by Paul Nichols
Samrawit Silva’s powerfully impassioned letter in the Concord Monitor of September 6th describes the ongoing slaughter of citizens, including some of her family members, by government forces in Ethiopia. She ends the piece with references to the phrase, “Never Again.” But never again is happening again, this time in her home country!
History matters. History repeats itself, though maybe not exactly in the same way nor in the same place. And the never again refrain is a historic expression possibly first coined as World War I ended. That war was famously called “The war to end all wars”—in other words, never again.
During the WW II years, Hitler’s Nazi forces exterminated 6 million European Jews before the genocide ended when Germany surrendered in May 1945. “Never Again” became a common phrase from Holocaust survivors and their families in their tireless efforts to seek justice and worldwide recognition of the atrocities committed.
With the 1960’s came dramatically different times and a guerilla-type war in Southeast Asia. Just out of high school, I became enthralled by “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” album released in May 1963, especially the song “Masters of War.” The following January, Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’” album hit the record stands. His song “With God on Our Side” was one of many extraordinary songs on the album that were very awe-inspiring to me.
Strong patriotic beliefs, naive faith in our nation’s leaders, and orders from very active draft boards persuaded tens of thousands of America’s youth into military units, then on to a senseless decade-long war in Vietnam. The war waged by Democratic and Republican presidents spawned untold death and destruction on all sides. Divisiveness ran deep throughout our country.
“Never Again” became a common slogan during and after the war in Vietnam, having dual meanings: Never again invade and attempt nation-building in another country that has done nothing detrimental to ours; never again will returning troops be disgracefully mistreated or be shown total indifference.
There have been no comparisons to the Holocaust, however more recent genocidal massacres have since taken place in the killing fields of Cambodia under Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, in Rwanda, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere. These horrors have brought on expressions of never again.
Hawks in President Reagan’s administration did their best at promoting war in El Salvador and Nicaragua during the mid-1980s. Scandals and never again protests helped avoid U.S. invasions and nation-building attempts of those Central American countries.
Following the horrific, unthinkable 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S., President Bush ordered the invasion of Afghanistan called Operation Enduring Freedom. The country’s Taliban leaders protected Osama bin Laden, Saudi leader of the al-Qaeda militant group. Soon afterwards bin Laden fled from hiding in Afghanistan across mountains into Pakistan, where he was killed by U.S. forces in 2011 under the Obama administration. But that was only the half-way point of the 20-year war, which ended August 30, 2021. A Taliban maxim, “You have the watches, we have the time” proved that nation-building by Western countries had failed again.
There’s a saying, “never say never.” Evidently, President Bush adhered to this approach as he ordered an invasion of Iraq in 2003. Based on fictitious rationale, this war caused death and destruction across the country until 2011, when the last U.S. combat troops withdrew. Iraq continues be in turmoil.
Some may say that those old Dylan songs are outdated. Not really! Never again has become an almost universal phrase denoting various tragedies, including senseless mass murders at schools, theaters, churches, etc. by mentally deranged or vicious people with guns designed for war. Never again reruns occur again and again.
Currently, Congressional investigations are ongoing to sort out the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capital by domestic terrorists loyal to Donald Trump. After four years of continuous lies and abhorrent policies from the former president, I emphatically say, Never Again.
Paul Nichols is a former Marine and a retired Agricultural Extension Agent. He lives in Loudon.