War is no longer chic

Despite the economic turmoil, Hugh O'Shaughnessy finds that there are reasons to be cheerful - the p

There are acts that people commit which are so frightful and disgusting that over the centuries they have become known to some of us as “the sins crying to heaven for vengeance”. That striking and terrible term has always fascinated me and made me think hard whenever I have come up against it.

The principal one of these sins is murder committed by a person in full knowledge of what he or she is doing. Another, national and multi-national employers should remember, is that of defrauding a labourer of his wages.

For decades, observing what went on around me - the Second World War and all the subsequent hostilities, the Central American atrocities, the Great Indonesian Massacre and their attendant monsters, Hitler, Stalin, Soeharto, Beria and the Somozas - it seemed that heaven was not taking much interest about the cries addressed to it. Now I sense that things are looking up and heaven has started to take much more notice than I had expected.

Take Spain, take Chile, take the increasing rejection of the concept of war - that anteroom for murder - and the careless misuse of that word by politicians on both sides of the North Atlantic.

With defeat staring the west in the face in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the invaders are preparing the standard strategy for a defeated army such as that which the US already rehearsed in Vietnam and Somalia.

They are preparing to proclaim victory loudly and to run as fast as their legs will carry them. War and killing are not as chic as they were even a few months ago – particularly since neither Washington nor London can now afford the expense of fighting during the present pandemic of financial fraud and mouldering mortgages. Strangely, there is less talk of either a US or Israeli attack on Iran.

In Madrid, Baltasar Garzón (the judge who had Pinochet banged up briefly in Britain for the atrocities he committed during his dictatorship) has reminded Spaniards of ancient crimes. He has moved to try those implicated in the overthrow of the elected government of Spain in the 1930s and the killing of the 130,000 victims by Francisco Franco. Even the generalissimo’s sins are no longer to be passed over.

In Chile another dictator’s sins are being revisited. Having resisted trying Pinochet himself, the ineffectual justice system is at last considering the Chilean navy’s torturing to death of Michael Woodward, shortly after Pinochet’s military putsch in September 1973. An Anglo-Chilean, he worked among the poor in the slums above the port and the naval base in Valparaiso - and was targeted by Pinochet’s death squads. Through the intervention of a brave judge, 13 naval personnel are finally standing trial for Woodward’s torture aboard the beautiful sail training ship Esmeralda. He died on the way to hospital.

The trial would not have taken place without the unbending efforts of Michael’s sister Pat and her husband Fred Bennetts who have been patiently been cutting through the tangle of obstacles protecting the suspected men.

Tension has been high in the courtroom in Valparaiso. Pat told me on Tuesday:

"At one point it was too much for one of our friends, María Huerta, who had been tortured and raped on the Esmeralda. Pointing a finger at one of their lot she shouted "that´s one of the torturers". She was escorted out of the building by carabineros while the retired officers jeered at her and applauded the man she had pointed at."

Yet meanwhile the foreign office and the ministry of defence was scoring a spectacular diplomatic own goal a few hundred metres away. A former British warship, bought and refurbished by Chile and re-baptised Almirante Condell, was being received “with naval honours” in Valparaiso harbour by guests including Chilean Minister of Defence and the British Ambassador. No one, it appears, was on hand to explain the concept of Chilean naval honour.

And nor does anyone seem keen these days to pin the prefix “war” to efforts to control the illegal drugs trade. Any explanation would be embarrassing to governments and companies who, keen to avoid damage to their taxes and their profits, ignore the widespread damage done to mankind by alcohol and tobacco.

Another “war” going out of fashion, that against what we must call non-western terror. In Britain Stella Rimington, former head of the Security Service MI5, has at last come clean about what she called a “huge over-reaction” of the attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York.

At the same time while Sir Ken Macdonald, head of the Crown Prosecution Service has pointed out the ways in which the war on non-western terror has been threatening the very democratic principles which the West claims to support. The government, he said, risks creating a society where "freedom's back is broken".

Perhaps, thank heaven, both murder and war may at last be beginning to lose some of its glamour.

Kinds Of Mildew Screening Toronto.

Types Of Mold Screening Toronto