The Guns of April: Are We in a Pre-War Era, Right Now?

Is it 1914 again?

By UK journalist Peter Hitchens and cross-posted from his blog.

My feeling that we are in a pre-war era, and are being prepared for that war almost every day, grows. I am not feeling especially well at the moment, and my days are tinged with a certain darkness anyway, despite the arrival of spring, but I cannot at any point in my life ever recall being gripped by such a feeling of impending, unavoidable disaster.

It began early on Sunday morning with claims of a gas attack in the suburbs of Damascus. Although the BBC were careful to state that the reports were unverified, my heart sank.  The prominence being given to the story suggested that it didn’t much matter that they were not verified. Why lead a news bulletin on a main national material with unverified material, if you think verification matters a lot? Surely the old rule was ‘verify first’, then publish’?

Is it 1914 again?

I wearily resigned myself to the fact that at some point I would have to write what I am now writing, a warning that these claims have not been proven, may not be proven, and serve the end of those who desire to draw this country into a war. What sort of war? Well, I am horribly reminded of the summer of 1914.

Two major powers, Saudi Arabia and Iran, are irreconcilably hostile to each other. One of them, by aggressive diplomacy in proxy states, has created a state of grave tension between them which, if it goes much further, threatens to draw the great powers into open conflict. A single incident, by providing the basis for aggressive diplomacy, unacceptable demands and perhaps actual warlike violence, could trigger that war. If so, it will not be confined to the Middle East, because of the involvement of Russia in the dispute. Indeed, it may be Russia’s involvement in Syria, where it has frustrated Saudi Arabian designs and those of Saudi Arabia’s allies, such as the USA, this country and France, which triggered the considerable increase in tension in Ukraine which began to heat up in 2013.

A single incident could trigger war

Given the nature of the controversy about Ghouta today, even the events in Salisbury have a relevance to this, as does the mass expulsion of diplomats which followed that outrage, even though it has never actually been linked by indisputable evidence to the direct action of the Russian state.

War fever means the death of honest debate

Careful readers will also have noticed that the Labour leader has been facing increasing accusations from the Tory party of being a Russian stooge, in my view a breach of the moral code which allows freedom to live. If the Leader of the Opposition cannot oppose the government without being accused of some sort of fealty to a foreign power, then we are not free. I have no doubt something similar will soon be said of me. I find this worrying not because it is bone-headed and childish (though it is) but because it is a symptom of something very serious – the death of open, honest debate.This is an invariable symptom of a country whose elite is bent on war

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