Last Thursday, April 31, a 110-year-old man named Claude Stanley Choules died in Perth, Australia.
Choules was British, and he served over 40 years in the Royal Navy, in both England and Australia.
In 1915, at the age of 14, Choules joined the Navy, lying about his age to get in after being turned down by the army. He served in the brutal and disastrous Gallipoli campaign when the Allied forces tried to take the Dardanelles seaway from Ottoman Turkish forces.
Choules’s grandson said, “There was definitely no glory in it from his point of view. He firmly believed that war was a pure waste of time, resources and human life.”
Choules was the last surviving combat veteran of World War I.
Two days after Choules died a team of United States commandos killed Osama Bin Laden, head of the al-Qaeda organization, in a villa in Pakistan.
It could be argued that the war in which Choules served, the Great War, the War To End All Wars, continues today, that it in fact never ended, that its policies and its echoes continue to kill untold thousands of people every year.
From a November 2001 speech given by Osama Bin Laden:
Following World War I, which ended more than 83 years ago, the whole Islamic world fell under the crusader banner – under the British, French, and Italian governments.
They divided the whole world, and Palestine was occupied by the British.
Since then, and for more than 83 years, our brothers, sons, and sisters in Palestine have been badly tortured.
The actions of the Allied Powers in the Middle East following the Great War, and their continued activities in the Islamic countries during the twentieth century, created, enabled, and supported the brutal tyrannies that continue to terrorize the people there. Bin Laden and his ilk chose to fight back.
From Gallipoli to the fall of the World Trade Center is not a big leap. Perhaps irony attaches to the deaths of these two men so close together. Perhaps not, as the war that united them is not yet done.
The United States and its allies might do well to consider what their grandchildren will reap from what their governments sow in the world today.