Archive for July, 2006

The Parable of the Old Man and the Young

July 31st, 2006

So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
And took the fire with him, and a knife.
And as they sojourned both of them together,
Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father,
Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
But where the lamb, for this burnt-offering?
Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,
And builded parapets and trenches there,
And stretchèd forth the knife to slay his son.
When lo! an Angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not they hand upon the lad,
Neither do anything to him, thy son.
Behold! Caught in a thicket by its horns,
A Ram. Offer the Ram of Pride instead.

But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
And half the seed of Europe, one by one.

Wilfred Owen (ca. 1917)

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United States generals had planned a wider bombing of Baghdad.

July 31st, 2006

AUSTRALIA intervened to stop key US military strikes against Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq, fearing they might constitute a war crime.

Major General Maurie McNarn, then a brigadier and commander of Australian forces in Iraq, on several occasions played a red card against the American plans, which included hits on individuals. His objections drew anger from some senior US military figures.

In one instance, Major General McNarn vetoed a US plan to drop a range of huge non-precision bombs on Baghdad, causing one angry US Air Force general to call the Australian a pencil dick.

However, US military command accepted Major General McNarn’s objection and the US plans were scrapped.

The revelation of how Australia actively and successfully used its veto power in the 2003 invasion of Iraq is contained in a new book on the US-Australian alliance, The Partnership, by The Weekend Australian’s foreign editor, Greg Sheridan.

… The book reveals that Major General McNarn — now the head of the Defence Intelligence Organisation — delivered a great shock to the US when he first used the red card and then put his objections to the proposed US military strike in writing.

Shit, exclaimed one American when he saw the document. What if this leaks? Major General McNarn replied that if the US did not take the illegal action, it would not matter.

As coalition forces prepared plans to take Baghdad, Major General McNarn vetoed three of five proposed US Air Force weapon systems — mostly huge bombs — on the grounds that they were not accurate for a radius of less than 16m and, as a result, were unsuitable for use in a built-up area.

Cameron Stewart, The Australian (2006-07-29): Aussie veto stopped US war crimes

OZYMANDIAS of EGYPT

July 29th, 2006

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said:–Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter’d visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp’d on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock’d them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!

Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1818)

Iwaka-machi residential neighborhood, Nagasaki, Japan

July 28th, 2006

Here are the gutted ruins of the Iwakawa-machi residential neighborhood, 800 miles from the hypocenter.

Photograph by Torahiko Ogawa (1945)

About 800 meters south of the hypocenter. The lush roadside trees in this quiet residential neighborhood burned to ashes. The explosion had completely buried the road in rubble.

The Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum

“Cremating the dead.” Hiroshima, August 8, 1945.

July 24th, 2006

Drawing: Cremating the dead

Courtesy / NHK Hiroshima.

August 8, 1945 / The streetcar track in kamiya-cho (300m from the hypocenter)

The burnt ruins were filled with countless unidentified corpses. These were gathered and taken to riversides, schoolyards, and other open areas for cremation. Around the city, day after day smoke from cremation fires billowed into the sky.

#36. Special Exhibit, Hiroshima Peace Museum.

As a sort of virtual tour guide, the website for the Special Exhibit includes these manga drawings of a grandmother who had been a nurse during the war, showing her grandchildren the exhibit:

Brother: "They're all dead..." Sister: "Why did all this happen?"

This is called pacification.

July 24th, 2006
photo: Mother fleeing Tyre

Tyler Hicks/New York Times (2006)

Hundreds of people today poured in to Tyre, Lebanon, chasing a rumor that a U.N. evacuation ship would come.

TYRE, Lebanon, July 20 — … The morbid reality of Israel’s bombing campaign of the south is reaching almost every corner of this city. Just a few miles from the Rest House hotel, where the United Nations was evacuating civilians on Thursday, wild dogs gnawed at the charred remains of a family bombed as they were trying to escape the village of Hosh, officials said.

Officials at the Tyre Government Hospital inside a local Palestinian refugee camp said they counted the bodies of 50 children among the 115 in the refrigerated truck in the morgue, though their count could not be independently confirmed.

Abdelmuhsin al-Husseini, Tyre’s mayor, announced on Thursday that any bodies not claimed in the next two days by next of kin would be buried temporarily in a mass grave near the morgue until they could receive a proper burial once the fighting ends.

… With the roads and bridges to many surrounding villages bombed out, few families have come to the hospital to claim their dead.

Even if they could make the journey, they would fear being hit by airstrikes along the way, Mr. Husseini said. Emergency workers have been unwilling to brave the risk of recovering many bodies left along the road, leaving them to rot.

For those relatives who reach the morgue, conducting a proper burial is impossible while the bombing continues. Many have opted to leave the bodies at the morgue until the conflict ends.

The morgue has had to order more than 100 coffins with special handles to make it easier to remove them from the ground to be reburied later.

What? He wants a hundred? a local carpenter said, half shocked, half perplexed. Where the hell am I going to get enough wood to build that many coffins?

… A pall overtook Tyre on Thursday, as United Nations peacekeepers loaded more than 600 United Nations employees, foreigners and Lebanese onto a ferry to Cyprus, then promptly packed up their makeshift evacuation center at the Rest House and left for their base in the town of Naqura.

Hundreds descended on the hotel on Wednesday, desperate to board the ferry. Despite fears that many would be left behind, almost all who sought refuge were able to board the ship Thursday.

But as the last United Nations peacekeepers left town on Thursday, those who remained braced for an even heavier bombardment.

For Ali and Ahmad al-Ghanam, brothers who have taken shelter in a home just a few blocks from the morgue, the refrigerated truck of dead bodies is a vivid reminder of the attack that killed 23 members of their family.

When Israeli loudspeakers warned villagers to evacuate the village of Marwaheen last Saturday, the families packed their belongings and headed for safety. More than 23 of them piled into a pickup and drove toward Tyre, with the brothers trailing behind. Another group set off for a nearby United Nations observation post, but were promptly turned away.

As the pickup raced to Tyre, Ali al-Ghanam said, Israeli boats shelled their convoy, hitting the car and injuring the women and children in the back. But within minutes an Israeli helicopter approached the car, firing a missile that blew the truck to pieces as the passengers struggled to jump out, he said.

His brother Mohammad, his wife and their six children, were killed instantly along with several of their relatives. The only survivor in the car was the brothers’ 4-year-old niece, who survived with severe burns to much of her body.

Hassan M. Fattah, New York Times (2006-07-21): In Scramble to Evade Israeli Bombs, the Living Leave the Dead Behind

Phan Thị Kim Phúc and others fleeing Trang Bang

July 21st, 2006

Phan Thi Kim Phuc fleeing napalm attack in Trang Bang. AP Photograph by Nick Ut

Photograph by Nick Út, for the Associated Press (1972).

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Probably, therefore, he will say something like this…

July 20th, 2006

In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them. Consider for instance some comfortable English professor defending Russian totalitarianism. He cannot say outright, I believe in killing off your opponents when you can get good results by doing so. Probably, therefore, he will say something like this:

While freely conceding that the Soviet regime exhibits certain features which the humanitarian may be inclined to deplore, we must, I think, agree that a certain curtailment of the right to political opposition is an unavoidable concomitant of transitional periods, and that the rigors which the Russian people have been called upon to undergo have been amply justified in the sphere of concrete achievement.

The inflated style itself is a kind of euphemism. A mass of Latin words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outline and covering up all the details. The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink. In our age there is no such thing as keeping out of politics. All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer. I should expect to find — this is a guess which I have not sufficient knowledge to verify — that the German, Russian and Italian languages have all deteriorated in the last ten or fifteen years, as a result of dictatorship.

George Orwell, Politics and the English Language (1946)

No Se Convienen

July 20th, 2006

No Se Convienen

Francisco de Goya (ca. 1812)

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DULCE ET DECORUM EST

July 19th, 2006

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.

GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!– An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.–
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,–
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori
.

Wilfred Owen (1917–1918)

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