adenauer was Chancellor, though to 1963, he worked at an understanding of openness and co-operation with France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and other European countries and especially linked with the Christian Democrats in those countries to form a kind of peace pact, so that never again would the countries of Europe fight one another. The model looked back to the idea of Christendom which had built a non-nationalistic conception of the states and cities of central Europe in Catholic Christianity. Adenauer was also quite prickly on some issues and sought to prevent witch-hunts against Nazis sympathizers, so this was no idyllic transition, but the transformation of basic outlook in Germany was deeply formative in the post-war era.
Another element played into the scene. Germany is historically a federation of Länder, looking back to the city states of the German-speaking peoples for centuries in both Catholic and protestant eras, and this non-centralised model became the federal basis of the new German Federal Republic. This was reflected in choosing Bonn as capital, another emphasis from Adenauer to get away from the Prussian Berlin in the formation of the new Germany and the centralization of the State which occurred with Hitler. So Germany and central Europe generally underwent a strong and peaceward change in the philosophy of society which shaped political practice.
Though this was true, the actual transition in Germany was more tense and mixed. First, the level of rawness and destruction wrought by the War was great. Many were suffering Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome from bombing and death and this level of trauma played out in many families and towns in acute suffering. It also took years of hard work to clear up the devastation, and the German women especially set about it with an amazing commitment given their suffering. Second, Adenauer and others had to relate to substantial level of Nazi support and presumably internalized attitudes present in the population, the guilt for war. Adenauer’s understanding was that there were only a few real Nazis and others had been taken in by the Nazis – a minimal blame understanding. It was a useful myth for a kind of get back to normal occurrence, and then the German people moved through to a fuller acceptance of guilt. The new regime had to work through this sympathizer generation, and to the often annoyance of the Allies they did, without a make-all-Nazis-suffer attitude. This happened and made a sounder basis for real national remorse. Third, there was the direct threat from the East, signalled in the Berlin Air Lift stand-off. Fourth, Germany had to address its militarism. Adenauer for a long while was a strong supporter of the German High Command, seeking to get a German military re-instated from the time he became Chancellor. In 1950 with the start of the Korean War both the United States and Britain agreed that Germany should be re-armed to deter the Soviet threat in Eastern Europe. At the same time France was utterly opposed to German rearmament, and it would be fair to say that the negotiations on this development were convoluted and not marked by mutuality. Yet, Adenauer came to accept and work with the French position, understanding it and accommodating to it. Further, Adenauer was far from generous to those who had suffered under Nazi persecution. Yet, against all these tensions, and as a new generation grew through, Europe as a community of nations and friends, interacting, travelling, trading and agreeing policies became a reality. It was, and is, a resounding success for peace.

Robert Schumann and the French Vision.
It was reflected in an amazing change of cultural attitudes. It was especially personified in three people who stuck together – Alcide de Gaspari, the Italian Prime Minister, Konrad Adenauer, the German Chancellor and Robert Schuman, French Foreign Secretary and twice Prime Minister. All three were Catholics, Christian Democrat politicians and happened to be able to converse in German. They were friends and formed together the understanding of Europe as a community of respect and mutuality, which had to bring to an end the threat of war in Europe. Schuman and the French were key, because they had to forgive and put out their hand to the aggressors in the Second World War. Schuman did that. He was a warm, shy, forgiving Christian man. France was the victor in the war, although it suffered deeply, and its distrust of Germany had to be great, but Schumann saw beyond victory and distrust to peace and forgiveness. He was a celibate Christian and Bible scholar, formed by the thinking of St Thomas Aquinas, Pope Pius XII and Jacques Maritain, another important Christian thinker of the era who shaped a deep understanding of Christian democracy. Schumann nearly went to Dachau during the War, but survived, and had a strong vision of the unity of Europe. He aimed for a “school where Christian principles are not only applied and proven in the relationships of man to man, but succeed in overcoming the prejudices and emnities which separate classes, races and nations… we need apostles of reconciliation… It is not a question of changing policy; it is a question of changing men.” This was his big historical vision.
“We are carrying out a great experiment, the fulfillment of the same recurrent dream that for ten centuries has revisited the peoples of Europe: creating between them an organization putting an end to war and guaranteeing an eternal peace. The Roman church of the Middle Ages failed finally in its attempts that were inspired by humane and human preoccupations….The European spirit signifies being conscious of belonging to a cultural family and to have a willingness to serve that community in the spirit of total mutuality, without any hidden motives of hegemony or the selfish exploitation of others. The 19th century saw feudal ideas being opposed and, with the rise of a national spirit, nationalities asserting themselves. Our century, that has witnessed the catastrophes resulting in the unending clash of nationalities and nationalisms, must attempt and succeed in reconciling nations in a supranational association. This would safeguard the diversities and aspirations of each nation while coordinating them in the same manner as the regions are coordinated within the unity of the nation.” (Strasbourg, 19th May, 1949)
Schuman worked with Jean Monnet, another Catholic, in forming the French reaction to the end of the War, and it took shape in this direction of long-term peace and forgiveness. Perhaps the crowning moment of the vision was when Charles De Gaulle, another Catholic, but also the personification of the French resistance to Germany during the Second World War invited Konrad Adenauer to share a thanksgiving Mass in Rheims Cathedral on the 8th July, 1962. Before God they engaged in a public act of forgiving and forgetting, which showed just how far this especially French commitment had also gone.

Churchill, Britain and Europe.
Schuman’s vision was different in shape from a similar perception by Churchill. Already at the end of January, 1943, while visiting Turkey, Churchill began to form the idea of a United States of Europe. It was to be part of the United Nations, premised on the victorious powers continuing fully armed. Churchill conveyed this message on the 19th September, 1946. He addressed the “Tragedy of Europe” in beguiling terms.
“This noble continent … is the fount of Christianity and Christian ethics [stretching it a bit] and the origin of most of the culture, arts, philosophy and science both of ancient and modern times.” [flattery] Then after portraying the horrors of a post-war Europe, torn asunder, he set out his plan. “It is to re-create the European Family, or as much of it as we can, and provide it with a structure under which it can dwell in peace, in safety and in freedom. We must build a kind of United States of Europe. In this way only will hundreds of millions of toilers be able to regain the simple joys and hopes which make life worth living. The process is simple. All that is needed is the resolve of hundreds of millions of men and women to do right instead of wrong, and gain as their reward, blessing instead of cursing. Much work has been done upon this task by the exertions of the Pan-European Union which owes so much to Count Coudenhove-Kalergi and which commanded the services of the famous French patriot and statesman, Aristide Briand. There is also that immense body of doctrine and procedure, which was brought into being amid high hopes after the First World War, as the League of Nations. The League of Nations did not fail because of its principles or conceptions. It failed because these principles were deserted by those States who had brought it into being. It failed because the Governments of those days feared to face the facts and act while time remained. This disaster must not be repeated. There is, therefore, much knowledge and material with which to build; and also bitter dear-bought experience. I was very glad to read in the newspapers two days ago that my friend President Truman had expressed his interest and sympathy with this great design. There is no reason why a regional organisation of Europe should in any way conflict with the world organisation of the United Nations. On the contrary, I believe that the larger synthesis will only survive if it is founded upon coherent natural groupings.”
This vision reflected Churchill’s generosity of spirit, especially towards France, but it was also reflected his attitude to the USSR. He had just made his “Iron Curtain” speech in the United States and was clearly formulating bulwarks against the Communist menace, as he perceived it. So Churchill’s vision was substantially a military one against the USSR, and he saw Britain’s foreign policy as mainly a special military and economic relationship with the United States, with the Empire/Commonwealth and the United States of Europe as part of the picture, providing three levels of British security, and so it has largely been. Churchill did not have the vision from within Europe or the same Christian Democrat basis for seeing the communal unity, though he was aware of it. Although similar Christian connections also draw the Commonwealth together, as Queen Elizabeth often recognizes better than her governments, Britain has remained on the edge of this vision.
Alcide De Gaspari and the Italian Perspective.
A similar vision existed in Italy. De Gaspari was a Catholic academic who worked in the Catholic student movement and developed within the kind of vision set out in Pope Leo XIII’s Encyclical Rerum Novarum addressing the condition of the poor. He entered politics, but when Fascism dominated under Mussolini, he opposed it, was arrested and sentenced to four years in prison, but with the help of the Vatican he moved into a job in the Vatican library for fifteen years. When Mussolini fell he helped form the Christian Democrats and became their leader and the Prime Minister from 1945 to 1953, no mean achievement in Italy. He put together coalitions including groups from Communists to Nationalists and established Italy as a stable democratic country after two decades of Fascism. De Gaspari was widely trusted and respected, and the long Catholic stand against war was a relief to the Italians after a long subjection to the Mussolini frog marching Fascism. De Gaspari, too, got on with Schuman, Adenauer, Monnet and the others in a co-operative rebuilding of Europe.
Italy, like Germany, rediscovered another part of their Catholic and Protestant past. Europe had been, before this rampant nationalism set in been a cosmopolitan Catholic, Protestant and Renaissance culture. Dante, Michelangelo, Monteverdi, Erasmus, Shakespeare, Dürer, Luther, Calvin, Leonardo, Voltaire, Bach, Pascal and many others were European thinkers both in their own work and through dissemination. Europe had been the world’s richest international cultural debate, and Italy was part of all the countries of Europe. This cosmopolitan culture was rediscovered as the paucity of Fascist art and marching music was discarded and receded. Italian art and economics was part of European culture again. So with the quiet work of De Gaspari and others Italy and Europe was healed. When he died on the 19th August, 1954, about a year after he ceased to be Prime Minister, he was found to be so poor that he was to have had to have the normal pauper’s burial provided by the state. But it probably did not concern him a great deal.

The Dutch Contribution.
In the Netherlands there was a long history of proud independence since the Spanish Wars of the early 17th century and also a strong tradition of Protestant and Catholic political party contributions since the late 19th century. The Calvinist Anti-Revolutionary Party (ARP) founded by Groen van Prinsterer and Abraham Kuyper became a party of government at the beginning of the twentieth century. Another Protestant Party, the Christian Historical Union (CHU), was a formative influence on Dutch politics, and the Catholic Party (KVP) growing out of Rerum Novarum in the 1890s was also deeply formative and a normal party of government. British people do not understand that all of these parties had an agenda for the poor and Dutch politics did not have the same Conservative-Socialist split of British politics. In the First World War the Netherlands did not participate. It is often stated to have been neutral, not for one side or the other, but it was also for peace and non-conflict, the position of both the Catholic and Kuyperian traditions. Thus, the Dutch were fiercely independent and also had a strong principial dislike of totalitarianism. When in the Second World War arrived they were unceremoniously invaded by Germany on the 10th May, 1940 and were rapidly forced to surrender. Rotterdam was bombed to the ground in the process. The Dutch were submitted to forced labour for the Germans. They also faced the Holocaust of some 100,000 Jews who lived in the Netherlands despite a strike against the deportations in February, 1941 and an active underground. At the end of the War, with famine, emigration of 500,000 citizens and loss, there was deep seated anger at what the German state had done. But it learned forgiveness. Over time, the values of democratic Christian Democracy and of Socialism re-established themselves and the Dutch welcomed a European community of nations without national animosities and became one of the cornerstones of European co-operation. Most Dutch speak French, German and English, and its linguistic openness was another point of intergration in the new European community.
Corrie Ten Boom, who had been put in Ravensbruck Concentration Camp describes forgiveness.
It was in a church in Munich that I saw him—a balding, heavyset man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. People were filing out of the basement room where I had just spoken, moving along the rows of wooden chairs to the door at the rear. It was 1947 and I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives. It was the truth they needed most to hear in that bitter, bombed-out land, and I gave them my favorite mental picture. Maybe because the sea is never far from a Hollander’s mind, I liked to think that that’s where forgiven sins were thrown. ‘When we confess our sins,’ I said, ‘God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever. …’The solemn faces stared back at me, not quite daring to believe. There were never questions after a talk in Germany in 1947. People stood up in silence, in silence collected their wraps, in silence left the room. “And that’s when I saw him, working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones. It came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights; the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor; the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. Betsie, how thin you were! He would not remember me, of course—how could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women? But I remembered him and the leather crop swinging from his belt. I was face-to-face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze. ‘You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk,’ he was saying, ‘I was a guard there.’ No, he did not remember me. ‘But since that time,’ he went on, ‘I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fräulein,’ again the hand came out—’will you forgive me?’And I stood there—I whose sins had again and again to be forgiven—and could not forgive. Betsie had died in that place—could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking? It could not have been many seconds that he stood there—hand held out—but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do. For I had to do it—I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. ‘If you do not forgive men their trespasses,’ Jesus says, ‘neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.’ ‘Help!’ I prayed silently. ‘I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.’And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes. ‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart!’ For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely, as I did then.
Forgiveness was the bedrock of the new Europe, one that no longer needed to fight.
The Christian Democrat vision, especially in the Netherlands, contained another important dimensions in the central idea of governance, not recognized in Anglo-American culture, but most strongly formulated by Abraham Kuyper, the Dutch Prime Minister, often called sphere sovereignty. The normal model in much western political ideology is of the State over society or a collection of individuals. In the Fascist model the state embodies and directs the whole of society and the economy. Yet a Christian understanding is different. It sees a number of institutions as God-given and comprising the plural fabric of society. These include marriage and family, work and economic activity, education, church and religious formation, and community relations as well as the state. Essentially the state is not “sovereign”, limited, has no absolute authority, is under law and involves responsibilities, and must honour other institutions. Indeed, the word, “institution” has its meaning in the idea that God has instituted these areas as part of our normal lives and in all these areas we are accountable to live freely and faithfully in an open God-ward direction and not through State surveillance. Thus, there is no absolute or totalitarian state, but all institutions are part of the way we are called to live. This pluralism, or sphere-sovereignty, as the Dutch call it, gives a much more open view of society. The Christian Democrats in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Italy and elsewhere shared much of this perspective. This pluralism, reflected in the work of many Christian social and political philosophers, is less understood in English-speaking traditions.
Indeed, it went further than this, for the understanding in the Netherlands, Belgium and to some extent Germany was that in each institutional area, not just in politics, democratic variation should be allowed as people followed their own perspectives in the media, education, work and unions. This pillarisation, or Vezuiling, made sure that ideological pluralism was allowed in all institutional areas of society – schools, business and unions, the media, arts, universities, families and religion. Abraham Kuyper, Prime Minister of the Netherlands at the turn of the century, developed this perspective most fully. It is, in fact, recognizing democracy, the right of people to say and live by what they believe in every area of life, not just in politics. Christians accept this position because they are Christian. God is sovereign and no human institution, state, party or person should be sovereign. You can believe the truths of God, and respect everyone else’s beliefs because they too are part of God’s open society. It is the most radical understanding of democracy that has ever been developed, and it merely reflects the way Christ actually lived. Martyrdom in Christianity reflects this holding of the Christian truth and the suffering it may produce, and Luther’s Protestant stand, “Here I stand; I can do no other. So help me, God.” is similarly nonconformist in this deepest sense. Nonconformity is, in part, nonconformity to the absolutist state. Given that so many Jews and Christians had suffered under the Nazis with these views, although a lot had died for them, it is not surprising that their weight should reappear in European political thought as a major Dutch contribution to European non-totalitarianism reflecting the deep convictions found among hundreds of thousands of churches throughout Europe and millions of Christians.

The Catholic Church and the Papacy.
Here, we must say something about the long-term influence of the Catholic Church on the peace of Europe, partly because it has been poorly understood. In the First World War Pope Benedict XV consistently opposed the War, pointing out the evil and destruction which would follow. He was right and was not thanked by the belligerents. He proposed the Christmas truce in December, 1914 and then another cease-fire and truce later in the War. But the combatants were not able to withdraw from the War without looking silly, because a 1-1 draw when millions had died did not look good. The Pope was therefore marginalized in a fairly deliberate way, especially at the Versailles Peace Conference. Given President Wilson’s precarious position at home, it turned out to be a serious mistake. In the 1920s the papacy continued to work for peace, and it was the driving force behind millions of signatures backing the Great 1932 Geneva Disarmament Conference. It failed, as we saw in War or Peace?, mainly through Japanese militarism, the arms companies and British negativism.
Catholics opposed Hitler in principle on his way to power and exposed its ideology. They attacked its racism. The Nazis in turn hated Catholic internationalism. When the Nazis came to power, Pope Pius XI tried a Concordat with Hitler in 1933, but the Führer ratted on that, and Catholic persecution was one of the earliest cases of Nazi oppression. Goebbels, Himmler, Bormann and Heydrich were vehement anti-Catholics. The rich heritage of Catholic schools, universities, colleges, newspapers, monasteries, political parties, welfare programmes, youth movements and trade unions was closed down, often with real venom. Monasteries became brothels. Leaders were murdered. From 1935 clergy were sent to Dachau Concentration Camp, and by the time the War was underway some 3,000 were there. In 1937 the Papal Encyclical Mit brennender Sorge (with burning concern) was read from pulpits but then confiscated by the Gestapo to wipe out co-ordinated opposition. When the Nazis moved into Poland they murdered two thousand Catholic clergy and thousands of other Catholic leaders as part of their aim to destroy all Polish independence. In Austria Catholic leaders were persecuted; Odilo Globocnik in Vienna led the attack. Otto Neururer was tortured and hanged and Jacob Gapp was guillotined in Berlin. Catholic protestations were put down decisively by mobs. Similar patterns occurred in Czech and Slovene areas. It was going to be Catholic annihilation.
Finally, when the Nazis and Mussolini were fully in power, each established their own Fascist Churches to supplant Christianity completely. In 1936 Hitler created the Reich Church. This did not have the Christian cross as its symbol but the swastika. The Bible was replaced by “Mein Kampf” which was placed on the altar. By it was a sword. Only invited Nazis were allowed to give sermons there. It was meant to be the replacement of Christianity. The Nazis planned on ceasing publication of the Bible. As the War approached Pope Pius XII in both Germany and Italy had little hope but to save lives. The Catholic Church again espoused neutrality, meaning it was against the War, and the Papacy acted carefully so as not to jeopardize the lives of yet more. When you do not fight, and are under duress, with people depending for their lives on you, that is the kind of thing you have to do.
But wars come to an end. They have to come to an end. And peace without enemies has to work, because there is no other option, and in 1945 the Catholic Church was ready for peace. It had done no killing. And through Catholics in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Britain and elsewhere a kind of peace grew out of the chaos; they could be trusted. Gradually a community of nations took place and grew, replacing national militarism with trust and mutual respect. The command of Christ that we love one another was obeyed and people made decisions to be friends across previous persecution and national boundaries. It is an unrecorded history. They were going to respect one another and bury militarism as a way of relating. It took root, grew and showed the success of ordinary neighbour love and peace in human political affairs. We learned that nation can speak peace to nation, and this victory is with us today so that military confrontation between the states of Europe is now unthinkable. That a great victory and as a Protestant I thank the Catholic Church for its deep contribution to it.