The public's perception has long been that generals don't get killed in modern wars. The implication being that they're not made of the "right stuff" anymore. This, of course, if true, has grave implications for the rank and file.
A Military Expert Begs to Differ - "Well how wrong you can be. 78 British and Dominion officers of the rank of Brigadier General and above died on active service in the First World War while a further 146 were wounded. These figures alone show that, contrary to popular belief, British Generals frequently went close enough to the battle zone to place themselves in considerable danger." (Peter Simkins, Senior Historian, (British) Imperial War Museum.)
Really? Let's analyze what this eminent historian - admittedly from a pro-military background - claims in a BBC article.
In the opening three months of the Boer War three British Major-Generals (Penn-Symons, Wauchope, Woodgate) were killed in direct battlefield action. Out of some 17,000 British soldiers in the war zone at the time - a fatality ratio of .02%, which is huge.
In World War I, Simkins says, some 78 officers of the rank of Brigadier-General and above, are listed as having died, among the 9 million soldiers mobilized by the British Empire - a fatality ratio of .00087%, which is already astronomically smaller to begin with than the Boer War comparison of only a dozen years earlier.
But is 78 "fatalities" a valid number for comparison?
Inflated Statistics - In fact, the comparison ratio is far more wildly varied than even Simkins' figures suggest.
The three Boer War generals died as full major-generals.
But the World War I fatalities Simkins quotes also include many lower ranked Brigadier-Generals, officers who are commonly addressed as Brigadier, because they are not yet real generals. Therefore the number of full ranked Major-Generals among the 78 who "died" (of any cause) in WWI is far smaller, and those "killed," (in battle) smaller yet.
The far reduced fatality ratio of "full generals" is shrinking to insignificance.
All three Boer War Major-Generals died as a result of enemy fire on the front lines of an attack. They had a personal bravery ratio of dying in the face of the enemy of 100%.
|Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
|Celebrities of the Army - General Andrew Wauchope
|Orig. lithograph - Size - 30 x 40 cm
Found - Cambridge, ON
General Wauchope was killed in the front line, while leading his men against the Boers at Magersfontein, Dec. 11, 1899.
Again Simpkins' WWI figures distort the manner of death. His 78 officers are listed merely as having "died on active service." Meaning, for a start, it included everyone who wasn't retired...
"Active" service doesn't mean they were manning a gun, or leading a charge, or even anywhere on the battle field; it simply means they were on the payroll in a time of war. Though Simkins is clearly hoping to link the phrase to some kind of "action." An entirely inappropriate connection.
And many of these "generals" were only living in London where the only danger was being hit by a tram... Talk about cooking the books...
And so the fatality figures also includes many who were not "killed" at all.
Simkins' WWI figures do not specify - wonder why? - how the 78 officers died.
So included among the 78 dead "generals" are: those who died far from danger in England, those who were victims of heart attacks from over exertion in Paris brothels, car accidents, liver disease from alcoholism, complications from VD, suicide, and gun shots from angry husbands, or boyfriends, or incensed sheep herders...
Simkins is inflating his data from hospital statistics, not battlefield reports. Clearly many of these deaths were not the result of bravery in the face of the enemy, like those of all three Boer War generals.
Of the 78 "generals" that Simkins references, it seems clear, in spite of his creative marshalling of statistics, only a tiny few, if any, died in charges against the enemy, on the front lines, like their Boer War counterparts. Some of those fatally wounded were found out by long range artillery rounds behind the front lines.
Did any major-general die as in Victorian times? Probably not.
In fact we may very well ask. Did a single one die like Colley (1881), Gordon (1885), Stewart (1885), Penn Symons, Wauchope, or Woodgate?
On the spot bathed by millions of tears and wild lamentations, Canadian historian John Goldi stands where General Wauchope was killed by a swath of rifle fire from trenches among the trees, as he led his men on Magersfontein mountain in the background in the pre-dawn hours of Dec. 11, 1899.
Once broken down and examined, the initial projected .00087% fatality rate of WWI generals, calculated on Simkins' original 78 officers he says died "on active service," recedes into total meaninglessness, compared to the very real .02% fatality rate of Boer War generals who died facing the enemy.
So, as the public has correctly perceived, for a long time, by World War I, generals were leading charmed lives, compared to their Boer War counterparts of only a dozen years before.
So even top historians, like Professor Peter Simkins, of the British Imperial War Museum, can convince themselves of things that are not in any way borne out, even by their own facts.
The public perception is quite correct. Modern generals are certainly more likely to die in bed - though possibly not their own - than in combat.
Canada's Top General Shags a Corporal - In fact Canada's top general in Afghanistan, Menard, a married man, was repeatedly shagging another man's wife - a corporal under him; sorry.
He was dismissed from his post and ordered home .Though it was not his only aggressive act in the war zone. He was the classic case of a top Canadian soldier who could never get right the old military saw, "This is my rifle, this is my gun; this is for shooting, this is for fun."
Only weeks before he was outed as shagging the corporal, a young mother of two kids, he had also shot off his rifle by mistake inside the Canadian camp, for which he was fined. In a secret, but unpublicized plea bargain with the military, he resigned from the service so that no further trial disclosures would embarrass the military for his many other crimes - destroying evidence, counseling others to lie, obstruction of justice, etc. Get it? He's a civilian now, so the military can't pursue all those other charges relating to his service while in uniform. Now that he's out of it... again...
Rape & Suicide - This was just more proof that Canadian officers and soldiers were aggressively sexually accosting women in uniform in Afghanistan, where Captain Nichola Goddard (Canada's first female fatality in Afghanistan in 2006) wrote to her husband of the horrific incidence of rape "six in one week," in the camp. She says she took a pistol to the shower... only three months before she was killed.
Was this why Major Michelle Mendes committed suicide in the camp shortly after returning to Afghanistan, in 2009, after spending home leave with her husband, rather than submit to repeated attacks by a superior officer? The circumstances surrounding her death remain secret - probably because revelations would deem to endanger national security - and have been hugely covered up the Canadian military.
And no, we're way ahead of you: we've checked. General Menard was not the man responsible. He was posted there after Michelle died. It would have been another officer...
Burn the Evidence - In December 2010, the military made a big show of burning the uniform and medals of a disgraced top officer, no, not General Menard, but of Canada's top Colonel - widely reputed to be headed for the top job in the Canadian military - until it was discovered he had raped and murdered a corporal, and then did the same to a civilian woman. Trying to burn out the stain of a serial rapist and murderer in the Canadian officer corps. Will General Menard's uniform be next?
Improvements in communication - by telephone, radio, Blackberry - had drastically changed the need for generals to go out and risk their own lives on the battlefield in order to give commands to the fighting troops.
Generals now, no longer needed to be restrained by the fear of personally dying, as a consideration, before ordering grunts to go into harm's way.
With the fear of personal danger removed generals could now order more attacks, more risky attacks, more useless attacks, with complete impunity. After all it was only dumb young kids from the boonies that were dying. And there were lots more where they came from.
In many years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, no British, American, Dutch, or Canadian general of any kind has been killed. Their biggest war injuries - piles from sitting on a bar stool at Tim Horton's behind the wire in Kandahar, from where they tell the corporals and sergeants to "Go out, and get 'em, boys!"
In fact in many years of war in Iraq even lower echelon Colonels rarely get killed.
In the Boer War British colonels died like flies in the front lines facing the enemy, with a fatality rate that exceeded that of the generals. Their personal courage was hardly second to that of the generals, under whom they served, nor the men whom they led.
|Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
|The Late Earl of Airlie - 1899
|Orig. cabinet card - Size - 11 x 17 cm
Found - Llanwrtyd Wells, UK
|Was killed as Colonel at the head of his regiment the 12th Lancers at Diamond Hill, June 11, 1900. One of scores of British Colonels who died bravely leading their men into the jaws of death for Queen and Country.
Afghanistan - Among the 4,200 US soldier deaths in Iraq, only a tiny handful of colonels have been killed. Not one while facing the enemy on the ground with the grunts; all in aircraft crashes - which are all reported as accidents... - while running from the scene of the crime...
The Conclusion - Common sense; not rocket science. If your life is at risk, you value it dearly, and act accordingly, and take due care.
If your life is not at risk, you act accordingly, and take less care. You start to gamble. And that includes, with the lives of others.
Generals are less willing to order assaults where their own lives are at risk, than when they are not. It has always been so. But since World War I, lives of modern generals are never at risk anymore.
Because that self-preservation factor, that used to restrain generals has been removed, grunts are more at risk than ever before, from bad generalship.
Case in point - General Wauchope thought Lord Methuen's plan ordering him to lead a surprise night march against the Boers at Magersfontein was a bad move - read unnecessarily fatal for many, including possibly himself. Many noted his objections. Wauchope was dead within hours, along with scores of his men in a horrific British defeat.
(We should note though Methuen escaped the carnage that time, he was no shirker from the front line. Two years later, he became the only British general ever captured by the Boers in the war, when he was grievously wounded at Tweefontein, and had his life only saved because of the fast and competent work of Boer doctors.)
Today grunts are more likely to die as a result of Blackberry commanding officers gambling than any grunts in history.
Also common sense; not rocket science.
Grunts are less willing to gamble with their own lives than their generals want them to, expect them to, command them to.
World War I showed the madness of protected commanding generals to its extreme, as millions of grunts died useless deaths on the wire, and in No Man's Land, where no general could ever be found.
Canadian General in Afghanistan - Canadian top General Hillier knew - like all the other European and American generals in Afghanistan and Iraq - that his life, and those of his top fellow officers, would never be in danger from the pajamahadeen.
It made him brave, and he became extremely cavalier with the lives of his Canadian soldiers, who for fifty years had never been in combat, but had developed an expertise and reputation as first class peacekeepers. A job in which very few died, and these mostly in accidents.
First, General Hillier demanded Canada's peacekeeping role be changed to the role of a combat army, in which he was encouraged by his American colleagues, with whom he had trained. To put his men into harm's way, where they were sure to die - but not of course, he.
Second, he demanded that they be pushed into an actual theatre of war, in Afghanistan, where American colleagues had already invaded, and where many of his men were sure to die - but not, of course, he.
Third, totally unlike generals from most of the other NATO countries, he insisted his troops be sent into the most dangerous part of Afghanistan, the southern Taliban area, which other NATO generals deliberately avoided, and where consequently, he knew many of his men were sure to die - but not, of course, he...
By January 2009, General Hillier's gung ho bravado had killed 127 Canadian boys and two gals so far - almost all privates, corporals, or sergeants; no generals or colonels - who paid with their lives to make their general's reputation, on which he is now trading for big bucks, in his retirement.
In fact Canada's soldiers have paid, for their general's bravado, with the highest fatality rate of any other army fighting in Afghanistan - a higher proportion of boys and girls killed than the Americans have sustained, the British, and the Dutch, the other three main combating forces there. All the while while Canadians have been losing ground to the enemy...
It's far worse than that.
In no previous war in Canadian history has the proportion of officers killed, compared to privates and non-coms been so astronomically low.
Now if that doesn't constitute bad generalship, what does?
Canadian grunts continue to pay dearly for being saddled with a gung ho, First World War general, who was born a century too late. In the Boer War he could have convinced us of his willingness to die for his country, instead of merely sending others to do it for him. It takes no courage to be a "Blackberry General."
Leaders from other NATO countries, and their generals, have repeatedly refused to send their soldiers into General Hillier's area to help because they value the lives of their soldiers too much, and wouldn't dream of sending them into a region where they would get killed for nothing, which is what is happening to the Canadians.
Exactly the sentiments of the Home Front.
Back home the Canadian population as a whole has opposed the use of Canadian troops in Afghanistan, from the beginning, and has demanded that their politicians bring them back ever since.
They believe there is no good reason, whatsoever, that the Canadian Forces should be in Afghanistan to fight a war that George Bush - the most malevolent and disgraced President in world history - started all by himself, with his business cronies - but with no United Nations, no NATO, and no Canada involved on any level whatsoever.
In short well over 100 young Canadian men and women's lives have been snuffed out only to please Americans and a general out to make a reputation. Their deaths accomplished absolutely nothing for Canada, except, the Canadian police report, to stir up a local terrorist cell in Ontario.
And they accomplished nothing but destruction in Afghanistan under a general who boasted that that was his purpose when he started. "Our job is to be able to kill people," he bragged, specifically "the detestable murderers and scumbags," - his way of referring to the non-white Muslims who opposed his group of entirely white European Christian foreign invaders.
How utterly criminal that the Canadian dead in Afghanistan are totally wasted lives, every bit as much as the futile war dead of World War I.
And now, to Canada's great embarrassment, the Canadian generals also have been demoted, by US Secretary Gates, who has announced he intends to reverse the poor and failing Canadian results in their sector - in spite of their huge fatality rate - by having American generals and troops replace the Canadians as overseers of the southern Kandahar region. Canadians will be sent to look after tourists in Kandahar city itself...
But in the military the generals are the boss and give the orders to grunts...
Yours is not to reason why; yours is but to do and die.
That is still as true of the military today as when it was written almost two hundred years ago.
The big difference is that, then, it also applied, equally, and actually, to generals and colonels, many of whom died alongside the men they led.
But they don't anymore; and haven't for a long time. And grunts have paid for it, big time, ever since.
Better ask for a promotion... quick...
Or pick out a plot...
Below the last view of Canada many Canadian servicemen and women see before the bomb goes off...
|Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
|Command and Control, The Field Marshall's Baton in Every Canadian Pack
|Orig. blackberry - Size - 6 x 9 cm
Found - in every Canadian private's belt pouch
How Canadian generals lead their guys and gals in 2009...
And how they insure a healthy and wealthy retirement and comfortable old age for themselves, their wives, and their children... oh, and their mistresses and boyfriends...
But Haig's idea caught on among other generals.
World War I became the first war where generals led from the rear, they sent millions to face certain death in useless charges into machine gun fire they themselves would never have to face. Not having their own lives threatened, and never have to face personal danger anymore, as their predecessors of the previous generation had done, generals completely lost touch with the value of the lives of their men.
And it gave them the courage to be cavalier and to send countless soldiers to their deaths - absolutely useless deaths.
Treating human beings under them like little more than disposable roadkill.
But starting to pump up the facetious rhetoric about the honourable dead heroes. When they were simply dead... Period. There is nothing heroic in being dead. Ask the burial parties... Ask the widows, and orphans... Ask the dead...
With the new tactics, the number of generals who died facing the enemy decreased astronomically.
And equally astronomic was the rise in the deaths of grunts - in the millions, sent out by generals who led courageously, from the rear.
So they saved their own butts at a rate that was astronomically higher than those of generals who served in the Boer War and other Victorian conflicts.
| Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Parian Bust, Lord Roberts, 1900
Orig. parian bust - Size - 21 cm
Found - Repentigny, PQ
Canada's Most Popular General - Affectionately called Bobs, by the thousands of Canadians who served under him in South Africa he is justifiably revered because he was also the last Commander-in-Chief of Canadian Forces to put his life on the line at the head of his troops.
Victorian generals had conviction or they wouldn't have put their lives on the line; conversely, you cannot trust the conviction of those who do not. Common sense, not rocket science...
|Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
|Celebrities of the Army - General Edward Woodgate
|Orig. lithograph - Size - 30 x 40 cm
Found - Cambridge, ON
General Woodgate was killed in the front line, while leading his men against the Boers on Spion Kop, Jan. 24, 1900.
Historian John Sneyman points at the spot marked by the cross, where General Woodgate was shot in the trench line on top of Spion Kop.
Post-Victorian generals just cannot carry themselves with the same profound authority as could Lord Roberts, General Buller, or General Penn-Symons.
They are despatch generals, transformed by improved communications to use telephone and radio to send out grunts into harm's way, daily, to face the enemy, alone...
It is impossible to conceive of a war as stupid and pointless as was World War I, or a more inept group of generals who dishonoured the masses of men they ordered to die uselessly.
Who can dare say they won World War I, and its resulting pile of millions of corpses?
Did generals do better in World War II?
In WWI most of the corpses were soldiers who fought soldiers.
In World War II, for the first time, generals started seriously attacking women and children as front line strategy. Tens of millions of civilians were deliberately exterminated by generals: German, American, British, Russian, Japanese.
This was an improvement? A more successful war? What outcome could possibly have been worse than the hundreds of millions of dead, mostly civilians, produced by World War II generals?
Nicholson Baker in "Human Smoke" raises some of these very points that questions the sanity of those who mindlessly prattle on about what a "good war" it was, compared to the others...
Are generals getting meaner and nastier? You'll have to consider Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Hamburg, Dresden. And Israelis in Lebanon and Gaza...
They are certainly getting stupider.
Russian generals thought they could subdue Afghanistan with 100,000 troops and billions of dollars of bombs and shells, and failed utterly.
Then came the Americanized Canadian General Rick Hillier who thought he could succeed with his 2,500 where the Russians failed... The mind boggles. Where do these guys get their education?
As Stan Rodgers would sing, on their behalf, "That makes me an idiot I suppose..."
The Canadians have been in retreat, and giving up territory to the locals ever since they first arrived - even President Karzai bemoans the fact. So much so, that US Secretary Gates, in a panic, is bringing in the US cavalry to rescue the situation from the hapless Canadians...
General Hillier had deliberately picked the Taliban to kill off, an enemy any public school student could have told him he could not possibly defeat. Some 30,000 of these Pashtun tribesman have been killed to date, while the Canadian casualties grow worse, with every passing year and every passing month.
December 2009 was only one death short of Canada's worst month of fatalities ever, out of the 84, since Canadians started to die there in 2002.
After six years of combat, the latest month is almost the worst month on record. Canadians may well ask, "What have we been paying these generals billions of dollars for?"
"Just bad luck," say the Canadians generals. Yeah bad luck for grunts to have to serve under generals who got them into this God awful and deplorable mess, and can't get them out...
Luckily the Americans are coming...
Mouthing the rhetoric of fools, the Canadian generals talk of killing and defeating the Taliban, as if they were the Jesse James Gang of a dozen local hoodlums.
When in fact they are involved in nothing less than fighting and killing the people of Afghanistan themselves - by the tens of thousands.
This is not a police action against a small gang of criminals, if you buy the con from an American PR playbook. Taking part in killing tens of thousands of men, women, and children, is nothing less than taking part in genocide against a people.
There is not a week goes by where President Karzai does not denounce the continuous, and wanton killing of civilians, women, and children by Canada's NATO partners.
What honour is there in that, for a Canadian general?
The Pashtun tribesmen in the Kandahar region have fought back with a vengeance, and despite fighting billions of dollars in military hardware, only in their pajamas, have the Canadians on the ropes...
The Canadian generals have deluded themselves into crowing - more meekly with each passing month - that they are winning.
Secretary Gates thinks not, and is replacing the Canadian command in Kandahar with more professional, and reliable American military leaders, because he wants better results than he has gotten from the Canadians in the area.
Still to serve a discredited command structure, the Canadian grunts continue to die like flies, as they did in the Victorian army. For them it's going to get even worse, as December made clear.
But there is a big difference.
While many Victorian grunts died while seeing their generals suffering gunshot wounds, or worse, today's privates in Afghanistan see only the "proxy generals" leading them into battle - the corporals, and sergeants like Rob Short.
It is the noncoms who do the leading and the dying for the generals, who courageously pick the targets for them, from the rear and send orders to charge with their Blackberries.
So while generals praise the grunts in Kandahar for the honour they bring on themselves, their families, and their country, for far too many common soldiers the "Paths of Glory lead but to the Grave," six feet of Canadian soil, and poverty-stricken widows and orphans, to weep their lives away...
There is No Honour in Death
At the beginning of the war parents of deceased veterans complained loudly that they had to pay for the burials of their own kids, some $10,000 per family.
The public outcry caused the generals to rethink their previous procedure, regarding the repatriation and burial of the remains of dead heroes whom they praised in the press, but disgraced in private.
The situation remains so truly awful that private organizations have been founded, in Canada, for no other purpose than to raise money to keep service men's widows and orphans - whose bread winners now lie in the local cemetery - from becoming street people.
Then generals became mean and miserly about the awarding of a single medal to certain of the dead heroes, rudely telling a father his dead son was not eligible, under the terms drawn up by the generals themselves, none of whom ever faced the enemy or death in Afghanistan.
But they bristle with chests full of their own medals at fancy balls, which dead veterans can not attend.
Then the generals agreed not to fly the national flag on Parliament Hill at half mast whenever a Canadian soldier died, as had been an earlier practice.
Then the generals tried to prevent the filming of the coffins coming back to Canada - in imitation of George Bush's custom in the US, to hide from the press and the public as much as possible, the awful toll in lives of common soldiers. They feared it might cool the public's ardour for war.
All these coffins, and flags coming down; why people might start wondering what kind of generals do we have anyway? Can't have that...
Do the math... Guess how many widows and orphans are produced by 127 dead veterans. Yes it goes into the hundreds.
Guess how many cemetery funerals of the 127 grunts killed in Afghanistan have been attended by generals?
So much for generals and dead heroes...
But the Paths of Glory lead elsewhere for the generals, to lives of wonderful retirement, full of wealth and honours, and surrounded by their wives, children, and grand kids... No widows or orphans to spoil the retirement years there...
No wonder the generals are gung ho to keep the wars going...
Hell they know they'll always come back alive, to riches galore on civvy street... And the press is full of reports of the wealth that General Hillier is raking in in his civvy suit while his "boys and girls" die at an accelerating rate in Afghanistan.
"War is hell!" said US General Sherman, who personally faced death himself, and was wounded several times.
Not for generals anymore it ain' t; not for a hundred years it hasn't been.
It's a sure ticket to a fabulously prosperous retirement, full of fat military pensions, additional lucrative corporate boardroom directorships, huge book deals, lucrative endorsements, big retainers from speaking engagements, all adding up to gazillions, on into a ripe old age...
Till they die in bed, the money just rolls in...
No wonder the generals shout "Charge!" with such gusto on their Blackberries...
Hell, they can afford it...
|Think About It...
The Military - the most stupid organization in the world
Why would anyone want to join an organization where those who are asked to die for their country, and do so by the scores - the privates and non-coms - do it in return for the poorest pay, pension, benefits, housing, and perks, while those who never risk their lives at all, and never die facing the enemy - the generals and colonels - get the highest pay, best pensions and benefits, premier housing, and outta sight perks in the service, and more so after leaving it?
This is exactly the opposite with the private armies who hire tens of thousands of private mercenaries out of the US, Canada, Britain, France, Australia, and Germany - like Blackwater did in Iraq and Afghanistan - who pay enormous wages and compensation to soldiers they hire for putting their lives on the line facing the same enemy in the same war zone as the poorly paid and shodily looked after Canadian grunts...
|Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
|Celebrities of the Army - Lt. Col. William Otter
Royal Canadian Regiment
|Orig. litho - Size - 30 x 40 cm
Found - London, ON
Col. Otter was wounded while leading his 1,000 men at the Battle of Paardeberg in February 1900.
He later became the first Canadian - non-British general - to become head of the Canadian Army.
An enormous variety of souvenir ware - including these huge colourful Celebrities of the Army lithos above - was produced to honour Victorian generals.
|Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
|Maj. Gen. Hector Macdonald - DSO
|Orig. cabinet card - Size - 11 x 17 cm
Found - Archdale, NC
He was so ferocious a fighter, as a young Lieutenant at Majuba Hill during the First Boer War in 1881, he should have been killed. But his bravery so impressed the Boers they spared his life, though they killed his general (Colley) in the fight that saw the British defeat.
He became a famed British general who saved the British from defeat at Omdurman, and played a key role at Paardeberg. In the end he chose suicide, in 1903, rather than be a party to bringing dishonour upon the British officer corps.
In his honour one of the world's finest fiddle tunes "Hector the Hero" was written by a fellow Scotsman.
As well a huge memorial tower was erected in his name in Scotland.
In stark contrast, no one was interested in producing souvenir ware for the modern general.
Feeling sorry for the lapse in obvious respect we tracked some down. You may take your pick...