With the opposition to the American war against Iraq growing in Britain and the US, will it change, once the war begins?
Will the British press “rally behind the Government and the Nation”, once the American and British bombs start falling on Baghdad?
Will at that point “Blair” become synonymous with “Britain” and “Us” (i.e. “ourselves” not “the USA”)?
In other words will the British turn “patriotic” once the war begins?
Samuel Johnson, a British writer (1709–1784), once called patriotism “the last refuge of a scoundrel”, but Julius Caesar, the Great Roman Emperor (102 B.C. – 44 B.C.), had a more illuminating insight into the phenomenon of patriotism:
“Beware the leader who beats the drums of war in order to whip the citizenry into patriotic fervor, for patriotism is a double‐edged sword. It emboldens the blood and narrows the mind.
And when the drums of war have reached fever pitch and the blood boils with hate and the mind has closed, the leader will have no need to seize the rights of the citizenry. Rather, the citizenry, infused with fear and blinded by patriotism, will offer up all of their rights unto the leader and gladly so. How do I know? For this is what I have done. And I am Caesar.”
He certainly knew what he was talking about, and he was frank about it.
His life is also an important lesson to Mankind, and the modern would be emperors, that empires do not last forever.
Caesar's remarks on patriotism also help us to understand why politicians love wars. They love wars, because war hysterias whip up patriotic feelings, feelings of national egotism, of hatred and fear of the Enemy, of identification of their country and of themselves with the National Leader.
But in the same way as Hitler was not Germany and Stalin was not Russia, Tony Blair is not Britain, nor George Bush is America. They are just political demagogues seeking to assert their power by whipping up a war hysteria.
Once the war begins, some press will turn “patriotic”, will seek to cover up war crimes and “follow the Leader”.
But the old motto of “right or wrong, my country” is no longer fashionable. More and more people today see beyond the national frontiers and expect those in government to do what is right rather than to manipulate their feelings by patriotic slogans. And it is in this maturity of the people, rather than in the demagogy of the politicians and subservience of the political press, that the hopes of Mankind for peace and security lie.