by —Terri Arthur, RN, BS, MS, Author of the book “Fatal Decision: Edith Cavell WWI Nurse” and the British edition “Fatal Destiny: Edith Cavell WWI nurse.”
How does that saying go? Something about lessons not learned in the past are doomed to be repeated? It’s happened again. Two American journalists were executed by a group of terrorists trying to build their own national status. Their excuse was to avenge the American airstrikes in that area. Revenge. Maybe that’s the key word in this lesson. You be the judge. As a result, our President has vowed further revenge and promised to “degrade and ultimately destroy these terrorists.”
A century ago, another terrorist nation, Germany, decided to build their national status by conquering France in WWI. They had a brilliant plan to march through Belgium and take over Paris in just a few weeks. It was called the Schlieiffen Plan. Since Britain was an ally of France and promised to defend Belgium’s neutrality, they threw in their hat with their former French enemy. The truth is that despite the addition of British troops, the Germans were still winning–granted not as fast as they had planned before the pesky Brits settled in along the French border, but still ahead of the game.
Then the Germans did a very stupid thing. They executed a 49-year old British nurse in revenge for the British joining the fray. Mind you, they had done a lot worse than this before they shot Edith Cavell. They burned down Louvain, a sleepy town known for their scholars and religious institutions. They killed the priests and teachers, rallied the adults into the town square and shot them in front of their children and then shot the children. They sank the Lusitania causing 1,500 people to drown. I have a two-inch thick book on my shelf entitled “German atrocities: 1914.” That’s 600 pages of brutality and atrocities against humanity all in one year! But nothing they did got the Americans riled up enough to join their pals “over there,” –until they shot Edith Cavell.
Just like today, the headlines at that time began to scream out the injustice. “I am glad to die for my country: Miss Cavell’s Last Words” –New York Herald. “Edith Cavell, Englishwoman, Put to Death on Charge of Aiding the Allies in Brussels,” –New York Times. Now we read, “James Foley, Missing American Photojournalist, Beheaded By ISIS In Syria,” and “ISIS: Second beheading is a ‘Message to America.’” What happened after they brutally executed Edith Cavell is exactly what is happening again today. Former enemies joined against a common enemy in 1914. In 2014, we have joined with our former enemies to do the same. Almost 40 nations have agreed to join in a worldwide fight to defeat the ISIS militants. The last thing Germany wanted was to have the Americans cross the Great Pond and renew the Allied forces; but the killing of Edith Cavell was the last straw and their worst nightmare became a reality. Now as we read the headlines “Obama sets the stage for intense action on Islamic state,” we know the outcome. Just as the Germans thumbed their noses at the Allies in 1914, in 2014 modern day terrorists have made the same mistake. We also know that the outcome will be the same. They used innocent civilians to act out their revenge against their enemies. “Patriotism is not Enough,” said Edith. Neither is revenge. It’s a lesson repeated down through the centuries. If only it could be learned.