Archive for the 'Drawing' Category

Howard Zinn, introduction to “Bomb after Bomb”

December 19th, 2007

This is an introductory essay that social critic and historian Howard Zinn wrote for Bomb after Bomb, by elin o’Hara slavick, a collection of cartographic drawings–based on military surveillance imagery, aerial photographs, battle plans, maps, and mass media sources–of American aerial bombing campaigns. Zinn’s essay was reprinted in the December 15–16, 2007 issue of CounterPunch. It was brought to our attention by Mark Brady at Liberty & Power.

Perhaps it is fitting that elin o’Hara slavick’s extraordinary evocation of bombings by the United States government be preceded by some words from a bombardier who flew bombing missions for the U.S. Air Corps in the second World War. At least one of her drawings is based on a bombing I participated in near the very end of the war–the destruction of the French seaside resort of Royan, on the Atlantic coast.

As I look at her drawings, I become painfully aware of how ignorant I was, when I dropped those bombs on France and on cities in Germany, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, of the effects of those bombings on human beings. Not because she shows us bloody corpses, amputated limbs, skin shredded by napalm. She does not do that. But her drawings, in ways that I cannot comprehend, compel me to envision such scenes.

I am stunned by the thought that we, the civilized nations, have bombed cities and countrysides and islands for a hundred years. Yet, here in the United States, which is responsible for most of that, the public, as was true of me, does not understand–I mean really understand–what bombs do to people. That failure of imagination, I believe, is critical to explaining why we still have wars, why we accept bombing as a common accompaniment to our foreign policies, without horror or disgust.

We in this country, unlike people in Europe or Japan or Africa or the Middle East, or the Caribbean, have not had the experience of being bombed. That is why, when the Twin Towers in New York exploded on September 11, there was such shock and disbelief. This turned quickly, under the impact of government propaganda, into a callous approval of bombing Afghanistan, and a failure to see that the corpses of Afghans were the counterparts of those in Manhattan.

We might think that at least those individuals in the U.S. Air Force who dropped bombs on civilian populations were aware of what terror they were inflicting, but as one of those I can testify that this is not so. Bombing from five miles high, I and my fellow crew members could not see what was happening on the ground. We could not hear screams or see blood, could not see torn bodies, crushed limbs. Is it any wonder we see fliers going out on mission after mission, apparently unmoved by thoughts of what they have wrought.

It was not until after the war, when I read John Hersey’s interviews with Japanese survivors of Hiroshima, who described what they had endured, that I became aware, in excruciating detail, of what my bombs had done. I then looked further. I learned of the firebombing of Tokyo in March of 1945, in which perhaps a hundred thousand people died. I learned about the bombing of Dresden, and the creation of a firestorm which cost the lives of 80,000 to 100,000 residents of that city. I learned of the bombing of Hamburg and Frankfurt and other cities in Europe.

We know now that perhaps 600,000 civilians–men, women, and children-died in the bombings of Europe. And an equal number died in the bombings of Japan. What could possibly justify such carnage? Winning the war against Fascism? Yes, we won. But what did we win? Was it a new world? Had we done away with Fascism in the world, with racism, with militarism, with hunger and disease? Despite the noble words of the United Nations charter about ending the scourge of war — had we done away with war?

As horrifying as the loss of life was, the acceptance of justifications for the killing of innocent people continued after World War II. The United States bombed Korea, with at least a million civilian deaths, and then Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, with another million or two million lives taken. Communism was the justification. But what did those millions of victims know of communism or capitalism or any of the abstractions which cover up mass murder?

We have had enough experience, with the Nuremberg trials of the Nazi leaders, with the bombings carried out by the Allies, with the torture stories coming out of Iraq, to know that ordinary people with ordinary consciences will allow their instincts for decency to be overcome by the compulsion to obey authority. It is time therefore, to educate the coming generation in disobedience to authority, to help them understand that institutions like governments and corporations are cold to anything but self-interest, that the interests of powerful entities run counter to the interests of most people.

This clash of interest between governments and citizens is camouflaged by phrases that pretend that everyone in the nation has a common interest, and so wars are waged and bombs dropped for national security, national defense, and national interest.

Patriotism is defined as obedience to government, obscuring the difference between the government and the people. Thus, soldiers are led to believe that we are fighting for our country when in fact they are fighting for the government — an artificial entity different from the people of the country — and indeed are following policies dangerous to its own people.

My own reflections on my experiences as a bombardier, and my research on the wars of the United States have led me to certain conclusions about war and the dropping of bombs that accompany modern warfare.

One: The means of waging war (demolition bombs, cluster bombs, white phosphorus, nuclear weapons, napalm) have become so horrendous in their effects on human beings that no political end– however laudable, the existence of no enemy — however vicious, can justify war.

Two: The horrors of the means are certain, the achievement of the ends always uncertain.

Three: When you bomb a country ruled by a tyrant, you kill the victims of the tyrant.

Four: War poisons the soul of everyone who engages in it, so that the most ordinary of people become capable of terrible acts.

Five: Since the ratio of civilian deaths to military deaths in war has risen sharply with each subsequent war of the past century (10% civilian deaths in World War I, 50% in World War II, 70% in Vietnam, 80-90% in Afghanistan and Iraq) and since a significant percentage of these civilians are children, then war is inevitably a war against children.

Six: We cannot claim that there is a moral distinction between a government which bombs and kills innocent people and a terrorist organization which does the same. The argument is made that deaths in the first case are accidental, while in the second case they are deliberate. However, it does not matter that the pilot dropping the bombs does not intend to kill innocent people — that he does so is inevitable, for it is the nature of bombing to be indiscriminate. Even if the bombing equipment is so sophisticated that the pilot can target a house, a vehicle, there is never certainty about who is in the house or who is in the vehicle.

Seven: War, and the bombing that accompanies war, are the ultimate terrorism, for governments can command means of destruction on a far greater scale than any terrorist group.

These considerations lead me to conclude that if we care about human life, about justice, about the equal right of all children to exist, we must, in defiance of whatever we are told by those in authority, pledge ourselves to oppose all wars.

If the drawings of elin o’Hara slavick and the words that accompany them cause us to think about war, perhaps in ways we never did before, they will have made a powerful contribution towards a peaceful world.

Howard Zinn

Calvin and Hobbes: How Come We Play War?

May 14th, 2007

Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes (1986)

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

Pyramid schemes in Iraq: Stephanie McMillan, Minimum Security

March 11th, 2007

In the comic, Nikko is sipping a drink while he and Bunnista watch Kranti pick carrots. Nikko says, “Some politicians want to continue the Iraq War so the soldiers who've died won't have been killed in vain.” Kranti replies: “So MORE soldiers dying in vain will prevent the previous ones from having died in vain?” Bunnista: “It's a pyramid scheme of slaughter!”

Stephanie McMillan, Minimum Security (2007-03-09)

More Troops, by Clay Bennett

February 5th, 2007

Here is a yellow ribbon formed into a Moebius strip, reading "Support Our Troops ... With Ever More Troops"

Clay Bennett (2007)

Link thanks to paulie cannoli 2007-01-31.

“Kill Every One Over Ten:” The Burning of Samar and the Balangiga Massacre

January 5th, 2007

Kill Every One Over Ten — Gen. Jacob H. Smith

Here is an editorial cartoon with a line of American soldiers preparing to execute blind-folded young boys.

Criminals Because They Were Born Ten Years Before We Took the Philippines.

New York Evening Journal, May 5, 1902

This editorial cartoon, from the May 5, 1902 New York Evening Journal, was drawn in protest of the burning of Samar, in late 1901, during the American occupation of the Philippines. News of the campaign eventually reached the United States, and the commander, General Jake Howling Smith, faced a court martial in May 1902, on charges of conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline. During the trial it was revealed that Smith had ordered his soldiers to shoot anyone over the age of ten who had not surrendered, as potential enemy combatants. Smith, found guilty, was given a verbal reprimand and retired without further punishment.

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Danziger: Stay the course

October 30th, 2006

Here is a cartoon of Dick Cheney and George W. Bush rafting in the sea. Cheney is holding a sign reading “Stay the course.” A buoy ahead reads “Oops! Election ahead, change course!” The raft they are using turns out to be a floating corpse.

Jeff Danziger (2006-10-21)

The Mirrour Which Flatters Not

October 27th, 2006

The Mirrour Which Flatters Not

John Payne (1639)

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Danziger: One man’s collateral damage

August 23rd, 2006

Here is a drawing of a Lebanese man wailing as he cradles a dead boy in his arms. The caption reads: "One man's collateral damage is another man's son."

Jeff Danziger (2006-08-02)

Stormtroopers Advancing Under Gas

August 12th, 2006

Here is a drawing of five troops marching forward in white gas masks, looking for all the world like distorted versions of dead men's skulls.

Otto Dix, from War (1924)

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