Days of Glory

Monday is Veterans Day in the United States, and Remembrance Day in Canada.

As many nations of the world recognized their war dead and remembered the sacrifices made, I was reminded that the French and British raised troops in their former colonies, Morocco among them.

Are there celebrations in those countries, too? Mercenaries, who were promised much, but received little, also shed their blood. I never met any Moroccans who fought in WWI or WWII nor in the the Spanish Civil War, but the woman who cooked for me, Khadija, was married to a man who had served in Indochina.

Ali and Khadija

For Ali, the experience was miserable. The conflict had no meaning, his health suffered, and he ended up receiving a pension that never rose with inflation, once Morocco had achieved independence.

The U.S. now accepts recruits if they have a green card and are residents, but the U.S. military makes no promises about helping those who serve become citizens. In Afghanistan and Iraq, U.S forces depended on locals as translators, men who put their lives at risk, who were promised protection, but who are now being denied asylum.

Until the end of the Renaissance, standing armies were rare or nonexistent. Most rulers raised troops through their nobles, or mercenaries were hired as in Renaissance Italy. Rome may have been a major exception, but for half its history it was a military dictatorship. Only with the arrrival of the nation state did the idea of the standing army take hold. Imperial powers, alway in conflict with each other, found yet another resource to tap. Colonial troops fought fiercely and bravely, but for causes that were not theirs and for promises that were not kept. Many were illiterate or nearly so, and, as far as Morocco goes, few left little more than oral histories that no one thought worthy to collect. We should remember them, too, today.

The illustration is from the film entitled Days of Glory, which follows a group of Algerian and Moroccan troops in WWII. The title is ironic, of course

Author: Dave

Retired. Formerly school librarian, social studies teacher, and urban planner.

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