A single photo can change the world

Can a photograph help end a war?

Pictures from Ukraine by combat photographers, including contract photographer James Nachtwey and Associated Press photojournalists Felipe Dana, Mstyslav Chernov and Evgeniy Maloletka, have brought to light the horrific consequences of Russia’s invasion and the unconscionable treatment of innocent civilians.

Fifty years ago, I was in the same position as those photographers, working for the Associated Press in Vietnam.

On June 7, 1972, I learned about fighting taking place in Trang Bang, a small village roughly 30 miles northwest of Saigon. I still have vivid memories of my drive the next morning to Trang Bang, seeing rows of bodies by the side of the road and hundreds of refugees fleeing the area. I eventually arrived at a village destroyed by days of airstrikes. The residents were so tired of the constant battles, they fled their village to seek refuge on the streets, under bridges or wherever they could find a moment of calm.

By midday, I had the photos I thought I needed. I was preparing to leave when I saw a South Vietnamese soldier drop a yellow smoke bomb, which served as a target signal, near a group of buildings. I picked up my camera, and a few seconds later captured the image of a plane dropping four napalm bombs on the village.

As we came closer, we saw people fleeing the napalm. I was horrified when I saw a woman with her left leg badly burned. I can still see so vividly the old woman carrying a baby who died in front of my camera and another woman carrying a small child with his skin coming off.

Then I heard a child screaming, “Nong qua! Nong qua!” Too hot! Too hot! I looked through my Leica viewfinder to see a young girl who had pulled off her burning clothes and was running toward me. I started taking pictures of her.

Then she yelled to her brother that she thought she was dying and wanted some water. I instantly put my cameras down so I could help her. I knew that was more important than taking more photos. I took my canteen for her to drink and poured water on her body to cool her off, but it created more pain for her. I didn’t know that when people get burned so badly, you’re not supposed to put water on them.

Still in shock, and amid the confusion of everyone screaming, I put all the kids into the AP van.

I drove them to Cu Chi hospital, since it was the closest to Trang Bang. The girl kept crying and screaming, “I’m dying! I’m dying.” I was sure she was going to die in my van.

At the hospital, I learned that her name was Phan Thi Kim Phuc. She had suffered third-degree burns on 30 percent of her body. The doctors were overwhelmed by the huge numbers of wounded soldiers and civilians already there. They initially refused to admit her and told me to bring her to the larger Saigon hospital. But I knew she would die if she did not get immediate help. I showed them my press badge and said, “If one of them dies I will make sure the whole world knows.” Then they brought Kim Phuc inside. I never regretted my decision.

I have never looked at this photo without crying. The passage of time changes nothing about it. A war crime committed by my peers, my country. That poor child.

There is much more in this article. Much more for you to consider. If you read this blog regularly you know I won’t agree with it all; but, that’s not important. This post is about Nick Ut’s photo of Kim Phuc. A minute in the middle of terrible history and shame for the nation where I was born. And a photo that turned back a terrible contemptible war.

Ukraine’s Foreign Legion fights back in Sievierodonetsk

Russian forces advanced deep into the ruined eastern factory city of Sievierodonetsk, but Ukrainian troops were still holding out on Friday (June 3) as Russia’s assault on its neighbour entered its 100th day.

Members of Ukraine’s foreign legion arrived in Sievierodonetsk on Thursday (June 2) getting ready to join the battle.

Zurab Kakalidze is a 22-year-old member of Ukraine’s foreign legion, which is made of foreign fighters who volunteer to come to Ukraine and fight against the Russians. He said he felt he was on the right side of history. He and his fellow fighters were optimistic to see their families again and wanted to make sure the enemy would not, he added.

Ukraine’s defence minister said his troops were already training in Europe to operate new, advanced missile systems pledged this week by the United States and Britain, which Kyiv hopes will help swing the battle in its favour in coming weeks.

You have to wonder what Putin hopes to acquire long-term. Captured territories don’t exactly settle into peace and quiet.

Witness to the Cold War


Emmet Gowin

Gowin’s photographs of the Nevada Test Site (now known as the Nevada National Security Site) show us the extremity of our darkest dreams laid bare in the Mojave Desert — the scars of technology gone mad, revealing a moonscape of craters right here on Earth. The stillness of the desert exploded into a million pieces of radioactive shrapnel carried by the wind that lodged in our bodies.

Read it and weep…

Why mass shooting killers choose the AR-15


The actual video is further into the story – this is a screen grab

The mass shooting this past April at an Indianapolis FedEx facility has something in common with the deadliest massacres – the AR-15 semiautomatic rifle. Variations of the AR-15 were used to kill at a Boulder, Colorado, supermarket, a Pittsburgh synagogue, Texas church, a Las Vegas concert, a high school in Florida, and Sandy Hook Elementary School. The AR-15 is the most popular rifle in America. There are over 19 million and they are rarely used in crime. Handguns kill far more people. But as we first reported in 2018, the AR-15 is the choice of our worst mass murderers. AR-15 ammunition travels three times the speed of sound. And tonight, we’re going to slow that down – so you can see why the AR-15’s high-velocity ammo is the fear of every American emergency room.

Mass shootings were once so shocking they were impossible to forget. Now they’ve become so frequent it’s hard to remember them all. In October 2018, at a Pittsburgh synagogue, eleven were killed, six wounded.

FBI Special Agent Robert Jones: This is the most horrific scene I’ve seen in 22 years with the Federal Bureau of Investigations. Members of the Tree of Life Synagogue conducting a peaceful service in their place of worship were brutally murdered by a gunman targeting them simply because of their faith.

Just 11 months before, it was a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Assistant fire chief Rusty Duncan was among the first to arrive.

Rusty Duncan: 90 percent of the people in there were unrecognizable. You know the blood everywhere, I mean it just covered them from head to toe. They were shot in so many different places that you just couldn’t make out who they were…

Rusty Duncan: I’ve never had the experience, not with any kind of weapon like this. For me to see the damage that it did was unbelievable, it was shattering concrete, I– you know, you can only imagine what it does to a human body.

And it goes on and on – transcribing the dialogue from the documentary. The horror in folks description is enough for me.

Turkish Drone flies for Ukraine Military

The Bayraktar TB2 is a flat, gray unmanned aerial vehicle (U.A.V.), with angled wings and a rear propeller. It carries laser-guided bombs and is small enough to be carried in a flatbed truck, and costs a fraction of similar American and Israeli drones. Its designer, Selçuk Bayraktar, the son of a Turkish auto-parts entrepreneur, is one of the world’s leading weapons manufacturers. In the defense of Ukraine, Bayraktar has become a legend, the namesake of a baby lemur at the Kyiv zoo, and the subject of a catchy folk song, which claims that his drone “makes ghosts out of Russian bandits.”…

The TB2 has now carried out more than eight hundred strikes, in conflicts from North Africa to the Caucasus. The bombs it carries can adjust their trajectories in midair, and are so accurate that they can be delivered into an infantry trench. Military analysts had previously assumed that slow, low-flying drones would be of little use in conventional combat, but the TB2 can take out the anti-aircraft systems that are designed to destroy it. “This enabled a fairly significant operational revolution in how wars are being fought right now,” Rich Outzen, a former State Department specialist on Turkey, told me. “This probably happens once every thirty or forty years.”

Like many significant bits of military infrastructure, the tech inside this weapon will find its way to civilian use. Sooner or later. Working, eventually, for firms that haven’t the R&D budgets our governments suck out of taxpayers to better equip troops for killing people.

The 2nd American Civil War is beginning


Hannah Beier/Reuters

The US supreme court’s upcoming decision to reverse Roe v Wade (an early draft of which was leaked last week) doesn’t ban abortions; it leaves the issue to the states. As a result, it will put another large brick in the growing wall separating blue and red America.

The second American civil war is already occurring, but it is less of a war than a kind of benign separation analogous to unhappily married people who don’t want to go through the trauma of a formal divorce.

One America is largely urban, racially and ethnically diverse, and young. The other is largely rural or exurban, white and older…

Surveys show Americans find it increasingly important to live around people who share their political values. Animosity toward those in the opposing party is higher than at any time in living memory. Forty-two per cent of registered voters believe Americans in the other party are “downright evil”.

Increasingly, each America is running under different laws…

“States rights” was always a cover for segregation and harsh discrimination. The poor – both white and people of color – are already especially burdened by anti-abortion legislation because they can’t afford travel to a blue state to get an abortion.

They’re also hurt by the failure of red states to expand Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act; by red state de facto segregation in public schools; and by red state measures to suppress votes.

“What is to be done?” is the question waiting for an answer. Not for the first time in any nation; not even the first time in this one. But, a non-violent solution is to be preferred. That doesn’t include “States’ Rights”.

Russian troops stole ~$5 million worth of tractors in Ukraine


Нова серія тракторів 9R/9RT/9RX

Too bad they can’t make them run, eh?

Russian troops stole almost $5 million worth of farm equipment from a John Deere dealer in the occupied city of Melitopol, Ukraine, only to discover that the machines have been shut down remotely, making them inoperable, according to a report from CNN. Some of the equipment, which comes with a remote locking feature and a built-in GPS, was tracked over 700 miles away in the Zakhan Yurt village of Chechnya…

“When the invaders drove the stolen harvesters to Chechnya, they realized that they could not even turn them on, because the harvesters were locked remotely,” CNN’s source told the outlet.

This isn’t the first time that looting has backfired on Russian troops during its invasion of Ukraine. According to a report from The Times, a Ukrainian man has been using Apple’s Find My feature — which locates a device using Bluetooth signals that bounce off other nearby Apple devices — to track the movements of Russian troops after they stole his AirPods. He’s been able to view their movements on a map and even watched them as they appeared to retreat from an attack on Ukraine’s capital city of Kyiv…

Anyone acquainted with the changes in warfare in the last century or so barely recognizes what is happening outside of technology used in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Everything but hardware is run like the 19th Century or earlier. Including theft and looting as a military responsibility.

Ceramic jars may have been used to make hand grenades — 900 years ago!


Robert Mason/Royal Ontario Museum

A fragmented ceramic container uncovered in Jerusalem may be an early version of a hand grenade that warriors used during the Crusades around 900 years ago, a new study suggests.

Researchers studied fragments of jars known as sphero-conical containers — small, rounded vessels with a pointed end and an opening at the top. The sphero-conical shape was a common design for vessels in the Middle East at the time, the researchers said in a statement. The containers were used for a wide range of purposes, including to hold oils, medicines and mercury, to drink beer from, and more.

In the new study, researchers analyzed chemical remains found within four sphero-conical containers that were uncovered at a site called Armenian Gardens in Jerusalem and date to between the 11th and 12th centuries. The team found that one container was likely used to hold oil, another two stored scented materials, such as perfume or medicine, while the final container was laced with traces of explosive materials — hinting that it was used as a handheld explosive device.

This is not the first time researchers have suggested that hand grenades were used during the Crusades…First-hand accounts from Crusader knights and passages from Arab texts mention the use of handheld devices that exploded with loud noises and a flash of light during the conflicts.

Explosives, including gunpowder, were being used in warfare a century earlier than the potential use of these containers as hand grenades. The necessary addition was a reliable fuse. I’m certain they were around then, as well.

Explosions, fire, in Russian provinces bordering Ukraine

A series of explosions were heard in the early hours of Wednesday in three Russian provinces bordering Ukraine, authorities said, and an ammunition depot in the Belgorod province caught fire around the same time…

The Belgorod province borders Ukraine’s Luhansk, Sumy and Kharkiv regions, all of which have seen heavy fighting since Russia invaded Ukraine two months ago.

Separately, Roman Starovoyt, the governor of Russia’s Kursk province, which also borders Ukraine, said explosions had been heard in Kursk city early on Wednesday, which were most likely the sounds of air defence systems firing…

In Voronezh, the administrative centre of another province adjacent to Ukraine, Russia’s TASS news agency cited an emergency ministry official as saying that two blasts had been heard and the authorities were investigating.

Russia said it was sending investigators to Kursk and Voronezh regions to document what it calls “illegal actions by the Ukrainian army”…

A top Ukrainian official on Wednesday described the attacks as payback and “karma” for Moscow’s invasion.

“If you (Russians) decide to massively attack another country, massively kill everyone there, massively crush peaceful people with tanks, and use warehouses in your regions to enable the killings, then sooner or later the debts will have to be repaid,” Ukraine’s presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said.

You can’t always get what you want. Sometimes you get what you need. Even better, sometimes you get what you deserve!