Tuesday 21 November 2017

Working it out: I prefer having Greece in my club

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras arrives for a meeting at the Greek Parliament in Athens (AP)
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras arrives for a meeting at the Greek Parliament in Athens (AP)

Recently, as we were discussing the 'whys and wherefores' of Greece, I asked several people in their 20s and 30s what Srebrenica meant to them. They looked at me blankly. The Balkan conflict meant nothing to them. They knew of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia from holidays, or from the Eurovision Song Contest. Not one of them knew that 20 years ago, in July 1995, some 8,000 men and boys were murdered as part of a policy called 'ethnic cleansing'. They were Muslims murdered by Christian Serbs. It was genocide not very far from here, and not very long ago. Today all of the states of the former Yugoslavia are either candidates for membership of the European Union or are already members. Slovenia joined in 2004 and Croatia in 2013. Sworn enemies are now in the same club.

When the American Civil War began in 1861 there were 34 States. Seven declared secession and, after four years, 600,000 Americans had died. Today there are 50 States, New Mexico gaining statehood as recently as 1912. All of these states are in the same club. They may vary a great deal culturally. They may make jokes about each other. But the notion of one American state taking up arms against another American state is, thankfully, unthinkable.

Islamic State has set new lows in man's inhumanity to man. Just when you think you have heard it all, it lowers the bar. And the recent use of boys who should be at school to publicly execute Syrian soldiers was just another level of horror from a group who thought it was right and proper to burn a Jordanian prisoner of war alive in public. No Geneva Convention niceties for these brutes. Yet these children who have been brutalised will grow up. And the world will change. And they may marry and raise families and take the secrets of that horrendous day to the grave.

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