Quote of the Quarter
“Ask him about the cemeteries, Dean!"
Does our situation today rhyme with history? Perhaps in many ways but one poignant aspect should be recalled as we charge head long to BREXIT.
In 1966 upon being told that President Charles De Gaulle had taken France out of NATO and that all US troops must be evacuated off of French soil, President Lyndon Johnson mentioned to Secretary of State Dean Rusk that he should ask De Gaulle about the Americans buried in France. Rusk implied in his response that that would not be diplomatic to do so. At which point President Johnson then told his Secretary of State to: “Ask him about the cemeteries Dean!” That made it into a Presidential order, so Rusk had to ask President De Gaulle. Accordingly, at end of the meeting Rusk did ask De Gaulle if his order to remove all US troops from French soil also included the 60,000 plus US soldiers buried in France from the First and Second World Wars. De Gaulle, embarrassed, got up and left and never answered.
As with this US experience, with our departure from the European Union in 2019, in amongst the political furore of negotiations, we perhaps need to remind ourselves of the repeated commitment this country has made to Europe both in terms of expended treasure and, more importantly, lives. And that our future is not just one shaped by geographical proximity but one that recalls the history of blood invested by the UK; as John Donne put it, “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main” irrespective of the history of our last 45 years in the EU and its preceding manifestations.