Sunday, June 29, 2014

WWI centenary

The 100th anniversary of the assassination of the Arch-Duke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Arch-Duchess Sonia of Austria-Hungary in Sarajevo is being celebrated today.  It was the event that precipitated the First World War in 1914 and forever changed the world.  Not only did the Austro-Hungarian Empire collapse, but also the Russian and Turkish Empires, and with the defeat of Germany by the Allied powers, it sowed the seeds of WWII that started only 21 years after the end of WWI.
The assassin was Gavrilo Princip who was a Serbian nationalist and carried out the assassination as a member of a Serbian underground cell against the imperial Austro-Hungarian Empire.  What is not widely known is that Princip was in fact a Muslim, although a Serbian.  Perhaps he wanted to prove his Serbian nationalism to his fellow plotters, or perhaps he was used by them, since he was the one chosen to actually pull the trigger.  Also, what is not widely known is that the original plan for the assassination went wrong and Princip sat at a cafe, had a coffee and was roaming around randomly when the Arch- Duke's car happened to go by.  Apparently the driver lost his way and ended up in a narrow street and as he was turning a sharp corner he slowed down to walking pace.  The Arch Duke and Duchess had no security protection, Princip could hardly miss. 
The consequences of this act of anti-imperialism were enormous.  It caused Austria-Hungary to declare war on Serbia, that then resulted in Russia, the champion of Serbia as a Slavic nation, to declare war on Austria-Hungary, which then caused other dominoes to fall.  The German Kaiser rose to the side of his fellow Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria-Hungary, and then the British and French rallied to the side of Serbia and Russia.  And so the first war that engulfed all of Europe and much of the world was born.  Of course, the deeper causes of the War are to be found in the rotten repressive and economic practices of the Empires that ruled so many subject peoples.   Even though the Austro-Hungarian Empire was relatively liberal, the war not only swept it away, but also the Romanov Czar in Russia, who was replaced by an uprising that was quickly taken over by the extreme elements of the Bolsheviks.  And the demise of the Turkish Empire led to the freeing of many Arab areas as well as what was to become Israel.  Turkey itself emerged as a modern state only because Kemal Attaturk was able to reorganize the Turkish Army and political system and declare a  democratic republic. 
One major result of WWI was the introduction of weapons of mass destruction, poison gas, the use of tanks, and air planes and wide-spread bombing of cities.  After WWI it became the strategic goal of belligerents in wars to attempt to destroy the enemies cities, at the cost of huge numbers of civilian casualties.  As a result of this and other atrocities that were perpetrated and that became worse in WWII, certain international treaties were promulgated, supposedly to prevent and stop such activities.  With the gradual improvement in technology it now becomes possible to use targeted bombing that should reduce civilian casualties, something that Israel has perfected in its attacks on terrorists in Gaza for example.  Yesterday two known terrorists of the Popular Resistance Committees who were responsible for multiple missile attacks on Israel were killed in a targeted attack on a car in Gaza, that injured no-one else.   All of these things can be traced back to Gavrilo Princip and his fateful encounter with destiny.  


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