Can We Learn?

In the past week or so communities in Scotland have been having local services and unveilings of memorials to local lads who served their king and country in World War 1 and received honours for their bravery.

Thanks to my father-in-law’s hard work with the family tree we knew Ian was related to Robert Anderson Dunsire, VC, of Buckhaven, through both their mothers. We learned through friends that the Methil Heritage Centre ( were putting on an exhibition based around his life. We went along and spent some considerable time there. Although the volunteers in this group had designed the exhibition around a central character, there is plenty for anyone interested in the period. As well as the displays there is a reading area where ring binder folders have been catalogued into different aspects of the period, allowing a very good understanding of the way of life around this time. There are documents, pictures, propaganda and newspaper stories of the time that bring the reality of the first world war to life.

It struck me that although the material standard of living had greatly increased for many, had things really changed? In some ways perhaps. No longer at the whim of our monarch will our ordinary men be conscripted and sent to a life of hell. Certainly those who choose to join the armed forces may be sent on the whim of the elected governing party in Westminster but for them it was a career choice. As for the government, we can choose not to vote for them next time. Something that doesn’t seem to change is the ability of the decision makers to show compassion. We certainly don’t seem to have lost the ability to tell others how things should be done and interfere when they don’t listen.

Not only do we have trident, using it as a big threat over the heads of others should they step out of line, they have just committed to doubling the combat drone fleet. David Cameron announced “We have at the moment a drone fleet of 10 Reapers and what we are going to be doing is actually replacing that with twice as many with a new updated piece of equipment – called Protector – which will be more than doubling of our fleet to keep us safe and to give us the intelligence and information and potentially give us the capacity to hit people who are potentially planning to hit us.”

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It would seem now that the UK is to authorise air strikes against the Syrian forces of President Assad within 6 weeks. The UK government is preparing to hold a parliamentary vote authorising the extension of British strikes into Syria. Defence secretary Michael Fallon said “This is no time for Britain to retreat from the world, to let terror triumph, or to put our people in peril.”

The Government are however facing a legal challenge over the decision to target Islamic State fighters in Syria recently without Parliamentary approval.

It is understood that military commanders who planned the strike demanded lawyers were present at all stages of the process according to the Sunday Times, to ensure the operation was legally watertight. It was reported that the Director of Special Forces was determined to have “legal top cover” before approving the mission.

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas and Baroness Jones have joined with human rights charity Reprieve to take the first step towards a judicial review.

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Meanwhile, in Scotland, someone we can be proud of regarding the unrest in the middle east is our own Humza Yousaf, minister for Europe and international development. On his facebook page he said

“An eye-opening, emotional and at times harrowing 24hrs on Island of Lesbos.

Here are some pics. For those who think refugees come here for life of luxury – do these camps look like luxury? We couldn’t last a day in them. Every refugee I spoke to had a life back home, they would only leave if desperate.

When paying respect at graves of deceased refugees – many unmarked, some with a name, most with just a number.

For all human suffering I leave inspired by humanity of aid workers including many from Scotland.

The images will haunt me for a long time. Europe’s failure to act will cost lives & should shame us all.”

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On arriving home he posted on his facebook page,

“Back in Glasgow after an eye-opening & emotional 24hrs in Lesbos. My advice for tonight – hug your loved ones and tell them how much you love them. We are the lucky ones.”

It is a confusing and complicated world we live in. Nothing can easily be explained or fixed. Trouble spots have evolved in different parts of our world since it began. But surely, with all the advances that have been made in the last 100 years, we should not be seeing all this human suffering. Suffering that is at the hands of warmongers, from whatever backgrounds they come. If the human race is to continue to call itself a civilised race then we cannot continue to watch these situations happen and just shrug our shoulders and blame “the bad guys”. The bad guys are everywhere, in all disguises, many of them we think are civilised and are ours.


  1. I had two grandfathers that fought in the First World War 1914-18 the War to End all War, one came home without a scratch the other died in the first months of the conflict, I visit his grave each time I travel to Europe. If you ever wish to see the stupidity of war simply go to one of the many war cemeteries around Europe or Turkey. I remember cycling down the west coast of France and I came across a monument, to the glorious falling of the First World War it was peppered with shrapnel from the Second World War, is that not ironic. You go on about drones; I have always seen the two massive aircraft carries being constructed at Rosyth as White Elephants, how much more so with the shift to drones, I wonder if we will ever be able to afford aircraft to put on their decks.

    Soldier, soldier you frighten me in all your blind brutality,
    For behind the soldiers mask I see,
    A man just like me.

    1. We did go look for the grave of mentioned relative. Was dismayed at how many graveyards were in such a small area of a very flat landscape. Each discovery I make about war makes me more and more a pacifist. Historically war has achieved nothing. We need other ways of solving our problems

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