30 Down, 22 Left (52 Weeks, 52 Books)

I basically grew up on substantial diet of war novels and documentaries, so it does come as a bit of a surprise to realise that Robert Graves’ Goodbye To All That is the first time I’m reading about the First World War, or the sadly misnamed ‘War to end all Wars‘.

The book deals mostly with Grave’s experiences in the trenches during WWI, bookended with candid accounts of his time growing up in an exclusive boy’s school and his time in Egypt after the war. While the before and after experiences are interesting enough, it’s really Graves’ horrific time in the trenches that are truly gripping and fascinating.

It’s especially interesting reading about the conduct of war during WWI as opposed to the current conflict in Lebanon right now. Graves fought against the Germans in France, where the civilians (whose land and liberation were being fought over) were for the most part, out of the fighting, and targeted only if suspected of billeting British soldiers. Almost all of the time, fighting happens only on the front.

In contrast, Israel says they’re really pinpointing Hezbollah safehouses when they’re decimating residential districts in Lebanon, but if they’re so careful about avoiding civilian casualties and all, why would they bomb a U.N. post and hit ambulances with obvious intent to kill, all the while claiming regret and unintentionality?

Not discounting the obvious terror and horrors of WWI and WWII, but it does seem that at least rules of engagement were more or less honoured in those days. Of course, war crimes might have been just as rampant then, but we’re only more aware of current conflicts due to the immediacy of news coverage and citizen journalism now. In any case, now that we do know, there needs to be greater international pressure on war crime perpetrators, not the ambiguous behaviour being exhibited now by the U.S. and the U.K.

Goodbye To All That
(ISBN No: 0140274200) Check NLB Catalogue for item availability.

My next book will be The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon.

Update:

Here’s a video about the ambulances being hit by Israeli forces in Lebanon.

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