Thursday 23rd January
So sang the Sutherland Brothers forty years ago. A fine sentiment but is it really borne out by facts? In fact Civil Wars are far worse than Wars between nations. Wars between Nations are usually fought by opposing soldiers, Civil wars are fought by civilians, by ordinary people. And the brutality meted out in Civil Wars is truly awful. During the English Civil War a greater percentage of the population were slaughtered than the proportion of young Englishmen who died in the First World War, and possibly even more brutally. Commentators were appalled by the violence and lack of mercy shown by both side in the American Civil War. The atrocities inflicted by Stalin and Mao in their respective ‘Civil’ wars where all internal opposition was to be wiped out have hardly ever been equaled. Hitler’s treatment of the Jews was in a way a civil war, many of the Jews were German citizens.
And recently we have had civil wars raging in Timor and Africa where brutality, torture and maiming have been commonplace. The genocide in Rwanda and neighbouring countries was not a war between nations but one between differing factions of the same basic people. And these wars were not for territory but for the annihilation of the other side. Such hatred, such anger against people only slightly different from themselves; and it is still going on.
And now we have Syria, and maybe soon Egypt. It is all very well for commentators to try to lay the blame on one side or the other, or to explain it as a geo-political struggle for dominance in the middle east, but millions have been displaced, hundreds of thousands killed, tortured and maimed in the most awful of reprisals. And there seems truly to be no solution, none at least which will satisfy both sides. The conflict is spreading to Lebanon and Iraq too, so it is far from over. And we in the West wring our hands and ask why people cannot just live peaceably together, forgetting our own history, our own Civil and Religious wars. All wars are Civil wars, all men are brothers, after all.