Well, three months down and nine to go. How are you enjoying the Year of the Hare so far? Hope that the sheer speed of changes since the beginning of the year on February 3, 2011 is raising your hair a bit. Sort of exhilarating those flying roller coaster rides on the crest of the wave. Learn to ride. It’s gonna get rougher.
Mutability, or changes, comes not by presidential decree nor by secret bank deals – it’s a built in condition of the whole game – you can’t even step into the same river twice.
Purchasing a large estate in a South American country that has no extradition treaty with the USA might surely be regarded as the height of prudence. It ignores mutability, however. One day it may become a subject of negotiation between the US and the country of the large estate, on the subject of precisely entering into an extradition treaty.
Aagh, some things never change, I hear you say.
Well, you have to wait till the rock is ready to move, as a Varashaiva saint was heard to say. Grab the moment. Carpe diem. If you see a chance, take it.
Here is what we have to change, the war on humanity of Vishnu Braphat:
Where Have All the Graveyards Gone?
The War That Didn’t End War and Its Unending Successors By Adam Hochschild
What if, from the beginning, everyone killed in the Iraq and Afghan wars had been buried in a single large cemetery easily accessible to the American public? Would it bring the fighting to a halt more quickly if we could see hundreds of thousands of tombstones, military and civilian, spreading hill after hill, field after field, across our landscape?
I found myself thinking about this recently while visiting the narrow strip of northern France and Belgium that has the densest concentration of young men’s graves in the world. This is the old Western Front of the First World War. Today, it is the final resting place for several million soldiers. Nearly half their bodies, blown into unrecognizable fragments by some 700 million artillery and mortar shells fired here between 1914 and 1918, lie in unmarked graves; the remainder are in hundreds upon hundreds of military cemeteries, still carefully groomed and weeded, the orderly rows of headstones or crosses covering hillsides and meadows.
Stand on a hilltop in one of the sites of greatest slaughter -- Ypres, the Somme, Verdun -- and you can see up to half-a-dozen cemeteries, large and small, surrounding you. In just one, Tyn Cot in Belgium, there are nearly 12,000 British, Canadian, South African, Australian, New Zealander, and West Indian graves.
Every year, millions of people visit the Western Front’s cemeteries and memorials, leaving behind flowers and photographs of long-dead relatives. The plaques and monuments are often subdued and remarkably unmartial. At least two of those memorials celebrate soldiers from both sides who emerged from the trenches and, without the permission of their top commanders, took part in the famous informal Christmas Truce of 1914, marked by soccer games in no-man’s-land.
In a curious way, the death toll of that war almost a century gone, in which more than 100,000 Americans died, has become so much more visible than the deaths in our wars today. Is that why the First World War is almost always seen, unlike our present wars, not just as tragic, but as a murderous folly that swept away part of a generation and in every way remade the world for the worse?
To Paris -- or Baghdad
For the last half-dozen years, I’ve been mentally living in that 1914-1918 world, writing a book about the war that killed some 20 million people, military and civilian, and left large parts of Europe in smoldering ruins. I’ve haunted battlefields and graveyards, asked a Belgian farmer if I could step inside a wartime concrete bunker that now houses his goats, and walked through reconstructed trenches and an underground tunnel which protected Canadian troops moving their ammunition to the front line.
In government archives, I’ve looked at excuse to put their plans into action -- even though the killer was an Austro-Hungarian citizen and there was no evidence Serbia’s cabinet knew of his plot. Although the war quickly drew in many other countries, its first shots were fired by Austro-Hungarian gunboats on the Danube shelling Serbia.
The more I learned about the war’s opening, the more I thought about the U.S. invasion of Iraq. President George W. Bush and his key advisors had long hungered to dislodge Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein from power. Like the archduke’s assassination, the attacks of September 11, 2001, gave them the excuse they had been waiting for -- even though there was no connection whatsoever between the hijackers, mainly Saudis, and Saddam Hussein’s regime.
Other parallels between World War I and today’s wars abound. You can see photographs from 1914 of German soldiers climbing into railway cars with “To Paris” jauntily chalked on their sides, and French soldiers boarding similar cars labeled “To Berlin.”
“You will be home,” Kaiser Wilhelm II confidently told his troops that August, “before the leaves have fallen from the trees.” Doesn’t that bring to mind Bush landing on an aircraft carrier in 2003 to declare, in front of a White House-produced banner reading “Mission Accomplished,” that "major combat operations in Iraq have ended"? A trillion dollars and tens of thousands of lives later, whatever mission there may have been remains anything but accomplished. Similarly, in Afghanistan, where Washington expected (and thought it had achieved) the most rapid and decisive of victories, the U.S. military remains mired in one of the longest wars in American history.
The Flowery Words of War
As the First World War made painfully clear, when politicians and generals lead nations into war, they almost invariably assume swift victory, and have a remarkably enduring tendency not to foresee problems that, in hindsight, seem obvious. In 1914, for instance, no country planned for the other side’s machine guns, a weapon which Europe’s colonial powers had used for decades mainly as a tool for suppressing uppity natives.
Both sides sent huge forces of cavalry to the Western Front -- the Germans eight divisions with 40,000 horses. But the machine gun and barbed wire were destined to end the days of glorious cavalry charges forever. As for plans like the famous German one to defeat the French in exactly 42 days, they were full of holes. Internal combustion engines were in their infancy, and in the opening weeks of the war, 60% of the invading German army’s trucks broke down. This meant supplies had to be pulled by horse and wagon. For those horses, not to mention all the useless cavalry chargers, t1 million wounded, many of them missing hands, arms, legs, eyes, genitals.
Was it worth it? Of course not. Germany’s near-starvation during the war, its humiliating defeat, and the misbegotten Treaty of Versailles virtually ensured the rise of the Nazis, along with a second, even more destructive world war, and a still more ruthless German occupation of France.
The same question has to be asked about our current war in Afghanistan. Certainly, at the start, there was an understandable motive for the war: after all, the Afghan government, unlike the one in Iraq, had sheltered the planners of the 9/11 attacks. But nearly ten years later, dozens of times more Afghan civilians are dead than were killed in the United States on that day -- and more than 2,400 American, British, Canadian, German, and other allied troops as well. As for unplanned consequences, it’s now a commonplace even for figures high in our country’s establishment to point out that the Afghan and Iraq wars have created a new generation of jihadists.
If you need a final resemblance between the First World War and ours of the present moment, consider the soaring rhetoric. The cataclysm of 1914-1918 is sometimes called the first modern war which, among other things, meant that gone forever was the era when “manifest destiny” or “the white man’s burden” would be satisfactory justificatioprotectorates and colonies. In Africa, for instance, Germany dreamed of establishing Mittelafrika, a grand, unbroken belt of territory stretching across the continent. And the British cabinet set up the Territorial Desiderata Committee, charged with choosing the most lucrative of the other side’s possessions to acquire in the postwar division of spoils. Near the top of the list of desiderata: the oil-rich provinces of Ottoman Turkey that, after the war, would be fatefully cobbled together into the British protectorate of Iraq.
When it comes to that territory, does anyone think that Washington would have gotten quite so righteously worked up in 2003 if, instead of massive amounts of oil, its principal export was turnips?
Someday, I have no doubt, the dead from today’s wars will be seen with a similar sense of sorrow at needless loss and folly as those millions of men who lie in the cemeteries of France and Belgium -- and tens of millions of Americans will feel a similar revulsion for the politicians and generals who were so spendthrift with others’ lives. But here’s the question that haunts me: What will it take to bring us to that point?
Adam Hochschild is the San Francisco-based author of seven books, including King Leopold’s Ghost. His new book To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), has just been published.
Copyright 2011 Adam Hochschild
During World War 2, members of the European resistance, the underground, working against the Axis (Germany, Italy, Japan) powers, were expected to hold out for 24 hours, to give their companions time to dismantle all leads, addresses, plans, that that member knew about. Many, including the heroic British agent, Ms. Churchill, did indeed hold out against the worst that the Gestapo in a hurry could produce.
Mr. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a leading member of Al-Qaeda captured by the Americans, was waterboarded 183 times in a single month. He did confess to being Jack the Ripper, and to destroying, disguised as an iceberg, the Titanic, and no doubt the police forces of the UK will be happy to close those files at long last. He also knew, however, at the time of the waterboarding, of the compound in Abbottobad where Osama bin Laden was found and killed, and the courier who took round messages from and to there, and said nothing about it. (Asked why, some wit said, “They never asked about it.”)
A very strong movement is developing in a large number of states to have all unions gutted, all collective bargaining rights abolished, under a number of extreme right wing governors in these United States. Combined with the economic crisis, - no money, no jobs, all prices rising, - it is seen as the perfect time to create a crushingly plutocratic state. The military will be crucial, and when Blackwater troops are repatriated from anywhere in the event (haha) of a military withdrawal from anywhere, things will get rougher inside the USA too.
That’s not to mention the hyperinflation relentlessly rushing down on all western countries, but particularly the USA, from huge volumes of money printing. In Germany in the great Weimar hyperinflation, farmers had a bumper harvest that year, but couldn’t see the point of selling the solid assets in their granaries and storehouses for the government’s funny money that halved in value every day, and so thousands of Germans starved to death in the cities. We have something similar to look forward to, and so do you.
The plans of the powers that be are made plain in the proposal by Mr. Chertoff, head of Homeland Security and a dual nationality Israeli/American citizen to install the infamous full body scanners at bus stops and shopping mall entrances. Mr. Chertoff has a very large financial interest in Rapiscan, the company making the scanners, and although the report that it “strips your DNA” has never been explained, I’d really prefer to leave my DNA as it is, acid influence an’ all. Evacs or whatever they call the fully operated from inside a mountain in Nevada drones, armed with hell fire missiles and able to be manufactured now in ridiculously small sizes, have just been given official permission to fly not only over Libya, where they attempt to assassinate Ghaddafi, but also in the skies of the USA, mixing with commercial traffic, under an executive order signed last week. Oh, goodie!
Here is an infallible test to decide terrorism in any case where large numbers of people (Humans – genus homo sapiens hahaha) are destroyed:
If the humans are destroyed by missile strikes, smart bombs, or any automatic machinery, it is the people killed who are the terrorists, and those operating the machinery are innocent victims. This is especially true if the killing machinery is entirely human-free, such as robot drones firing hell fire missiles.
If the humans are destroyed, on the other hand, by other humans, who may also destroy themselves in the process as in the case of suicide bombers, then it is the humans destroyed who are the innocent victims, and those doing the destroying who are the terrorists.
Cousin strands of genus homo, such as apes, gorillas, chimpanzees, and orangutans (orang hutan = “people of the trees”) need not be considered because although they have the necessary two legs, two arms, and head configuration, none have any known experience of manufacturing explosives.
That’s also not to mention said he mentioning it the coming fifty year increase in natural disasters as climate change heats up. The lead time of fifty years means anything we do now may make a difference to the earth’s climate in fifty years time, but not before that. The sins of the past hundred years have to come home to roost first. We’ll mostly be up to our butts in raw sewage in various floods to worry over much about political philosophy: Aquarius, ruler of the waters, will see to that. Also, possibly, hungry. “Food is heaven,” as the ancient Chinese proverb puts it.
Any hope? Oh yeah. The flood of new DNA-altering stuff that arrived with acid and got pumped into our DNA, opened more doors and passages that take time to become apparent. The most recent update on bee colony destruction contains bee techniques I notice I’m independently using for my own rubbish disposal.
Important note: Forget not the wise words of young Daniel Cohn-Bendit, of the 1968 troubles in France, as he stepped off a plane to have reporters with microphones thrust at him for his opinion on blah, blah, blah. “You might just as well ask the next guy in the line behind me,” said Danny, “We don’t have leaders like that any more.” That happens to be the exact meaning of Jamahirya, the masses, the “poor people,” who “line up to throw their votes into the ballot box like pieces of waste paper into the trash can.” [Mu'ammar Qadhafi, The Green Book.] See how dangerous this guy is? That’s without even counting his 142 tons of gold, and the African gold dinar proposed, and largely accepted, by many African countries. (And for G_d’s sake don’t let any mention of the $50,000 state loan for every getting married couple out; it’ll only have everyone comparing their own situation. Concentrate on protecting the civilian population by blasting them with a hundred plus missiles.)
Soldier on. The best is yet to come, etcetera, worse things happen at sea. Masha’allah. Plant some potatoes. Good luck.