February 21, 1999
Readers of the Globe and Mail are discovering that history makes fascinating news. Though this observation itself isn’t exactly news, Canada’s national newspaper is giving the importance of history added meaning.
From now until the end of the year, the “millennium page”—a copy of a historical front page for each of this year’s 313 publishing dates—gives readers a snapshot of Canada and the world throughout the century.
For some Canadians it may be their best history lesson. Our society suffers from cultural Alzheimer’s, thanks largely to feminists, multiculturalists and generally anyone who condemns history before Trudeau as “sexist” and “racist” and unworthy of respect.
Many pages concern famous people and tell us a lot about what mattered to us. Full- or near-full front-page obituaries of Queen Victoria, King George VI, and Winston Churchill attest to a time when our cultural and political closeness to Great Britain wasn’t something to be ashamed of.
Nationally, some of the more significant milestones commemorated are the birth of the Maple Leaf flag and the death of Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier. Many pages, as one would expect, concern world wars. One such front page appeared last Monday.
On Feb. 15, 1919, the Globe (before it merged with the Mail) announced with breathless optimism the ratification of the League of Nations covenant. In those days, you could
learn much of the story from the headlines and the seemingly endless decks of subheads:
PEACE COVENANT OF FIRST PARLIAMENT OF MANKIND
Nations to form world tribunal
for the betterment of humanity
Statesmen of All Great Powers Join in Proclaiming Principles
of New League—Covenant Articles Unanimously Approved—Representatives Voice their Endorsation of Proposals to End Bloodshed—
Historic Plenary Session of Peace Conference.
“Born out of the Pains of War, This is a Document of Freedom and Right,
Which Represents the Redemption of Humanity by Sacrifice”—
Premier Orlando of Italy.…
As we now know, these words of optimism sound ludicrous and jejeune. Not only did the League fail, it betrayed its much-vaunted covenant almost from the start. It was even partly responsible for the outbreak of World War II. The League’s leaders made opposition to their self-serving geopolitical designs all the more difficult by hiding behind a patina of peace and morality.
Nevertheless, the delusion of a world tribunal being able to save the world from war persists in the form of the United Nations. For most of its life it was largely impotent because the Security Council was held hostage to the U.S.–Soviet Cold War rivalry. Now that the Cold War is over, you’d think the United Nations would be able to make the world a more peaceful place.
If the 1990s have proven anything, it’s that the United Nations is more like its discredited precursor than liberal internationalists would like to admit. Without the counterweight of the Soviet Union, the U.S. has rendered the Security Council obsolete, which means that it’s no better than France and Britain during the inter-war period.
If the U.S. doesn’t like a country’s leadership or conduct, it arrogates to itself the right to bomb that country into submission. This is what has become of the great “world tribunal” that the world burbled about 80 years ago?
Except for the U.S. and its lap-dog toady Great Britain, the Security Council wants to end the crippling economic sanctions against Iraq. By any standard of international law, they represent cruel and unusual punishment. Instead, U.S. bombing sorties against Iraq continue with impunity, even though there has been no declaration of war.
The justification for these attacks ostensibly comes from the right to enforce Security Council Resolution 678, but this argument is no longer defensible. The upshot is that war is being waged in the name of peace because that’s what the U.S. wants.
Now, we can add Serbia to the list. As U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told the Associated Press, if Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic did not agree to a peace settlement over Kosovo by noon yesterday, he would suffer NATO bombardment.
Peace and war are supposed to be opposites, but not in the age of the American world imperium. Perhaps Milosevic does need a kick in the pants, and if NATO decides to deliver it, let the countries involved have the decency to declare war on Serbia and fight alongside the Albanians.
An honest war is far preferable to an ignoble peace, or to an ignoble aggression carried out under the guise of peace.