Archive for April, 2007

Guernica

April 26th, 2007
Here is the painting, Guernica

Pablo Picasso (1937), Guernica

Seventy years ago today, on the afternoon of April 26, 1937, a group of twenty-nine German and Italian airplanes, commanded by Wolfram Freiherr von Richthofen and acting on direct orders from the Spanish Command, attacked the Basque town of Gernika in northeastern Spain. Gernika (Spanish: Guernica), with a population of about 5,000 regular residents and a large number of refugees from the fighting elsewhere, was completely unarmed. The airplanes had been provided by the fascist powers to aid Francisco Franco’s Nationalist forces during the Spanish Civil War. The bombers dropped explosives and incendiary bombs in five waves of bombardment, while the fighters strafed the streets with machine gun fire. The incendiary bombs created a firestorm that destroyed three-quarters of the buildings in Guernica, with most of the rest heavily damaged. The Basque government estimated that about 1,600 civilians were killed in the attacks, and about 900 wounded.

And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda: Gallipoli and ANZAC Day

April 25th, 2007

April 25th is ANZAC Day in Australia and New Zealand, a memorial for the large contingent of Australian and New Zealander soldiers in the Battle of Gallipoli, which began with a disastrous landing by Allied soldiers on April 25th, 1915, and ended with the evacuation of troops in January 1916 after half a year of trench warfare with no progress and heavy tolls of dead and wounded soldiers. 11,000 soldiers from Australia and New Zealand were killed in the battle and 24,000 were injured.

This is a recording of And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda, performed by the Irish punk band The Pogues in 1985 for their album Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash. The song was originally written and performed in 1972 by Eric Bogle, a Scottish-born Australian singer/songwriter.

And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda

Now when I was a young man, I carried me pack,
And I lived the free life of a rover
From the Murray’s green basin to the dusty outback,
Well, I waltzed my Matilda all over.
Then in 1915, my country said son,
It’s time you stopped rambling; there’s work to be done.
So they gave me a tin hat, and they gave me a gun,
And they marched me away to the war.

And the band played Waltzing Matilda,
As the ship pulled away from the quay
And amidst all the cheers, the flag-waving and tears,
We sailed off for Gallipoli.

And how well I remember that terrible day,
How our blood stained the sand and the water
And how in that hell that they called Suvla Bay,
We were butchered like lambs at the slaughter.
Johnny Turk he was waiting, he’d primed himself well.
He shower’d us with bullets, and he rained us with shell.
And in five minutes flat, he’d blown us all to hell
Nearly blew us right back to Australia.

But the band played Waltzing Matilda,
When we stopped to bury our slain.
We buried ours, and the Turks buried theirs,
Then we started all over again.

And those that were left, well we tried to survive.
In that mad world of blood, death and fire
And for ten weary weeks, I kept myself alive,
Though around me the corpses piled higher.
Then a big Turkish shell knocked me arse over head.
And when I woke up in my hospital bed,
And saw what it had done, well I wished I was dead.
Never knew there was worse things than dyin’.

For I’ll go no more waltzing Matilda,
All around the green bush far and free
To hump tent and pegs, a man needs both legs
No more waltzing Matilda for me.

So they gathered the crippled, the wounded,
The maimed, and they shipped us back home to Australia
The legless, the armless, the blind, the insane,
Those proud wounded heroes of Suvla.
And as our ship pulled into Circular Quay,
I looked at the place where me legs used to be.
And thanked Christ there was nobody waiting for me,
To grieve, to mourn, and to pity.

But the band played Waltzing Matilda,
As they carried us down the gangway.
But nobody cheered; they just stood and stared.
Then they turned all their faces away.

And so now every April, I sit on me porch,
And I watch the parades pass before me.
And I see my old comrades, how proudly they march,
Reviving old dreams of past glories.
And the old men march slowly, old bones stiff and sore.
They’re tired old heroes from a forgotten war.
And the young people ask, what are they marching for?
And I ask myself the same question.

But the band plays Waltzing Matilda,
And the old men still answer the call.
But as year follows year, more old men disappear.
Someday no one will march there at all.

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda, who’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?
And their ghosts may be heard as they march by that billabong,
Who’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?

Written and originally performed by Eric Bogle (1972)

Wars are Based on Pillars

April 21st, 2007

This is from an Inter Press Services story on the January 27, 2007 march against the war in Iraq, which drew 500,000 demonstrators to Washington, DC, and thousands more to smaller demonstrations around the country.

In Seattle, more than 1,000 people turned out to protest. Among the speakers at that rally was first Lt. Ehren Watada, the first commissioned officer to face prosecution for refusing to serve in Iraq.

Long-time social activist Tom Hayden told IPS President Bush’s ability to wage war is increasingly tenuous.

Wars are based on pillars, Hayden said. You need available soldiers, you need bipartisan support. You need recruitment of more soldiers, you need money, you need your moral reputation to be preserved and you need allies. By any of those measures the pillars are being undermined.

Hayden noted that more than 1,000 active duty U.S. soldiers have signed a petition calling for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Unhappiness with the war is also growing among veterans, with the group Iraq Veterans Against the War estimating their organisation has quadrupled in size over the last year.

Supporting the troops that have signed these petitions and supporting efforts to stop military recruitment at our high schools and at community colleges are absolutely vital, Hayden added. But people every day can do something. You want to convince your undecided neighbor to go against, you want to convince your kid not to go, you want to take a picket sign to the military recruiting office. You want to link up with the poor people’s and labour organisations and say this war costs 287 million dollars an hour.

If you put your energies toward a pillar they will eventually tip, he said, and they cannot fight a war without these resources.

Aaron Glantz, Inter Press Service (2007-01-28): Anti-War Marches Draw Hundreds of Thousands

BBC: Up to 200 killed in Baghdad bombs

April 19th, 2007
Photos show the Sadriya market in ruins, with the twisted remains of a car smoking and people walking wounded through the streets.

The Sadriya market was being rebuilt after an earlier attack in February which killed more than 130 people. –BBC

Nearly 200 people have been killed in a string of attacks in Iraq’s capital, Baghdad – the worst day of violence since a US security operation began.

In one of the deadliest attacks of the last four years, some 140 people were killed in a car bombing in a food market in Sadriya district.

A witness said the area had been turned into a swimming pool of blood.

The attacks came as PM Nouri Maliki said Iraqi forces would take control of security across Iraq by the year’s end.

As the number of people killed in the Sadriya market bombing continued to climb, Mr Maliki called the perpetrators infidels and ordered the detention of the Iraqi army commander responsible for security in that area.

This monstrous attack today did not distinguish between the old and young, between men and women, he said.

It targeted the population in a way that reminds us of the massacres and genocide committed by the former dictatorship.

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said the attacks were a horrifying thing, but said insurgents would not derail the ongoing security drive in Baghdad.

Burned alive

The bomb in Shia-dominated Sadriya was reportedly left in a parked car and exploded at about 1600 (1200 GMT) in the middle of a crowd of workers and shoppers.

The market was being rebuilt after it was destroyed by a bombing in February which killed more than 130 people.

The powerful bomb started a fire which swept over cars and minibuses parked nearby, burning many people and sending a large plume of smoke over Baghdad.

Television pictures showed a blasted scene littered with blackened and twisted wreckage.

One witness told the Reuters news agency that many of the victims were women and children.

I saw dozens of dead bodies, the man said. Some people were burned alive inside minibuses. Nobody could reach them after the explosion.

There were pieces of flesh all over the place.

Ahmed Hameed, a shopkeeper in the area said: The street was transformed into a swimming pool of blood.

About an hour earlier, a suicide car bomb attack on a police checkpoint in Sadr City killed 35 people.

Another parked car bomb killed at least 11 people near a hospital in the Karrada district of Baghdad, while in al-Shurja district at least two people were killed by a bomb left on a minibus.

Two other attacks in the capital killed and wounded about 11 more people.

Hospitals in Baghdad were inundated with more than 200 injured people, many of them with serious burns from the bomb at the Sadriya market.

Car and suicide bombings have occurred almost daily in Baghdad in recent months, despite a US-led security crackdown since February.

The bombers are proving that they can slip through the tightened security net and defy the clampdown, says the BBC’s Jim Muir in Baghdad.

Security handover

Most of the attacks have been in Shia areas, increasing pressure for the Shia militias to step up their campaign of reprisal killings against the Sunni community in which the insurgents are based, says our correspondent.

The attacks in Baghdad came as officials from more than 60 countries attended a UN conference in Geneva on the plight of Iraqi refugees.

The UN estimates up to 50,000 people flee the violence in Iraq each month.

BBC News (2007-04-18): Up to 200 killed in Baghdad bombs

Listen: Kurt Vonnegut on the firebombing of Dresden

April 14th, 2007

Billy went into his bedroom, even though there were guests to be entertained downstairs. He lay down on his bed, turned on the Magic Fingers. The mattress trembled, drove a dog out from under the bed. The dog was Spot. Good old Spot was still alive in those days. Spot lay down again in a corner.

Billy thought hard about the effect the quartet had had on him, and then found an association with an experience he had had long ago. He did not travel in time to the experience. He remembered it shimmeringly–as follows:

§

He was down in the meat locker on the night that Dresden was destroyed. There were sounds like giant footsteps above. Those were sticks of high-explosive bombs. The giants walked and walked. The meat locker was a very safe shelter. All that happened down there was an occasional shower of calcimine. The Americans and four of their guards and a few dressed carcasses were down there, and nobody else. The rest of the guards had, before the raid began, gone to the comforts of their own homes in Dresden. They were all being killed with their families.

So it goes.

The girls that Billy had seen naked were all being killed, too, in a much shallower shelter in another part of the stockyards.

So it goes.

A guard would go to the head of the stairs every so often to see what it was like outside, then he would come down and whisper to the other guards. There was a fire-storm out there. Dresden was one big flame. The one flame ate everything organic, everything that would burn.

It wasn’t safe to come out of the shelter until noon the next day. When the Americans and their guards did come out, the sky was black with smoke. The sun was an angry little pinhead. Dresden was like the moon now, nothing but minerals. The stones were hot. Everybody else in the neighborhood was dead.

So it goes.

The guards drew together instinctively, rolled their eyes. They experimented with one expression and then another, said nothing, though their mouths were often open. They looked like a silent film of a barbershop quartet.

So long forever, they might have been singing, old fellows and pals; So long forever, old sweethearts and pals–God bless ’em–

§

Tell me a story, Montana Wildhack said to Billy Pilgrim in the Tralfamadorian zoo one time. They were in bed side by side. They had privacy. The canopy covered the dome. Montana was six months pregnant now, big and rosy, lazily demanding small favors from Billy from time to time. She couldn’t send Billy out for ice cream or strawberries, since the atmosphere outside the dome was cyanide, and the nearest strawberries and ice cream were millions of light years away.

She could send him to the refrigerator, which was decorated with the blank couple on the bicycle built for two–or, as now, she could wheedle, Tell me a story, Billy boy.

Dresden was destroyed on the night of February 13, 1945, Billy Pilgrim began. We came out of our shelter the next day. He told Montana about the four guards who, in their astonishment and grief, resembled a barbershop quartet. He told her about the stockyards with all the fenceposts gone, with roofs and windows gone–told her about seeing little logs lying around. There were people who had been caught in the fire-storm. So it goes.

Billy told her what had happened to the buildings that used to form cliffs around the stockyards. They had collapsed. Their wood had been consumed, and their stones had crashed down, had tumbled against one another until they locked at last in low and graceful curves.

It was like the moon, said Billy Pilgrim.

§

The guards told the Americans to form in ranks of four, which they did. Then they had them march back to the hog barn which had been their home. Its walls still stood, but its windows and roof were gone, and there was nothing inside but ashes and dollops of melted glass. It was realized then that there was no food or water, and that the survivors, if they were going to continue to survive, were going to have to climb over curve after curve on the face of the moon.

Which they did.

§

The curves were smooth only when seen from a distance. The people climbing them learned that they were treacherous, jagged things–hot to the touch, often unstable–eager, should certain important rocks be disturbed, to tumble some more, to form lower, more solid curves.

Nobody talked much as the expedition crossed the moon. There was nothing appropriate to say. One thing was clear: Absolutely everybody in the city was supposed to be dead, regardless of what they were, and that anybody that moved in it represented a flaw in the design. There were to be no moon men at all.

§

American fighter planes came in under the smoke to see if anything was moving. They saw Billy and the rest moving down there. The planes sprayed them with machine-gun bullets, but the bullets missed. Then they saw some other people moving down by the riverside and they shot at them. They hit some of them. So it goes.

The idea was to hasten the end of the war.

Kurt Vonnegut (1969), Slaughterhouse-Five, chapter 8.

Kurt Vonnegut (1922–2007) was an American novelist known for his works blending black comedy and science fiction to illuminate the human condition. His most famous work, Slaughterhouse-Five, or the Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance With Death, written in 1969, drew from Vonnegut’s own experience in World War II, where he was captured by Nazi forces and witnessed the firebombing of Dresden as a prisoner of war. After surviving the bombing in a meat locker, he and his fellow prisoners were put to work by their guards cleaning up bodies until they were found and freed by Soviet forces in May 1945. Before the publication of Slaughterhouse-Five, few people in English-speaking countries knew about the bombing of Dresden and it was rarely discussed by historians of the war.

Vonnegut died at the age of 84 on Wednesday, April 11, in Manhattan, New York, from complications related to a fall in his home.

Lies, damn lies, and military press conferences

April 8th, 2007

WASHINGTON, April 6 (UPI) — A new poll shows that four years into the Iraq war, the American public has lost confidence in information offered by both the media and the military.

The drop mirrors public perceptions about how the war is going overall. In 2003, days after the invasion began, 90 percent said it was going well. Now just 40 percent believe its is going at least fairly well.

In March 2003, 40 percent of the public had a great deal of confidence that the U.S. military was giving it an accurate picture about how the war was going in Iraq. Another 45 percent said they felt a fair amount of confidence the military gave an accurate picture, according to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.

That number dropped to 15 percent and 31 percent respectively. About 52 percent said they have little to no confidence in information provided by the military.

The press has experienced a similar drop. In March 2003, 30 percent said they had a great deal of confidence in the media’s information about how the Iraq war was going. Fifty-one percent had a fair amount of confidence. Those numbers have dropped to 7 percent and 31 percent, respectively.

The most dramatic jump occurred in those who report no confidence in press information about the war. In 2003, 1 percent said they had no confidence. That number is now 27 percent. The number of those with not too much confidence in press information jumped from 14 percent in 2003 to 31 percent in March 2007.

United Press International (2007-04-06): Confidence in media, military declines

In The Warhead, by OTEP

April 2nd, 2007

Thanks to Victoria Marinelli (2005-07-09) for the link.

Here is a music video of In The Warhead by OTEP.

In The Warhead

Why?
The king of lies
Is alive
Look around
Look inside
Infidel [x3]

It begins here, it ends now
The prince must pay
His head or the crown
Rob the poor, slaughter the weak
Distort the law, perfect deceit

Do I need a gas mask?
Should I get inoculated?
Will this war last?
Will we be incincerated?

False gods
Death squads
Blind

This is a catastrophe
Weapon systems activated
Puritans have invaded
This is a catastrohpe
To protect against the threat
Order must be kept [x3]

Do I need a gas mask?
Should I get inoculated?
Will this war last?
Will we be incincerated?
False gods
Death squads
Blind

The elephants march to war
Concede
Conform
Concede
Conform
Deny the big lie
My tribe
Join me
An alliance of defiance, in the warhead [x3]
An alliance of defiance
All are welcome here
Give me your tired, give me your sick, give me your indulgence and decadence [x3]
He lied, they died, keep the peasants terrified [x2]
This is a catastrophe
You must lead if they get me
On my command
Break free
Break free
Break free
Break free.

Growing the Peace Movement, from the Wall Street Journal

April 2nd, 2007

From the Wall Street Journal‘s Washington Wire (2007-03-29): Growing the Peace Movement:

In the past several days, a huge peace sign has appeared in the grass in front of the U.S. Capitol. Not planted, mind you, but in the form of darker and longer blades of grass. According to the Washington Times, the U.S. Capitol Police suspect that antiwar protesters carefully placed fertilizer to grow the sign.

The Capitol Police contacted Communities for Peace about the mark after a demonstration Sunday, the group’s founder Gerry Eitner said. The grass mark is the same size — and located in the same place — as a children’s peace quilt placed on the Capitol lawn for 15 minutes during the demonstration. Eitner said no fertilizers were used, and added that the quilt has been placed there before.

Eitner said there’s a lot of speculation as to why some of the grass is greener, something she attributed to the power of peace and prayer. She emphasizes Communities for Peace promotes peace but isn’t an antiwar organization. Whatever the cause of the grassroots message, the group may soon find out that peace has a price. Eitner said the Capitol Police raised the possibility of requiring the organization to pay for the cost of removing the symbol.

Dean Treftz