Posts Tagged ‘war’

beaver lodge

Beaver Lodge, then home of the Attenboroughs, where we momentarily shared the high life.

So Dickie Attenborough is dead, at 90.

We knew him. Well, not so much knew him, you understand, as “We met him once”.

Back in 1987, there was an election on. The Liberal Party, for which we campaigned, had entered an uncomfortable “Alliance” with a new political grouping called “The Social Democratic Party”, which was essentially a small group of right wing rebels from a Labour Party that had been temporarily overwhelmed by the irritating forces of the trotskyite Left. The new “SDP” appealed to a sort of vaguely left of centre middle class consensus type – they’d be called “soccer Mums” in America or “doctor’s wives” in Australia.

Anyhow, for some bizarre reason lost in the mists of time deep in the last millenium, the leaders of said Alliance decided to hop on a barge and meander down the River Thames one Sunday afternoon, ending up at Dickie’s pile in Richmond. The vague plan was that there were a string of Liberal-SDP Alliance target seats in a row along the river, and this was a spiffingly good wheeze to make a news impact on all of them in one hit to try and shake loose a few of the seats that had voted Tory since time immemorial in that area. Needless to say, as a photo op it simply made the Alliance leaders look like a bunch of middle class numpties and it was largely ignored.

Attenborough and his equally well-loved brother, documentary maker David, share a happy moment.

Attenborough and his equally well-loved younger brother, documentary maker David, share a happy moment.

It is why, though, late on a lovely summer’s afternoon, we came to be standing around in the Attenborough’s charming little pied-a-terre, and standing around very uncomfortably to boot, given that we were unquestionably in the presence of the great and good … a sprinkling of theatre people, some famous politicians, a clutch of local grandees … and as we (and by we, we mean a bunch of local campaigners who had been invited to turn up to rub shoulders with the glitterati who had descended upon us) were dressed almost universally in jeans, odd t-shirts covered in campaign buttons and sporting scraggly beards, we felt somewhat out of place.

Since that time we have become more familiar with the questionable joys of small talk, clinking crystal and nodding with glazed eyes while not really listening. At that stage, however, the art form was unknown to us. So we stood near the front door of what was undoubtedly the grandest room on the planet, exquisitely furnished, and shuffled uncertainly from foot to foot, muttering darkly to one another about how we’d rather be out canvassing for votes on council estates instead of all this wank.

Suddenly, though, Attenborough himself swept through the crowd, making a beeline towards us with a tray of champagnes weaving memorably past the obstacles presented by overweight councillors and gesticulating theatricals. I am reasonably sure there were black-tied waters in attendance too, but for some reason he was doing the honours himself. “You chaps look like you need a drink!” he grinned, and his charm and bonhomie was infectious. We took a glass each and smiled uncertainly. “Yell out if you want another!” he cried, disappearing back into the maw of 200 or so of his closest friends. It was a gentle and kindly act, and perfectly typical of the man, apparently.

Richard Attenborough was one of the most famous and talented actors of his generation, with a string of credits that sound like a potted history of 20th century British and Hollywood cinema. Stolid and honourable in “The Great Escape”. Menacing and psychotic in “Brighton Rock”. Avuncular and deluded in “Jurassic Park”. Pugnacious  in “The Angry Silence”. Utterly chilling in “10 Rillington Place”.

As a director, he made some of the more important movies of the era, reflecting his own progressive view of the world, such as the memorable filmed version of “Oh! What a lovely war!” and in the historically accurate and star-filled exposition of the disastrous military adventure of Operation Market Garden in “A Bridge Too Far”, tackling courage against the apartheid regime in South Africa in “Cry Freedom”, and, of course, with “Gandhi”, the triumphal conclusion of 20 years effort, for which he received two Oscars.

Less well-known is that during the Second World War, Lord Attenborough served with the Royal Air Force, and was seconded to the newly-formed RAF film unit at Pinewood Studios after initial pilot training. He appeared in the 1943 propaganda film Journey Together before qualifying as a sergeant and flying on missions all over Europe filming the outcome of Bomber Command sorties. He saw enough of the horrors of war to imbue “Oh! What a lovely war!” with a heart-rending immediacy, as seen so well in the closing sequence of the film, below. As we remember the 100th Anniversary of the First World War, we could do no better to show respect those who fell than to play the whole film on free-to-air TV in all the combattant countries. It is a theatrical tour de force, and deeply moving.

And when they ask us, how dangerous it was,

Oh, we’ll never tell them, no, we’ll never tell them:

We spent our pay in some cafe,

And fought wild women night and day,

‘Twas the cushiest job we ever had.

And when they ask us, and they’re certainly going to ask us,

The reason why we didn’t win the Croix de Guerre,

Oh, we’ll never tell them, oh, we’ll never tell them

There was a front, but damned if we knew where.

As an aside, and notably, Attenborough and his wife Sheila Sim, who though stricken with dementia survives him after nearly 70 years of marriage, also co-starred in the original West End production of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap in 1952, which has since become the world’s longest-running play.

David Owen

David Owen

Anyhow, the afternoon drew on towards evening and the champagne grew warm, and then leader of the SDP, Dr David Owen, who it must be reported had looked grumpy and perfectly bored the entire time – an impression he managed to give for his entire career, to our eyes – decided it was time to leave.

He bustled his way towards the door. Attenborough, seeing his star guest leaving, struggled through the crowd waving to get Owen’s attention, seemingly unsuccessfully. In the end, he called out plaintively “David! David! Call you, darling!” but in vain: he was talking to thin air. Owen was gone.

I caught Dickie’s eye, and he smiled and shrugged. He waggled his hand to indicate “Another glass of bubbles?” but we politely demurred. We were heading down the pub for a proper drink. He smiled again, good naturedly, as if in understanding, and turned back to tending to his other more civilised guests. Momentarily, I considered suggesting he join us for a hand of dominoes and a couple of pints, suspecting he might enjoy himself more, but I didn’t dare.

Richard Attenborough may have been a luvvie, my darling Reader, but he was a ferociously talented and genuinely big-hearted version of that uniquely British theatrical caricature.

And that’s why everyone loved him. A decent bloke: a life well lived. Our condolences to his family and innumerable friends.

Footnote

In British use, luvvie is a humorously depreciative term for an actor, especially one regarded as effusive or affected. The reference is to a stereotype of  thespians habitually addressing people as ‘lovey’. When the OED revised its entry for lovey in 2008, this sense, which had by then become established in the variant spelling luvvie, was made a separate entry. The earliest quotation found at the time was from author and actor Stephen Fry, writing in the Guardian in 1988:

Acting in a proper grown-up play, being a lovie, doing the West End, ‘shouting in the evenings’, as the late Patrick Troughton had it.

1988 Stephen Fry in Guardian 2 Apr., p. 17

The off-hand manner in which the term is used here suggests that the word may already have been somewhat established in this sense at the time.

We don’t know.

We know some of the components. It will involve vision. On both sides. It will involve a rediscovery of goodwill. On both sides. It will require confidence building. And patience. There will be many steps sideways and backwards as well as forwards.

We do not know the answer. What we do know is that this is not it.

 

dead

dead 2

 

It just can’t be this. This is not the answer.

A victim of US bombing in Iraq.

A victim of US bombing in Iraq.

We were wildly opposed to the “allied” invasion of Iraq all along.

It was blindly obvious to millions of people around the world that the West had blurred reasons for invading, that the “weapons of mass destruction” argument was almost certainly a nonsense cooked up by Neo-Con influencers in Whitehall and Washington, that oil was probably the real reason for the war (as later confirmed by Australian Foreign Minister Alistair Downer) and the net result would be to de-stabilise the country and the entire region, with hundreds of thousands of likely civilian deaths – as predicted by the Australian Defence Force Chiefs, amongst others – and thousands of Western forces deaths, too.

Do we really have the appetite for this again?

Do we really have the appetite for this again?

Indeed, we were on 3AW radio with John Howard BEFORE the invasion asking him to justify that coming loss of civilian lives.

He flatly denied it would happen. The host, populist right-winger Neil Mitchell, cut the call before we could challenge the then-Prime Minister’s staggering complacency.

No United Nations approval for the invasion was ever obtained, making Howard, Bush and Blair nothing more nor less than war criminals, in our opinion. But history, of course, is written by the victors. Even when that “victory” was won at such painful cost in terms of our own losses and those of those surrounding our invasion.

For the record, the death toll of civilians in Iraq currently stands at over 500,000. Hardly a family has not been affected.

Now, the entirely predictable southward march of the ultra-extremist ISIS has the West in a flat panic again, and with good reason.

With typical shoot from the hip macho-man thoughtlessness, today the Australian Prime Minister has already signalled that the country might join another invasion of the country. Washington is weighing up “boots on the ground” versus air-strikes, versus doing nothing like a rabbit stuck in headlights.

Perhaps Abbott should remember his unusually pertinent comment on Syria, that “it’s hard to know what to do, because it’s essentially baddies against baddies”. It’s just about the only thing he’s ever said we agreed with. Apparently, he can’t seem to get his head around the fact that Iraq is the same.

The following articles are educatory and very relevant to what the West does next.

How George Bush and Al-Maliki lost Iraq.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/fareed-zakaria-who-lost-iraq-the-iraqis-did-with-an-assist-from-george-w-bush/2014/06/12/35c5a418-f25c-11e3-914c-1fbd0614e2d4_story.html

How ‘Iraq’ was never going to be, and Al-Maliki’s failure.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iraq/10896711/Iraq-crisis-Rebels-are-fighting-with-a-moral-force-that-the-army-lacks.html

The following facts are certain:

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is currently the world’s most appalling extremist bunch of thugs, and must be opposed. If they were to take over Iraq it would be an utter disaster for local people, and the world. They make the Taliban and even Al-Qaeda look like mild-mannered nuisances.

 

Isis at a glance

ISIS at a glance

 

ISIS is a response to Sunnis being pushed to the margins by the Alawite-led Shia in Syria and the Shia in Iraq. Western meddling in both countries has made the situation uncountably worse.

Saddam Hussein was a brute. So is Hafez Assad. Unfortunately, we now look very much like we are replacing them with something even worse.

ISIS executes prisoners in Syria

ISIS executes prisoners in Syria

Do we know what to do? No, we don’t. We suspect the West’s response will be airstrikes on the insurgents, to uncertain effect strategically, and to the certain effect of enraging Sunni opinion yet further.

What is certain is that whatever happens next will not be a long term solution to the tensions of the Middle East, and the ongoing conflict between Sunnis and Shia in particular.

The only long-term solution will be a political one, involving mutual respect, and effective power-sharing. The recent developments in Iraq have renewed the possibility, much discussed during the war a decade ago, and a possibility that we considered made much sense at the time, that Iraq be divided into three separate regions or even nations – the mostly Shiite section, made up of Baghdad and much of the south and east bordering Iran; a Sunni area, comprised of western Iraq and parts of the north; and a Kurdish zone, also in the north and including the cities of Erbil and Kirkuk, which Saddam tried to populate with Arabs.

ISIS - well organised, well disciplined, utterly fanatical, and extremely dangerous.

ISIS – well organised, well disciplined, utterly fanatical, and extremely dangerous.

As night follows day, the fundamental drive to create such a solution will have to come from the Mid-East’s own Islamic populations.

And given their inability to resolve the issue in the last thousand plus years, we should be prepared for it to take some time yet, perhaps generations. If the population fail to create the peace, it is they that shall be mired in seemingly endless conflict, it is their children, wives, husbands, brothers, uncles, sisters and mothers who will be oppressed and slaughtered.

In the meantime, the rest of the world needs to do this:

  • stay out of ill-thought out military adventures in the region,
  • create energy independence for itself,
  • support those in the Middle East who argue for a secular, peaceful, long-term solution, not merely those who appear to be aligned with our perceived interests, and
  • STOP the flow of weaponry to the region, which merely fuels the endless conflict. (We need to remember that well over 90% of people killed in conflicts in the world are not killed by bombs, rockets or missiles, but by bullets.)

The devil is in the detail, of course, but the broad brushstrokes are clear to Blind Freddie. If all the think-tanks in the world can’t get Governments to understand, we give up.

The accused

The accused

Why? Because the post-traumatic disorder being experienced by Iraq and Afghanistan veterans is real. Combat, especially in wars with unclear goals, inadequate planning, lack of resources, and hopeless re-integration back into society, f**** with people’s minds, and it’s not their fault. And we argue it would be counterproductive to jail him because the treatment for such trauma in US prisons is woeful. Tens of thousands of veterans currently languish in American jails, forgotten and unaided.

They didn’t ask to go to war, and many US service people are simply desperate refugees from poverty and unemployment anyway.

In a civilised society, this man should be diverted into intensive psychological care and properly rehabilitated. At least given the opportunity to be rehabilitated. He is clearly suffering from trauma in his current life, not just when serving.

The quality of mercy is measured by how we treat those who think, say or do things we would find unconscionable, but whose responsibility is diminished by their mental state.

When that mental state is directly related to their efforts on behalf of the rest of us, for which they are inadequately rewarded, then we should be doubly careful in how we respond when they go off the rails.

The issues raised in the case apply equally to Australia, the United Kingdom, and many other countries …

From Raw Story:

kkk

 

An Alabama man is asking a judge for mercy after pleading guilty to hiring a Ku Klux Klan (KKK) hitman to murder his black neighbor.

Defense attorneys for Allen Wayne Morgan told U.S. District Judge Karon Bowdre that their client — a veteran of over 175 combat missions in Iraq who struggled with post traumatic stress disorder, depression, and drug addiction — should not spend more than five years in prison. Judge Bowdre referred the matter to a government expert, who will review the report on Morgan’s mental health submitted by the defense.

On August 29, 2013, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents arrested Morgan at an Econo Lodge in Oxford, Alabama. He thought he was speaking with the KKK hitman he had hired to kill his neighbor, Clifford Maurice Mosley, a black man he believed had raped his wife.

He allegedly told an undercover agent that “I want this man hung from a tree like he is an animal. I want his penis cut off and I want him cut. You’re a hunting man right? I want him hung from a tree and gutted.”

Morgan is also alleged to have told the agent that he had recently confronted Mosley outside his house, firing several shots in his direction, but that he did not intend to kill him that day because there would be witnesses. He also said that he was certain Mosley had raped his wife, because when confronted, he did not attempt to stand his ground or reason with him.

He planned to check himself into a Veterans Administration hospital in order to provide himself with an alibi.

After being taken into custody, Morgan confessed to having tried to hire the hitman.

The previous year, Morgan had been profiled in a Birmingham News piece on Iraq veterans dealing with post traumatic stress disorder and depression via music.

“During times of my deepest abuse, I would try to cancel myself out chemically,” he said. “But even if we’re just jamming, it’s like time stands still. I’m not saying like all of my problems go away. But for that little bit of a moment, everything is OK. If it can make me feel like that, I know it can make others feel like that.”

He also said that when unexpected people arrive at his house, “I usually pull out a gun and run them off.”

[Image via Flickr, Creative Commons Licensed]

Read more of what we have to say on the appalling treatment of Veterans here: http://wellthisiswhatithink.wordpress.com/2014/02/08/the-country-who-failed-its-vets/

I have been thinking a little, recently, about the unending fight against fascism. Against the authoritarians, the anti-democrats, the oligarchs, power elite, the swine.

HMS Clare, with my father on board, location unknown but leaving or entering port, I think.

HMS Clare, with my father on board, location unknown but leaving or entering port, I think.

This is partly because on an ongoing debate I enjoy with a number of close friends on the legitimate role for the State in our lives, but also, no doubt, because I am currently going to sleep at night listening to the audio book “Dominion” by C J Sanson, a provocative “what if” thriller set in a Britain that had sued for peace with Germany in 1940 and which is now, in the mid-1950s, sliding towards its own Jew-culling fascist nightmare. And also because my daughter has been seized by the Hunger Games Trilogy, which, it could surely be argued, is as effective an anti-fascist series of novels as one could want to read, and in targeting its relatively junior audience, a force for good. Discussion of the literary qualities of the novels can take place elsewhere.

(Incidentally, the Wellthisiswhatithink clan went to see the second movie – Catching Fire – and it was brilliantly done. We recommend seeing the first installment just to “get” the story and definitely the second to marvel at Jennifer Lawrence’s superb acting, supported by a great cast and some amazing cinematography.)

Anyhow, whatever the reason, the terrors of opposing an authoritarian regime – still so relevant to far too many of the world’s people – have been something we have been pondering. What would we have done, for example, if we were “ordinary people” watching the Nazi round up and exportation in appalling conditions of the Jews, if, while we were watching, we were threatened with going with them if we protested? What would we say or do today against active oppression in … Iran, Syria, Egypt … Zimbabwe … would we speak up for gays and other minorities in Russia, the Romany people in Europe … what would we do watching the excesses of the regime in North Korea? What do we do, indeed, to fight against the disgraceful demonisation of asylum seekers in our own back yard, contending, as we would be, with some 90% of the political establishment?

And then, by chance, I came across the photograph (above) of one of the ships my father served on during World War II, and found another (below) online.

I 14 - HMS Clare

I 14 – HMS Clare

The HMS Clare began life as the USS Abel P. Upshur but was decommissioned by the Yanks and transferred in the destroyer-land bases exchange to Great Britain, at Halifax, Nova Scotia, 9 September 1940. It was one of the “topsy-turveys” – one of the “Lend Lease” destroyers given to the British in 1940 to bolster the fight against Hitler – and so nicknamed because of their alarming propensity to turn turtle in heavy weather.

From 1940 to 1944, as HMS Clare, she escorted convoys in the Atlantic and Mediterranean. That was when my father served on her. In the early hours of 21 February 1941 she collided with the motor vessel Petertown and was out of action, undergoing repairs, until October 1941.

During 1942 and 1943 Clare took part in the Invasions of North Africa and Sicily. In May 1944 she became an aircraft target ship in the Western Approaches Command. In August 1945 she was reduced to reserve at Greenock, Scotland, and later berthed at Barrow, England, awaiting disposal. She was scrapped in 1945.

T S Yolland

T S Yolland

My father was apparently a cheerful, sometimes boisterous man.

He loved a pint, a cigarette, and a bet. A game of cards.

He was an utterly loyal husband and a doting father. In the middle of his life, when he should have been enjoying financial success and a measure of quiet satisfaction at having survived the Depression intact, married and started a family, he virtually vanished for six years, into the maw of World War II.

I still have his medals. They bear testament to the quiet service he offered … the Atlantic, the Pacific, the Mediterranean. Malta, India, North Africa,  and all points West and East. He wasn’t the chap manning the depth charges, the guns, or wrenching the wheel around against the storm’s violence on the bridge. “Two points to larb’d, Yolland! Aye Aye, Sir!”

No, he was a quartermaster. The most unglamorous job imaginable on a destroyer. He looked after the ship’s stores, doled them out, and made sure everyone got what they were due to keep them going, which wasn’t much.

Not that he couldn’t have done all the more Boy’s Own stuff, I am sure, but being in the wholesale fish trade he was used to totting up ledgers and keeping track of stores, and all the rest. When they found that out, the Navy assigned him as a quartermaster, and a quartermaster he stayed.

Whether or not his family thought much of his service is lost in the mists of time. His father, Captain D S Yolland, was a trawlerman who got the DSC (just one step down from a VC) for trawling up mines dropped by Zeppelins in Portsmouth Harbour in the First War. I don’t know if they were all that impressed by Dad’s service, but my Mum was, and I am.

He was, by all accounts, a kind, gentle man, and the strain on him of wallowing around in a metal tub waiting for a torpedo up his arse, day after day – month after month, year after year – told on him. He smoked incessantly to calm his nerves, and drank too much, and duly died very young, tragically young, of a heart attack, at just 46 years old, in 1959.

To my mind, he is as much a victim of the fight against Nazism as those who never came home. It took a special type of deep, abiding courage, and an astonishing sense of duty, for him and his shipmates to keep going back, after each leave, never knowing if they would see home again, or how horrible and lonely their death might be. When I questioned my mother about it, she went very quiet, and simply said “It just had to be done. We couldn’t let them win. It was wrong – Hitler, all of it – it was just wrong.”

“It was just wrong.” Quite so. There were millions like my father. Millions of civilians who endured impossible privation, millions of civilians killed, injured and bereaved, millions of children orphaned, and millions of service people mentally destroyed, hideously injured or snatched from their families forever.

Leaders. They get us into wars. But the little people fight them, and the little people are the ones who get us out of them. I wonder if we remember that enough? I suspect we don’t.

Many bloggers were saluting Remembrance Day yesterday.

 

The poem's author's parents on their wedding day

The poem’s author’s parents on their wedding day

 

This rather beautiful poem is worthy of a wider audience. Give it a click.

Lest I Forget.

20130602-134809.jpg

I cover the earth like a riotous ruby blanket of forgetfulness
uninvited, ever-present, delicate yet enduring

I once waved in Flanders’ fields over the graves of millions
a memory of quick death raining from the sky and drenched by widows’ tears

Now: the one they suck on with pipes or plunge into their arms
a slow death inch by inch full of regrets, no watching tears

But here, on this stilled brown steel, this lost connection, I am suddenly a promise of life
I force my way to the sun, colouring the dead rails, reflecting Vincent’s light

See: I am death, I am life, I am just a flower, and the day?
The day is passing.

Stephen "Yolly" Yolland:

WellthisiswhatIthink says: This is a brutally frank and important commentary from a Jewish Zionist on everything that is wrong – and morally wrong – with the current Israeli government’s position on the Palestinian question. It deserves to be read by anyone – anyone – who genuinely wants peace in the Middle East.

Originally posted on Emily L. Hauser - In My Head:

Israeli_and_Palestinian_FlagsLast week, Daniel Gordis ran an opinion piece in the Jerusalem Post entitled “We Gave Peace a Chance,” consisting largely of a lengthy and pretty accurate list of the many and various ways in which Palestinians have been a disappointment to Israelis.

I cannot and will not argue that the Palestinian leadership has been a paragon of virtue, either in leading its own people or in dealing with mine, nor will I argue that the Palestinian people have taken many steps to reassure my people that they don’t actively despise us. It’s my impression, based in a quarter of a century of observation, that a lot of Palestinians do, in fact, despise Israel. Where Gordis and I differ, I think, is our starting point for dealing with Palestinians in the first place.

In his piece, Gordis relies on and advances the same kind of bush-league dehumanization of the Palestinian people 

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Stephen "Yolly" Yolland:

I warmly applaud this article by Emily, which I consider to be both timely and wise. The prospect of another war with Israel in the south for tragic little Lebanon, already so pressed by the situation in Syria on their border, is simply too horrible.

We must learn Emily’s core understanding – violence begets violence. When will the leaders in the Mid East remember Churchill’s famous adage “Jaw-jaw is always better than war-war”? We are talking about violence, which could, if it embroils Israel, Iran, Syria and Lebanon – a true regional conflict – cause not just hundreds or thousands of casualties, but cost hundreds of thousands and possibly millions of innocent lives. And as Emily so presciently points out, we seem to be sleep-walking into it.

War will continue until men refuse to fight

I know some will accuse me of being naive, but it’s what I believe. http://www.cafepress.com/yolly.431431252

Originally posted on Emily L. Hauser - In My Head:

“Lebanon? That’s so 80s.”

We learned on Friday that America and Israel have concluded that the bomber in last week’s bloody attack in the Bulgarian city of Burgas was an operative working with the Lebanon-based Hezbollah, under orders from Iran “to avenge assassinations targeting its nuclear scientists” (such as Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan, killed in January when an assassin bombed his car in Tehran).

In the meantime, we’ve also learned that the New York police have found evidence linking Iran or its proxies to nine other plots against Israeli or Jewish targets around the world. According to former Israeli National Security Adviser Uzi Arad, this should not surprise us – and Israel is “to a large extent, the initiators.”

We hit [senior Hezbollah leader] Imad Mughniye [in 2008], and, mainly, we’re leading a struggle against Iran. We’re not a passive side. And the other side is the defending, deterring, and attacking…

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Anzac dead in captured Turkish trenches in Gallipoli

I wrote this poem remembering attending so many Remembrance Day services with my mother, whose husband, the father who I never knew, died at 46, a cheerful but essentially broken man, after six years of service in the Royal Navy..

I am very proud of this poem, both as a poem, in and of itself, and as an authentic expression of my feelings and some things I consider important.

I am largely a pacifist in my outlook, but I have great respect for those who put their lives on the line defending values I hold dear, and opposing tyranny.

It references not only those solemn services attended at memorials with my mother, but the many times since I have seen elderly people stand and pay their respects to the dead of both World Wars, and other wars.

Anzac DayThere is a wave of emotion sweeping Australia at the moment when Anzac day rolls around, with record numbers of people attending Dawn Services both around the country and in places overseas such as Papua New Guinea and Galipolli.

Increasingly, those people have young faces. The great grandchildren, grandchildren and children of those who were wounded, broken, and died. Why the sudden upsurge of interest? Perhaps younger people today look back to a past when the issues were simpler and convictions stronger.

I am also sure that the 39 Australian service people killed in Afghanistan since hostilities broke out there have something to do with it. The Americans and others have lost more people, of course, but those 39 lives are a grievous loss to a country with a population as small as Australia’s, just as the disproportionate sacrifice of the World War I diggers left a scar across the country that took generations to heal: the faces and stories of those brave young people killed in Afghanistan in recent years sure focuses the mind.

I am also reminded, on this solemn day, of the most important thing ever said about conflict, which is, of course:

“War will continue until men refuse to fight.”

If you are interested to purchase my collection of poems called Read Me – 71 Poems and 1 Story - just head here.

(Article re-published for Anzac Day 2013.)

Libetarian blog “Cut DC” reports Infowars arguing that the US are provoking Iran to act against American interests, like a big bully who keeps pushing and taunting a small kid until the diminutive target is filled with rage.  Just one weak act of defiance and the bully smashes the little boy with his seemingly justified fists. Then, he takes the victim’s lunch.  US weapons of aggression are indeed in Iran’s backyard, as if China were to provoke the US with an incident off the Virginia Beach Coast. 

Is the US bullying Iran into a war?

Is the US bullying Iran into a war?

US Sends Aircraft Carrier Through Strait Of Hormuz During Iranian Wargames

US debated “false flag” attack on American assets

Paul Joseph Watson
Infowars.com
Thursday, December 29th, 2011

The US has provocatively sent one of its biggest warships through the Strait of Hormuz amidst Iranian wargames taking place in the region shortly after warning Iran that any closure of the key oil choke point would not be tolerated.


“A US aircraft carrier entered a zone near the Strait of Hormuz being used by the Iranian navy for wargames, an Iranian official said Thursday amid rising tensions over the key oil-transit channel,” reports YNet News.

“US officials announced Wednesday that the ship and its accompanying battle group moved through the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow stretch at the entrance to the Gulf that is the world’s most important choke point for oil shipments.”

The appearance of the warship, named as the USS John C. Stennis, half-way through Iran’s 10 day wargame exercise in the region, arrives following a warning that the US would not tolerate Iran closing the Strait of Hormuz, a threat Iran has repeatedly made over the last few weeks.

As we previously reported, aside from the Stennis and its fleet of smaller battleships, the the USS Abraham Lincoln is also on its way to the US 5th fleet, as well as the USS Carl Vinson.

The presence of US warships in the region amidst escalating tensions serves as a reminder that the Bush administration once debated staging a false flag wherein fake Iranian patrol boats would be used to attack a US ship as a means of creating a pretext for war.

In January 2008, the US government announced that it had been “moments” away from opening fire on a group of Iranian patrol boats in the Strait of Hormuz after the boats allegedly broadcast a warning that they were about to attack a US vessel.

The US claimed the Iranian boats had broadcast the message, “I am coming at you. You will explode in a couple of minutes,” and that the order to fire was aborted only at the last minute as the patrol boats pulled back.

Iran later produced a video proving that the patrol boats never displayed any kind of threatening behavior. The New York Times subsequently reported that the alleged tape containing the attack threat had no background ambient noise and did not come from an Iranian ship, but from another unnamed ship in the region.

According to Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh, the incident led to a discussion in Vice-President Dick Cheney’s office about how to start a war with Iran by launching a “false flag” attack at sea.

(A false flag attack is when you pretend to be someone you dislike, and attack yourself, using that as a pretext for war. Hitler did it with Poland. Various conspiracy theorists argue that certain terrorist attacks on the West have fallen into this category, and that these will increase in frequency in 2012.)

The January Strait of Hormuz incident taught Cheney and other administration insiders that, “If you get the right incident, the American public will support it”. Hersh said: “There were a dozen ideas proffered about how to trigger a war. The one that interested me the most was why don’t we build, we in ‘our shipyard’, – build four or five boats that look like Iranian PT boats. Put Navy seals on them with a lot of arms. And next time one of our boats goes to the Straits of Hormuz, start a shoot-up. Might cost some lives”.

The plan was rejected because it would have cost American lives, but the potential for a similar scenario to arise in the Strait of Hormuz, whether real or manufactured, remains a very real threat, especially given the amount of US warships that are either already in the region or on their way to the Strait.

A confrontation in the Strait of Hormuz would send oil prices skyrocketing and create global economic instability. Any closure of the Strait would make the current financial crisis look like a walk in the park.

Of course, the US is not alone in its belligerance. As Ynet News also reports:

“So far, Iran and the United States have limited themselves to rhetoric and naval maneuvers. But analysts and the oil market are watching the situation carefully, fearing a spark that could ignite open confrontation between the longtime foes.

The United States had proposed a military hotline between Tehran and Washington to defuse any “miscalculations” that could occur as their navies brush against each other. But Iran in September rejected that offer.”

One has to ask why Iran would reject such an eminently sensible idea, and this  is, in itself, an indication of how toxic the relationship has become. And as we have previously commented, the ongoing chaos in Syria also threatens to embroil the entire region in a massive and complex conflict, dragging in Iran and Lebanon as a minimum, that would make the current mess in Afghanistan look like a sideshow.

We should remember that, until the populist Islamic revolution, Iran was a secular, West-leaning country – albeit run by a fascist bunch of thugs. American and British inability to persaude the Shah to liberalise his regime duly translated into the extremism that has characterised Iranian politics ever since – and yet, the green shoots of democracy and secular society still thrive there despite current Iranian Government persecution of intellectuals, dissidents and minorities such as homsexuals. And as I have argued before, if we cannot persaude the Assad regime in Syria to move aside peacefully, the incoming forces there will be similarly intransigent despite the essentially secular nature of that society.

It is something akin to watching a train wreck in slow motion, but the frame speed may well be about to increase.

Is it not sad that there seems to be such an inevitability surrounding the coming conflict? The people of the world can reasonably ask, why are our leaders, on all sides, so fearfully incompetent and incapable of preventing these nightmare scenarios from eventuating?

What use is the United Nations?

And where are the men and women of vision who can cut through the Gordian knot, and prevent a disaster that has the potential to cost millions of lives, and destabilise the world economy for a generation?

Is the only thing preventing all-out conflict now a cold calculation by Obama that, so soon after Iraq and with Afghanistan bleeding the US, stumbling into open war would cruel his chances for re-election? Then again, could that be a reason for the military-industrial complex in America to provoke a war, delivering the White House to some Republican puppet? Who is actually in charge in Washington?

I hope and pray I am wrong, but I fear I am not. Nothing would make me happier than to look back twelve months from now and laugh at my foolish worries.

Happy New Year, everyone?

Iraqi dead child is prepared for burial

A young Iraqi girl who suffered a violent death is prepared for burial. The photograph originally appeared at Salon.com some years ago.

I want you all to look carefully at this paragraph from a Yahoo report of a story on Obama’s television announcement that all US troops will be out of Iraq by Christmas. (The full report (jncluding Associated Press TV coverage) is here: http://au.news.yahoo.com/world/a/-/world/10693945/obama-announces-iraq-troop-pullout-by-end-2011/)

After nearly nine years, the deaths of more than 4,400 US troops, tens of thousands of Iraqis and the expenditure of hundreds of billions of dollars, Obama said the last American soldier would leave with his head held high.

Now, can you see anything wrong with that paragraph?

Am I about to contentiously argue with the President’s phrase “leave with his head held high”?

Actually, no: although I disagreed profoundly with the invasion, and consider Bush, Cheney, Blair and Howard to be criminals for invading without appropriate UN sanction, that is not the section my eye was drawn to.

With some notable exceptions – sometimes actions of deliberate cruelty, sometimes of wanton disregard for civilian safety – I believe the American troops in Iraq, and other Coalition forces, have acquitted themselves with dignity and courage in exceptionally difficult circumstances. Many good men and women have died or been horribly injured doing their political leader’s bidding, and thousands more have endured the psychological trauma of a bloody and frightening conflict, and their sacrifice should be respected. We should also remember the effects on their families and friends.

No, it is that phrase “tens of thousands of Iraqis”.

Have a look here, at the excellent and carefully accurate website Iraq Body Count: http://www.iraqbodycount.org/ It shows civilian deaths to be somewhere between 103 thousand and 127 thousand. This is a closely researched figure, as immediately becomes clear from a perusal of the site.

Other studies, including one by the respected Lancet journal, (although it has been contested), put the figure as high as 600,000+ deaths, and even as high as a million. Governments were quick to discredit the findings, although they did not mention the advice of the UK Ministry of Defence’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Roy Anderson, who had called the study “robust” and its claimed methods “close to ‘best practice’ in this area”.

What is clear to anyone but Blind Freddie (and those who choose not to see the truth), is that many, many more than “tens of thousands” of innocent Iraqi civilians have died or been maimed, certainly in the hundreds of thousands, not just by Coalition action, of course, but as a result of the breakdown in civil society that inevitably and predictably resulted from the allied invasion.

So why does a respected journalistic outlet play down the figure by subtly reporting “tens of thousands” of civilian casualties. “Hundreds of thousands” has a completely different emotional and rational impact. What is the reason for downplaying the body count? Mere lazy journalistic sloppiness? Or something more subtle, and insidious, and deliberate?

I think the people should be told. I invite you to re-blog this story, post it to your friends, and ask media outlets directly.

Because if history is written by the victors, we need to be doubly careful that we write it accurately. We owe that to the dead and injured – remember, they are people, not numbers – and to those who served.

You might also care to check out a shirt I designed some years ago reminding us that Collateral Damage Is People. I deliberately chose to illustrate it with a photo of my own daughter, aged about 2, playing happily in our kitchen. She is still alive, thank God. Other people’s daughter’s aren’t. How many families must be torn to pieces before we find better ways to resolve our differences?

http://www.cafepress.com/yolly.431431260

Collateral Damage Is People

Collateral Damage Is People t-shirt. Buy a shirt, change the world.