WARS AND WORDS
THE LIBRARY OF GEORGE CLARKE MUSGRAVE


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In writing of war, well-known episodes must take their place to complete the story; so must the personal observations of those who were there in the field, the bivouacs, the hospitals, and the prisoner convoys. The writer's eye must also be sharp enough to see through the fog that obscures every arena of conflict grown thick from the ivory-tower diplomacy and simplistic, chess-board planning of war by ignorant politicians; the life and death decisions of generals walking tall on their given pedestals; the incompetence of officials that is evident at every level, and the foul stain of corruption that sucks the very lifeblood from the fighting man.

Those absent from the field know nothing of this, but we live in an age when interest is ephemeral and, unless one is content to write for reputation alone, a work must be published at the height of public interest to command success. The author who has gathered his material first-hand, at the risk of life and health, returns to find his work anticipated in books written by those who have never left the security of their own homes. Their works may be a comedy of errors but, issued when the popular feeling is inflamed with pride and victory, their accuracy is not questioned.

The dust and heat of the battlefield do not inspire literary style, and chapters written under fire lack the polish bestowed by wordsmiths reclining in comfort and clean linen. Thanks to electricity and newspaper enterprise, some authors are now able to construct very readable books around the slender fabric of cable despatches but this denies a true analysis and understanding of the war and shows contempt for those, on both sides, seeking to explain their conflicting views and aspirations.

No one who has seen the horrors of war can pen words to glorify it. Neither can they minimise its deeply embedded lies, truths, prejudices or values. And this is the dilemma faced by every correspondent, journalist and author: how to portray a true and accurate account of war in the intimate detail that is the reality of individuals fighting, suffering and dying for their country, while remaining unaffected by the causal factors underlying the conflict.The span of history will deliver the analgesia to soothe the savage breasts of those having to deal with the inability of our politicians and our best generals to make clear, correct and courageous decisions; and to live with the moral decline, treachery and back-stabbing of the self-serving hordes that inevitably rise from their slime in times of conflict. But, until history evolves, this is the silent trauma of war.




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