Tuesday, June 07, 2016

D-Day 72 years on

Yesterday was the 72nd anniversary of the Overlord landings in Normandy, the first step in the campaign by the Allies to free Western Europe from the domination of the Nazi regime, a genocidal dictatorship which was probably the worst threat to civilisation in all of recorded history.

(DA'ESH comes close to matching the Nazis in the level of depravity to which they have sunk but the scale of the threat posted by  Hitler's legions was far more serious.)

It is tempting for both sides to think about the liberation of Europe as we enter the final stretch of the EU referendum debate in Britain. Tempting, but both sides must be careful not to overstate their case, and neither side - or the press - should misrepresent themselves as doing so if they are not.

For the Leave side, there may be a wish to see their campaign as a new push for independence for Britain and indeed Europe. This is an understandable viewpoint, but it would be entirely wrong to suggest even for one moment that the European Union, which has an elected parliament, independent court, and operates in accordance with rules and laws even through we might like to address a democratic deficit in how those rules are made and implemented, bears any resemblance to the murderous and lawless tyranny from which the heroes who stormed the Normandy beaches were fighting to liberate Europe.

The EU was founded by people who wanted to consign any possibility that something like Nazi Germany could ever rise again impossible, and make another war unthinkable. There may be those on the remain side who see their campaign as the completion of that mission.

They too need to be careful not to overstate their case.  However noble the aims of the EU, it has not always met them and sometimes looks very out of date.

Ultimately the EU must be assessed on how democratic it is, and how well it contributes to our national security today, and not in the light of analogies from either side to the battles which the heroes of D-day fought at a distance back in time a couple of years longer than the span which  in biblical times was regarded as a man's lifetime.

But the other aspect of D-Day must never be forgotten. Millions of heroes from Britain, the United States, almost every country of the Commonwealth including Canada, Australia, New Zealand India , and many others, free French, free Poles, and a whole array of lovers of freedom risked their lives - and many paid with their lives - to protect the world from tyranny and liberate Europe.

Their sacrifice is what really marks the events we remember this week, and should never be forgotten.

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