The Iraqi soldier died attempting to pull himself up over the dashboard of his truck. The flames engulfed his vehicle and incinerated his body, turning him to dusty ash and blackened bone. In a photograph taken soon afterward, the soldier’s hand reaches out of the shattered windshield, which frames his face and chest. The colors and textures of his hand and shoulders look like those of the scorched and rusted metal around him. Fire has destroyed most of his features, leaving behind a skeletal face, fixed in a final rictus. He stares without eyes.
On February 28, 1991, Kenneth Jarecke stood in front of the charred man, parked amid the carbonized bodies of his fellow soldiers, and photographed him. At one point, before he died this dramatic mid-retreat death, the soldier had had a name. He’d fought in Saddam Hussein’s army and had a rank and an assignment and a unit. He might have been devoted to the dictator who sent him to occupy Kuwait and fight the Americans. Or he might have been an unlucky young man with no prospects, recruited off the streets of Baghdad.
Jarecke took the picture just before a ceasefire officially ended Operation Desert Storm—the U.S.-led military action that drove Saddam Hussein and his troops out of Kuwait, which they had annexed and occupied the previous August. The image and its anonymous subject might have come to symbolize the Gulf War. Instead, it went unpublished in the United States, not because of military obstruction but because of editorial choices.
RTFA for a sensitive, thoughtful discussion – decades after this young man was killed. My hatred for war is no surprise to any of our regular readers. Even the only “just” war in my lifetime – the war against fascism, World War 2.
That war produced two books which have guided my whole life – in war and peace, about war and peace. I doubt if either are easily available anymore. BEACH RED by Peter Bowman is a short novel in what he called sprung prose, as much poetry as prose – as much about death and dying as anything else. DAYS AND NIGHTS by Konstantin Simonov is a heroic tale from a journalist who lived through the siege of Stalingrad. It is a love story.
Photographs like this are also an important part of how we look at war. Outside of dispatches published in newspapers; curt, prosaic sound bites on TV. As hard as it is to look at this photo, I think it should be a required part of anyone’s education.
US/UK warplanes are flying sorties, at a cost somewhere between $22,000 to 30,000 per hour for the F-16s, to drop bombs that cost at least $20,000 each, to destroy ISIL hardware.
That means if an F-16 were to take off from Incirclik Air Force Base in Turkey and fly two hours to Erbil, Iraq, and successfully drop both of its bombs on one target each, it costs the United States somewhere between $84,000 to $104,000 for the sortie…
Watching today’s endlessly repeated video clip of one of our heroic sorties bombing a freaking pickup truck. At a cost of $85K-104K.
Just send in some creepy salesman from a local used car lot and offer the bandit in charge $20K cash on the spot for his truck – and we’re in business – making the world safe for capitalism.
The only map sketched by Lawrence of Arabia is expected to fetch up to £100,000 when it goes under the hammer in London next month.
The map, on faded yellow paper, shows northern Arabia and was sketched by the famous adventurer and military commander some time between 1918 and 1922 as he described his battle alongside Arab troops.
It records a ‘pivotal moment’ in the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire that led to the capture of the Red Sea port town Aqaba in 1917.
Experts believe it is the only map depicting the journey Lawrence took across the hostile Saudi Arabian desert in 1917, which eventually led to the capture of a major port.
It shows the route he and a group of Arab armies followed after leaving the port of al Wejh, and then reaching the Hejaz railway…
The drawing was done for a well-known cartographer and explorer called Douglas Carruthers who Lawrence befriended towards the end of the war.
Lawrence knew that his travels towards Aqaba were of interest to cartographers and carefully created the map for his friend by carefully plotting the route on a single sheet of paper, signing it and writing the words ‘This is the only drawn copy so please do not lose it prematurely’.
David Lean’s movie got so much right. The focus of the end of his film “Lawrence of Arabia” took the time to record the powers of European colonialism gathered to divide the spoils of war, oil-bearing lands, providing decades of profits and death. Profits for the Oil Kings. Death for nationalists who fought for freedom from Oil kings and Arab kings.
And so it continues…
Another grenade found on the beach – absent barnacles
A beach walker threw a stone for his dog to fetch – only to discover that it was a live wartime GRENADE.
The man picked up the barnacle-encrusted “stone” for his pet to chase along the sands without realising it was deadly World War 2 explosive.
In an incredible stroke of luck, an off-duty military explosive expert also on the seafront at Dovercourt, near Harwich, Essex recognised the dog’s new “toy” and immediately raised the alarm.
A 100-foot cordon was hastily put up by police around the grenade as a bomb disposal team rushed to the scene.
Inspector Paul Butcher of Essex Police said…”We think the grenades may have been in a crate that ended up in the sea during World War Two and that it might now be breaking up or has been disturbed by dredging work in the area.
“The result is that these five devices have all been washed ashore on the same stretch of the bay so we are asking people to be vigilant if they go onto the beach and dial 999 if they find any of these devices.
“Some have been covered in barnacles but the one found on Saturday looked almost like new despite the fact it had been in the sea for many years.”
I’m glad the dog was OK.
Wind-blown sand still uncovers sun-bleached bones of men and mules dead for centuries along New Mexico’s Jornado del Muerte, the waterless hell where Spaniards died traveling between Santa Fe and Chihuahua. Few large areas in the United States can match its barren, flat desolation.
Near the center of this vast expanse lies man’s first great insult against the earth – – Trinity Site.
Ground Zero, where a massive steel tower holding the first atomic bomb was vaporized at 5:29 a.m., July 16, 1945, was a slight depression in the silent flatness. For a radius of more than 100 feet melted sand in the form of green glass covered the desert like a splotchy carpet shining in the light from above, dull by night, bright by day. This monument to man’s inhumanity to man, the largest blur on the landscape, was surrounded by a high fence, tight strands of barbed wire, a locked double gate and multilingual warning signs.
The gate was chained shut. Three padlocks served as links in the chain in 1951, any one of which permitted entry when unlocked. A large steel lock was stamped AEC, for the Atomic Energy Commission. A heavy brass padlock was stamped War Dept. The third padlock, a new one hardly larger than the links it secured, replaced one of these links recently melted in two by Jesse Petty’s gas torch. Jesse, my best friend and fellow draftee army buddy, from Carrizozo, New Mexico, had snapped the chain back together wit the little lock during his trip to the site.
Jesse had volunteered, I’ll go out there and cut the chain for you and put on a new padlock, but I won’t go in there, not for anything,”
He had given me the keys when we each returned to Guided Missile School at Ft. Bliss, Texas, from our weekend trips to different home cities.
My plan was to drive a truck to the Trinity atomic bomb site, use my keys to pass through the unguarded US Government gate remove the radioactive glass called Trinitite and transport it close to Los Alamos for a proper burial at its spiritual origin…
…While living in the remote desert of northern New Mexico I had seen an aerial photograph of the radioactive site in a popular magazine. It looked like a giant scab. It was an impurity waiting to be taken away. Writers wrote about it. I was determined to remove it without a trace of publicity. My self-appointed task was to gain entry to the government glass and haul it off for burial, to repair the desert, clean away this radioactive afterbirth.
And so it goes. I’ve never heard this story before. Our online compadre, Mike, just suggested it. I read it – and it is fascinating.
When I was still on the road I’d drive by Trinity site every week or so and think about getting in on the annual visit. Always figured my years of pissing off the FBI, CIA, every piece of alphabetized fascist crap-mentality in government would probably get me arrested and thrown out. Never have visited.
Dr. Pray’s story is fascinating. The Feds let on that the Trinitite, the atomic glass burned from molten sand at that first test site disappeared over years of tourists taking souvenirs. Ralph Pray’s story makes a lot more sense.
He died May 30, 2014.
Political scientist James Doyle had spent almost 2 decades working at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) on nonproliferation and nuclear security issues when he decided to write a scholarly article questioning the dogma of nuclear deterrence. Suspecting that his bosses at the Department of Energy (DOE) weapons lab in New Mexico might not agree with his analysis, Doyle researched and wrote the article in his free time and included a disclaimer saying the views were his own. And just to be safe, he got a lab colleague steeped in classification reviews to vet the article before he submitted it to a journal.
The 27-page article—“Why Eliminate Nuclear Weapons?”—was published in the February-March 2013 issue of Survival: Global Politics and Strategy. And that’s when Doyle’s professional life was suddenly turned upside down.
Within days of publication, congressional staff asked lab officials whether the article contained classified information. A week later, the head of the lab’s classification office decided that it did—a decision later backed by DOE. Doyle soon lost his top-level security clearance, and he says he became persona non grata among his co-workers after accusing lab officials of retaliation and impinging on his intellectual freedom. Those complaints were dismissed, and last week, after 17 years at the weapons lab, Doyle was laid off—the only victim within his 50-person group of what lab officials told him was a reduction in force due to budget cuts.
The reasons behind Doyle’s termination, first reported by the Center for Public Integrity, an investigative news service based in Washington, D.C., may never be clear. The lab’s official statement says “we do not publicly discuss the specifics of personnel matters. Likewise, it would be inappropriate to discuss specifics surrounding security classification.”…
Many outside arms control specialists are skeptical and believe Doyle’s downfall is the result of his airing of views that are unpopular among those opposing disarmament, including some of the panel’s Republican leaders and staff…
Amid the murky circumstances, many nuclear security experts are sharply criticizing the lab’s actions. “It sends a chilling message not just to employees, but also those beyond the lab, that their ability to work on topics subject to classification could be restricted if they become too critical of policies that the lab holds dear,” says Frank von Hippel, a physicist at Princeton University. “It’s a very disturbing situation,” adds Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association in Washington, D.C. “DOE leadership needs to reverse this decision.”
You thought the Cold War was over, eh?
RTFA for a long, detailed and truly knowledgeable article on the politics of working for an imperial government. The White House, Pentagon and cheerleaders in Congress are unified in their conviction that only might makes right. They continue in the belief that only the threat of worldwide nuclear annihilation can bring peace to the world.
Our government, from the White House down through assorted bureaucrats, continues to pat themselves on the back solid in their belief that threatening the world with death and fire somehow was the motive force behind peace breaking out a couple decades ago. A peace that was destroyed as soon as Republicans were solidly in office backed by Neo-Con ideology.
So, one employee of the atomic death and destruction brigade writes a scholarly re-examination of our Nuclear Weapons Enterprise – and that constitutes sufficient threat that he must be terminated before he infects others with his freedom of thought.
Contemptible as ever. And still above criticism or oversight.
Every day, 22 veterans take their own lives. That’s a suicide every 65 minutes. As shocking as the number is, it may actually be higher.
The figure, released by the Department of Veterans Affairs in February, is based on the agency’s own data and numbers reported by 21 states from 1999 through 2011. Those states represent about 40% of the U.S. population. The other states, including the two largest (California and Texas) and the fifth-largest (Illinois), did not make data available.
Who wasn’t counted?
People like Levi Derby, who hanged himself in his grandfather’s garage in Illinois on April 5, 2007. He was haunted, says his mother, Judy Casper, by an Afghan child’s death. He had handed the girl a bottle of water, and when she came forward to take it, she stepped on a land mine…
Derby was not in the VA system, and Illinois did not send in data on veteran suicides to the VA…
Combat stress is just one reason why veterans attempt suicide. Military sexual assaults are another. Psychologist Craig Bryan says his research is finding that military victims of violent assault or rape are six times more likely to attempt suicide than military non-victims.
More than 69% of all veteran suicides were among those 50 and older. Mental-health professionals said one reason could be that these men give up on life after their children are out of the house or a longtime marriage falls apart. They are also likely to be Vietnam veterans, who returned from war to a hostile public and an unresponsive VA. Combat stress was chalked up to being crazy, and many Vietnam veterans lived with ghosts in their heads without seeking help…
Then, Ronald Reagan issued an executive order denying unemployment compensation to VietNam-era vets “who decided not re-enlist”.
“There’s probably a tidal wave of suicides coming,” says Brian Kinsella, an Iraq war veteran who started Stop Soldier Suicide, a nonprofit group that works to raise awareness of suicide. Between October 2006 and June 2013, the Veterans Crisis Line received more than 890,000 calls. That number does not include chats and texts.
Though there is a tradition among conservatives to consider all war as patriotic, there is no matching correlation with the cost of war. This is especially true of the Neo-Cons with “con” standing for both conservative and confederate. They love sending folks off to war – without the least consideration for the cost of war.
At best, they count the cost of war in dollar$ and cent$ for hardware. At worst – more typical – they consider the cost in human lives as collateral damage when it comes to the “other side” and some kind of inherent weakness outside of combat casualties on “our side”. Sit down and have a couple of beers with Dick Cheney and you’ll see what I mean. Metaphorically or otherwise.
So, Bush and Cheney sent our military off to foreign lands with bigger and better hardware. Many came back with bigger and much worse cases of PTSD than the VietNam vets sent off by Johnson and Nixon. Neither group of stinking politicians included plans to pay for the cost of their wars. Neither group considered the damage done to our military men and women as part of that cost – anyway.
RTFA to add another jot of sadness to your day. Beaucoup examples of the overlooked and forgotten.
KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip — The images of so many houses destroyed, so many bomb blasts, even so many bodies wrapped in burial shrouds can begin to blur together, indistinguishable. But Belal Khaled, a young photojournalist and painter in this southern Gaza town, saw symbols and stories in the smoke all around him.
First, in a black cloud staining the bright blue sky above a beach, he saw hints of a prominent nose, thick mustache and wild hair, “like an old man contemplating the situation of Gaza,” Mr. Khaled said. Then, in a friend’s photograph of a taller, thinner plume, he saw a fist with the index finger extended, a gesture Muslims make when saying, “No God but Allah.” Using Photoshop, Mr. Khaled added a few simple lines to emphasize these hidden icons, and uploaded the artwork to Facebook, where it was shared and “liked” thousands of times.
“Artists may see things others can’t see,” said Mr. Khaled, 23, who works for a Turkish news agency. “Even at the very tense times and very hard moments, we still draw…”
Mr. Khaled said he learned Arabic calligraphy in the seventh grade and painted Quranic verses on the walls of his family home. He started taking photographs at 18 and dropped out of college, where he was studying interior design, to take a job at Anadolu, a Turkish news agency. Three years ago, he began painting — haunting portraits, mostly, of the forlorn old men and impoverished youths in his neighborhood. At the office one night, he used the coffee left in his cup to paint a child screaming.
RTFA. Details and description of work by other artists in Gaza. Yes, even simple things like paints and other graphic materials are limited and regulated by the Israeli government. As you would expect.
Japan marked the 69th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima on Wednesday, with the city’s mayor inviting world leaders to see atomic bomb-scarred cities firsthand to be convinced that nuclear weapons should not exist.
Speaking before a crowd of survivors, their descendants and dignitaries including U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy, the mayor urged U.S. President Barack Obama and others to visit, referring to a proposal made at a ministerial meeting in April of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative in Hiroshima.
“President Obama and all leaders of nuclear-armed nations, please respond to that call by visiting the A-bombed cities as soon as possible to see what happened with your own eyes,” Mayor Kazumi Matsui said. “If you do, you will be convinced that nuclear weapons are an absolute evil that must no longer be allowed to exist.”
About 45,000 people stood for a minute of silence at the ceremony in Hiroshima’s peace park near the epicenter of the 1945 bombing that killed up to 140,000 people. The bombing of Nagasaki three days later killed another 70,000, prompting Japan’s surrender in World War II.
I’m enough of a cranky old geek to remember when the cabinet member in charge of killing people in other lands was called the Secretary of War. Was WW2 a war I could support? You betcha. Did we sometimes act like the vicious monsters on the “other side”? You betcha. As an American, therefore, I have a responsibility to fight to keep my nation on a righteous path – opposing the greed and deceit so often prompting war.
Yes, I stood in the street with my family and neighbors and cheered and cried with joy – August 6, 1945 – because the war was over. At that moment we didn’t consider the threat our government had unleashed upon the world.
As for the music up top – Pete Seeger was a freedom fighter for us all. He would never let us forget evils committed in our name. The music was written by James Waters. Pete’s performance.
The lyrics are a poem written by one of my favorites, Nazim Hikmet. Even in exile from his beloved Turkey he, too, was a freedom fighter.
Thanks, Mike – who found something completely different.