LETTER : VE Day: youthful tributes, British war aims and the power of silence

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The Independent Online
From Mr Niall Meehan

Sir: Ruth Dudley Edwards (Diary, 8 May) takes issue with Gerry Adams for not celebrating VE Day, since he considers the great wars "to have been imperialist adventures". I take it from Ms Dudley Edwards' comments that she does not regard any aspect of the Second World War to have had an imperialist character.

The orgy of self-congratulation that accompanies Britain's celebration of the anniversary obscures the extent to which British war aims had little to do with fighting fascism and everything to do with vainly attempting to maintain the British Empire. Britain did not fight to save the Jews, gypsies, communists, gays and other groups who the Nazis murdered "horribly". Even during the war, Foreign Office officials censored information relating to the genocide in the Nazi concentration camps. Britain did not fight to establish the principle that one country should not trample over the rights of another. Hardly a creditable stance, since Britain ruled over two thirds of the Earth's surface.

Britain's objection to Nazi Germany in the 1930s was simply that Hitler invaded a country too far. Germany's invasion of Poland was a case of Britain objecting to the effrontery of Hitler in attempting to do by force what the British Empire had already previously accomplished with ease against defenceless peoples.

A positive outcome of the war was a radicalising of the soldiers in uniform and the civilian population, as well as an invigoration of the subject peoples in the Far East and Africa. These latter, starting with India, lost little time in drawing the comparison between the German occupation of Europe with the British occupation of their own countries. These sensibilities are perhaps what Gerry Adams had in mind.

Yours etc.,

NIALL MEEHAN

Dublin

8 May

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