Hiroshima nine months after the bombing.

August 6th, 2012

Today is the sixty-seventh anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan, the first use of nuclear weapons on a civilian center in the history of the world. When the United States army dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, about 255,000 people were living in the city; by six months later, the cumulative effects of the explosion, the shockwave, the firestorm, and the burst of radiation had killed approximately 140,000 men, women and children, over half of the entire population of the city. Nine-tenths of the buildings in Hiroshima were incinerated, burned down, irreparably damaged or destroyed. This is a silent film, recorded by the U.S. military nine months later, during the occupation of Japan, which can be found now in the National Archives. The film was made in an effort to survey the effects of the bombing. At 6 minutes 35 seconds, there is a panaromic view of the city. At 9 minutes, there is a view through the Torii gate.

How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake? (#4)

February 1st, 2009

How do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Iraq?

On Friday, January 30, ten days after President Barack Obama promised American soldiers would begin to responsibly leave Iraq, a gun battle broke out in the district of Baiji. One American soldier and one Iraqi militant were each shot to death. A second American soldier was wounded in the gunfire.

SALAH AL-DIN / Aswat al-Iraq: A gunman who shot down a U.S. soldier and wounded another in the district of Baiji was killed by U.S. army fire on Friday, a police source said.

A gunman from Baiji opened fire on Friday afternoon at U.S. soldiers who were standing in front of al-Rifaie school, which is used as a voting center, in the central part of the district, (35 km) north of Tikrit city, killing one of them and injuring another, the source told Aswat al-Iraq news agency.

The U.S. soldiers fired back at the gunman, killing him instantly, the source said, adding the U.S. soldiers arrested the gunman’s brother inside his house in central Baiji.

Aswat al-Iraq news agency managed to contact a source within the U.S. forces’ Joint Coordination Office who said that a gunman opened fire at the U.S. servicemen in Baiji district and the U.S. soldiers fired back and shot him down.

Aswat al-Iraq (2009-01-30): Gunman killed after shooting down U.S. soldier in Baiji

How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?

I’m Prepared To Give My Life For This Or Any Country

January 31st, 2009

From Curtis Stalbank in The Onion:

As a true patriot, I would gladly die in battle defending my homeland. I love my country more than my own life. But I would also be more than willing to give my last breath in the name of, say, Mexico, Panama, Japan, or the Czech Republic. The most honorable thing a man can do is lay down his life for his country. Or another country. The important thing is that it’s a country.

Like those heroes who spilled their blood fighting for independence against the British Empire, I, too, would forfeit everything to win for my countrymen the right to be governed by politicians in our own capital instead of in a capital located further away. Nothing is more profound or more sacred than to die for one’s country, an adjacent country, or some other, foreign country.

The truth is, there are a lot of countries, each of which is the most noble cause possible to die for. I only regret that I have but one life to lose for but one country.

I would not hesitate to give my life for or against any other noble nation. Come to think of it, I would even die for a neutral third party caught in the crossfire during a heroic peacekeeping effort, just so long as my death would be in some way related to a country of some kind. That’s how committed I am to the concept of nationalism.

The bottom line is that the current boundaries of a nation are worth protecting at all costs. Otherwise, what would so many brave and patriotic souls have lost their lives for?

[…]

Without nationalism, our deaths in the countless wars we constantly wage to defend our own nations against others defending their own nations against us would seem arbitrary, almost meaningless. But as long as we have a higher purpose—the love of whatever country we happen to be fighting for—we will always know we did not lose our lives in vain.

Curtis Stalbank, The Onion (2007-03-28): I’m Prepared To Give My Life For This Or Any Country

How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake? (#3)

January 29th, 2009

How do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Iraq?

Private Grant A. Cotting, a 19 year old boy from Corona, California, was killed in Iraq on Saturday, January 24, four days after President Barack Obama promised American soldiers would begin to responsibly leave Iraq.

A 19-year-old Army private from Corona died in what military authorities described today as a non-combat-related incident in Iraq.

Pvt. Grant A. Cotting died Saturday in the Iraqi city of Kut, about 100 miles south of Baghdad, according to the Department of Defense.

Cotting suffered injuries while with his unit — the 515th Sapper Company, 5th Engineer Battalion, 4th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, officials said.

The brigade is headquartered at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

The circumstances surrounding the incident are under investigation, a Pentagon statement said.

The Desert Sun (2009-01-27): Soldier from Corona killed in Iraq

How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?

How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake? (#2)

January 27th, 2009

How do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Iraq? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?

Army National Guard Specialist Matthew Pollini was killed in Iraq on Thursday, January 22, two days after President Barack Obama promised American soldiers would begin to responsibly leave Iraq.

Sergeant Kyle J. Harrington was killed in Iraq on Saturday, January 24, four days after President Barack Obama promised American soldiers would begin to responsibly leave Iraq.

Just after his graduation from Swansea’s Joseph Case High School in 2003, Kyle J. Harrington joined the Army. He was deployed to Iraq in 2005 and was more than halfway through his second tour of duty when he died Saturday, his wife, Faith, said yesterday.

Harrington, 24, a sergeant, had married his high school sweetheart, Faith (Ryan), before leaving for Iraq. They lived on the Fort Lewis Army base in Washington state.

Faith Harrington said her husband’s death was not combat related but occurred as a result of a fork-lift accident.

Though the Army did not give her specific details, she was told that an investigation is underway.

They won’t tell me anything, said Harrington, who said she could not say where in Iraq her husband had been stationed.

A spokeswoman for the Defense Department said she could not confirm or deny Harrington’s death, citing a congressionally mandated timeline that prohibits releasing information on military deaths until 24 hours after all family members are notified.

Harrington died two days after Army National Guard Specialist Matthew Pollini, 21, of Rockland, was killed in Iraq when the Humvee he was riding in on a military base rolled over. Since the war began in 2003, 4,232 servicemen and women have been killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom, not counting Harrington.

He had two children, Joshua, 5, and Kaylee, 2.

Matt Collette, The Boston Globe (2009-01-26): Soldier dies in accident in Iraq, wife says

Pollini, 21, was less than a month into his first tour of duty with the 772nd Military Police Company, a National Guard unit based in Taunton.

He was married on Dec. 22 and shipped out four days later.

We had lots of plans, Sarah Pollini, 20, said.

In a statement issued by his office, the adjutant general of the Massachusetts National Guard, Maj. Gen. Joseph C. Carter, said, The loss of a Soldier is a tragedy and we hope the Pollini family finds some consolation in the knowledge that Specialist Pollini gave his life while defending our nation, said General Carter […].

Allison Manning, EnterpriseNews.com (2009-01-25): Another Massachusetts soldier killed in Iraq, second in three days

Four U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq on Monday, January 26, six days after President Barack Obama promised American soldiers would begin to responsibly leave Iraq.

KIRKUK, Iraq (AFP) — Four US soldiers were killed on Monday when two helicopters crashed in northern Iraq, American and Iraqi military officials said, but an insurgent group later claimed responsibility.

Four coalition forces members were killed when two aircraft went down in northern Iraq at approximately 2:15 am (2315 GMT Sunday), a US army spokesman said in an initial statement.

The cause of the incident is unknown but does not appear to be the result of enemy action, a separate US military statement said later.

An Iraqi military official told AFP two helicopters were involved in the incident, while police said the crash occurred near the northern oil city of Kirkuk.

However, the Nakshabandiya insurgent group — close to executed president Saddam Hussein’s still fugitive deputy Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri — later said that it had shot down the coalition aircraft.

Asked about the claim, the US military issued a further statement, which said: There is no indication that the helicopter crash is a result of enemy action.

The Nakshabandiya handed out leaflets on the streets of Kirkuk, saying that they had shot down two helicopters and would soon show a video, an AFP correspondent witnessed.

A statement on their website said: We announce with pleasure the shooting down of two helicopters of the American enemy. It was a night ambush from the Anti-Aircraft Resistance Brigade. It was two Blackhawks shot down Sunday evening at 10.30pm in Hawijah, 50 kilometres (30 miles) west of Kirkuk.

The group said that the attack had killed more than 20 soldiers and that the video would show the entire operation.

Hawijah is a largely Sunni Arab town within the disputed oil province of Kirkuk and was the scene of a massive US operation to try to capture Ibrahim in late 2003.

The US military is currently taking a back seat to an increasingly large Iraqi force made up of 560,000 policemen and 260,000 military personnel, with the US providing logistic and air support on request.

According to the Pentagon, 143,000 American troops are deployed in Iraq.

Under an agreement signed between Washington and Baghdad in November, the US military is due to withdraw its combat troops from Iraq by the end of 2011 and to pull them back from built-up areas by the end of June this year.

At least 4,236 US military personnel have died in Iraq since the 2003 invasion, according to an AFP tally based on the independent website www.icasualties.org, including the deaths on Monday. Fifteen troops have died so far this year.

Agence France-Presse (2009-01-26): Four US soldiers killed in Iraq helicopter crash

How do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Iraq? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?

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

Two US soldiers investigated for the rape of a 12-year-old Colombian girl

November 7th, 2007

From El Tiempo (2007-10-07): Investigan a dos militares de E.U. por violación de niña de 12 años en Comando Aéreo de Melgar:

Air Force Command, Melgar, Colombia

On Saturday, August 25, Second Sergeant Michael J. Coen and his personal security officer, César Ruiz, who are serving with Colombian forces based in Tolemaida and appointed under Plan Colombia, evaded security protocols of the main Colombian Air Force bunker in the municipality of Tolima.

According to testimonies collected by the local authorities – in which military intelligence also have participated – at 4 am on Saturday, August 25, the soldiers arrived at the Air Force Combat Center 4 (Cacom-4) checkpoint, and without getting out of their white truck, Ruiz, known as The Mexican, lowered his window a few centimeters, identified himself and they continued on their way.

The poor car inspection, aided by the darkened truck windows, allowed the two men to enter the military complex with a 12-year-old girl who they had met at a dance club four hours earlier in Melgar.

Confidential informants point out that the truck, with license plate number CTU-046, La Calera, was parked in front of the apartment that Ruiz was assigned three months ago. Ruiz is a US citizen of Mexican origin, now apparently retired from the US Army, registered with the US Embassy and a member of the group in charge of the personal security of US personal participating in the counter-narcotics operations in Colombia.

According to a confidential report, Ruiz loaned his apartment to Mango (Coen’s alias) so that he could carry out the illegal conduct.

According to the testimony of the minor, around 8 a.m. on Sunday August 26, The Mexican took the girl out in the same truck. During the drive he tried to seduce her as he caressed her intimate parts, not paying any attention to her protests.

Minutes later, he left her in Melgar’s main park, where there were witnesses present.

Delays and Transfers

The same day, the girl traveled to Bogotá with her mother, Olga Lucía Castillo Campos, and during the trip she related what had happened to her on the base.

The girl’s mother, an artisan crafts seller who has been accused of allowing her young daughters to roam the streets until all hours of the night, accused the two Americans in the middle of the street in full view of the public, but was ignored. So, she decided to resort to the authorities on September 8.

But she was not the only one. Once I knew about the violations, I also took the case to the appropriate authorities, said Colonel Luis Ignacio Baron, Commander of Cacom-4. The Colonel preferred to make no other comment.

According to Paola Rueda, a psychologist with the Melgar Child Services Office who evaluated the young girl, even though the formal complaint was delayed, creating some difficulty, the thorough medical examinations left no doubt that there had been sexual relations.

Even though the investigation is incomplete, all signs point to the fact that Sargeant Coen, protected with diplomatic immunity, has left the country. Ruiz is still in Colombia.

For now, the Colombian Attorney General’s Office is not denying that Coen could be requested for extradition in order to explain his participation in this act. According to Colombian law, sexual relations with a minor of less than 14 years is punishable by up to 30 years in prison and the convicted person is not eligible for sentence reduction based on confession of crime.

Since this past Thursday, El TIEMPO has made official investigations into this case with the US Embassy in Bogotá and an official spokesperson issued a denouncement of the act. Even though [El Tiempo] has consistently renewed their efforts, at the close of this edition, they have not yet provided any further commentary or answers.

Other Judicial Proceedings against US Soldiers:

  • Pornographic Videos: Three years ago, pornographic videos starring Melgar teenagers with US soldiers and technicians from the Tolemaida base were discovered. They were selling for 5 US dollars. The young girls had to leave the area.
  • Ammunition Trafficking: In May 2005, the Police arrested a US Sergeant and Technician in the outskirts of Melgar involved in the trafficking of 32,900 cartridges that were apparently intended for the guerrilla.
  • Cocaine Contraband: In May 2005, 5 US soldiers appointed under Plan Colombia, were arrested and accused of sending 16 kilos of cocaine hidden in a military plane, from the Apiay military base in Villavicencio.

El Tiempo (2007-10-07): Investigan a dos militares de E.U. por violación de niña de 12 años en Comando Aéreo de Melgar. Translation by FOR.

“Trust us…” — trailer for War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us To Death

October 2nd, 2007

Here is a trailer for the recently released film War Made Easy

The film, narrated by Sean Penn and featuring anti-war media critic Norman Solomon, is now playing in select theaters.

A Wobbly loves his flag

September 6th, 2007

I love my flag, I do, I do,
Which floats upon the breeze.
I also love my arms and legs,
And neck and nose and knees.
One little shell might spoil them all
Or give them such a twist,
They would be of no use to me;
I guess I won’t enlist.

I love my country, yes, I do,
I hope her folks do well.
Without our arms and legs and things,
I think we’d look like hell.
Young men with faces half shot off
Are unfit to be kissed,
I’ve read in books it spoils their looks;
I guess I won’t enlist.

Anonymous, Industrial Worker (April 14, 1917).

“Enola Gay,” by U. Utah Phillips

August 6th, 2007

Enola Gay

Look out, look out
from your school room window
Look up young children from your play
Wave your hand
at the shining airplane
Such a beautiful sight is Enola Gay

It’s many a mile
from the Utah desert
To Tinian Island far away
A standing guard
by the barbed wire fences
That hide the secret of Enola Gay

High above the clouds
in the sunlit silence
So peaceful here I’d like to stay
There’s many a pilot
who’d swap his pension
For a chance to fly Enola Gay

What is that sound
high above my city
I rush outside and search the sky
Now we are running
to find our shelter
The air raid sirens start to cry

What will I say
when my children ask me
Where was I flying upon that day?
With trembling voice
I gave the order
To the bombardier of Enola Gay

Look out, look out
from your school room window
Look up young children from your play
Your bright young eyes
will turn to ashes
In the blinding light of Enola Gay I turn to see
the fireball rising
My god, my god all I can say
I hear a voice
within me crying
My mother’s name was Enola Gay

Look out, look out
from your school room window
Look up young children from your play
Oh when you see
the war planes flying
Each one is named Enola Gay.

U. Utah Phillips