The Watering Hole, Saturday, January 24th, 2015: “I Like Ike”

Two score, fourteen years and one week ago, on January 17th, 1961, President Dwight David Eisenhower gave his farewell address to the nation. Although made famous by Ike’s coinage of the term “military-industrial complex”, his speech also contains commentary that, IMHO, is just as relevant today about other issues, and helps to demonstrate just how far today’s Republicans have strayed from reason and responsibility. The over-religious tone of several of Ike’s comments is off-putting for many of us, but those sections reflect how Republicans have twisted the ‘in god we trust’ idea into the unrecognizable form we see today. While lengthy, here is the entire speech:

“My Fellow Americans:

Three days from now, after half a century in the service of our country, I shall lay down the responsibilities of office as, in traditional and solemn ceremony, the authority of the Presidency is vested in my successor.

This evening I come to you with a message of leave-taking and farewell, and to share a few final thoughts with you, my countrymen.

Like every other citizen, I wish the new President, and all who will labor with him, Godspeed. I pray that the coming years will be blessed with peace and prosperity for all.

Our people expect their President and the Congress to find essential agreement on issues of great moment, the wise resolution of which will better shape the future of the Nation.

My own relations with the Congress, which began on a remote and tenuous basis when, long ago, a member of the Senate appointed me to West Point, have since ranged to the intimate during the war and immediate post-war period, and, finally, to the mutually interdependent during these past eight years.

In this final relationship, the Congress and the Administration have, on most vital issues, cooperated well, to serve the national good rather than mere partisanship, and so have assured that the business of the Nation should go forward. So, my official relationship with the Congress ends in a feeling, on my part, of gratitude that we have been able to do so much together.II

We now stand ten years past the midpoint of a century that has witnessed four major wars among great nations. Three of these involved our own country. Despite these holocausts America is today the strongest, the most influential and most productive nation in the world. Understandably proud of this pre-eminence, we yet realize that America’s leadership and prestige depend, not merely upon our unmatched material progress, riches and military strength, but on how we use our power in the interests of world peace and human betterment.III

Throughout America’s adventure in free government, our basic purposes have been to keep the peace; to foster progress in human achievement, and to enhance liberty, dignity and integrity among people and among nations. To strive for less would be unworthy of a free and religious people. Any failure traceable to arrogance, or our lack of comprehension or readiness to sacrifice would inflict upon us grievous hurt both at home and abroad.

Progress toward these noble goals is persistently threatened by the conflict now engulfing the world. It commands our whole attention, absorbs our very beings. We face a hostile ideology-global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose, and insidious in method. Unhappily the danger it poses promises to be of indefinite duration. To meet it successfully, there is called for, not so much the emotional and transitory sacrifices of crisis, but rather those which enable us to carry forward steadily, surely, and without complaint the burdens of a prolonged and complex struggle-with liberty at stake. Only thus shall we remain, despite every provocation, on our charted course toward permanent peace and human betterment.

Crises there will continue to be. In meeting them, whether foreign or domestic, great or small,there is a recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties. A huge increase in newer elements of our defense; development of unrealistic programs to cure every ill in agriculture; a dramatic expansion in basic and applied research-these and many other possibilities, each possibly promising in itself, may be suggested as the only way to the road we which to travel.

But each proposal must be weighed in the light of a broader consideration: the need to maintain balance in and among national programs-balance between the private and the public economy, balance between cost and hoped for advantage-balance between the clearly necessary and the comfortably desirable; balance between our essential requirements as a nation and the duties imposed by the nation upon the individual; balance between action of the moment and the national welfare of the future. Good judgment seeks balance and progress; lack of it eventually finds imbalance and frustration.

The record of many decades stands as proof that our people and their government have, in the main, understood these truths and have responded to them well, in the face of stress and threat. But threats, new in kind or degree, constantly arise. I mention two only.IV

A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction.

Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peace time, or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea.

Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United State corporations.

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence-economic, political, even spiritual-is felt in every city, every state house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades. In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.

Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been over shadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded.

Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.

It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system-ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society.V

Another factor in maintaining balance involves the element of time. As we peer into society’s future, we-you and I, and our government-must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.

Down the long lane of the history yet to be written America knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.

Such a confederation must be one of equals. The weakest must come to the conference table with the same confidence as do we, protected as we are by our moral, economic, and military strength. That table, though scarred by many past frustrations, cannot be abandoned for the certain agony of the battlefield.

Disarmament, with mutual honor and confidence, is a continuing imperative. Together we must learn how to compose difference, not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose. Because this need is so sharp and apparent I confess that I lay down my official responsibilities in this field with a definite sense of disappointment. As one who has witnessed the horror and the lingering sadness of war-as one who knows that another war could utterly destroy this civilization which has been so slowly and painfully built over thousands of years-I wish I could say tonight that a lasting peace is in sight.

Happily, I can say that war has been avoided. Steady progress toward our ultimate goal has been made. But, so much remains to be done. As a private citizen, I shall never cease to do what little I can to help the world advance along that road.

So-in this my last good night to you as your President-I thank you for the many opportunities you have given me for public service in war and peace. I trust that in that service you find somethings worthy; as for the rest of it, I know you will find ways to improve performance in the future.

You and I-my fellow citizens-need to be strong in our faith that all nations, under God, will reach the goal of peace with justice. May we be ever unswerving in devotion to principle, confident but humble with power, diligent in pursuit of the Nation’s great goals.

To all the peoples of the world, I once more give expression to America’s prayerful and continuing inspiration:

We pray that peoples of all faiths, all races, all nations, may have their great human needs satisfied; that those now denied opportunity shall come to enjoy it to the full; that all who yearn for freedom may experience its spiritual blessings; that those who have freedom will understand, also, its heavy responsibilities; that all who are insensitive to the needs of others will learn charity; that the scourges of poverty, disease and ignorance will be made to disappear from the earth, and that, in the goodness of time, all peoples will come to live together in a peace guaranteed by the binding force of mutual respect and love.”

This is today’s Open Thread. Have at it!

Sunday Roast: D-Day

My grandfather was an ambulance driver in WWII.  He was a conscientious objector, but that didn’t mean he didn’t want to serve, he just didn’t want to shoot anyone.

In 1945, he spent his birthday — June 6 — picking up the dead and wounded on Normandy Beach.  He never really talked about his time in the war, except to say that if the Germans caught an ambulance driver with a gun, they shot the driver immediately; and that he’d been a Private “several times.”

Granddad, Dad, and I, along with several sailors from my Dad’s shop, took one of those salmon fishing excursions that took us beyond the Golden Gate Bridge.  On the way back from a great day’s fishing, the guys running the boat were gutting the fish and tossing them to the hovering seagulls.  In my mind’s eye, I can still see Granddad standing on the back of that boat, standing ram-rod straight, with his hands clasped behind him, staring in the opposite direction.

He never went to any of the D-Day reunions.  He said he didn’t see the point.

This is our daily open thread.

Memorial Day, May 26th, 2014

World War I Memorial, Washington, DC


World War II Memorials, Washington, DC
ww2 marines-memorialpacific atlantic ww2

Korean War Memorials, Washington, DC
washington-dc-korean-war-veterans-memorialKorean-WarKorean War Memorial in the Snow 04

Vietnam War Memorials, Washington, DC

Tomb of the Unknown
an american soldier

Iraq War Memorial, Washington, DC


Afghanistan War Memorial, Washington, DC


Open thread–have at it!

Sunday Roast: Veterans Day

Veterans Day, which is noted in other countries as Armistice Day and Remembrance Day, marks the end of World War I.  More particularly, the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 1918.  On this day, we remember those who died while serving their various countries.

As I have done in past years, I’m posting the final episode of the Blackadder Goes Forth series, entitled Goodbyeee.

The final episode of this series, “Goodbyeee“, although true to the series’ usual comedy style through most of the preceding scenes, is known for featuring a purely dramatic and extraordinarily poignant final scene, where the main characters (except [the General] himself) are finally sent over the top. To the sound of a slow, minimal and downbeat piano version of the title theme, the four are seen in slow-motion, charging into the fog and smoke of no man’s land, with gunfire and explosions all around, before the scene fades into footage of a sunny poppy field and the sound of birdsong. The fate of the four is left ambiguous. Blackadder’s final line before the charge is also underpinned with an unusually reflective and poignant tone, offered after Baldrick claims to have one last cunning plan to save them from the impending doom:

Well, I’m afraid it’ll have to wait. Whatever it was, I’m sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman around here? …Good luck, everyone.

As fantastic as this final Blackadder series is, I usually cry my way through Goodbyeee. Our amazing advances in technology, rather than being put toward the advancement of mankind, was instead used for unbelievable destruction and obscenely wasted lives of tens of millions of people, both military and civilian, but succeeded only in serving as an incubator for World War II.

I think humans could learn to live together peacefully, but there is money to be made from mayhem and war, and as long as that’s true, there will always be war; and there will always trenches of one kind or another, filled with honorable men and women, who are viewed as a means to an end — stacks and stacks of money — and used as cannon fodder, and if they survive, dismissed as a burden on society.

This is our daily open thread — Discuss.

The Watering Hole, Friday May 3 2013; From “Satan’s Chamber” to . . . ?

From EMERALDS and ASHES, Part I: KRIEG in EUROPE; poem number six . . .


they were coming from all directions
battle fronts collapsed on the fatherland
as if a monstrous pincer
bombs fell
gunfire rumbled over
cyrillic voices on the streets of
the chancellery – tabernacle of the third reich –
und auch der vaterland
now burning rubble
at last
the closing of the ring

in a catacomb deep beneath the tabernacle
– deutschland unter alles –
ceremonies of highest import began
shicklgruber and mistress eva
became united in bond of holy matrimony
even as they prepared themselves
für das ende

one wonders if they dined
or kissed
or made love
or blissfully recalled halcyon days
before commenced their cowards’ finis
cyanide and gunshot
followed by the darkness of their private journey
to satan’s chamber

one wonders if they ever heard
the sobbings of murdered millions
as they made transit to demonic reichstag
to meet their own
Final Solution
burn in hell and write from there
the final chapter of your gruesome

arbeit macht frei.

Sixty-eight years ago today marked the approximate center of an historic two week span of time that effectively began on April 27, 1945, when Benito Mussolini was captured while apparently trying to either go into hiding or escape Italy; on April 28, he was executed. In the early morning hours of April 29, Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun were married by a local magistrate in the Führerbunker deep beneath the German Chancellery in Berlin; the next day, April 30 at around 3:30 PM, they committed suicide together in their quarters in that same underground bunker. Braun took a cyanide capsule, but Hitler, in order to make absolute certain there was zero chance he might somehow survive to face the consequences of allied capture, shot himself in the head; their bodies were removed from the Führerbunker, and were, according to instruction, burned to ash in the garden behind the Reich Chancellery. On May 1, Hitler’s newly-appointed Reichskanzler Herr Dr. Joseph Göbbels together with his wife Magda — after murdering each and all of their six children — also committed suicide. On May 2, Berlin fell to the invading Russian Army under the command of General Vasily Chuikov. On May 4, German forces in northwestern Germany, Denmark, and the Netherlands surrendered to British Field Marshall Montgomery, and all German forces in Bavaria surrendered to the American Sixth Army under the command of General J.L. Devers. On May 5, Admiral  Dönitz ordered all U-Boats to return to their bases; on May 6, Hitler’s (former) second in command Hermann Göring along with his wife and daughter were captured at the German-Austrian border and taken into custody by US General Spaatz, commander of all US air forces in the European theater. On May 8, all German forces occupying the British Channel Islands surrendered, and finally, the Chief-of-Staff of the German Armed Forces High Command, General Alfred Jodl signed the unconditional surrender document demanded by Supreme Allied Commander, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, in which it was specified that: “All forces under German control [will] cease active operations at 2301 hours Central European Time on May 8, 1945.” Thus, the ‘Thousand Year Reich’ came to an abrupt end exactly twelve years, three months, and 9 days following Adolf Hitler’s ascension to full power of the state on January 30, 1933. The war in Europe was over; the Allies were victorious.

No one really knows exactly how many people died in Europe over that twelve year span, but the numbers are without doubt horrendous. Estimates of the Holocaust alone suggest that at least 11 million were murdered in the Nazi extermination camps, including some six million Jews, including more than a million children. One can only try to ponder the motivations underlying such policy and behaviors and then ask the burning questions: could it all ever happen again? What level of insanity does it take to drive a nation to murder and then incinerate the bodies of more than a million children over the course of only six or seven years? And what is the source of such insanity? Hatred? Fear? Lust of Power? What possible gains can such atrocity offer?

Makes one wonder, too, just what the (alleged) Great God in Heaven was doing during that span of time. Again from Emeralds and Ashes, a final thought as expressed in Part I, poem seven:

FROM THE ASHES: A Letter to God

Not satisfied to ape the Great
In His simplicity
The small must die, as well as He –
Oh the Audacity –
(Emily Dickinson)

Spring, 1945
Dear God,

My name is Anna.  I was eleven
years old when they came to take me and my
parents and my brother Louis.  We rode
in a train, in a car made for cattle.
It was very crowded and people got
very sick.  We had hardly any food
or water, and it was cold.  Every time
the train stopped there were Germans and snarling
dogs.  It was scary.  Mama was sick when
we left Belgium, and when I woke up on
the third day it looked like she was sleeping.
But in a town in Germany, they pulled
her out of the train and threw her on a
cart.  I think she was dead.  God, where is she?
Where is mama?  Is she in heaven with You?

The train went through some snowy mountains, and
it was very pretty to see the trees.
I remembered when I’d played in the snow,
but now I was cold. There was no furnace
in the car, but there was an opening
where the cold wind always blew in, and the
drinking water froze, and I got thirsty
and I got hungry too.  My papa held
me and Louis.  Papa had a big coat,
and it was warm in it next to him.  But
we were all real scared and we all prayed
to you.  We prayed Hear O’ Israel the Lord
our God,  the Lord is one.  Did You hear us?

The train stopped at a place in Poland called
Auschwitz.  We had to get out.  It was cold
there, and there were dogs.  Nasty dogs that growled
all the time and showed their teeth.  And there were
soldiers.  The soldiers were not very nice.
They kept hitting people from the train with
clubs, and we had to all get into lines.
I cried when my papa had to get in
a different line.  Louis cried too.  We
never saw papa again.  God, where is
papa?  Is papa in heaven with You?

We had to go into a building.  The
soldiers kept hitting people.  They hit Louis
with a club and made his head bleed.  He cried
and so did I.  Then they made us all get
undressed.  I didn’t like that because there were
so many people.  Everyone was told
to take a shower, but there wasn’t room for
the children in the shower, and the guards
took us to another place.  There were lots
of furnaces there, and it was hot and
scary.  There were soldiers with guns, and men
in striped suits.  One of them took Louis and
whispered something to him.  Then he hit him
on the head with a club and threw him in
the furnace.  God, where is Louis?  Is he
in heaven with You?  Please, God, please tell me.

Then a man in a striped suit grabbed me and
whispered something to me.  He said,  Hear O’
Israel the Lord our God,  the Lord is one,
and I thought of my papa.  The man tried
to hit me with his club, but a soldier
aimed at him with a gun and he threw me
into the fire.  And it hurt, God, it hurt
a lot.  And I screamed but no one listened.
I got burned alive, God.  Why didn’t You help?
Did I do something to make You angry?

And then they took all of our ashes and
loaded them into a truck.  They dumped us
into a big river, and we floated
away.  And it was cold again, terribly
cold like on the train.  And it was so dark.
God, where am I?  Where are we?  Are we with
You, God?  Where are You?  Where were You?  Please God –
Say something to me.  Anything.


She awaits an answer.

It’s fair, I suppose, to ponder once again those dark and dismal events that took place in Europe during the Second World War; it’s probably also fair to continue to celebrate — or at least reflect upon the consequences of May 8, 1945 — soon to be a full sixty-eight years in the past. Victory In Europe Day . . . V.E. Day . . . a hoped-for turning point in humanity’s earthly presence. But was it really a turning point, or have we as a species simply paused yet one more time in our apparent quest for the perfect atrocity? How far removed are we, this very day, from events potentially even more heinous and destructive than the Holocaust? . . . than the full and complete breadth of the Second World War? Some say that as many as fifty million died, collectively, in all the theaters of that war . . . a mere pittance when compared with the potential death toll of a global conflagration today. Or maybe we’re safer, today, because of huge strides in human compassion, in human sanity?

A quick glance in almost any direction suggests we’d best not hold our breath in hopeful anticipation as we . . . await an answer.

This is Today’s Open Thread. Reflect. Speak Out.

The Watering Hole, Friday February 15, 2013; “Night Became the Day of Fire . . . and Children Burned to Ash”

From Emeralds and Ashes, a brief excerpt:

they stood ’round shivering
in worn and tattered coats
with only blackened sky to reflect their mood
and hopes
warming coals commandeered by those more reckless
for it was a time of sacrifice
you see
a time of war

in spite of chill
they knew inferno raged
on distant sun
even at night
impossible to see
impossible to sense
except through journey of the mind
which disallows consideration of darkness
or of cold
no darkness on the sun
no chill

even a child knows that

in tattered coats
the huddled ones leaned toward shelter
away from iced and chilling wind
to dream perhaps of summer’s warmth
to forget fateful thoughts and imaginings
of what might be their destiny
brought upon them by circumstance
of war
and as they dreamed
perhaps they prayed a better life for their children
who also suffered the cold
also suffered the fears

tomorrow would be better
they knew
because the fires which rage the sun
would rise again
to warm the earth and bring forth life
of yet another day
to nurture sons and daughters of creation
as inferno maintained itself
safe away

even the children knew that

but late that night the bombers came
to demonstrate to all creation
no thing is safe or sure
downward rained the firestorms
inferno and incendiary sucked away the breath
of eighty thousands
non-combatants all
just people in tattered coats
huddled in harm’s way
through heinous plan

night became the day of fire
flesh boiled or burned
in tattered coats

a man-made sun had come too close
as if to offer proof
that cold and dark
inhere within the human soul
though warmth and light do not
as dead and dying learned
too late

-and children burned to ash-

february 14, 1945

Sixty-eight years ago this day — in the pre-dawn hours of Feb. 15, 1945 — a three day-long allied (British and American) bombing and incendiary air attack on the unarmed and non-militarized German city of Dresden came to an end. It was an attack in which incendiary bombs, dropped in the aftermath of tons of high explosives that had blown off roofs and destroyed much of the inner city, ignited the exposed remains of bombed out buildings and started a firestorm of epic proportions. The final death toll remains, to this day, uncertain. Estimates have ranged from as “few” as 15-20 thousand to as many as ten times that amount, or more. The precise number will never, of course, be known.

The reasons for the attacks were simple enough. Their combined purpose was (a) to destroy the Dresden railway yards and thereby prevent that particular transit hub from being available to allow movement of Wehrmacht troops from the collapsing Western front to the Eastern front, and (b) to debilitate existing internal German communication systems — all parcel to the task of crippling any and all German efforts to counter the westward-toward-Germany advance of Russian Armies. The allied saturation bombing of Dresden thus began on February 13th with a British raid, and was followed by a second British raid on the 14th plus a pair of American raids on the 14th and the 15th, resp.

In partial summary. . . February 14 from 12:17 until 12:30, 311 American B-17s dropped 771 tons of bombs on Dresden, with the railway yards as their aiming point. . . . The Americans continued the bombing on February 15, dropping 466 tons of bombs. During [the] four raids a total of around 3,900 tons of bombs were dropped.

“The firebombing consisted of by-then standard methods; dropping large amounts of high-explosive to blow off the roofs to expose the timbers within buildings, followed by incendiary devices (fire-sticks) to ignite them and then more high-explosives to hamper the efforts of the fire services. This eventually created a self-sustaining firestorm with temperatures peaking at over 1,500 °C. After the area caught fire, the air above the bombed area became extremely hot and rose rapidly. Cold air then rushed in at ground level from the outside and people were sucked into the fire. (. . .)

“Out of 28,410 houses in the inner city of Dresden, 24,866 were destroyed. An area of 15 square kilometers was totally destroyed, among that 14,000 homes, 72 schools, 22 hospitals, 18 churches, 5 theatres, 50 banks and insurance companies, 31 department stores, 31 large hotels, 62 administration buildings, and factories. In total there were 222,000 apartments in the city. The bombing affected more than 80 percent of them with 75,000 of them being totally destroyed, 11,000 severely damaged, 7,000 damaged, and 81,000 slightly damaged. . . . Although bombing destroyed the main railway station completely, the railway was working again within a few days.” [Highlight added]

So: tens of thousands of civilians, including an unknowable but presumably large number of innocent children, were killed in the bombardments. They were either blown to bits or burnt to death in those heinous attacks even as the center of the city of Dresden was completely destroyed — but NOT because Dresden was seen as a profoundly legitimate military target. No. Dresden was never considered to be any sort of Nazi stronghold or industrial center. It was simply a rail hub. And the attacks were conceived and carried out, as noted, in order to destroy that potential rail link along a route the allies presumed might possibly be used to transport German troops from the West to the East, troops to be used to counter the Russian advance. If such transit had been allowed to persist without interruption, might Germany have been able to restrain the Russian advance? If so, for how long? A week? Or two? We’ll never know, nor will the tens of thousands of Dresden’s murdered dead.

In any case, those few moments of railway destruction that were parcel to the Dresden mission might indeed still be viewed as a marginal success — IF, that is, the words “marginal success” can reasonably be used to describe the failure of any attempt at permanent tactical destruction of an officially designated target, including the Dresden rail yards on those fateful days of February, 1945.

One cannot help but wonder, however, if those tens upon tens of thousands of innocent victims who remain — still, and through this day — Dead — might not themselves, if only they could find the means, argue the tenor of the word “successful” in re any context of war, particularly when mentioned within the lexicon of those bombing raids which devastated Dresden, Germany; February 13-15, 1945.

The entire Dresden operation accomplished, in other words and in effect, only one thing: the mass murder of civilians, including children. Why? One can understand and perhaps even agree with the potential for tactical advantage implicit in that day’s strategic wartime reality. But still, the question persists: why the incendiaries? WHY THE INCENDIARIES?? And too, of course, there’s that second question, the one that still lingers even today: where’s the ‘civilized’ outrage at what happened on February 13-15, 1945? Was that event not, after all and in coldest reality, nothing other than the mass murdering of tens of thousands of innocent civilians? For NO REASON? How could such an event EVER be tolerated by those who call themselves ‘civilized’?

As of today, a full sixty-eight years have passed and times have changed. Today, there has emerged a modicum of public outrage (or at least some serious questioning) regarding the ethic of using a new technology to accomplish the goals implicit in most any war. The difference today is based on the fact that back then, in 1945, the deliverers of explosive and incendiary mass death and destruction were ‘civilized’ in the sense that manned aircraft were used in defined and legitimate war zones. Today, impersonal unmanned drones are employed within (and beyond) borderless theaters of (presumed) international conflict, and they are used to kill only small handfuls of “enemy combatants” (or, on occasion, a presumed American insurrectionist or two), with minimal destruction beyond the periphery of the attack site . . . and THAT is today’s OUTRAGE?

Ah, the invariably intellectual graces of . . . Civilization . . . (?)

Civilization. Yes. Civilization is, as we all know, “An advanced state of human society, in which a high level of culture, science, industry, and government has been reached.” It’s also “those people or nations that have reached such a state.”

Right. I propose a rewrite, one that reads a bit differently, one that’s a bit more truthful, more realistic, as in: “Civilization – The bizarre, invariably nonsensical and eternally conflicting consequence of human existence, as carried forth by those people or nations that have attained such a state where the death and destruction of others is their most popular and praiseworthy goal; see also: WAR.”

And perhaps somewhere in that redefinition process, eventually, someone of fairer mind might demand an answer to the two most eternally compelling questions ever posed within the human community:
Commence the holding of the breath as ‘civilization’ continues its ever “forward” march in its eternally incessant and wearisome fashion, and meanwhile hope that never again will anyone be forced to bear witness to that moment — that moment when, for no credible or condonable reason, night became the day of fire . . . and children burned to ash

NO MORE WARS! End them. All. NOW!

From Emeralds and Ashes, a closing thought:


One wonders if they ever heard the cry.
The sound, the summons, which to faithful says:
Your God has called, your time is come to die
And travel on – conclusion of your days
On earth, the end of all familiar things –
Your Lives, your Loves, interred now, sans the pain
Inflicted by ungodly bands of kings
Who find their purpose in despotic shame.
So now all living walk upon a cache –
Abysmal graveyards – globally extant,
Concealing flesh and bone returned to ash
From which it came. Tears want to flow, but can’t
As souls of murdered dead now roam – set free –
And living close their eyes: Afraid to see.


Special Note: Slaughterhouse Five, the epic anti-war novel by Kurt Vonnegut, is a ‘real time’ commentary based on Vonnegut’s own reflections of the fire-bombing of Dresden. He was there; he survived, and wrote of it in classic Vonnegut style.

This is today’s open thread.

The Death of a Nation (a retrospective on the W. Bush era, Part 6: MILITARY)

The essay which follows was written in March, 2005, and remains, (admittedly) at best, a superficial overview: a (potentially futile) attempt to at least suggest that the aggressive militarism of the United States which bubbled to the surface quite rapidly in G.W. Bush’s first term was not only bad, but dangerous as well.  Sadly, to this day the war horror of that period continues with the USA still involved in what has now become the longest war in America’s insanely war-stained history: the war in Afghanistan.

Military. War. During my lifetime, the ‘known’ wars and (aggressive) “skirmishes” with American participation include (but are in no way presumed, herein, to be limited to): the Second World War; Korea; Cuba; Vietnam; Chile; Grenada; El Salvador; Panama; Bosnia/Herzegovina; the Persian Gulf; Afghanistan; Iraq; and now (potentially) Libya, Syria, Iran . . . et al., et al.

(Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5)


The Incessant Voice of War:

One wearies of incessant Voice of War.
Across full breadth of time each nom de guerre
Inflicts upon the Human soul a scar
Which screams in mockery of hallowed prayer.
How many millions must we finally kill
Before is learned this simple quirk of fate:
That murdered dead, in valley or on hill,
Do NOT portend a Greatness in The State?
Upon this Earth of monuments and tombs
Which weep for fallen souls, it’s fair to shout
NO MORE! to darkness that forever looms
In constant threat. And let there be no doubt
Of this–War’s victims hang upon the Cross
Of senseless death . . . in silent, wretched, loss.

So, whereto from here? More of the same? Are ‘we’ inextricably embedded in the muck and mire of incessant war? A look back at the policies and products of the George W. Bush presidencies is not, necessarily, encouraging. Nor is the prospect of yet another right wing Republican presence in either the Congress or, most emphatically, in the White House; e.g. Romney-Ryan. Time will tell . . . apparently. In its invariably nerve-wracking fashion.



“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.”  ~Dwight D. Eisenhower

I include that quote not because Eisenhower was the Five-Star General who commanded the allied forces to victory in Europe during the Second World War; not because he, as President (note the use of upper case) made good on his pledge to go to Korea following his election in 1952 to find a way to stop hostilities there, and that on July 27, 1953 an armistice was signed; not because President Eisenhower, once he’d had enough of Sen. Joseph McCarthy and his bogus ‘hearings’ in search of Communists behind every tree, found a way to put a stop to the nonsense and send McCarthy back into his hole; and not because Eisenhower was a Republican who won two elections with landslide margins.  No, I include that quote in order to point to the contrasts between then and today, only fifty years apart.

Dwight D. Eisenhower was a West Pointer, a bold yet measured military man who commanded the allied forces that smashed the Nazi war machine.  He was also a firm negotiator who understood and realized the stupidity that drives men constantly to war; he was, too, a Republican. Continue reading