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Archive for June, 2011

Plutarch: On war and its opponents

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Plutarch: Selections on war and peace

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Plutarch
Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans
Translated by John Dryden

From Tiberius Gracchus

…Tiberius, maintaining an honourable and just cause, and possessed of eloquence sufficient to have made a less creditable action appear plausible, was no safe or easy antagonist, when, with the people crowding around the hustings, he took his place, and spoke in behalf of the poor. “The savage beasts,” said he, “in Italy, have their particular dens, they have their places of repose and refuge; but the men who bear arms, and expose their lives for the safety of their country, enjoy in the meantime nothing more in it but the air and light and, having no houses or settlements of their own, are constrained to wander from place to place with their wives and children.” He told them that the commanders were guilty of a ridiculous error, when, at the head of their armies, they exhorted the common soldiers to fight for their sepulchres and altars; when not any amongst so many Romans is possessed of either altar or monument, neither have they any houses of their own, or hearths of their ancestors to defend. They fought indeed and were slain, but it was to maintain the luxury and the wealth of other men. They were styled the masters of the world, but in the meantime had not one foot of ground which they could call their own.

From Numa Pompilius

Numa was about forty years of age when the ambassadors came to make him offers of the kingdom; the speakers were Proculus and Velesus, one or other of whom it had been thought the people would elect as their new king; the original Romans being for Proculus, and the Sabines for Velesus. Their speech was very short, supposing that, when they came to tender a kingdom, there needed little to persuade to an acceptance; but, contrary to their expectations, they found that they had to use many reasons and entreaties to induce one, that lived in peace and quietness, to accept the government of a city whose foundation and increase had been made, in a manner, in war. In presence of his father and his kinsman Marcius he returned answer that “Every alteration of a man’s life is dangerous to him; but madness only could induce one who needs nothing, and is satisfied with everything, to quit a life he is accustomed to; which, whatever else it is deficient in, at any rate has the advantage of certainty over one wholly doubtful and unknown. Though, indeed, the difficulties of this government cannot even be called unknown; Romulus, who first held it, did not escape the suspicion of having plotted against the life of his colleague Tatius; nor the senate the like accusation, of having treasonably murdered Romulus. Yet Romulus had the advantage to be thought divinely born and miraculously preserved and nurtured. My birth was mortal; I was reared and instructed by men that are known to you. The very points of my character that are most commended mark me as unfit to reign, love of retirement and of studies inconsistent with business, a passion that has become inveterate in me for peace, for unwarlike occupations, and for the society of men whose meetings are but those of worship and of kindly intercourse, whose lives in general are spent upon their farms and their pastures. I should but be, methinks, a laughingstock, while I should go about to inculcate the worship of the gods and give lessons in the love of justice and the abhorrence of violence and war, to a city whose needs are rather for a captain than for a king.”

*****

When Numa had…won the favour and affection of the people, he set himself without delay to the task of bringing the hard and iron Roman temper to somewhat more of gentleness and equity. Plato’s expression of a city in high fever was never more applicable than to Rome at that time; in its origin formed by daring and warlike spirits, whom bold and desperate adventure brought thither from every quarter, it had found in perpetual wars and incursions on its neighbours its after sustenance and means of growth, and in conflict with danger the source of new strength; like piles, which the blows of the hammer serve to fix into the ground. Wherefore Numa, judging it no slight undertaking to mollify and bend to peace the presumptuous and stubborn spirits of this people, began to operate upon them with the sanctions of religion. He sacrificed often and used processions and religious dances, in which most commonly he officiated in person; by such combinations of solemnity with refined and humanizing pleasures, seeking to win over and mitigate their fiery and warlike tempers…

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Interview: Inversion of Humanitarian War

http://www.radio4all.net/index.php/program/52733

CKUW News
June 9, 2011

Inversion of Humanitarian War
Rick Rozoff and Scott Price

Summary: The current wars under the banner of the war on terror have all been justified under the notion of a humanitarian war.

Rick Rozoff goes through in inversion of a humanitarian war and the historical revisioning that goes with it.

Interview at:

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Robert Graves: Recalling the last war, preparing for the next

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Robert Graves: Selections on war

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Robert Graves

*****

The Next War (1917)

You young friskies who today
Jump and fight in Father’s hay
With bows and arrows and wooden spears,
Playing at Royal Welch Fusiliers,
Happy though these hours you spend,
Have they warned you how games end?
Boys, from the first time you prod
And thrust with spears of curtain-rod,
From the first time you tear and slash
Your long-bows from the garden ash,
Or fit your shaft with a blue jay feather,
Binding the split tops together,
From that same hour by fate you’re bound
As champions of this stony ground,
Loyal and true in everything,
To serve your Army and your King,
Prepared to starve and sweat and die
Under some fierce foreign sky,
If only to keep safe those joys
That belong to British boys,
To keep young Prussians from the soft
Scented hay of father’s loft,
And stop young Slavs from cutting bows
And bendy spears from Welsh hedgerows.
Another War soon gets begun,
A dirtier, a more glorious one;
Then, boys, you’ll have to play, all in;
It’s the cruellest team will win.
So hold your nose against the stink
And never stop too long to think.
Wars don’t change except in name;
The next one must go just the same,
And new foul tricks unguessed before
Will win and justify this War.
Kaisers and Czars will strut the stage
Once more with pomp and greed and rage;
Courtly ministers will stop
At home and fight to the last drop;
By the million men will die
In some new horrible agony;
And children here will thrust and poke,
Shoot and die, and laugh at the joke,
With bows and arrows and wooden spears,
Playing at Royal Welch Fusiliers.

*****

Recalling War
From Collected Poems (1938)

Entrance and exit wounds are silvered clean,
The track aches only when the rain reminds.
The one-legged man forgets his leg of wood,
The one-armed man his jointed wooden arm.
The blinded man sees with his ears and hands
As much or more than once with both his eyes.
Their war was fought these 20 years ago
And now assumes the nature-look of time,
As when the morning traveller turns and views
His wild night-stumbling carved into a hill.

What, then, was war? No mere discord of flags
But an infection of the common sky
That sagged ominously upon the earth
Even when the season was the airiest May.
Down pressed the sky, and we, oppressed, thrust out
Boastful tongue, clenched fist and valiant yard.
Natural infirmities were out of mode,
For Death was young again; patron alone
Of healthy dying, premature fate-spasm.

Fear made fine bed-fellows. Sick with delight
At life’s discovered transitoriness,
Our youth became all-flesh and waived the mind.
Never was such antiqueness of romance,
Such tasty honey oozing from the heart.
And old importances came swimming back –
Wine, meat, log-fires, a roof over the head,
A weapon at the thigh, surgeons at call.
Even there was a use again for God –
A word of rage in lack of meat, wine, fire,
In ache of wounds beyond all surgeoning.

War was return of earth to ugly earth,
War was foundering of sublimities,
Extinction of each happy art and faith
By which the world has still kept head in air,
Protesting logic or protesting love,
Until the unendurable moment struck –
The inward scream, the duty to run mad.

And we recall the merry ways of guns –
Nibbling the walls of factory and church
Like a child, piecrust; felling groves of trees
Like a child, dandelions with a switch.
Machine-guns rattle toy-like from a hill,
Down in a row the brave tin-soldiers fall:
A sight to be recalled in elder days
When learnedly the future we devote
To yet more boastful visions of despair.

Categories: Uncategorized

Harold Pinter: Art, Truth and Politics

June 28, 2011 2 comments

Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Harold Pinter
The Nobel Prize in Literature lecture (2005)
Art, Truth and Politics

In 1958 I wrote the following:

‘There are no hard distinctions between what is real and what is unreal, nor between what is true and what is false. A thing is not necessarily either true or false; it can be both true and false.’

I believe that these assertions still make sense and do still apply to the exploration of reality through art. So as a writer I stand by them but as a citizen I cannot. As a citizen I must ask: What is true? What is false?

Truth in drama is forever elusive. You never quite find it but the search for it is compulsive. The search is clearly what drives the endeavour. The search is your task. More often than not you stumble upon the truth in the dark, colliding with it or just glimpsing an image or a shape which seems to correspond to the truth, often without realising that you have done so. But the real truth is that there never is any such thing as one truth to be found in dramatic art. There are many. These truths challenge each other, recoil from each other, reflect each other, ignore each other, tease each other, are blind to each other. Sometimes you feel you have the truth of a moment in your hand, then it slips through your fingers and is lost.

I have often been asked how my plays come about. I cannot say. Nor can I ever sum up my plays, except to say that this is what happened. That is what they said. That is what they did.

Most of the plays are engendered by a line, a word or an image. The given word is often shortly followed by the image. I shall give two examples of two lines which came right out of the blue into my head, followed by an image, followed by me.

The plays are The Homecoming and Old Times. The first line of The Homecoming is ‘What have you done with the scissors?’ The first line of Old Times is ‘Dark.’

In each case I had no further information.

In the first case someone was obviously looking for a pair of scissors and was demanding their whereabouts of someone else he suspected had probably stolen them. But I somehow knew that the person addressed didn’t give a damn about the scissors or about the questioner either, for that matter.

‘Dark’ I took to be a description of someone’s hair, the hair of a woman, and was the answer to a question. In each case I found myself compelled to pursue the matter. This happened visually, a very slow fade, through shadow into light.

I always start a play by calling the characters A, B and C.

In the play that became The Homecoming I saw a man enter a stark room and ask his question of a younger man sitting on an ugly sofa reading a racing paper. I somehow suspected that A was a father and that B was his son, but I had no proof. This was however confirmed a short time later when B (later to become Lenny) says to A (later to become Max), ‘Dad, do you mind if I change the subject? I want to ask you something. The dinner we had before, what was the name of it? What do you call it? Why don’t you buy a dog? You’re a dog cook. Honest. You think you’re cooking for a lot of dogs.’ So since B calls A ‘Dad’ it seemed to me reasonable to assume that they were father and son. A was also clearly the cook and his cooking did not seem to be held in high regard. Did this mean that there was no mother? I didn’t know. But, as I told myself at the time, our beginnings never know our ends.

‘Dark.’ A large window. Evening sky. A man, A (later to become Deeley), and a woman, B (later to become Kate), sitting with drinks. ‘Fat or thin?’ the man asks. Who are they talking about? But I then see, standing at the window, a woman, C (later to become Anna), in another condition of light, her back to them, her hair dark.

It’s a strange moment, the moment of creating characters who up to that moment have had no existence. What follows is fitful, uncertain, even hallucinatory, although sometimes it can be an unstoppable avalanche. The author’s position is an odd one. In a sense he is not welcomed by the characters. The characters resist him, they are not easy to live with, they are impossible to define. You certainly can’t dictate to them. To a certain extent you play a never-ending game with them, cat and mouse, blind man’s buff, hide and seek. But finally you find that you have people of flesh and blood on your hands, people with will and an individual sensibility of their own, made out of component parts you are unable to change, manipulate or distort.

So language in art remains a highly ambiguous transaction, a quicksand, a trampoline, a frozen pool which might give way under you, the author, at any time.

But as I have said, the search for the truth can never stop. It cannot be adjourned, it cannot be postponed. It has to be faced, right there, on the spot.

Political theatre presents an entirely different set of problems. Sermonising has to be avoided at all cost. Objectivity is essential. The characters must be allowed to breathe their own air. The author cannot confine and constrict them to satisfy his own taste or disposition or prejudice. He must be prepared to approach them from a variety of angles, from a full and uninhibited range of perspectives, take them by surprise, perhaps, occasionally, but nevertheless give them the freedom to go which way they will. This does not always work. And political satire, of course, adheres to none of these precepts, in fact does precisely the opposite, which is its proper function.

In my play The Birthday Party I think I allow a whole range of options to operate in a dense forest of possibility before finally focussing on an act of subjugation.

Mountain Language pretends to no such range of operation. It remains brutal, short and ugly. But the soldiers in the play do get some fun out of it. One sometimes forgets that torturers become easily bored. They need a bit of a laugh to keep their spirits up. This has been confirmed of course by the events at Abu Ghraib in Baghdad. Mountain Language lasts only 20 minutes, but it could go on for hour after hour, on and on and on, the same pattern repeated over and over again, on and on, hour after hour.

Ashes to Ashes, on the other hand, seems to me to be taking place under water. A drowning woman, her hand reaching up through the waves, dropping down out of sight, reaching for others, but finding nobody there, either above or under the water, finding only shadows, reflections, floating; the woman a lost figure in a drowning landscape, a woman unable to escape the doom that seemed to belong only to others.

But as they died, she must die too.

Political language, as used by politicians, does not venture into any of this territory since the majority of politicians, on the evidence available to us, are interested not in truth but in power and in the maintenance of that power. To maintain that power it is essential that people remain in ignorance, that they live in ignorance of the truth, even the truth of their own lives. What surrounds us therefore is a vast tapestry of lies, upon which we feed.

As every single person here knows, the justification for the invasion of Iraq was that Saddam Hussein possessed a highly dangerous body of weapons of mass destruction, some of which could be fired in 45 minutes, bringing about appalling devastation. We were assured that was true. It was not true. We were told that Iraq had a relationship with Al Quaeda and shared responsibility for the atrocity in New York of September 11th 2001. We were assured that this was true. It was not true. We were told that Iraq threatened the security of the world. We were assured it was true. It was not true.

The truth is something entirely different. The truth is to do with how the United States understands its role in the world and how it chooses to embody it.

But before I come back to the present I would like to look at the recent past, by which I mean United States foreign policy since the end of the Second World War. I believe it is obligatory upon us to subject this period to at least some kind of even limited scrutiny, which is all that time will allow here.

Everyone knows what happened in the Soviet Union and throughout Eastern Europe during the post-war period: the systematic brutality, the widespread atrocities, the ruthless suppression of independent thought. All this has been fully documented and verified.

But my contention here is that the US crimes in the same period have only been superficially recorded, let alone documented, let alone acknowledged, let alone recognised as crimes at all. I believe this must be addressed and that the truth has considerable bearing on where the world stands now. Although constrained, to a certain extent, by the existence of the Soviet Union, the United States’ actions throughout the world made it clear that it had concluded it had carte blanche to do what it liked.

Direct invasion of a sovereign state has never in fact been America’s favoured method. In the main, it has preferred what it has described as ‘low intensity conflict’. Low intensity conflict means that thousands of people die but slower than if you dropped a bomb on them in one fell swoop. It means that you infect the heart of the country, that you establish a malignant growth and watch the gangrene bloom. When the populace has been subdued – or beaten to death – the same thing – and your own friends, the military and the great corporations, sit comfortably in power, you go before the camera and say that democracy has prevailed. This was a commonplace in US foreign policy in the years to which I refer.

The tragedy of Nicaragua was a highly significant case. I choose to offer it here as a potent example of America’s view of its role in the world, both then and now.

I was present at a meeting at the US embassy in London in the late 1980s.

The United States Congress was about to decide whether to give more money to the Contras in their campaign against the state of Nicaragua. I was a member of a delegation speaking on behalf of Nicaragua but the most important member of this delegation was a Father John Metcalf. The leader of the US body was Raymond Seitz (then number two to the ambassador, later ambassador himself). Father Metcalf said: ‘Sir, I am in charge of a parish in the north of Nicaragua. My parishioners built a school, a health centre, a cultural centre. We have lived in peace. A few months ago a Contra force attacked the parish. They destroyed everything: the school, the health centre, the cultural centre. They raped nurses and teachers, slaughtered doctors, in the most brutal manner. They behaved like savages. Please demand that the US government withdraw its support from this shocking terrorist activity.’

Raymond Seitz had a very good reputation as a rational, responsible and highly sophisticated man. He was greatly respected in diplomatic circles. He listened, paused and then spoke with some gravity. ‘Father,’ he said, ‘let me tell you something. In war, innocent people always suffer.’ There was a frozen silence. We stared at him. He did not flinch.

Innocent people, indeed, always suffer.

Finally somebody said: ‘But in this case “innocent people” were the victims of a gruesome atrocity subsidised by your government, one among many. If Congress allows the Contras more money further atrocities of this kind will take place. Is this not the case? Is your government not therefore guilty of supporting acts of murder and destruction upon the citizens of a sovereign state?’

Seitz was imperturbable. ‘I don’t agree that the facts as presented support your assertions,’ he said.

As we were leaving the Embassy a US aide told me that he enjoyed my plays. I did not reply.

I should remind you that at the time President Reagan made the following statement: ‘The Contras are the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers.’

The United States supported the brutal Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua for over 40 years. The Nicaraguan people, led by the Sandinistas, overthrew this regime in 1979, a breathtaking popular revolution.

The Sandinistas weren’t perfect. They possessed their fair share of arrogance and their political philosophy contained a number of contradictory elements. But they were intelligent, rational and civilised. They set out to establish a stable, decent, pluralistic society. The death penalty was abolished. Hundreds of thousands of poverty-stricken peasants were brought back from the dead. Over 100,000 families were given title to land. Two thousand schools were built. A quite remarkable literacy campaign reduced illiteracy in the country to less than one seventh. Free education was established and a free health service. Infant mortality was reduced by a third. Polio was eradicated.

The United States denounced these achievements as Marxist/Leninist subversion. In the view of the US government, a dangerous example was being set. If Nicaragua was allowed to establish basic norms of social and economic justice, if it was allowed to raise the standards of health care and education and achieve social unity and national self respect, neighbouring countries would ask the same questions and do the same things. There was of course at the time fierce resistance to the status quo in El Salvador.

I spoke earlier about ‘a tapestry of lies’ which surrounds us. President Reagan commonly described Nicaragua as a ‘totalitarian dungeon’. This was taken generally by the media, and certainly by the British government, as accurate and fair comment. But there was in fact no record of death squads under the Sandinista government. There was no record of torture. There was no record of systematic or official military brutality. No priests were ever murdered in Nicaragua. There were in fact three priests in the government, two Jesuits and a Maryknoll missionary. The totalitarian dungeons were actually next door, in El Salvador and Guatemala. The United States had brought down the democratically elected government of Guatemala in 1954 and it is estimated that over 200,000 people had been victims of successive military dictatorships.

Six of the most distinguished Jesuits in the world were viciously murdered at the Central American University in San Salvador in 1989 by a battalion of the Alcatl regiment trained at Fort Benning, Georgia, USA. That extremely brave man Archbishop Romero was assassinated while saying mass. It is estimated that 75,000 people died. Why were they killed? They were killed because they believed a better life was possible and should be achieved. That belief immediately qualified them as communists. They died because they dared to question the status quo, the endless plateau of poverty, disease, degradation and oppression, which had been their birthright.

The United States finally brought down the Sandinista government. It took some years and considerable resistance but relentless economic persecution and 30,000 dead finally undermined the spirit of the Nicaraguan people. They were exhausted and poverty stricken once again. The casinos moved back into the country. Free health and free education were over. Big business returned with a vengeance. ‘Democracy’ had prevailed.

But this ‘policy’ was by no means restricted to Central America. It was conducted throughout the world. It was never-ending. And it is as if it never happened.

The United States supported and in many cases engendered every right wing military dictatorship in the world after the end of the Second World War. I refer to Indonesia, Greece, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Haiti, Turkey, the Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador, and, of course, Chile. The horror the United States inflicted upon Chile in 1973 can never be purged and can never be forgiven.

Hundreds of thousands of deaths took place throughout these countries. Did they take place? And are they in all cases attributable to US foreign policy? The answer is yes they did take place and they are attributable to American foreign policy. But you wouldn’t know it.

It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.

I put to you that the United States is without doubt the greatest show on the road. Brutal, indifferent, scornful and ruthless it may be but it is also very clever. As a salesman it is out on its own and its most saleable commodity is self love. It’s a winner. Listen to all American presidents on television say the words, ‘the American people’, as in the sentence, ‘I say to the American people it is time to pray and to defend the rights of the American people and I ask the American people to trust their president in the action he is about to take on behalf of the American people.’

It’s a scintillating stratagem. Language is actually employed to keep thought at bay. The words ‘the American people’ provide a truly voluptuous cushion of reassurance. You don’t need to think. Just lie back on the cushion. The cushion may be suffocating your intelligence and your critical faculties but it’s very comfortable. This does not apply of course to the 40 million people living below the poverty line and the 2 million men and women imprisoned in the vast gulag of prisons, which extends across the US.

The United States no longer bothers about low intensity conflict. It no longer sees any point in being reticent or even devious. It puts its cards on the table without fear or favour. It quite simply doesn’t give a damn about the United Nations, international law or critical dissent, which it regards as impotent and irrelevant. It also has its own bleating little lamb tagging behind it on a lead, the pathetic and supine Great Britain.

What has happened to our moral sensibility? Did we ever have any? What do these words mean? Do they refer to a term very rarely employed these days – conscience? A conscience to do not only with our own acts but to do with our shared responsibility in the acts of others? Is all this dead? Look at Guantanamo Bay. Hundreds of people detained without charge for over three years, with no legal representation or due process, technically detained forever. This totally illegitimate structure is maintained in defiance of the Geneva Convention. It is not only tolerated but hardly thought about by what’s called the ‘international community’. This criminal outrage is being committed by a country, which declares itself to be ‘the leader of the free world’. Do we think about the inhabitants of Guantanamo Bay? What does the media say about them? They pop up occasionally – a small item on page six. They have been consigned to a no man’s land from which indeed they may never return. At present many are on hunger strike, being force-fed, including British residents. No niceties in these force-feeding procedures. No sedative or anaesthetic. Just a tube stuck up your nose and into your throat. You vomit blood. This is torture. What has the British Foreign Secretary said about this? Nothing. What has the British Prime Minister said about this? Nothing. Why not? Because the United States has said: to criticise our conduct in Guantanamo Bay constitutes an unfriendly act. You’re either with us or against us. So Blair shuts up.

The invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law. The invasion was an arbitrary military action inspired by a series of lies upon lies and gross manipulation of the media and therefore of the public; an act intended to consolidate American military and economic control of the Middle East masquerading – as a last resort – all other justifications having failed to justify themselves – as liberation. A formidable assertion of military force responsible for the death and mutilation of thousands and thousands of innocent people.

We have brought torture, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, innumerable acts of random murder, misery, degradation and death to the Iraqi people and call it ‘bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East’.

How many people do you have to kill before you qualify to be described as a mass murderer and a war criminal? One hundred thousand? More than enough, I would have thought. Therefore it is just that Bush and Blair be arraigned before the International Criminal Court of Justice. But Bush has been clever. He has not ratified the International Criminal Court of Justice. Therefore if any American soldier or for that matter politician finds himself in the dock Bush has warned that he will send in the marines. But Tony Blair has ratified the Court and is therefore available for prosecution. We can let the Court have his address if they’re interested. It is Number 10, Downing Street, London.

Death in this context is irrelevant. Both Bush and Blair place death well away on the back burner. At least 100,000 Iraqis were killed by American bombs and missiles before the Iraq insurgency began. These people are of no moment. Their deaths don’t exist. They are blank. They are not even recorded as being dead. ‘We don’t do body counts,’ said the American general Tommy Franks.

Early in the invasion there was a photograph published on the front page of British newspapers of Tony Blair kissing the cheek of a little Iraqi boy. ‘A grateful child,’ said the caption. A few days later there was a story and photograph, on an inside page, of another four-year-old boy with no arms. His family had been blown up by a missile. He was the only survivor. ‘When do I get my arms back?’ he asked. The story was dropped. Well, Tony Blair wasn’t holding him in his arms, nor the body of any other mutilated child, nor the body of any bloody corpse. Blood is dirty. It dirties your shirt and tie when you’re making a sincere speech on television.

The 2,000 American dead are an embarrassment. They are transported to their graves in the dark. Funerals are unobtrusive, out of harm’s way. The mutilated rot in their beds, some for the rest of their lives. So the dead and the mutilated both rot, in different kinds of graves.

Here is an extract from a poem by Pablo Neruda, ‘I’m Explaining a Few Things’:

And one morning all that was burning,
one morning the bonfires
leapt out of the earth
devouring human beings
and from then on fire,
gunpowder from then on,
and from then on blood.
Bandits with planes and Moors,
bandits with finger-rings and duchesses,
bandits with black friars spattering blessings
came through the sky to kill children
and the blood of children ran through the streets
without fuss, like children’s blood.

Jackals that the jackals would despise
stones that the dry thistle would bite on and spit out,
vipers that the vipers would abominate.

Face to face with you I have seen the blood
of Spain tower like a tide
to drown you in one wave
of pride and knives.

Treacherous
generals:
see my dead house,
look at broken Spain:
from every house burning metal flows
instead of flowers
from every socket of Spain
Spain emerges
and from every dead child a rifle with eyes
and from every crime bullets are born
which will one day find
the bull’s eye of your hearts.

And you will ask: why doesn’t his poetry
speak of dreams and leaves
and the great volcanoes of his native land.

Come and see the blood in the streets.
Come and see
the blood in the streets.
Come and see the blood
in the streets!*

Let me make it quite clear that in quoting from Neruda’s poem I am in no way comparing Republican Spain to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. I quote Neruda because nowhere in contemporary poetry have I read such a powerful visceral description of the bombing of civilians.

I have said earlier that the United States is now totally frank about putting its cards on the table. That is the case. Its official declared policy is now defined as ‘full spectrum dominance’. That is not my term, it is theirs. ‘Full spectrum dominance’ means control of land, sea, air and space and all attendant resources.

The United States now occupies 702 military installations throughout the world in 132 countries, with the honourable exception of Sweden, of course. We don’t quite know how they got there but they are there all right.

The United States possesses 8,000 active and operational nuclear warheads. Two thousand are on hair trigger alert, ready to be launched with 15 minutes warning. It is developing new systems of nuclear force, known as bunker busters. The British, ever cooperative, are intending to replace their own nuclear missile, Trident. Who, I wonder, are they aiming at? Osama bin Laden? You? Me? Joe Dokes? China? Paris? Who knows? What we do know is that this infantile insanity – the possession and threatened use of nuclear weapons – is at the heart of present American political philosophy. We must remind ourselves that the United States is on a permanent military footing and shows no sign of relaxing it.

Many thousands, if not millions, of people in the United States itself are demonstrably sickened, shamed and angered by their government’s actions, but as things stand they are not a coherent political force – yet. But the anxiety, uncertainty and fear which we can see growing daily in the United States is unlikely to diminish.

I know that President Bush has many extremely competent speech writers but I would like to volunteer for the job myself. I propose the following short address which he can make on television to the nation. I see him grave, hair carefully combed, serious, winning, sincere, often beguiling, sometimes employing a wry smile, curiously attractive, a man’s man.

‘God is good. God is great. God is good. My God is good. Bin Laden’s God is bad. His is a bad God. Saddam’s God was bad, except he didn’t have one. He was a barbarian. We are not barbarians. We don’t chop people’s heads off. We believe in freedom. So does God. I am not a barbarian. I am the democratically elected leader of a freedom-loving democracy. We are a compassionate society. We give compassionate electrocution and compassionate lethal injection. We are a great nation. I am not a dictator. He is. I am not a barbarian. He is. And he is. They all are. I possess moral authority. You see this fist? This is my moral authority. And don’t you forget it.’

A writer’s life is a highly vulnerable, almost naked activity. We don’t have to weep about that. The writer makes his choice and is stuck with it. But it is true to say that you are open to all the winds, some of them icy indeed. You are out on your own, out on a limb. You find no shelter, no protection – unless you lie – in which case of course you have constructed your own protection and, it could be argued, become a politician.

I have referred to death quite a few times this evening. I shall now quote a poem of my own called ‘Death’.

Where was the dead body found?
Who found the dead body?
Was the dead body dead when found?
How was the dead body found?

Who was the dead body?

Who was the father or daughter or brother
Or uncle or sister or mother or son
Of the dead and abandoned body?

Was the body dead when abandoned?
Was the body abandoned?
By whom had it been abandoned?

Was the dead body naked or dressed for a journey?

What made you declare the dead body dead?
Did you declare the dead body dead?
How well did you know the dead body?
How did you know the dead body was dead?

Did you wash the dead body
Did you close both its eyes
Did you bury the body
Did you leave it abandoned
Did you kiss the dead body

When we look into a mirror we think the image that confronts us is accurate. But move a millimetre and the image changes. We are actually looking at a never-ending range of reflections. But sometimes a writer has to smash the mirror – for it is on the other side of that mirror that the truth stares at us.

I believe that despite the enormous odds which exist, unflinching, unswerving, fierce intellectual determination, as citizens, to define the real truth of our lives and our societies is a crucial obligation which devolves upon us all. It is in fact mandatory.

If such a determination is not embodied in our political vision we have no hope of restoring what is so nearly lost to us – the dignity of man.

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Herodotus: No one is fool enough to choose war instead of peace

June 26, 2011 1 comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

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Herodotus
From The Histories
Translated by Aubrey de Sélincourt

“Tell me Croesus, who was it who persuaded you to March against my country and be my enemy rather than my friend?”

“My lord,” Croesus replied, “the luck was yours when I did it, and the loss was mine. The god of the Greeks encouraged me to fight you: the blame is his. No one is fool enough to choose war instead of peace – in peace sons bury fathers, but in war fathers bury sons…”

****

“You know, my lord, that amongst living creatures it is the great ones that God smites with his thunder, out of envy of their pride. It is always the great buildings and the tall trees which are struck by lightning…”

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“There is danger in insatiable desire, and I could not but remember the fate of Cyrus’ campaign against the Massagetae and Cambyses’ invasion of Ethiopia. Yes, and did I not march with Darius, too, against the Scythians? My memory of those disasters forced me to believe that the world would call you happy only if you lived in peace…”

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Thucydides: Admonitions against war

June 25, 2011 4 comments

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

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Thucydides
From The Peloponnesian War
Translated by Richard Crawley

“Take time…in forming your resolution, as the matter is of great importance; and do not be persuaded by the opinions and complaints of others to bring trouble on yourselves, but consider the vast influence of accident in war, before you are engaged in it. As it continues, it generally becomes an affair of chances, chances from which neither of us is exempt, and whose event we must risk in the dark. It is a common mistake in going to war to begin at the wrong end, to act first, and wait for disaster to discuss the matter…

“I have not lived so long…without having had the experience of many wars, and I see those among you of the same age as myself who will not fall into the common misfortune of longing for war from inexperience or from belief in its advantage and its safety…”

“…To conceive extravagant pretensions from success in war is to forget how hollow is the confidence by which you are elated. For if many ill-conceived plans have succeeded through the still greater fatuity of an opponent, many more, apparently well laid, have on the contrary ended in disgrace…”

In peace and prosperity states and individuals have better sentiments, because they do not find themselves suddenly confronted with imperious necessities; but war takes away the easy supply of daily wants, and so proves a rough master, that brings most men’s character to a level with their fortunes…Words had to change their ordinary meaning and to take that which was now given them. Reckless audacity came to be considered the courage of a loyal ally; prudent hesitation, specious cowardice; moderation was held to be a cloak for unmanliness; ability to see all sides of a question inaptness to act on any. Frantic violence became the attribute of manliness; cautious plotting, a justifiable means of self-defence. The advocate of extreme measures was always trustworthy; his opponent a man to be suspected.

“[If] great enmities are ever to be settled, we think it will be, not by the system of revenge and military success, and by forcing an opponent to swear to a treaty to his disadvantage, but [by according] peace on more moderate conditions than he expected. From that moment, instead of the debt of revenge which violence must entail, [the] adversary owes a debt of generosity to be paid in kind, and is inclined by honour to stand to his agreement…”

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Theodore Dreiser and Smedley Butler: War is a Racket

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

Theodore Dreiser: If he went he might be shot, and what would his noble emotion amount to then? He would rather make money, regulate current political, social and financial affairs

Theodore Dreiser: The logic of military victory, an apologue

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Theodore Dreiser
From War is a Racket
(Undated manuscript)

[O]ur last and greatest war that was fought between 1914 and 1918 was nothing more than the outgrowth and the outcome of all the lunatic and base and petty vanities and jealousies and vainglories that have bestridden and tortured the world since history began. And more, it proved, and how clearly, how futile has been all the time and energy and invention and enthusiasm devoted to this wasteful and murderous pursuit of power and acclaim.

For now, and at long last, as you can read in any daily paper, our leading war powers – Japan, England, France, Italy, and even America – startled by the steady and terrific progress of their own machinery for fighting and what it means to them, as well as their enemies in their chase after power and dominance, are at last seeing and admitting that by their own plans and schemes to destroy each other, they have come to the place where they are as likely to destroy themselves as their enemies.

Indeed, the last war proved that well enough – only, suffering from the old war germ, they have gone on putting their faith in airplanes and submarines and the death ray and the gas bomb, only to find that now, with the airplane and the submarine to convey all of these things at three hundred miles an hour, they cannot really protect themselves, particularly while they are so busy seeking to destroy their enemies. They cannot protect their cities or their people. France cannot protect Paris or Lyon. England cannot protect London or Liverpool. The United States knows that New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, indeed any city you choose to name, cannot protect itself against the airplane, and that in hours, not in days, these will be in ashes…

[T]hat fact alone should establish my contention that war, predatory war as such, created and backed as it is by our present day insane and brutal rivalry for individual wealth and power, has run its course and if the world is to be saved, progress preserved, and man permitted to straighten out his life and make it something less than the hell it now is, war will have to be eliminated and the business of progress turned over to the people – the temperaments that have always done the most for it.

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Major General Smedley Butler
United States Marine Corps, Retired
War is a Racket (1935)

Chapter One

War is a racket. It always has been.

It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.

A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small “inside” group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.

In the World War a mere handful garnered the profits of the conflict. At least 21,000 new millionaires and billionaires were made in the United States during the World War. That many admitted their huge blood gains in their income tax returns. How many other war millionaires falsified their tax returns no one knows.

How many of these war millionaires shouldered a rifle? How many of them dug a trench? How many of them knew what it meant to go hungry in a rat-infested dug-out? How many of them spent sleepless, frightened nights, ducking shells and shrapnel and machine gun bullets? How many of them parried a bayonet thrust of an enemy? How many of them were wounded or killed in battle?

Out of war nations acquire additional territory, if they are victorious. They just take it. This newly acquired territory promptly is exploited by the few – the selfsame few who wrung dollars out of blood in the war. The general public shoulders the bill.

And what is this bill?

This bill renders a horrible accounting. Newly placed gravestones. Mangled bodies. Shattered minds. Broken hearts and homes. Economic instability. Depression and all its attendant miseries. Back-breaking taxation for generations and generations.

For a great many years, as a soldier, I had a suspicion that war was a racket; not until I retired to civil life did I fully realize it. Now that I see the international war clouds gathering, as they are today, I must face it and speak out.

Again they are choosing sides. France and Russia met and agreed to stand side by side. Italy and Austria hurried to make a similar agreement. Poland and Germany cast sheep’s eyes at each other, forgetting for the nonce [one unique occasion], their dispute over the Polish Corridor.

The assassination of King Alexander of Jugoslavia complicated matters. Jugoslavia and Hungary, long bitter enemies, were almost at each other’s throats. Italy was ready to jump in. But France was waiting. So was Czechoslovakia. All of them are looking ahead to war. Not the people – not those who fight and pay and die – only those who foment wars and remain safely at home to profit.

There are 40,000,000 men under arms in the world today, and our statesmen and diplomats have the temerity to say that war is not in the making.

Hell’s bells! Are these 40,000,000 men being trained to be dancers?

Not in Italy, to be sure. Premier Mussolini knows what they are being trained for. He, at least, is frank enough to speak out. Only the other day, Il Duce in “International Conciliation,” the publication of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said:

“And above all, Fascism, the more it considers and observes the future and the development of humanity quite apart from political considerations of the moment, believes neither in the possibility nor the utility of perpetual peace…War alone brings up to its highest tension all human energy and puts the stamp of nobility upon the people who have the courage to meet it.”

Undoubtedly Mussolini means exactly what he says. His well-trained army, his great fleet of planes, and even his navy are ready for war – anxious for it, apparently. His recent stand at the side of Hungary in the latter’s dispute with Jugoslavia showed that. And the hurried mobilization of his troops on the Austrian border after the assassination of Dollfuss showed it too. There are others in Europe too whose sabre rattling presages war, sooner or later.

Herr Hitler, with his rearming Germany and his constant demands for more and more arms, is an equal if not greater menace to peace. France only recently increased the term of military service for its youth from a year to eighteen months.

Yes, all over, nations are camping in their arms. The mad dogs of Europe are on the loose. In the Orient the maneuvering is more adroit. Back in 1904, when Russia and Japan fought, we kicked out our old friends the Russians and backed Japan. Then our very generous international bankers were financing Japan. Now the trend is to poison us against the Japanese. What does the “open door” policy to China mean to us? Our trade with China is about $90,000,000 a year. Or the Philippine Islands? We have spent about $600,000,000 in the Philippines in thirty-five years and we (our bankers and industrialists and speculators) have private investments there of less than $200,000,000.

Then, to save that China trade of about $90,000,000, or to protect these private investments of less than $200,000,000 in the Philippines, we would be all stirred up to hate Japan and go to war – a war that might well cost us tens of billions of dollars, hundreds of thousands of lives of Americans, and many more hundreds of thousands of physically maimed and mentally unbalanced men.

Of course, for this loss, there would be a compensating profit – fortunes would be made. Millions and billions of dollars would be piled up. By a few. Munitions makers. Bankers. Ship builders. Manufacturers. Meat packers. Speculators. They would fare well.

Yes, they are getting ready for another war. Why shouldn’t they? It pays high dividends.

But what does it profit the men who are killed? What does it profit their mothers and sisters, their wives and their sweethearts? What does it profit their children?

What does it profit anyone except the very few to whom war means huge profits?

Yes, and what does it profit the nation?

Take our own case. Until 1898 we didn’t own a bit of territory outside the mainland of North America. At that time our national debt was a little more than $1,000,000,000. Then we became “internationally minded.” We forgot, or shunted aside, the advice of the Father of our country. We forgot George Washington’s warning about “entangling alliances.” We went to war. We acquired outside territory. At the end of the World War period, as a direct result of our fiddling in international affairs, our national debt had jumped to over $25,000,000,000. Our total favorable trade balance during the twenty-five-year period was about $24,000,000,000. Therefore, on a purely bookkeeping basis, we ran a little behind year for year, and that foreign trade might well have been ours without the wars.

It would have been far cheaper (not to say safer) for the average American who pays the bills to stay out of foreign entanglements. For a very few this racket, like bootlegging and other underworld rackets, brings fancy profits, but the cost of operations is always transferred to the people – who do not profit.

Chapter Two

WHO MAKES THE PROFITS?

The World War, rather our brief participation in it, has cost the United States some $52,000,000,000. Figure it out. That means $400 to every American man, woman, and child. And we haven’t paid the debt yet. We are paying it, our children will pay it, and our children’s children probably still will be paying the cost of that war.

The normal profits of a business concern in the United States are six, eight, ten, and sometimes twelve percent. But war-time profits – ah! that is another matter – twenty, sixty, one hundred, three hundred, and even eighteen hundred per cent – the sky is the limit. All that traffic will bear. Uncle Sam has the money. Let’s get it.

Of course, it isn’t put that crudely in war time. It is dressed into speeches about patriotism, love of country, and “we must all put our shoulders to the wheel,” but the profits jump and leap and skyrocket – and are safely pocketed. Let’s just take a few examples:

Take our friends the du Ponts, the powder people – didn’t one of them testify before a Senate committee recently that their powder won the war? Or saved the world for democracy? Or something? How did they do in the war? They were a patriotic corporation. Well, the average earnings of the du Ponts for the period 1910 to 1914 were $6,000,000 a year. It wasn’t much, but the du Ponts managed to get along on it. Now let’s look at their average yearly profit during the war years, 1914 to 1918. Fifty-eight million dollars a year profit we find! Nearly ten times that of normal times, and the profits of normal times were pretty good. An increase in profits of more than 950 per cent.

Take one of our little steel companies that patriotically shunted aside the making of rails and girders and bridges to manufacture war materials. Well, their 1910-1914 yearly earnings averaged $6,000,000. Then came the war. And, like loyal citizens, Bethlehem Steel promptly turned to munitions making. Did their profits jump – or did they let Uncle Sam in for a bargain? Well, their 1914-1918 average was $49,000,000 a year!

Or, let’s take United States Steel. The normal earnings during the five-year period prior to the war were $105,000,000 a year. Not bad. Then along came the war and up went the profits. The average yearly profit for the period 1914-1918 was $240,000,000. Not bad.

There you have some of the steel and powder earnings. Let’s look at something else. A little copper, perhaps. That always does well in war times.

Anaconda, for instance. Average yearly earnings during the pre-war years 1910-1914 of $10,000,000. During the war years 1914-1918 profits leaped to $34,000,000 per year.

Or Utah Copper. Average of $5,000,000 per year during the 1910-1914 period. Jumped to an average of $21,000,000 yearly profits for the war period.

Let’s group these five, with three smaller companies. The total yearly average profits of the pre-war period 1910-1914 were $137,480,000. Then along came the war. The average yearly profits for this group skyrocketed to $408,300,000.

A little increase in profits of approximately 200 per cent.

Does war pay? It paid them. But they aren’t the only ones. There are still others. Let’s take leather.

For the three-year period before the war the total profits of Central Leather Company were $3,500,000. That was approximately $1,167,000 a year. Well, in 1916 Central Leather returned a profit of $15,000,000, a small increase of 1,100 per cent. That’s all. The General Chemical Company averaged a profit for the three years before the war of a little over $800,000 a year. Came the war, and the profits jumped to $12,000,000. a leap of 1,400 per cent.

International Nickel Company – and you can’t have a war without nickel – showed an increase in profits from a mere average of $4,000,000 a year to $73,000,000 yearly. Not bad? An increase of more than 1,700 per cent.

American Sugar Refining Company averaged $2,000,000 a year for the three years before the war. In 1916 a profit of $6,000,000 was recorded.

Listen to Senate Document No. 259. The Sixty-Fifth Congress, reporting on corporate earnings and government revenues. Considering the profits of 122 meat packers, 153 cotton manufacturers, 299 garment makers, 49 steel plants, and 340 coal producers during the war. Profits under 25 per cent were exceptional. For instance the coal companies made between 100 per cent and 7,856 per cent on their capital stock during the war. The Chicago packers doubled and tripled their earnings.

And let us not forget the bankers who financed the great war. If anyone had the cream of the profits it was the bankers. Being partnerships rather than incorporated organizations, they do not have to report to stockholders. And their profits were as secret as they were immense. How the bankers made their millions and their billions I do not know, because those little secrets never become public – even before a Senate investigatory body.

But here’s how some of the other patriotic industrialists and speculators chiseled their way into war profits.

Take the shoe people. They like war. It brings business with abnormal profits. They made huge profits on sales abroad to our allies. Perhaps, like the munitions manufacturers and armament makers, they also sold to the enemy. For a dollar is a dollar whether it comes from Germany or from France. But they did well by Uncle Sam too. For instance, they sold Uncle Sam 35,000,000 pairs of hobnailed service shoes. There were 4,000,000 soldiers. Eight pairs, and more, to a soldier. My regiment during the war had only one pair to a soldier. Some of these shoes probably are still in existence. They were good shoes. But when the war was over Uncle Sam has a matter of 25,000,000 pairs left over. Bought – and paid for. Profits recorded and pocketed.

There was still lots of leather left. So the leather people sold your Uncle Sam hundreds of thousands of McClellan saddles for the cavalry. But there wasn’t any American cavalry overseas! Somebody had to get rid of this leather, however. Somebody had to make a profit in it – so we had a lot of McClellan saddles. And we probably have those yet.

Also somebody had a lot of mosquito netting. They sold your Uncle Sam 20,000,000 mosquito nets for the use of the soldiers overseas. I suppose the boys were expected to put it over them as they tried to sleep in muddy trenches – one hand scratching cooties on their backs and the other making passes at scurrying rats. Well, not one of these mosquito nets ever got to France!

Anyhow, these thoughtful manufacturers wanted to make sure that no soldier would be without his mosquito net, so 40,000,000 additional yards of mosquito netting were sold to Uncle Sam.

There were pretty good profits in mosquito netting in those days, even if there were no mosquitoes in France. I suppose, if the war had lasted just a little longer, the enterprising mosquito netting manufacturers would have sold your Uncle Sam a couple of consignments of mosquitoes to plant in France so that more mosquito netting would be in order.

Airplane and engine manufacturers felt they, too, should get their just profits out of this war. Why not? Everybody else was getting theirs. So $1,000,000,000 – count them if you live long enough – was spent by Uncle Sam in building airplane engines that never left the ground! Not one plane, or motor, out of the billion dollars worth ordered, ever got into a battle in France. Just the same the manufacturers made their little profit of 30, 100, or perhaps 300 per cent.

Undershirts for soldiers cost 14¢ to make and uncle Sam paid 30¢ to 40¢ each for them – a nice little profit for the undershirt manufacturer. And the stocking manufacturer and the uniform manufacturers and the cap manufacturers and the steel helmet manufacturers – all got theirs.

Why, when the war was over some 4,000,000 sets of equipment – knapsacks and the things that go to fill them – crammed warehouses on this side. Now they are being scrapped because the regulations have changed the contents. But the manufacturers collected their wartime profits on them – and they will do it all over again the next time.

There were lots of brilliant ideas for profit making during the war.

One very versatile patriot sold Uncle Sam twelve dozen 48-inch wrenches. Oh, they were very nice wrenches. The only trouble was that there was only one nut ever made that was large enough for these wrenches. That is the one that holds the turbines at Niagara Falls. Well, after Uncle Sam had bought them and the manufacturer had pocketed the profit, the wrenches were put on freight cars and shunted all around the United States in an effort to find a use for them. When the Armistice was signed it was indeed a sad blow to the wrench manufacturer. He was just about to make some nuts to fit the wrenches. Then he planned to sell these, too, to your Uncle Sam.

Still another had the brilliant idea that colonels shouldn’t ride in automobiles, nor should they even ride on horseback. One has probably seen a picture of Andy Jackson riding in a buckboard. Well, some 6,000 buckboards were sold to Uncle Sam for the use of colonels! Not one of them was used. But the buckboard manufacturer got his war profit.

The shipbuilders felt they should come in on some of it, too. They built a lot of ships that made a lot of profit. More than $3,000,000,000 worth. Some of the ships were all right. But $635,000,000 worth of them were made of wood and wouldn’t float! The seams opened up – and they sank. We paid for them, though. And somebody pocketed the profits.

It has been estimated by statisticians and economists and researchers that the war cost your Uncle Sam $52,000,000,000. Of this sum, $39,000,000,000 was expended in the actual war itself. This expenditure yielded $16,000,000,000 in profits. That is how the 21,000 billionaires and millionaires got that way. This $16,000,000,000 profits is not to be sneezed at. It is quite a tidy sum. And it went to a very few.

The Senate (Nye) committee probe of the munitions industry and its wartime profits, despite its sensational disclosures, hardly has scratched the surface.

Even so, it has had some effect. The State Department has been studying “for some time” methods of keeping out of war. The War Department suddenly decides it has a wonderful plan to spring. The Administration names a committee – with the War and Navy Departments ably represented under the chairmanship of a Wall Street speculator – to limit profits in war time. To what extent isn’t suggested. Hmmm. Possibly the profits of 300 and 600 and 1,600 per cent of those who turned blood into gold in the World War would be limited to some smaller figure.

Apparently, however, the plan does not call for any limitation of losses – that is, the losses of those who fight the war. As far as I have been able to ascertain there is nothing in the scheme to limit a soldier to the loss of but one eye, or one arm, or to limit his wounds to one or two or three. Or to limit the loss of life.

There is nothing in this scheme, apparently, that says not more than 12 per cent of a regiment shall be wounded in battle, or that not more than 7 per cent in a division shall be killed.

Of course, the committee cannot be bothered with such trifling matters.

Chapter Three

WHO PAYS THE BILLS?

Who provides the profits – these nice little profits of 20, 100, 300, 1,500 and 1,800 per cent? We all pay them – in taxation. We paid the bankers their profits when we bought Liberty Bonds at $100.00 and sold them back at $84 or $86 to the bankers. These bankers collected $100 plus. It was a simple manipulation. The bankers control the security marts. It was easy for them to depress the price of these bonds. Then all of us – the people – got frightened and sold the bonds at $84 or $86. The bankers bought them. Then these same bankers stimulated a boom and government bonds went to par – and above. Then the bankers collected their profits.

But the soldier pays the biggest part of the bill.

If you don’t believe this, visit the American cemeteries on the battlefields abroad. Or visit any of the veteran’s hospitals in the United States. On a tour of the country, in the midst of which I am at the time of this writing, I have visited eighteen government hospitals for veterans. In them are a total of about 50,000 destroyed men – men who were the pick of the nation eighteen years ago. The very able chief surgeon at the government hospital; at Milwaukee, where there are 3,800 of the living dead, told me that mortality among veterans is three times as great as among those who stayed at home.

Boys with a normal viewpoint were taken out of the fields and offices and factories and classrooms and put into the ranks. There they were remolded; they were made over; they were made to “about face”; to regard murder as the order of the day. They were put shoulder to shoulder and, through mass psychology, they were entirely changed. We used them for a couple of years and trained them to think nothing at all of killing or of being killed.

Then, suddenly, we discharged them and told them to make another “about face” ! This time they had to do their own readjustment, sans [without] mass psychology, sans officers’ aid and advice and sans nation-wide propaganda. We didn’t need them any more. So we scattered them about without any “three-minute” or “Liberty Loan” speeches or parades. Many, too many, of these fine young boys are eventually destroyed, mentally, because they could not make that final “about face” alone.

In the government hospital in Marion, Indiana, 1,800 of these boys are in pens! Five hundred of them in a barracks with steel bars and wires all around outside the buildings and on the porches. These already have been mentally destroyed. These boys don’t even look like human beings. Oh, the looks on their faces! Physically, they are in good shape; mentally, they are gone.

There are thousands and thousands of these cases, and more and more are coming in all the time. The tremendous excitement of the war, the sudden cutting off of that excitement – the young boys couldn’t stand it.

That’s a part of the bill. So much for the dead – they have paid their part of the war profits. So much for the mentally and physically wounded – they are paying now their share of the war profits. But the others paid, too – they paid with heartbreaks when they tore themselves away from their firesides and their families to don the uniform of Uncle Sam – on which a profit had been made. They paid another part in the training camps where they were regimented and drilled while others took their jobs and their places in the lives of their communities. The paid for it in the trenches where they shot and were shot; where they were hungry for days at a time; where they slept in the mud and the cold and in the rain – with the moans and shrieks of the dying for a horrible lullaby.

But don’t forget – the soldier paid part of the dollars and cents bill too.

Up to and including the Spanish-American War, we had a prize system, and soldiers and sailors fought for money. During the Civil War they were paid bonuses, in many instances, before they went into service. The government, or states, paid as high as $1,200 for an enlistment. In the Spanish-American War they gave prize money. When we captured any vessels, the soldiers all got their share – at least, they were supposed to. Then it was found that we could reduce the cost of wars by taking all the prize money and keeping it, but conscripting [drafting] the soldier anyway. Then soldiers couldn’t bargain for their labor, Everyone else could bargain, but the soldier couldn’t.

Napoleon once said,

“All men are enamored of decorations…they positively hunger for them.”

So by developing the Napoleonic system – the medal business – the government learned it could get soldiers for less money, because the boys liked to be decorated. Until the Civil War there were no medals. Then the Congressional Medal of Honor was handed out. It made enlistments easier. After the Civil War no new medals were issued until the Spanish-American War.

In the World War, we used propaganda to make the boys accept conscription. They were made to feel ashamed if they didn’t join the army.

So vicious was this war propaganda that even God was brought into it. With few exceptions our clergymen joined in the clamor to kill, kill, kill. To kill the Germans. God is on our side…it is His will that the Germans be killed.

And in Germany, the good pastors called upon the Germans to kill the allies…to please the same God. That was a part of the general propaganda, built up to make people war conscious and murder conscious.

Beautiful ideals were painted for our boys who were sent out to die. This was the “war to end all wars.” This was the “war to make the world safe for democracy.” No one mentioned to them, as they marched away, that their going and their dying would mean huge war profits. No one told these American soldiers that they might be shot down by bullets made by their own brothers here. No one told them that the ships on which they were going to cross might be torpedoed by submarines built with United States patents. They were just told it was to be a “glorious adventure.”

Thus, having stuffed patriotism down their throats, it was decided to make them help pay for the war, too. So, we gave them the large salary of $30 a month.

All they had to do for this munificent sum was to leave their dear ones behind, give up their jobs, lie in swampy trenches, eat canned willy (when they could get it) and kill and kill and kill…and be killed.

But wait!

Half of that wage (just a little more than a riveter in a shipyard or a laborer in a munitions factory safe at home made in a day) was promptly taken from him to support his dependents, so that they would not become a charge upon his community. Then we made him pay what amounted to accident insurance – something the employer pays for in an enlightened state – and that cost him $6 a month. He had less than $9 a month left.

Then, the most crowning insolence of all – he was virtually blackjacked into paying for his own ammunition, clothing, and food by being made to buy Liberty Bonds. Most soldiers got no money at all on pay days.

We made them buy Liberty Bonds at $100 and then we bought them back – when they came back from the war and couldn’t find work – at $84 and $86. And the soldiers bought about $2,000,000,000 worth of these bonds!

Yes, the soldier pays the greater part of the bill. His family pays too. They pay it in the same heart-break that he does. As he suffers, they suffer. At nights, as he lay in the trenches and watched shrapnel burst about him, they lay home in their beds and tossed sleeplessly – his father, his mother, his wife, his sisters, his brothers, his sons, and his daughters.

When he returned home minus an eye, or minus a leg or with his mind broken, they suffered too – as much as and even sometimes more than he. Yes, and they, too, contributed their dollars to the profits of the munitions makers and bankers and shipbuilders and the manufacturers and the speculators made. They, too, bought Liberty Bonds and contributed to the profit of the bankers after the Armistice in the hocus-pocus of manipulated Liberty Bond prices.

And even now the families of the wounded men and of the mentally broken and those who never were able to readjust themselves are still suffering and still paying.

Chapter Four

HOW TO SMASH THE RACKET!

Well, it’s a racket, all right.

A few profit – and the many pay. But there is a way to stop it. You can’t end it by disarmament conferences. You can’t eliminate it by peace parleys at Geneva. Well-meaning but impractical groups can’t wipe it out by resolutions. It can be smashed effectively only by taking the profit out of war.

The only way to smash this racket is to conscript capital and industry and labor before the nations manhood can be conscripted. One month before the Government can conscript the young men of the nation – it must conscript capital and industry and labor. Let the officers and the directors and the high-powered executives of our armament factories and our munitions makers and our shipbuilders and our airplane builders and the manufacturers of all the other things that provide profit in war time as well as the bankers and the speculators, be conscripted – to get $30 a month, the same wage as the lads in the trenches get.

Let the workers in these plants get the same wages – all the workers, all presidents, all executives, all directors, all managers, all bankers –

yes, and all generals and all admirals and all officers and all politicians and all government office holders – everyone in the nation be restricted to a total monthly income not to exceed that paid to the soldier in the trenches!

Let all these kings and tycoons and masters of business and all those workers in industry and all our senators and governors and majors pay half of their monthly $30 wage to their families and pay war risk insurance and buy Liberty Bonds.

Why shouldn’t they?

They aren’t running any risk of being killed or of having their bodies mangled or their minds shattered. They aren’t sleeping in muddy trenches. They aren’t hungry. The soldiers are!

Give capital and industry and labor thirty days to think it over and you will find, by that time, there will be no war. That will smash the war racket – that and nothing else.

Maybe I am a little too optimistic. Capital still has some say. So capital won’t permit the taking of the profit out of war until the people – those who do the suffering and still pay the price – make up their minds that those they elect to office shall do their bidding, and not that of the profiteers.

Another step necessary in this fight to smash the war racket is the limited plebiscite to determine whether a war should be declared. A plebiscite not of all the voters but merely of those who would be called upon to do the fighting and dying. There wouldn’t be very much sense in having a 76-year-old president of a munitions factory or the flat-footed head of an international banking firm or the cross-eyed manager of a uniform manufacturing plant – all of whom see visions of tremendous profits in the event of war – voting on whether the nation should go to war or not. They never would be called upon to shoulder arms – to sleep in a trench and to be shot. Only those who would be called upon to risk their lives for their country should have the privilege of voting to determine whether the nation should go to war.

There is ample precedent for restricting the voting to those affected. Many of our states have restrictions on those permitted to vote. In most, it is necessary to be able to read and write before you may vote. In some, you must own property. It would be a simple matter each year for the men coming of military age to register in their communities as they did in the draft during the World War and be examined physically. Those who could pass and who would therefore be called upon to bear arms in the event of war would be eligible to vote in a limited plebiscite. They should be the ones to have the power to decide – and not a Congress few of whose members are within the age limit and fewer still of whom are in physical condition to bear arms. Only those who must suffer should have the right to vote.

A third step in this business of smashing the war racket is to make certain that our military forces are truly forces for defense only.

At each session of Congress the question of further naval appropriations comes up. The swivel-chair admirals of Washington (and there are always a lot of them) are very adroit lobbyists. And they are smart. They don’t shout that “We need a lot of battleships to war on this nation or that nation.” Oh no. First of all, they let it be known that America is menaced by a great naval power. Almost any day, these admirals will tell you, the great fleet of this supposed enemy will strike suddenly and annihilate 125,000,000 people. Just like that. Then they begin to cry for a larger navy. For what? To fight the enemy? Oh my, no. Oh, no. For defense purposes only.

Then, incidentally, they announce maneuvers in the Pacific. For defense. Uh, huh.

The Pacific is a great big ocean. We have a tremendous coastline on the Pacific. Will the maneuvers be off the coast, two or three hundred miles? Oh, no. The maneuvers will be two thousand, yes, perhaps even thirty-five hundred miles, off the coast.

The Japanese, a proud people, of course will be pleased beyond expression to see the United States fleet so close to Nippon’s shores. Even as pleased as would be the residents of California were they to dimly discern through the morning mist, the Japanese fleet playing at war games off Los Angeles.

The ships of our navy, it can be seen, should be specifically limited, by law, to within 200 miles of our coastline. Had that been the law in 1898 the Maine would never have gone to Havana Harbor. She never would have been blown up. There would have been no war with Spain with its attendant loss of life. Two hundred miles is ample, in the opinion of experts, for defense purposes. Our nation cannot start an offensive war if its ships can’t go further than 200 miles from the coastline. Planes might be permitted to go as far as 500 miles from the coast for purposes of reconnaissance. And the army should never leave the territorial limits of our nation.

To summarize: Three steps must be taken to smash the war racket.

We must take the profit out of war.

We must permit the youth of the land who would bear arms to decide whether or not there should be war.

We must limit our military forces to home defense purposes.

Chapter Five

TO HELL WITH WAR!

I am not a fool as to believe that war is a thing of the past. I know the people do not want war, but there is no use in saying we cannot be pushed into another war.

Looking back, Woodrow Wilson was re-elected president in 1916 on a platform that he had “kept us out of war” and on the implied promise that he would “keep us out of war.” Yet, five months later he asked Congress to declare war on Germany.

In that five-month interval the people had not been asked whether they had changed their minds. The 4,000,000 young men who put on uniforms and marched or sailed away were not asked whether they wanted to go forth to suffer and die.

Then what caused our government to change its mind so suddenly?

Money.

An allied commission, it may be recalled, came over shortly before the war declaration and called on the President. The President summoned a group of advisers. The head of the commission spoke. Stripped of its diplomatic language, this is what he told the President and his group:

“There is no use kidding ourselves any longer. The cause of the allies is lost. We now owe you (American bankers, American munitions makers, American manufacturers, American speculators, American exporters) five or six billion dollars.

If we lose (and without the help of the United States we must lose) we, England, France and Italy, cannot pay back this money…and Germany won’t. So…

Had secrecy been outlawed as far as war negotiations were concerned, and had the press been invited to be present at that conference, or had radio been available to broadcast the proceedings, America never would have entered the World War. But this conference, like all war discussions, was shrouded in utmost secrecy. When our boys were sent off to war they were told it was a “war to make the world safe for democracy” and a “war to end all wars.”

Well, eighteen years after, the world has less of democracy than it had then. Besides, what business is it of ours whether Russia or Germany or England or France or Italy or Austria live under democracies or monarchies? Whether they are Fascists or Communists? Our problem is to preserve our own democracy.

And very little, if anything, has been accomplished to assure us that the World War was really the war to end all wars.

Yes, we have had disarmament conferences and limitations of arms conferences. They don’t mean a thing. One has just failed; the results of another have been nullified. We send our professional soldiers and our sailors and our politicians and our diplomats to these conferences. And what happens?

The professional soldiers and sailors don’t want to disarm. No admiral wants to be without a ship. No general wants to be without a command. Both mean men without jobs. They are not for disarmament. They cannot be for limitations of arms. And at all these conferences, lurking in the background but all-powerful, just the same, are the sinister agents of those who profit by war. They see to it that these conferences do not disarm or seriously limit armaments.

The chief aim of any power at any of these conferences has not been to achieve disarmament to prevent war but rather to get more armament for itself and less for any potential foe.

There is only one way to disarm with any semblance of practicability. That is for all nations to get together and scrap every ship, every gun, every rifle, every tank, every war plane. Even this, if it were possible, would not be enough.

The next war, according to experts, will be fought not with battleships, not by artillery, not with rifles and not with machine guns. It will be fought with deadly chemicals and gases.

Secretly each nation is studying and perfecting newer and ghastlier means of annihilating its foes wholesale. Yes, ships will continue to be built, for the shipbuilders must make their profits. And guns still will be manufactured and powder and rifles will be made, for the munitions makers must make their huge profits. And the soldiers, of course, must wear uniforms, for the manufacturer must make their war profits too.

But victory or defeat will be determined by the skill and ingenuity of our scientists.

If we put them to work making poison gas and more and more fiendish mechanical and explosive instruments of destruction, they will have no time for the constructive job of building greater prosperity for all peoples. By putting them to this useful job, we can all make more money out of peace than we can out of war – even the munitions makers.

So…I say,

TO HELL WITH WAR!

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La Bruyère on the lust for war

Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Jean de La Bruyère
From Characters (1688)
Of the Sovereign and the State
Translated by Henri Van Laun

Even in the most remote antiquity, and in all ages, war has existed, and has always filled the world with widows and orphans, drained families of heirs, and destroyed several brothers in one and the same battle.

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In every age men have agreed to destroy, burn, kill, and slaughter one another, for some piece of land more or less; and to accomplish this with the greater certainty and ingenuity, they have invented beautiful rules, which they call “strategy.”

When any one brings these rules into practice, glory and the highest honours are his reward, whilst every age improves on the method of destroying one another reciprocally. An injustice committed by the first men was the primary occasion for wars, and made the people feel the necessity of giving themselves masters to settle their rights and pretensions. If each man could have been satisfied with his own property and had not infringed on that of his neighbours, the world would have enjoyed uninterrupted peace and liberty.

They who sit peaceably by their own firesides among their friends, and in the midst of a large town, where there is nothing to fear either for their wealth or their lives, breathe fire and sword, busy themselves with wars, destructions, conflagrations, and massacres, cannot bear patiently that armies are in the field and do not meet; or, if in sight, that they do not engage; or, if they engage, that the fight was not more sanguinary, and that there were scarcely ten thousand men killed on the spot.

They are sometimes so infatuated as to forget their dearest interests, their repose and security, for the sake of change, and from a liking for novelty and extraordinary events; some of them would even be satisfied with seeing the enemy at the very gates of Dijon or Corbie, with beholding chains stretched across the streets and barricades thrown up, for the satisfaction of hearing and of communicating the news.

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Turkish Actions Designed To Trigger NATO Confrontation With Syria?

June 21, 2011 1 comment

Stop NATO
June 21, 2011

Turkish Actions Designed To Trigger NATO Confrontation With Syria?
Rick Rozoff

Last week a feature by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton excoriating the political leadership of Syria appeared in the London-based Arabic-language daily Asharq Al-Awsat. Saudi-supported and printed in twelve locations, it is considered to be among the most influential newspapers in the Arab world.

As such, her comments (in English and Arabic) were intended to signal to Arab readers and the world at large that the American position toward Damascus is becoming more stringent and confrontational, evoking Clinton’s statements toward the leadership of Ivory Coast and Libya earlier in the year.

Her characteristically imperious, contemptuous and inflammatory comments, indeed threats, included:

“In his May 19 speech, President Obama echoed demonstrators’ basic and legitimate demands…President Assad, he said, could either lead that transition or get out of the way.

“It is increasingly clear that President Assad has made his choice.”

“…President Assad is showing his true colors by embracing the repressive tactics of his ally Iran and putting Syria onto the path of a pariah state.

“By following Iran’s lead, President Assad is placing himself and his regime on the wrong side of history…”

“If President Assad believes he can act with impunity because the international community hopes for his cooperation on other issues, he is wrong about this as well. He and his regime are certainly not indispensable.”

The Wall Street Journal reported on June 18 that the Washington administration is preparing a case against Syrian President Bashar Assad and other government officials at the International Criminal Court in the Hague. The same newspaper feature added that “The U.S. is also exploring ways to more directly target Syria’s oil and gas revenue…”

On June 14 four members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, including the military alliance’s three European powerhouses – Britain, France, Germany and Portugal – proposed a draft resolution in the United Nations Security Council aimed at Syria. Three days later in Berlin German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy confirmed their governments would push for a new UN resolution targeting Syria. In Sarkozy’s words: “France, hand in hand with Germany, calls for tougher sanctions against Syrian authorities who are conducting intolerable and unacceptable actions and repression against the population.”

The USS George H.W. Bush nuclear-powered supercarrier and its assigned carrier strike group and carrier air wing – with 9,000 sailors, 70 aircraft and four guided missile destroyers and cruisers – is in the Mediterranean Sea not far from the Syrian coast. One of the destroyers, USS Truxtun, just left the Israeli port city of Haifa after a two-day stopover.

The USS Monterey guided missile cruiser is docked off the Georgian Black Sea city of Batumi currently and will re-enter the Mediterranean soon. Deployed as the first warship assigned to the U.S.-NATO potential first-strike pan-European interceptor missile system, it can launch Tomahawk cruise missiles as well as Standard Missile-3 interceptor missiles.

The guided missile destroyer USS Barry left Gaeta, Italy where nine other U.S. warships have been stationed, on June 17 after a five-day port visit. USS Barry is part of the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group, headed by the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan, used at the beginning of the U.S.-NATO Libyan campaign in March and currently in the Mediterranean.

The Pentagon and its allies – every nation in the Mediterranean is now a NATO member or partner except for Libya, Syria, Cyprus (under renewed and intensified pressure to join the bloc’s Partnership for Peace program) and Lebanon (whose coastline has been blockaded by NATO states’ military vessels since 2006) – have the military hardware in place for a replication of the 95-day war against Libya directed at Syria: Scores of warplanes on carriers and on bases in Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Turkey and guided missile ships ready to launch Tomahawk missiles.

On June 19 Ersat Hurmuzlu, senior adviser to Turkish President Abdullah Gul, told the United Arab Emirates-based Al Arabiya television channel that Syria has less than a week to respond to what Reuters described as “calls for change.” Hurmuzlu’s exact words were:

“The demands in this field will be for a positive response to these issues within a short period that does not exceed a week.

“The opposite of this, it would not be possible to offer any cover for the leadership in Syria because there is the danger …that we had always been afraid of, and that is foreign intervention.”

Although the last sentence can be read as either warning or threat, it is in fact the second. The statement as a whole is an ultimatum.

Since the war against Libya was launched by U.S. Africa Command under the codename Operation Odyssey Dawn to the present NATO-run Operation Unified Protector in place since March 31, air operations have been run from NATO’s Air Command Headquarters for Southern Europe in Izmir, Turkey.

In March Turkey supplied five ships and a submarine for the blockade of Libya’s coast and on March 28 Hurriyet Daily News announced that Turkey was “assuming control of the Benghazi airport, and sending naval forces to patrol the corridor between the rebel-held city and Crete,” quoting Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan:

“Turkey said ‘yes’ to three tasks within NATO: the takeover of Benghazi airport for the delivery of humanitarian aid, the task about control of the air corridor and the involvement of Turkish naval forces in the corridor between Benghazi and Crete.”

In 2003 the U.S. ambassador to NATO at the time, Nicholas Burns, stated in testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:

“NATO needs to pivot from its inward focus on Europe – which was necessary and appropriate during the Cold War – to an outward focus on the arc of countries where most of the threats are today – in Central and South Asia, and in the Middle East.

“NATO’s mandate is still to defend Europe and North America. But we don’t believe we can do that by sitting in Western Europe, or Central Europe, or North America. We have to deploy our conceptual attention and our military forces east and south. NATO’s future, we believe, is east, and is south. It’s in the Greater Middle East.”

Earlier this month Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul announced that Izmir will also be the new home of the Alliance’s Land Force Command, consolidating and transferring ground forces currently stationed in Germany and Spain to the Izmir Air Station.

On June 17 Turkey took over command of Standing NATO Maritime Group-2 which, with Standing NATO Maritime Group-1, is part of the NATO Response Force and centers its activities in the Mediterranean. Each group consists of between 4-8 warships – destroyers and frigates – and since 2005 has expanded its missions through the Suez Canal to the Gulf of Aden and the Somalia coast, circumnavigating the African continent in 2007 and traveling the length of the Atlantic coast of the U.S., then entering the Caribbean Sea the same year, the first time NATO had ever deployed to the Caribbean. The NATO naval groups have also sailed to Africa’s Gulf of Guinea, the Persian Gulf and the Baltic Sea among other locations.

Turkey hosted a conference of Syrian opposition forces called “Change in Syria” from May 1-June 2 in the city of Antalya. Although held under the sponsorship of the Egyptian-based National Organisation of Human Rights, logistics and security were provided by the host country.

Had Syria allowed a gathering of Turkish opposition groups whose express intention was the overthrow of the government in Ankara, one can only imagine the Turkish administration’s reaction.

On June 13 Britain’s The Guardian, since the Balkans crisis began in the early 1990s never slow to fan the flames of moral panic over humanitarian crises, with techniques ranging from hyperbole to hysterics, in order to alarm and neutralize its readership into acquiescence to Western military action (while claiming formally, if not convincingly, that it is not advocating the latter), ran an editorial titled “Syria: Butchery, while the world watches,” which let the cat out of the bag regarding the prospect of U.S. and NATO military intervention in Syria by stating:

“Turkey, a member of Nato, could yet drag the west in, if it decides its own interests require action to defend its borders from the [Syrian] refugees. The world would then pay a high price indeed for having pretended that Assad was somebody else’s problem.”

On June 19 the major Turkish daily newspaper Zaman quoted Veysel Ayhan of the Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies harking back to the rationale for NATO’s first military actions 16 years ago:

“Remember when NATO was accused by the international media and public of not being able to prevent 8,000 Muslim Bosnians from being murdered in front of the world’s eyes? As a member of NATO and a country whose border is about to witness such a massacre by the Syrian army, Turkey will not allow such a thing to happen again, especially before its own eyes.”

Last week Turkey’s President Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu were reported to have toughened demands on Syria in a meeting with President Assad’s special envoy Hasan Turkmani in Ankara, and on January 18 Al Arabiya reported that Ankara had dispatched an envoy to Damascus to demand that Assad’s brother Maher relinquish his command of the Republican Guard and the Fourth Armored Division.

Zaman recently cited what was identified as a pro-government Syrian official saying to the United Arab Emirates-based daily The National:

“The West wants to put the region under Turkish control like in the Ottoman days. Turkey is a NATO member and embodies a safe kind of Islam for the West, so they have done a deal to give everything to Ankara.”

Should a conflict erupt between Turkey and Syria on their border, NATO will be obligated under its Article 5 collective military assistance clause to enter the fray on Turkey’s side. Should NATO intend opening hostilities against Syria, no better pretext could be devised than that scenario.

In February of 2003, on the eve of the U.S. and British invasion of Iraq, in NATO’s words “Turkey requested NATO assistance under Article 4 of the North Atlantic Treaty.”

“NATO’s Integrated Air Defence System in Turkey was put on full alert and augmented with equipment and personnel from other NATO commands and countries.”

Four Alliance Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft were deployed from their base in Germany to the Forward Operating Base in Konya, Turkey. Three Dutch and two American Patriot missile batteries were deployed to the country in March of that year, and “Preparations were made to augment Turkey’s air defence assets with additional aircraft from other NATO countries.”

Article 4 of the 1949 North Atlantic Treaty, NATO’s founding document, states:

“The Parties will consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties is threatened.”

Article 5 says:

“The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.”

If Turkey opens armed hostilities with its neighbor, the conflict will not remain a local one for long.

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Seneca on war: Deeds punished by death when committed by individuals praised when carried out by generals

June 21, 2011 1 comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

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Seneca
Moral Letters to Lucilius (Epistulae Morales ad Lucilium)
From Letter XCV
Translated by Richard M. Gummere

We are mad, not only individually, but nationally. We check manslaughter and isolated murders; but what of war and the much-vaunted crime of slaughtering whole peoples? There are no limits to our greed, none to our cruelty. And as long as such crimes are committed by stealth and by individuals, they are less harmful and less portentous; but cruelties are practised in accordance with acts of senate and popular assembly, and the public is bidden to do that which is forbidden to the individual. Deeds that would be punished by loss of life when committed in secret, are praised by us because uniformed generals have carried them out. Man, naturally the gentlest class of being, is not ashamed to revel in the blood of others, to wage war, and to entrust the waging of war to his sons, when even dumb beasts and wild beasts keep the peace with one another. Against this overmastering and widespread madness philosophy has become a matter of greater effort, and has taken on strength in proportion to the strength which is gained by the opposition forces.

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Das Afrika-Korps der NATO eskaliert den Abnutzungskrieg gegen Libyen

Stop NATO
18. Juni 2011

Das Afrika-Korps der NATO eskaliert den Abnutzungskrieg gegen Libyen
Rick Rozoff
Übersetzt von Luftpost

Der ohne Unterbrechung andauernde, sich ständig verschärfende Luftkrieg des Westens gegen Libyen wird bald in seinen vierten Monat eintreten. Er begann am 19. März als Ope­ration Odyssey Dawn (Odyssee Morgenröte) unter dem Kommando des US-AFRICOM (in Stuttgart) und wird heute als Operation Unified Protector (Vereinigte Beschützer) unter dem Kommando der North Atlantic Treaty Organization / NATO geführt; die Luftangriffe sind die zweitlängste bewaffnete Aggression in der Geschichte der NATO und dauern be­reits eine Woche länger als die 78-tägige Bombardierung Jugoslawiens im Jahr 1999. Nur der bald ein Jahrzehnt währende Krieg in Afghanistan übertrifft die Länge dieser Operati­on.

Das von den USA dominierte Militärbündnis gibt nicht nur zu, sondern prahlt sogar damit, seit dem 31. März fast 11.000 Luftoperationen und mehr als 4.000 Kampfeinsätze durch­geführt zu haben. Vorher hatten die USA, Großbritannien, Frankreich und andere NATO­Staaten (unter US-Kommando) bereits Hunderte von Luftangriffen geflogen und (von Schiffen aus) mehr als 160 Angriffe mit Cruise Missiles (Marschflugkörpern) gestartet.

Gemeinsam den Spuren der Eroberungsfeldzüge folgend, die Frankreich unter Napoleon Bonaparte, das britische Imperium, Italien unter Benito Mussolini und Deutschland unter Adolf Hitler (in Nordafrika) führten, haben die westlichen Nationen den längsten Krieg in neuerer Zeit und die intensivste bewaffnete Aggression aller Zeiten gegen ein afrikani­sches Land angezettelt.

Ende Mai gab ein libyscher Regierungssprecher bekannt, vom 19. März bis zum 26. Mai seien durch die NATO-Luftangriffe schon 718 Zivilisten getötet und 4.067 verletzt worden. In der Zwischenzeit hat das nordatlantische Militärbündnis die Bombardierung der Haupt­stadt und anderer Landesteile Libyens auf ein beispielloses Niveau gesteigert, britische und französische Kampfhubschrauber eingesetzt und lässt von unbemannten Predator­Drohnen Hellfire-Raketen verschießen.

Am 1. Juni erklärte NATO-Generalsekretär Anders Fogh Rasmussen, der Krieg werde um drei Monate bis Ende September verlängert, und eine Woche später teilte er mit, die Ver­teidigungsminister von 28 NATO-Staaten, einschließlich des US-Verteidigungsminsters Robert Gates aus dem Pentagon, hätten bei ihrem Treffen im NATO-Hauptquartier in Bel­gien die Entscheidung gebilligt, die Operation Unified Protector um 90 Tage auszuweiten.

Zusätzlich zum Einsatz französischer Kampfhubschrauber der Typen Gazelle und Tiger und britischer Kampfhubschrauber des Typs Apache, die nach einem Bericht der briti­schen Zeitung DAILY MIRROR “erstmals neuartige Antipersonen-Raketen vom Typ Min­cer (Fleischwolf) mit je 80 fünf Inches (12,7 cm) langen, Flechettes genannten Stahlpfeilen verschießen”, haben die USA ihren Giganten “USS George H. W. Bush” ins Mittelmeer entsandt. Dieser atomar angetriebene Superflugzeugträger wird von einer Kampfgruppe begleitet und soll dem nordafrikanischen Staat mit knapp über sechs Millionen Einwohnern wohl den Todesstoß versetzen.

Die “George H. W. Bush”, die gerade ihren ersten Kriegseinsatz absolviert, wurde kürzlich in einem Bericht der oben zitierten Zeitung über das damals gemeinsam mit den Kriegs­schiffen “HMS Dauntless” und “HMS Gloucester” der Royal Navy durchgeführte Seemanö­ver Saxon Warrior (Sächsischer Krieger) als “stärkstes Kriegsschiffschiff der Welt” be­zeichnet. In dem Bericht hieß es weiter: “Das 97.000-Tonnen-Schiff beherbergt acht Staf­feln mit 70 Kampfjets und eine aus Flugpersonal und Seeleuten bestehende Besatzung von 5.300 Personen.

Als das Schiff am 6. Juni bei der Stadt Cartagena vor der spanischen Mittelmeerküste an­kerte, gab die US-Navy bekannt, “der neueste Flugzeugträger der Nimitz-Klasse besuche zum ersten Mal Europa”.

Die “George H. W. Bush” befindet sich in Begleitung ihrer Kampfgruppe auf dem Weg zum Sitz des Oberkommandierenden der U. S. Navy in Europa und Afrika im Hauptquartier der 6. US-Flotte in Neapel im Süden Italiens; von dort aus können ihre Kampfjets jederzeit Li­byen angreifen.

Die seit 85 Tagen täglich ohne Unterbrechung durchgeführten Bombenangriffe summieren sich zur längsten Bombardierungskampagne seit dem Vietnam-Krieg; obwohl nicht nur jede Nacht, sondern jetzt auch schon fast jeden Tag Rauchwolken (von Bombenexplosio­nen) über Tripolis aufsteigen, hat die Zerstörung von Regierungsgebäuden und militäri­scher und ziviler Infrastruktur gerade erst begonnen.

Die NATO-Mächte – darunter auch Italien, dessen Kolonie Libyen früher einmal war – füh­ren ihren pausenlosen Luftkrieg auch gegen die Zivilbevölkerung weiter, obwohl die liby­sche Regierung die Friedensvorschläge der Afrikanischen Union akzeptiert hat.

Die großzügigste Interpretation des in der Resolution 1973 des UN-Sicherheitsrates einge­räumten Mandats zum Schutz der libyschen Bevölkerung weit überschreitend, versucht die NATO absichtlich und rücksichtslos der libyschen Regierung jede Möglichkeit zu neh­men, die Sicherheit und die Versorgung ihrer Bevölkerung aufrechtzuerhalten; mit ihrem brutalen Vorgehen will die NATO die Libyer so stark unter Druck setzen, dass sie sogar die Aufsplitterung und die Besetzung ihres Landes durch ausländische Trupppen der wei­teren Erduldung des Terrors aus der Luft vorziehen.

Mit Tod und Zerstörung will der Westen Libyen in die Knie und am liebsten zur Kapitulation zwingen, bis es nur noch zum Schein unabhängig ist. Mit Libyen wird versucht, was be­reits mit Jugoslawien, Afghanistan und dem Irak gemacht wurde – und weitere Länder sol­len folgen.

(Wir haben den Artikel komplett übersetzt und mit Ergänzungen in Klammern versehen. Wenn der Bundestag die Ankündigung unseres neuen Verteidigungsmisters de Maizière wahr macht und trotz des Afghanistan-Desasters eine weitere deutsche “Friedenstruppe” nach Libyen entsendet, könnten den Toten auf dem bei Tobruk angelegten Soldaten fried­hof des Deutschen Afrika-Korps aus dem Zweiten Weltkrieg bald neue deutsche Gefallene folgen.)

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La OTAN incorpora la experiencia libia al modelo de guerra global

Stop NATO
20 de junio 2011

La OTAN incorpora la experiencia libia al modelo de guerra global
Rick Rozoff
Traducido del inglés para Rebelión por Germán Leyens

Mientras la guerra de Occidente contra Libia entra a su cuarto mes y la OTAN ha realizado más de 11.000 ataques aéreos, incluidas 4.300 misiones de ataque sobre esa nación, el único bloque militar del mundo ya está integrando en el conflicto las lecciones aprendidas por su modelo internacional de intervención militar basado en anteriores guerras en los Balcanes, Afganistán e Iraq.

Lo que la OTAN llama Operación Protectora Unificada ha suministrado a la Alianza el marco para que pueda seguir reclutando a participantes en la Cooperación por la Paz como Suecia y Malta, los afiliados a la Iniciativa de Cooperación de Estambul como Kuwait y los Emiratos Árabes Unidos y los miembros de la cooperación del Diálogo Mediterráneo Jordania y Marruecos para la red mundial belicista del bloque. Suecia, Jordania y los Emiratos Árabes Unidos también tienen personal militar asignado a la Fuerza Internacional de Ayuda a la Seguridad de la OTAN en la guerra en Afganistán que ya dura casi diez años. En el primer caso, tropas de la nación escandinava han estado involucradas en su primer rol de combate en dos siglos, matando y muriendo en Afganistán, ha suministrado ocho aviones de guerra para el ataque a Libia y pronto se sumarán fuerzas marítimas.

Los conflictos militares librados y otras intervenciones realizadas por EE.UU. y sus aliados de la OTAN durante los últimos doce años –contra Yugoslavia, Afganistán, Macedonia, Iraq, Somalia, Sudán, Pakistán y Libia– han contribuido a que el presupuesto militar estadounidense sea más del doble en la última década y que las exportaciones de armas de EE.UU. casi se haya quintuplicado en el mismo período.

El Pentágono y la OTAN están concluyendo actualmente el ejercicio naval Brisa Marina 2011 en el Mar Negro frente a la costa de Ucrania, cerca de la sede de la Flota Rusa del Mar Negro basada en Sebastopol. Los participantes incluyen a EE.UU., Gran Bretaña, Azerbaiyán, Argelia, Bélgica, Dinamarca, Georgia, Alemania, Macedonia, Moldavia, Suecia, Turquía y la nación anfitriona, Ucrania. Todas, con la excepción de Argelia y Moldavia, son Naciones Contribuyentes de Tropas para la guerra afgana de la OTAN. Las maniobras anuales se reiniciaron el año pasado después de que el parlamento ucraniano las prohibió en 2009. El ejercicio de este año fue organizado por iniciativa del jefe del Estado Mayor Conjunto de EE.UU., el almirante Michael Mullen. Los ejercicios de Brisa Marina del año pasado, los mayores en el Mar Negro, incluyeron 20 navíos, 13 aviones y más de 1.600 militares de EE.UU., Azerbaiyán, Austria, Bélgica, Dinamarca, Georgia, Alemania, Grecia, Moldavia, Suecia, Turquía y Ucrania.

Este año, el crucero de misiles teleguiados USS Monterey se sumó al ejercicio. El barco de guerra es el primero desplegado en el Mediterráneo, y ahora en el Mar Negro, por el programa Enfoque Adaptativo por Fases del Pentágono de misiles interceptores, que en los próximos años incluirá por lo menos 40 interceptores Standard Missile-3 en Polonia y Rumania y en destructores y cruceros de la clase Aegis en el Mediterráneo y en los mares Negro y Báltico. Los analistas políticos y comandantes militares rusos ven las versiones actualizadas del misil, el Block IB, Block IIA y Block IIB, como amenazas para los misiles de largo alcance de Rusia y como tales para el potencial estratégico de la nación.

El ex diplomático indio M K Bhadrakumar escribió en un reciente artículo:

“No cabe duda de que EE.UU. aumenta la presión sobre la flota de Rusia en el Mar Negro. La provocación estadounidense tiene lugar ante el trasfondo de la situación en Siria. Rusia bloqueó obstinadamente los intentos de EE.UU. de justificar una intervención en Siria al estilo de la que tiene lugar en Libia. Moscú considera que un motivo importante para la presión estadounidense por un cambio de régimen en Siria es hacer que se cierre la base naval rusa en ese país.

“La base de Siria es el único punto de apoyo de Rusia en la región del Mediterráneo. La Flota del Mar Negro cuenta con la base en Siria para sustentar cualquier presencia en el Mediterráneo de la armada rusa. El cerco se estrecha con el establecimiento de bases militares de EE.UU. en Rumania y la aparición del barco de guerra estadounidense en la región del Mar Negro.”

El USS Monterey, cuya presencia en el Mar Negro se ha criticado como una violación de la Convención de Montreux de 1936, volverá al Mediterráneo donde el último super-portaaviones nuclear de EE.UU., USS George H.W. Bush, y su grupo de ataque de portaaviones con 9.000 militares y unos 70 aviones también están presentes, después de visitar recientemente las Fuerzas Navales Europa/África y la Sexta Flota de EE.UU., en su base en Nápoles, Italia, exactamente al norte de Libia.

La semana pasada el barco de ataque anfibio USS Bataan participó en un ejercicio de certificación con su contraparte francesa FS Tonnerre en el Mediterráneo. El sitio en la web de la Armada de EE.UU. declaró que la certificación “proveerá flexibilidad adicional al Tonnerre durante su apoyo a la Operación Protector Unificado dirigida por la OTAN”, el nombre de código para la guerra de la Alianza contra Libia. El Grupo Anfibio Preparado del USS Bataan incluye lo que se calcula como 2.000 Marines de la 22 Unidad Expedicionaria de Marines y docenas de aviones de guerra y de ataque y otros helicópteros, y está destinado a la acción en Libia y, si el modelo no cambia, Siria.

EE.UU. y los aliados y socios de la OTAN: Albania, Argelia, Croacia, Egipto, Grecia, Italia, Malta, Mauritania, Marruecos, España, Túnez y Turquía, realizaron el ejercicio marítimo Phoenix Express 2011 en el Mediterráneo Oriental y Central del 1 al 15 de junio, que incluyó maniobras en apoyo a la Iniciativa Global contra la Proliferación de EE.UU.

También anteriormente, en este mes, la OTAN realizó su ejercicio aéreo y Naval Northern Viking, el último de una serie de ejercicios bianuales bajo ese nombre, en Islandia con 450 militares miembros de la OTAN de EE.UU., Dinamarca, Islandia, Italia y Noruega. El sitio web del Comando Europeo de EE.UU. citó al comandante del destacamento noruego diciendo: “Los ejercicios como [Northern Viking 2011] permitieron a los pilotos prepararse para escenarios en el mundo real, como la Operación Amanecer de la Odisea”, el nombre de la campaña militar occidental en Libia del 19 al 30 de marzo.

Esta semana, el secretario general de la OTAN Anders Fogh Rasmussen, visitó Gran Bretaña y España, y se reunió en el primer país con el primer ministro David Cameron y el secretario de exteriores William Hague y en el segundo con el presidente del gobierno José Luis Zapatero, la ministra de exteriores, Trinidad Jiménez, y la ministra de defensa Carme Chacón.

Mientras estaba en Londres, Rasmussen se concentró en las guerras en Libia y Afganistán, ambas bajo comando de la OTAN, y promovió la implementación del ala europea del sistema internacional de misiles interceptores de EE.UU.

Alardeó, tal vez como respuesta parcial al rapapolvo que los Estados miembros de la OTAN recibieron recientemente del secretario de defensa de EE.UU., Robert Gates, a quien Rasmussen tiene que rendir cuentas real aunque extraoficialmente:

“La OTAN es más necesaria y deseada que nunca, de Afganistán a Kosovo, de la costa de Somalia a Libia. Estamos más activos que nunca.”

En España habló ante el Senado en un discurso titulado “La OTAN y el Mediterráneo: los cambios que vienen” y según el sitio web del bloque, subrayó “El rol cambiante de la OTAN en el Mediterráneo, concentrándose particularmente en la Operación Protectora Unificada y en el futuro papel de la OTAN en la región”. También prometió que “podemos ayudar a que la Primavera Árabe florezca bien y verdaderamente”. Uno piensa en Libia y Siria, y mañana en Argelia y el Líbano como objetos de la falsa solicitud de la OTAN, y también en Egipto y Túnez, como ya lo ha mencionado Rasmussen, respecto al entrenamiento de sus fuerzas armadas por la OTAN y a la reconstrucción de sus estructuras de comando de acuerdo a los estándares de la Alianza, tal como se hace en Iraq.

La guerra contra Libia, el primer conflicto armado de la OTAN en el Mediterráneo y en el continente africano, está solidificando el control del Mediterráneo ya establecido por la continua misión de vigilancia e interdicción Operación Esfuerzo Continuo lanzada en 2001 bajo el Artículo 5 de la provisión de ayuda militar colectiva.

Mientras Rasmussen se encontraba en Gran Bretaña, el embajador ruso en la OTAN Dmitri Rogozin dijo que “se está arrastrando a la Alianza Atlántica a una operación terrestre”, y afirmó: “La guerra en Libia significa… el comienzo de su expansión hacia el sur”.

Dos días antes, EE.UU. y la OTAN completaron Operaciones Bálticas (BALTOPS) 2011, que incluyeron 20 barcos de once naciones europeas y el buque insignia de la Sexta Flota de EE.UU. basada en el Mediterráneo, el USS Mount Whitney, otros buques de guerra estadounidenses y el comandante, Grupo de Ataque de Portaaviones 8.

Al mismo tiempo, en el Mar Báltico, se lanzó el ejercicio Amber Hope 2011, de 11 días, en Lituania el 13 de junio con la participación de 2.000 militares de miembros de la OTAN: EE.UU., Canadá, Estonia, Letonia, Lituania, Noruega y Polonia y los miembros de la Cooperación por la Paz, Georgia y Finlandia. Las antiguas repúblicas soviéticas afiliadas a la Cooperación por la Paz Armenia, Azerbaiyán, Belarús, Kazajstán, Moldavia y Ucrania asisten como observadores.

La segunda fase del ejercicio comenzará el 19 de junio y, según el Ministerio de Defensa de Lituania, “los soldados seguirán un plan establecido basado en lecciones aprendidas por Lituania y los Estados extranjeros en Afganistán, Iraq y frente a la costa somalí”; en este último caso una referencia a la actual Operación Escudo Oceánico de la OTAN. El bloque también ha aerotransportado miles de soldados ugandeses y burundeses a Somalia para combatir en la capital Mogadiscio.

Anteriomente, en esta semana, la OTAN también realizó una conferencia con los jefes de defensa de 60 Estados miembros y asociados en Belgrado, Serbia, bombardeada repetidamente por aviones de guerra de la OTAN hace 12 años, concentrándose también en la actual guerra del bloque de tres meses de duración en Libia.

La Conferencia Militar de Asociados Estratégicos escuchó, entre otros, al general francés Stephane Abrial, Comandante Supremo Aliado para Transformación de la OTAN basado en Norfolk, Virginia, quien dijo: “Estoy convencido de que la operación en Libia tendrá éxito”, aunque concedió en su declaración inicial que las hostilidades pueden prolongarse hasta bien avanzado el futuro.

La Fuerza Rotacional del Mar Negro, una Fuerza de Tareas Aire-Tierra de Propósito Especial de Marines tuvo lugar después de ejercicios de entrenamiento militar en Rumania con un ejercicio de dos semanas en Bulgaria el 13 de junio con soldados de la nación anfitriona y, por primera vez, Serbia, en una de las cuatro bases aéreas y de infantería del país en las que se ha instalado el Pentágono desde 2006. El anterior entrenamiento en Rumania tuvo lugar en una de otras cuatro bases adquiridas en esa nación.

La prensa local informó de que la mayoría de los Marines de EE.UU. involucrados llegaron al Campo de Entrenamiento Novo Selo “directamente desde Afganistán” en aviones de transporte Hercules-C-130.

El teniente coronel Nelson Cardella del Cuerpo de Marines de EE.UU. dijo sobre los ejercicios: “Entrenaremos a nuestros soldados para mejorar la ‘interoperabilidad’ de nuestro personal” para la guerra afgana y otras del futuro.

Standart News de Bulgaria anunció que “el próximo año el ejercicio de la Fuerza Rotacional del Mar Negro tendrá lugar en Serbia”.

La misión de la Fuerza Rotacional del Mar Negro, formada el año pasado, es integrar las fuerzas armadas de doce naciones en los Balcanes, la región del Mar Negro y del Cáucaso:

Albania, Azerbaiyán, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croacia, Georgia, Macedonia, Moldavia, Montenegro, Rumania, Serbia y Ucrania, a través de la OTAN para su despliegue en Afganistán y otras zonas de guerra y para situaciones posteriores a los conflictos.

Cada una de las guerras que EE.UU. y sus aliados de la OTAN han librado desde 1999 han hecho obtener nuevas bases militares y contingentes expedicionarios al Pentágono y a la Alianza, en naciones subyugadas y vecinas en el sudeste de Europa, el este del Mediterráneo y el Golfo Pérsico, y en Asia del sur y central.

Tal como las guerras yugoslava, afgana e iraquí contribuyeron a desarrollar una capacidad de intervención militar internacional de la OTAN, dirigida por EE.UU., para su uso actual contra Libia, la experiencia libia está siendo empleada para futuros conflictos.

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Julien Benda: Military mysticism

Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Julien Benda
From The Betrayal of the Intellectuals (La Trahison des clercs) (1927)
Translated by Richard Aldington

The susceptibility developed by national sentiment as it has become popular makes the possibility of wars far greater today than in the past…And, in fact, how many times during the last hundred years has the world almost flamed up in war because some nation thought its honour had been wounded? To this must be added the fact that this national susceptibility provides the leaders of nations with a new and most effective method of starting the wars they need, whether it is employed at home or abroad…

The prophecy of the old Saxon bard is completely fulfilled: ‘In those days countries will be something they have not yet become – they will be persons. They will feel hatred, and these hatreds will cause wars more terrible than any that have yet been seen.’

The notion that political warfare involves a war of cultures is entirely an invention of modern times, and confers upon them a conspicuous place in the moral history of humanity.

[N]ational passions…assume the character of mysticism, of a religious adoration….There is first of all the spectacle of the military force and organization of modern States, which is something far more imposing than of old. And when these states are seen to make war for an indefinite period after they have no more men, and go on subsisting for long years after they have no more money, it is easy to understand why a man who has some tincture of religion in his mind may be led to believe that these States are of an essence different from that of ordinary natural beings.

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Vladimir Odoevsky: City without a name, system with one

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Russian writers on war

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Vladimir Odoevsky
From Russian Nights (1844)
The Fifth Night: A City Without Name
Translated by Olga Koshansky-Olienikov

“…Not far away from us there settled another colony, likewise on an uninhabited island. It consisted of common people, farmers, who did not come here to put any system into operation, but simply to provide for their existence…

“This neighboring colony seemed to us a rather convenient place for the so-called exploitation; we started trade relations with it, but guided by the word benefit, we didn’t consider it necessary to spare our neighbors. By various guises we detained the transport of things they needed and then sold them ours at three times the price. Many of us, using all the legal forms for our protection, undertook rather successful bankruptcies against our neighbors, which caused their factories to go to ruin, to our own benefit. We made them quarrel with other colonies, helped them in such cases with money, which, of course, returned to us a hundredfold. We enticed them into stock-jobbing and by means of clever manipulations we always came out ahead. Our agents lived with our neighbors uninterruptedly: by flattery, insidiousness, money, and threats, they constantly spread our monopoly. Our people grew wealthy – the colony prospered.

“When our neighbors were completely ruined, thanks to our wise, firm policy, our rulers summoned the elective officers and proposed to discuss whether it would not be for the benefit of our colony to acquire the land of our impoverished neighbors for good. Everybody’s answer was affirmative. This motion was followed by the other: how to acquire this land, by money or by force? It was suggested that money should be tried first, but if this means should not prove successful, to use force. Although some of the members of the council agreed that the population of our colony required new land, they thought it would be far more just to occupy some other uninhabited island rather than to encroach upon somebody else’s property. But these people were identified as harmful dreamers, idealists. By means of mathematical calculations it was demonstrated to them how many times more profitable it would be to use land already cultivated than land as yet untouched by human hands. A resolution was passed to propose to our neighbors to cede their land to us for a certain amount of money. The neighbors refused. Then, having balanced mercantile accounts of expenditures for the war with the profit which could be extracted from the land of our neighbors, we attacked them with our armed forces, destroying everyone who showed resistance; the rest of them we forced to leave for distant countries, and took possession of the island.

“Guided by our needs, we acted similarly in other cases. Unfortunate inhabitants of the surrounding lands seemed to be cultivating them only in order to become our victims at the end. Incessantly keeping only our own benefit in mind, we considered all means permissible in dealing with our neighbors: political shrewdness, deceit, and bribery. We made our neighbors quarrel with one another with the purpose of weakening their strength as we had done before; we supported the weak in order to raise the strong against them; we attacked the strong in order to set the weak against them. Little by little all the surrounding colonies fell under our domination one after another, and Benthamia became a rigorous and powerful state. We praised ourselves for our great deeds and we taught our children to uphold as an example those illustrious men who by weapons, and even more by deceit, added to the wealth of our colony. The colony prospered.

“Many long years passed again. Shortly after we subdued our neighbors, we met others whose subjugation was not quite so convenient. This led to arguments. The frontier cities of our state, enjoying sizable profit from trade with the foreigners, considered it useful to be on peaceful terms with them. On the other hand, the inhabitants of our internal cities, limited in space, sought an expansion of the state borders and found it rather profitable to start quarrelling with neighbors if only for the purpose of getting rid of their own surplus population. The vote was divided. Both sides had one and the same thing, the common benefit, in mind without noticing that each side used this word only to mean its own good. There were still others who thought of preventing this argument by starting to talk about self-sacrifice, about mutual concessions, about the necessity of sacrificing something now for the good of future generations. Both sides overwhelmed these people by irrefutable mathematical calculations. Both sides called them harmful dreamers, idealists, and the state split into two factions – one declared war against foreigners, the other signed a trade treaty with them.”

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“Many years passed in these internecine and external wars, which would now stop for a while, now flare up again with added bitterness. Common and individual sorrows led to a common feeling of general despondence. Exhausted by the long struggle people gave themselves up to idleness. No one wanted to do anything for the future. All feelings, all thoughts, all man’s incentive were limited to the present moment…The divine, inspiring language of poetry was inaccessible to a Benthamite. Great phenomena of nature did not plunge him into lighthearted thought which diverts man from earthly sorrow. Mothers knew no songs they could sing at their babies’ cradles. The natural, poetical element was long since killed by selfish calculations of profit. The death of this element contaminated all other elements of human nature; all abstract, general thoughts which unite people seemed to be madness; books, knowledge, laws of morality – useless luxury. Only one word – benefit – had remained from former glorious times, but it, too, acquired an indefinite meaning; everyone interpreted it in his own way.”

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Albert Schweitzer: On nuclear weapons in NATO’s hands

Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

From Statement by Albert Schweitzer with Reference to the Present Nuclear Crisis in the World (1958)

When America had its atomic monopoly, it was not necessary to equip its armies with nuclear weapons. Owing to the end of the monopoly, however, this situation is changing. A whole family of nuclear weapons now exists that can be fitted into the military capability of smaller nations.

As a result, the United States is considering deviating from its stated principle not to put atomic weapons into the hands of other countries. This is a decision that could have the gravest consequences. On the other hand, it is comprehensible that the United States wishes to supply the NATO countries with such new weapons for defense against the Soviet Union. The existence of such arms constitutes a new threat to the Soviet Union, one that did not exist before. Hereby the ground is laid open for an atomic war between the United States and the Soviet Union on European soil. This situation did not exist before. Now the Soviet Union can be reached with such long-range rockets from European soil, as far as Moscow and Kharkov, up to 2400 miles away.

Rockets of an average range could therefore be used for defense purposes by Turkey and Iran against the Soviet Union. They could penetrate deeply into its country with arms accepted from America.

The Soviet Union is countering these measures. Both America and the Soviet Union may now seek alliances with the Middle East by offering those countries various kinds of financial support. Therefore events in the Middle East could endanger the peace of the world.

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Gone…is the time when NATO generals and European governments can decide on the establishments of launching sites and stockpiling of atomic weapons.

In view of the fact that the dangers of atomic war and its consequences cannot be avoided, a political procedure as employed hitherto can no longer be considered.

Only agreements that are sanctioned by public opinion are now valid.

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From Nobel Peace Prize lecture, 1952

It is pertinent to recall that the generation preceding 1914 approved the enormous stockpiling of armaments. The argument was that a military decision would be reached with rapidity and that very brief wars could be expected. This opinion was accepted without contradiction.

Because they anticipated the progressive humanization of the methods of war, people also believed that the evils resulting from future conflicts would be relatively slight. This supposition grew out of the obligations accepted by nations under the terms of the Geneva Convention of 1864, following the efforts of the Red Cross. Mutual guarantees were exchanged concerning care for the wounded, the humane treatment of prisoners of war, and the welfare of the civilian population. This convention did indeed achieve some significant results for which hundreds of thousands of combatants and civilians were to be thankful in the wars to come. But, compared to the miseries of war, which have grown beyond all proportion with the introduction of modern weapons of death and destruction, they are trivial indeed. Truly, it cannot be a question of humanizing war.

The concept of the brief war and that of the humanization of its methods, propounded as they were on the eve of war in 1914, led people to take the war less seriously than they should have. They regarded it as a storm which was to clear the political air and as an event which was to end the arms race that was ruining nations.

While some lightheartedly supported the war on account of the profits they expected to gain from it, others did so from a more noble motive: this war must be the war to end all wars. Many a brave man set out for battle in the belief that he was fighting for a day when war would no longer exist.

In this conflict, just as in that of 1939, these two concepts proved to be completely wrong. Slaughter and destruction continued year after year and were carried on in the most inhumane way. In contrast to the war of 1870, the duel was not between two isolated nations, but between two great groups of nations, so that a large share of mankind became embroiled, thus compounding the tragedy.

Since we now know what a terrible evil war is, we must spare no effort to prevent its recurrence. To this reason must also be added an ethical one: In the course of the last two wars, we have been guilty of acts of inhumanity which make one shudder, and in any future war we would certainly be guilty of even worse. This must not happen!

Let us dare to face the situation. Man has become superman. He is a superman because he not only has at his disposal innate physical forces, but also commands, thanks to scientific and technological advances, the latent forces of nature which he can now put to his own use. To kill at a distance, man used to rely solely on his own physical strength; he used it to bend the bow and to release the arrow. The superman has progressed to the stage where, thanks to a device designed for the purpose, he can use the energy released by the combustion of a given combination of chemical products. This enables him to employ a much more effective projectile and to propel it over far greater distances.

However, the superman suffers from a fatal flaw. He has failed to rise to the level of superhuman reason which should match that of his superhuman strength. He requires such reason to put this vast power to solely reasonable and useful ends and not to destructive and murderous ones. Because he lacks it, the conquests of science and technology become a mortal danger to him rather than a blessing.

In this context is it not significant that the first great scientific discovery, the harnessing of the force resulting from the combustion of gunpowder, was seen at first only as a means of killing at a distance?

The conquest of the air, thanks to the internal-combustion engine, marked a decisive advance for humanity. Yet men grasped at once the opportunity it offered to kill and destroy from the skies. This invention underlined a fact which had hitherto been steadfastly denied: the more the superman gains in strength, the poorer he becomes. To avoid exposing himself completely to the destruction unleashed from the skies, he is obliged to seek refuge underground like a hunted animal. At the same time he must resign himself to abetting the unprecedented destruction of cultural values.

A new stage was reached with the discovery and subsequent utilization of the vast forces liberated by the splitting of the atom. After a time, it was found that the destructive potential of a bomb armed with such was incalculable, and that even large-scale tests could unleash catastrophes threatening the very existence of the human race. Only now has the full horror of our position become obvious. No longer can we evade the question of the future of mankind.

But the essential fact which we should acknowledge in our conscience, and which we should have acknowledged a long time ago, is that we are becoming inhuman to the extent that we become supermen. We have learned to tolerate the facts of war: that men are killed en masse – some twenty million in the Second World War – that whole cities and their inhabitants are annihilated by the atomic bomb, that men are turned into living torches by incendiary bombs. We learn of these things from the radio or newspapers and we judge them according to whether they signify success for the group of peoples to which we belong, or for our enemies. When we do admit to ourselves that such acts are the results of inhuman conduct, our admission is accompanied by the thought that the very fact of war itself leaves us no option but to accept them. In resigning ourselves to our fate without a struggle, we are guilty of inhumanity.

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NATO Incorporates Libyan Experience For Global War Template

June 18, 2011 2 comments

Stop NATO
June 18, 2011

NATO Incorporates Libyan Experience For Global War Template
Rick Rozoff

As the West’s war against Libya has entered its fourth month and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has flown more than 11,000 missions, including 4,300 strike sorties, over the small nation, the world’s only military bloc is already integrating lessons learned from the conflict into its international model of military intervention based on earlier wars in the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq.

What NATO refers to as Operation Unified Protector has provided the Alliance the framework in which to continue recruiting Partnership for Peace adjuncts like Sweden and Malta, Istanbul Cooperation Initiative affiliates Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates and Mediterranean Dialogue partnership members Jordan and Morocco into the bloc’s worldwide warfighting network. Sweden, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates also have military personnel assigned to NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in the nearly ten-year-long war in Afghanistan. In the first case, troops from the Scandinavian nation has been engaged in their first combat role, killing and being killed, in two centuries in Afghanistan and has provided eight warplanes for the attack on Libya, with marine forces to soon follow.

The military conflicts waged and other interventions conducted by the United States and its NATO allies over the past twelve years – in and against Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Macedonia, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Pakistan and Libya – have contributed to the American military budget more than doubling in the past decade and U.S. arms exports almost quintupling in the same period.

The Pentagon and NATO are currently concluding the Sea Breeze 2011 naval exercise in the Black Sea off the coast of Ukraine, near the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet based in Sebastopol. Participants include the U.S., Britain, Azerbaijan, Algeria, Belgium, Denmark, Georgia, Germany, Macedonia, Moldova, Sweden, Turkey and host nation Ukraine. All but Algeria and Moldova are Troop Contributing Nations for NATO’s Afghan war. The once-annual maneuvers resumed again last year after the Ukrainian parliament banned them in 2009. This year’s exercise was arranged on the initiative of chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen. Last year’s Sea Breeze drills, the largest in the Black Sea, included 20 naval vessels, 13 aircraft and more than 1,600 military personnel from the U.S., Azerbaijan, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Moldova, Sweden, Turkey and Ukraine.

This year the guided missile cruiser USS Monterey joined the exercise. The warship is the first deployed to the Mediterranean, and now the Black, Sea for the Pentagon’s Phased Adaptive Approach interceptor missile program, one which in upcoming years will include at least 40 Standard Missile-3 interceptors in Poland and Romania and on Aegis class destroyers and cruisers in the Mediterranean, Black and Baltic Seas. Upgraded versions of the missile, the Block IB, Block IIA and Block IIB, are seen by Russian political analysts and military commanders as threats to Russia’s long-range missiles and as such to the nation’s strategic potential.

As former Indian diplomat M K Bhadrakumar wrote in a recent column:

“Without doubt, the US is stepping up pressure on Russia’s Black Sea fleet. The US’s provocation is taking place against the backdrop of the turmoil in Syria. Russia is stubbornly blocking US attempts to drum up a case for Libya-style intervention in Syria. Moscow understands that a major reason for the US to push for regime change in Syria is to get the Russian naval base in that country wound up.

“The Syrian base is the only toehold Russia has in the Mediterranean region. The Black Sea Fleet counts on the Syrian base for sustaining any effective Mediterranean presence by the Russian navy. With the establishment of US military bases in Romania and the appearance of the US warship in the Black Sea region, the arc of encirclement is tightening.”

USS Monterey, whose presence in the Black Sea has been criticized as a violation of the 1936 Montreux Convention, will return to the Mediterranean where the U.S.’s newest nuclear supercarrier, USS George H.W. Bush, and its carrier strike group with 9,000 service members and an air wing of 70 aircraft is also present, having recently visited U.S. Naval Forces Europe/Africa and Sixth Fleet headquarters in Naples, Italy, due north of Libya.

Last week the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan engaged in a certification exercise with its French counterpart FS Tonnerre in the Mediterranean. The U.S. Navy website stated that the certification “will provide Tonnerre with additional flexibility during their support to NATO-led Operation Unified Protector,” the codename for the Alliance’s war against Libya. The USS Bataan Amphibious Ready Group includes an estimated 2,000 Marines from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit and dozens of warplanes and attack and other helicopters, and is poised for action in Libya and, if the pattern holds, Syria.

The U.S. and NATO allies and partners – Albania, Algeria, Croatia, Egypt, Greece, Italy, Malta, Mauritania, Morocco, Spain, Tunisia and Turkey – conducted the Phoenix Express 2011 maritime exercise in the Eastern and Central Mediterranean from June 1-15, which included maneuvers in support of the U.S.’s global Proliferation Security Initiative.

Also earlier this month NATO held this year’s Northern Viking air and naval exercise, the latest in a series of biennial drills under that name, in Iceland with 450 NATO military members from the U.S., Denmark, Iceland, Italy and Norway. The United States European Command website cited the Norwegian detachment commander saying, “exercises like [Northern Viking 2011] allowed the pilots to prepare for real-world scenarios, like Operation Odyssey Dawn,” the name for the Western military campaign in Libya from March 19-30.

This week NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen visited Britain and Spain, meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron and Foreign Secretary William Hague in the first country and Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero, Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez and Defence Minister Carme Chacon in the second.

While in London Rasmussen focused on the wars in Libyan and Afghanistan, both under NATO command, and promoted the implementation of the European wing of the U.S. international interceptor missile system.

Perhaps in part responding to the dressing down NATO member states had recently received by the person Rasmussen truly, if unofficially, has to account to – U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates – he boasted:

“NATO is more needed and wanted than ever, from Afghanistan to Kosovo, from the coast of Somalia to Libya. We are busier than ever before.”

In Spain he addressed the nation’s upper house of parliament in a speech titled “NATO and the Mediterranean: the changes ahead” and, according to the bloc’s website, emphasized “NATO’s changing role in the Mediterranean, particularly focusing on Operation Unified Protector and NATO’s future role in the region.” He also pledged that “we can help the Arab Spring well and truly blossom.” Libya and Syria, tomorrow Algeria and Lebanon, come to mind as the objects of NATO’s false solicitude, and Egypt and Tunisia too, as Rasmussen has already mentioned, in regard to NATO training their militaries and rebuilding their command structures in accordance with Alliance standards, as is being done in Iraq.

The war against Libya, NATO’s first armed conflict in the Mediterranean and on the African continent, is solidifying control of the Mediterranean already established by the ongoing Operation Active Endeavor surveillance and interdiction mission launched in 2001 under NATO’s Article 5 collective military assistance provision.

While Rasmussen was in Britain, Russian ambassador to NATO Dmitri Rogozin said that the Atlantic Alliance “is being drawn into a ground operation,” and asserted “The war in Libya means…the beginning of its expansion south.”

Two days before, the U.S. and NATO completed Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 2011, which included 20 ships from eleven European nations and the flagship of the Mediterranean-based U.S. Sixth Fleet, USS Mount Whitney, other American warships and Commander, Carrier Strike Group 8.

Concurrently in the Baltic Sea, the 11-day Amber Hope 2011 exercise was launched in Lithuania on June 13 with the participation of 2,000 military personnel from NATO members the U.S., Canada, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway and Poland and Partnership for Peace members Georgia and Finland. Former Soviet republics and Partnership for Peace affiliates Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Moldova and Ukraine are attending as observers.

The second phase of the exercise will begin on June 19 and, according to the Lithuanian Defense Ministry, “troops will follow an established scenario based on lessons learnt by Lithuanian and foreign states in Afghanistan, Iraq and off the Somali coast,” in the last case an allusion to NATO’s ongoing Operation Ocean Shield. The bloc has also airlifted thousands of Ugandan and Burundian troops into Somalia for fighting in the capital of Mogadishu.

Earlier this week NATO also held a conference with military officials of 60 member and partner states in Belgrade, Serbia, which was bombed repeatedly by NATO warplanes 12 years ago, also focusing on the bloc’s current three-month-long war in Libya.

The Strategic Military Partner Conference was addressed by, inter alia, French General Stephane Abrial, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander for Transformation based in Norfolk, Virginia, who said, “I’m convinced that the operation in Libya will be successful,” though conceding that the hostilities may be prolonged well into the future in his opening statement.

The Black Sea Rotational Force, a Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, followed military training exercises in Romania with a two-week exercise in Bulgaria on June 13 with troops from the host nation and, for the first time, Serbia on one of the four air and infantry bases in the country the Pentagon has moved into since 2006. The earlier training in Romania was at one of another four bases acquired in that nation.

The local press reported that most of the U.S. Marines involved arrived at the Novo Selo Range “straight from Afghanistan” on Hercules-C-130 transport aircraft.

Lieutenant Colonel Nelson Cardella of the U.S. Marine Corps said of the drills, “Our troops will be trained to improve the interoperability of our staffs” for the Afghan and future wars.

Bulgaria’s Standart News announced that “next year the Black Sea Rotational Force exercise will take place in Serbia.”

The mission of the Black Sea Rotational Force, formed last year, is to integrate the armed forces of twelve nations in the Balkans, Black Sea region and Caucasus – Albania, Azerbaijan, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Georgia, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia and Ukraine – through NATO for deployment to Afghanistan and other war zones and post-conflict situations.

Each of the wars the U.S. and its NATO allies have waged since 1999 has gained the Pentagon and the Alliance new military bases and expeditionary contingents in subjugated and adjoining nations in Southeastern Europe, the Eastern Mediterranean and Persian Gulf, and South and Central Asia.

Just as the Yugoslav, Afghan and Iraqi wars contributed to developing a U.S.-led NATO international military intervention capability for use against Libya today, so the Libyan experience is being employed for future conflicts.

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Halldór Laxness: In war there is no cause except the cause of war. A bitter disappointment when it turned out they could defend themselves

Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Halldór Laxness
From Under the Glacier (1968)
Translated by Magnús Magnússon

Embi: You sound as though you’re from America. Why have you come here?

Saknussemm II: We brothers are life-inducers. (NB: He actually said “bioinductors,” a word the undersigned has never heard before or seen in print. I hope this man is not a professor from Los Angeles.) We have come here to bioinduct Snæfellsjökull.

Embi: By killing birds?

Saknussemm II: Killing birds is a game, like war.

Embi: Why do you Americans travel to foreign countries in order to kill birds?

Saknussemm II: War has always been the chief amusement of humankind. Other amusements are a surrogate for war. What are the Olympic Games? Bullshit.

Embi: It is monstrous to amuse oneself by killing defenseless creatures.

Saknussemm II: It has always been popular to attack the weak. A great temptation to take them on – no matter whether they are white, black, or red. A bitter disappointment when it turned out they could defend themselves; tragic, it’s like pricking oneself on a rose.

Embi: Attacking the weak is considered cowardly and contemptible here in this country!

Saknussemm II: …Of all the creatures that man kills for his amusement there is only one he kills out of hatred – other men. Man hates nothing as much as himself. That is why war is called the leprosy of the human soul.

*****

Saknussemm II: … Why do we Americans travel halfway across the globe with the most complex guns in the history of the world to shoot naked peasants in a country we don’t even know? It is because we love these people as ourselves. We adore them. We gladly pay a million dollars to be able to shoot one peasant. We are prepared to spend the last gold coin in our treasury to be allowed to shoot a peasant.

Embi: I would advise you not to say that out loud.

Saknussemm II: You do not understand us because you forget in the depths of our souls we ourselves are naked peasants far beyond unknown oceans. We yearn to kill the naked peasant within ourselves. It is our belief that he who kills a naked peasant with a complex gun is the world’s greatest.

Saknussemm II: …In war there is no cause except the cause of war and that is to have a war…

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William Morris: Protecting the strong from the weak, selling each other weapons to kill their own countrymen

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

William Morris: No man knew the sight of blood

William Morris: War abroad but no peace at home

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William Morris
From News From Nowhere (1892)

(Hammond) [F]or what other purpose than the protection of the rich from the poor, the strong from the weak, did this Government exist?

(I) I have heard that it was said that their office was to defend their own citizens against attack from other countries.

(H.) It was said; but was any one expected to believe this? For instance, did the English Government defend the English citizen against the French?

(I) So it was said.

(H.) Then if the French had invaded England and conquered it, they would not have allowed the English workmen to live well?

(I, laughing) As far as I can make out, the English masters of the English workmen saw to that: they took from their workmen as much of their livelihood as they dared, because they wanted it for themselves.

(H.) But if the French had conquered, would they not have taken more still from the English workmen?

(I) I do not think so; for in that case the English workmen would have died of starvation; and then the French conquest would have ruined the French, just as if the English horses and cattle had died of under-feeding. So that after all, the English workmen would have been no worse off for the conquest: their French masters could have got no more from them than their English masters did.

(H.) This is true; and we may admit that the pretensions of the government to defend the poor (i.e. the useful) people against other countries come to nothing. But that is but natural; for we have seen already that it was the function of the government to protect the rich against the poor. But did not the government defend its rich men against other nations?

(I) I do not remember to have heard that the rich needed defence; because it is said that even when two nations were at war, the rich men of each nation gambled with each other pretty much as usual, and even sold each other weapons wherewith to kill their own countrymen.

*****

Said I: “How about your relations with foreign nations?”

“I will not affect not to know what you mean,” said he, “but I will tell you at once that the whole system of rival and contending nations which played so great a part in the `government’ of the world of civilisation has disappeared along with the inequality betwixt man and man in society.”

“Does not that make the world duller?” said I.

“Why?” said the old man.

“The obliteration of national variety,” said I.

“Nonsense,” he said, somewhat snappishly. “Cross the water and see. You will find plenty of variety: the landscape the building, the diet, the amusements, all various. The men and women varying in looks as well as in habits of thought; the costume more various than in the commercial period. How should it add to the variety or dispel the dulness, to coerce certain families or tribes, often heterogeneous and jarring with one another into certain artificial and mechanical groups and call them nations, and stimulate their patriotism – i.e., their foolish and envious prejudices?”

“Well – I don’t know how,” said I.

“That’s right,” said Hammond cheerily; “you can easily understand that now we are freed from this folly it is obvious to us that by means of this very diversity the different strains of blood in the world can be serviceable and pleasant to each other, without in the least wanting to rob each other: we are all bent on the same enterprise, making the most of our lives. And I must tell you whatever quarrels or misunderstandings arise, they very seldom take place between people of different race; and consequently since there is less unreason in them, they are the more readily appeased.”

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Oscar Wilde: Antidote to war

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

British writers on peace and war

Oscar Wilde: Crimson seas of war, Great Game in Central and South Asia

Oscar Wilde: Who would dare to praise the barren pride of warring nations?

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Oscar Wilde
From The Critic as Artist (1890)

The Manchester school tried to make men realise the brotherhood of humanity, by pointing out the commercial advantages of peace. It sought to degrade the wonderful world into a common market-place for the buyer and the seller. It addressed itself to the lowest instincts, and it failed. War followed upon war, and the tradesman’s creed did not prevent France and Germany from clashing together in blood-stained battle. There are others of our own day who seek to appeal to mere emotional sympathies, or to the shallow dogmas of some vague system of abstract ethics. They have their Peace Societies, so dear to the sentimentalists, and their proposals for unarmed International Arbitration, so popular among those who have never read history. But mere emotional sympathy will not do. It is too variable, and too closely connected with the passions; and a board of arbitrators who, for the general welfare of the race, are to be deprived of the power of putting their decisions into execution, will not be of much avail…

Criticism will annihilate race-prejudices, by insisting upon the unity of the human mind in the variety of its forms. If we are tempted to make war upon another nation, we shall remember that we are seeking to destroy an element of our own culture, and possibly its most important element. As long as war is regarded as wicked, it will always have its fascination. When it is looked upon as vulgar, it will cease to be popular. The change will of course be slow, and people will not be conscious of it. They will not say ‘We will not war against France because her prose is perfect,’ but because the prose of France is perfect, they will not hate the land. Intellectual criticism will bind Europe together in bonds far closer than those that can be forged by shopman or sentimentalist. It will give us the peace that springs from understanding.

*****

From A Chinese Sage (1890)

The accumulation of wealth is to him [Chuang Tsǔ] the origin of evil. It makes the strong violent, and the weak dishonest. It creates the petty thief, and puts him in a bamboo cage. It creates the big thief, and sets him on a throne of white jade. It is the father of competition, and competition is the waste, as well as the destruction, of energy. The order of nature is rest, repetition, and peace. Weariness and war are the results of an artificial society based upon capital; and the richer this society gets, the more thoroughly bankrupt it really is, for it has neither sufficient rewards for the good nor sufficient punishments for the wicked. There is also this to be remembered – that the prizes of the world degrade a man as much as the world’s punishments. The age is rotten with its worship of success…

*****

Marie Saltus
From Edgar Saltus: The Man (1925)

With Mr. Saltus, Wilde was driving to his home in Chelsea on a bleak and bitter night. Upon alighting a man came up to them. He wore a jacket which he opened. From neck to waste he was bare. At the sight Mr. Saltus gave him a gold piece, but Wilde, with entire simplicity, took off his own coat and put it about the man. It was a lesson Mr. Saltus never forgot.

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William Godwin: Inventions of a barbarous age, deluging provinces with blood

Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

William Godwin
From Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (1793)

War and conquest cannot be beneficial to the community. Their tendency is to elevate a few at the expence of the rest, and consequently they will never be undertaken but where the many are the instruments of the few. But this cannot happen in a democracy, till the democracy shall become such only in name. If expedients can be devised for maintaining this species of government in its purity, or if there be any thing in the nature of wisdom and intellectual improvement which has a tendency daily to make truth prevail more over falshood, the principle of offensive war will be extirpated…

Men were induced deliberately to seek each other’s lives, and to adjudge the controversies between them, not according to the dictates of reason and justice, but as either should prove most successful in devastation and murder. This was no doubt in the first instance the extremity of exasperation and rage. But it has since been converted into a trade. One part of the nation pays another part to murder and be murdered in their stead; and the most trivial causes, a supposed insult or a sally of youthful ambition, have sufficed to deluge provinces with blood.

We can have no adequate idea of this evil, unless we visit, at least in imagination, a field of battle. Here men deliberately destroy each other by thousands without any resentment against or even knowledge of each other. The plain is strewed with death in all its various forms. Anguish and wounds display the diversified modes in which they can torment the human frame. Towns are burned, ships are blown up in the air while the mangled limbs descend on every side, the fields are laid desolate, the wives of the inhabitants exposed to brutal insult, and their children driven forth to hunger and nakedness. It would be despicable to mention, along with these scenes of horror, and the total subversion of all ideas of moral justice they must occasion in the auditors and spectators, the immense treasures which are wrung in the form of taxes from those inhabitants whose residence is at a distance from the scene.

‘The vindication of national honour’ is a very insufficient reason for hostilities. True honour is to be found only in integrity and justice. It has been doubted how far a view to reputation ought in matters of inferior moment to be permitted to influence the conduct of individuals; but, let the case of individuals be decided as it may, reputation, considered as a separate motive in the instance of nations, can never be justifiable.

As defence is the only legitimate cause, the object pursued, reasoning from this principle, will be circumscribed within very narrow limits. It can extend no farther than the repelling the enemy from our borders…Declarations of war and treaties of peace are inventions of a barbarous age, and would never have grown into established usages, if war had customarily gone no farther than to the limits of defence.

All hostilities against a neighbouring people, because they are powerful, or because we impute to them evil designs which they have not yet begun to carry in execution, are an enormous violation of every principle of morality.

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Voltaire: War

June 14, 2011 2 comments

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Voltaire: Selections on war

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Voltaire: War
From Philosophical Dictionary
Translated by William F. Fleming

All animals are perpetually at war; every species is born to devour another. There are none, even to sheep and doves, who do not swallow a prodigious number of imperceptible animals. Males of the same species make war for the females, like Menelaus and Paris. Air, earth, and the waters, are fields of destruction.

It seems that God having given reason to men, this reason should teach them not to debase themselves by imitating animals, particularly when nature has given them neither arms to kill their fellow-creatures, nor instinct which leads them to suck their blood.

Yet murderous war is so much the dreadful lot of man, that except two or three nations, there are none but what their ancient histories represent as armed against one another. Towards Canada, man and warrior are synonymous; and we have seen, in our hemisphere, that thief and soldier were the same thing. Manichæans! behold your excuse.

The most determined of flatterers will easily agree, that war always brings pestilence and famine in its train, from the little that he may have seen in the hospitals of the armies of Germany, or the few villages he may have passed through in which some great exploit of war has been performed.

That is doubtless a very fine art which desolates countries, destroys habitations, and in a common year causes the death of from forty to a hundred thousand men. This invention was first cultivated by nations assembled for their common good; for instance, the diet of the Greeks declared to the diet of Phrygia and neighboring nations, that they intended to depart on a thousand fishers’ barks, to exterminate them if they could.

The assembled Roman people judged that it was to their interest to go and fight, before harvest, against the people of Veii or the Volscians. And some years after, all the Romans, being exasperated against all the Carthaginians, fought them a long time on sea and land. It is not exactly the same at present.

A genealogist proves to a prince that he descends in a right line from a count, whose parents made a family compact, three or four hundred years ago, with a house the recollection of which does not even exist. This house had distant pretensions to a province, of which the last possessor died of apoplexy. The prince and his council see his right at once. This province, which is some hundred leagues distant from him, in vain protests that it knows him not; that it has no desire to be governed by him; that to give laws to its people, he must at least have their consent; these discourses only reach as far as the ears of the prince, whose right is incontestable. He immediately assembles a great number of men who have nothing to lose, dresses them in coarse blue cloth, borders their hats with broad white binding, makes them turn to the right and left, and marches to glory.

Other princes who hear of this equipment, take part in it, each according to his power, and cover a small extent of country with more mercenary murderers than Genghis Khan, Tamerlane, and Bajazet employed in their train. Distant people hear that they are going to fight, and that they may gain five or six sous a day, if they will be of the party; they divide themselves into two bands, like reapers, and offer their services to whoever will employ them.

These multitudes fall upon one another, not only without having any interest in the affair, but without knowing the reason of it. We see at once five or six belligerent powers, sometimes three against three, sometimes two against four, and sometimes one against five; all equally detesting one another, uniting with and attacking by turns; all agree in a single point, that of doing all the harm possible.

The most wonderful part of this infernal enterprise is that each chief of the murderers causes his colors to be blessed, and solemnly invokes God before he goes to exterminate his neighbors. If a chief has only the fortune to kill two or three thousand men, he does not thank God for it; but when he has exterminated about ten thousand by fire and sword, and, to complete the work, some town has been levelled with the ground, they then sing a long song in four parts, composed in a language unknown to all who have fought, and moreover replete with barbarism. The same song serves for marriages and births, as well as for murders; which is unpardonable, particularly in a nation the most famous for new songs.

Natural religion has a thousand times prevented citizens from committing crimes. A well-trained mind has not the inclination for it; a tender one is alarmed at it, representing to itself a just and avenging God; but artificial religion encourages all cruelties which are exercised by troops — conspiracies, seditions, pillages, ambuscades, surprises of towns, robberies, and murder. Each marches gaily to crime, under the banner of his saint.

A certain number of orators are everywhere paid to celebrate these murderous days; some are dressed in a long black close coat, with a short cloak; others have a shirt above a gown; some wear two variegated stuff streamers over their shirts. All of them speak for a long time, and quote that which was done of old in Palestine, as applicable to a combat in Veteravia.

The rest of the year these people declaim against vices. They prove, in three points and by antitheses, that ladies who lay a little carmine upon their cheeks, will be the eternal objects of the eternal vengeances of the Eternal; that Polyeuctus and Athalia are works of the demon; that a man who, for two hundred crowns a day, causes his table to be furnished with fresh sea-fish during Lent, infallibly works his salvation; and that a poor man who eats two sous and a half worth of mutton, will go forever to all the devils.

Of five or six thousand declamations of this kind, there are three or four at most, composed by a Gaul named Massillon, which an honest man may read without disgust; but in all these discourses, you will scarcely find two in which the orator dares to say a word against the scourge and crime of war, which contains all other scourges and crimes. The unfortunate orators speak incessantly against love, which is the only consolation of mankind, and the only mode of making amends for it; they say nothing of the abominable efforts which we make to destroy it.

You have made a very bad sermon on impurity — oh, Bourdaloue! — but none on these murders, varied in so many ways; on these rapines and robberies; on this universal rage which devours the world. All the united vices of all ages and places will never equal the evils produced by a single campaign.

Miserable physicians of souls! you exclaim, for five quarters of an hour, on some pricks of a pin, and say nothing on the malady which tears us into a thousand pieces! Philosophers! moralists! burn all your books. While the caprice of a few men makes that part of mankind consecrated to heroism, to murder loyally millions of our brethren, can there be anything more horrible throughout nature?

What becomes of, and what signifies to me, humanity, beneficence, modesty, temperance, mildness, wisdom, and piety, while half a pound of lead, sent from the distance of a hundred steps, pierces my body, and I die at twenty years of age, in inexpressible torments, in the midst of five or six thousand dying men, while my eyes which open for the last time, see the town in which I was born destroyed by fire and sword, and the last sounds which reach my ears are the cries of women and children expiring under the ruins, all for the pretended interests of a man whom I know not?

What is worse, war is an inevitable scourge. If we take notice, all men have worshipped Mars. Sabaoth, among the Jews, signifies the god of arms; but Minerva, in Homer, calls Mars a furious, mad, and infernal god.

The celebrated Montesquieu, who was called humane, has said, however, that it is just to bear fire and sword against our neighbors, when we fear that they are doing too well. If this is the spirit of laws, it is also that of Borgia and of Machiavelli. If unfortunately he says true, we must write against this truth, though it may be proved by facts.

This is what Montesquieu says: “Between societies, the right of natural defence sometimes induces the necessity of attacking, when one people sees that a longer peace puts another in a situation to destroy it, and that attack at the given moment is the only way of preventing this destruction.”

How can attack in peace be the only means of preventing this destruction? You must be sure that this neighbor will destroy you, if he become powerful. To be sure of it, he must already have made preparations for your overthrow. In this case, it is he who commences the war; it is not you: your supposition is false and contradictory.

If ever war is evidently unjust, it is that which you propose: it is going to kill your neighbor, who does not attack you, lest he should ever be in a state to do so. To hazard the ruin of your country, in the hope of ruining without reason that of another, is assuredly neither honest nor useful; for we are never sure of success, as you well know.

If your neighbor becomes too powerful during peace, what prevents you from rendering yourself equally powerful? If he has made alliances, make them on your side. If, having fewer monks, he has more soldiers and manufacturers, imitate him in this wise economy. If he employs his sailors better, employ yours in the same manner: all that is very just. But to expose your people to the most horrible misery, in the so often false idea of overturning your dear brother, the most serene neighboring prince! — it was not for the honorary president of a pacific society to give you such advice.

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José Martí: Oscar Wilde on war and aesthetics

June 13, 2011 2 comments

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

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Oscar Wilde: Antidote to war

Oscar Wilde: Crimson seas of war, Great Game in Central and South Asia

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José Martí
From Oscar Wilde (1882)
Translated by Elinor Randall

…Wilde addressed the North American:

“…Beauty is the only thing that time cannot kill. Philosophies die, religious creeds vanish, but the beautiful lives forever. It is the gift of all the ages, the sustenance of all peoples everywhere, and an eternal treasure. Wars will be of little account when all men love the same things with equal intensity, when a common intellectual climate unites them.

“England is still a powerful sovereign by virtue of her military might; and our renaissance would give her a sovereignty to endure long after her yellow leopards tire of the roar of battle, and the rose upon her shield is no longer tinged with the blood of combat…”

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Ellen Key: Overcoming the madness of a world at war

June 12, 2011 1 comment

Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Ellen Key
From the Preface to War, Peace and the Future (1916)
Translated by Hildegard Norberg

At the end of August, 1914, after the first three weeks of war, I was asked:

“In what way can humanity prevent war? Is it, according to your opinion, possible, and if so by what means?”

My answer was:

The belief that we some day shall be able to prevent war is to me one with the belief in the possibility of making humanity really human.

The first means of preventing war would be to let all education of the growing generation aim at eradicating the predatory instincts in which war, as shown at the outbreak of hostilities, has its roots.

But such an education will not be given either in the home or in the schools so long as both pedagogues and preachers teach us that war is part of God’s plan for the world, and that Christianity can go hand in hand with a warlike spirit and warlike acts. To take the name of God and Jesus thus in vain should be the only blasphemy legally indictable.

Another means against war would be to consider it the worst crime against the freedom of the press to use the press as a means of disseminating personal or party hatred within a nation or national hatred between nations.

A third means would be that, when a conflict threatens, public opinion demand that the Government publish the mutual negotiations before a declaration of war, not after, as is now the case.

Alliances for the purpose of mutual help in war and the rivalry among nations to outdo one another in preparing for war, are bound to breed war, especially when the foregoing peace-contract has violated national rights. It is such treaties that have kept Europe in that constant state of war-preparedness which has so impoverished our civilization both before and after the outbreak of this war.

Even since 1870 this narrow-minded statesmanship has prevailed in Europe, —the statesmanship that seeks to enlarge the political and economical spheres of nations by military means.

[N]arrow-minded statesmanship has for the last four decades divided the Powers of Europe and has now lined them up in a battle-formation that is contrary to all civilization. If war between the civilized Powers of Europe is to be prevented in future, they will have to eliminate the above-mentioned principle of might and let their political as well as their economical actions prove the antibarbaric recognition of right as the only might that should be practised between civilized peoples.

When this knowledge has become a living truth and is not an abstract thought only, one may hope that national self-assertion and rivalry between nations will cease to express themselves in economic and military wars. Then one may hope for an organization of labour and of politics that will give the people a new and higher power to ensure their prosperity, their rights, freedom, and peace.

That many generations must pass before this can come into effect no far-sighted person will doubt. But, at the same time, no one with a clear vision doubts that it is towards this goal — that is, solidarity — that progress is aiming.

I do not share the optimistic belief that the consequences of the present war will immediately further the cause of peace. It may be possible that as the women and the working-men attain political power, they will, in a measure, be able to modify the present barbaric ideas of national power, honour, and glory. But even after the women and the working-men have attained political power and responsibility, centuries will probably elapse before humanity by conscious efforts can overcome the madness of a world at war through a sane organization of that world.

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NATO’s Afrika Korps Escalates War Of Attrition Against Libya

June 11, 2011 1 comment

Stop NATO
June 11, 2011

NATO’s Afrika Korps Escalates War Of Attrition Against Libya
Rick Rozoff

The relentless and intensifying Western air war against Libya will soon enter its fourth month. For the first thirteen days starting on March 19 under the control of U.S. Africa Command and Operation Odyssey Dawn and thereafter the North Atlantic Treaty Organization-led Operation Unified Protector, the air assaults represent the second longest armed aggression in NATO’s history, already surpassing by a week the 78-day bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999. Only the now nearly decade-long war in Afghanistan exceeds the current campaign in length.

The U.S.-dominated military bloc not only acknowledges but fairly boasts of conducting almost 11,000 air missions and over 4,000 combat sorties since March 31. Preceding that, hundreds of air strikes and over 160 cruise missile attacks were launched by the U.S., Britain, France and other NATO powers.

Altogether, following in the North African footsteps of Napoleon Bonaparte’s France, imperial Britain, Benito Mussolini’s Italy and Adolf Hitler’s Germany, Western nations are engaged in the longest war against an African country in modern times and the most intensive armed aggression against one ever.

At the end of last month a Libyan government spokesman announced that NATO air attacks had killed 718 civilians and wounded 4,067 more between March 19 and May 26. In the interim the North Atlantic military alliance has intensified bombing of the nation’s capital and other parts of the country to an unprecedented level and introduced British and French helicopter gunship and U.S. Hellfire missile-wielding Predator unmanned aerial vehicles operations.

On June 1 NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen declared that the Alliance had authorized continuation of the war for three more months, until the end of September, and a week later he confirmed that the defense chiefs of NATO’s 28 member states, including the Pentagon’s Robert Gates, endorsed the decision to extend so-called Operation Unified Protector for another 90 days during a defense ministerial meeting at NATO Headquarters in Belgium.

In addition to the deployment of British Apache and French Gazelle and Tiger attack helicopters – the first equipped with what the Daily Mirror described as “a deadly missile dubbed ‘the mincer'” a “­gruesome anti-personnel missile containing 80 5in-long steel darts called flechettes,” the U.S. has dispatched the mammoth USS George H.W. Bush nuclear supercarrier with an accompanying strike group to the Mediterranean Sea for what portends a military endgame for the North African state of slightly over six million people.

The above-cited British newspaper recently referred to the George H.W. Bush, now on its maiden deployment and at the time engaged in war games, Exercise Saxon Warrior, with the Royal Navy’s HMS Dauntless and HMS Gloucester, as the “world’s most powerful warship,” adding that “The 97,000-ton Bush carries in excess of 70 aircraft from eight squadrons and 5,300 sailors and aircrew.”

On June 6 it anchored off the coast of the Spanish Mediterranean city of Cartagena; as the U.S. Navy disclosed, marking the first time “the nation’s newest Nimitz-class aircraft carrier has visited mainland Europe.”

The George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group is en route to the headquarters of Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet in Naples in the south of Italy, within easy striking distance of Libya.

After 85 days of constant bombardment, which constitute the longest daily bombing campaign since the Vietnam War, have left smoke clouds rising over Tripoli every night and increasingly during the day as well, the Western destruction of government assets and infrastructure, military and civilian, has only begun.

As has the war waged against the civilian population by NATO powers, including Libya’s former colonial master Italy, without pause even in the face of African Union peace proposals accepted by the Libyan government.

Almost immediately exceeding even the broadest interpretation of the mandate granted by United Nations Resolution 1973 to protect Libyan civilians, NATO is deliberately and mercilessly executing a campaign to comprehensively impair the Libyan government’s ability to function in any capacity – including providing safety and services to its citizens – in a brutal attempt to convince the population that any alternatives, even the fragmentation of the country and foreign domination and occupation, are superior to continuing to resist an endless reign of terror from the skies.

For the West, the cost of defiance, even of not outright capitulating or merely maintaining a semblance of independence, is death, destruction and the fatal wounding of the nation itself. Examples abound – the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq – with surely more to follow.

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Georg Brandes: An Appeal Against Wholesale Murder

June 11, 2011 3 comments

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Georg Brandes: Selections on war

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Georg Brandes
An Appeal (1916)
Translated by Catherine D. Groth

*****

Each human life represents a value. Mankind is not alike. There is slight consolation in the fact that our losses were one thousand, and the enemy’s ten.

Who knows if among those one thousand there was not a man who would have been the honour of his country, the benefactor of humanity throughout the centuries?

There may have been a Shakespeare or a Newton, a Kant or a Goethe, a Moliere or a Pasteur, a Copernicus, a Rubens, a Tolstoi among the hundreds of thousands of twenty-year-old English, French, German, Polish, Belgian, or Russian soldiers who have fallen.

The press, in belligerent countries, has taken upon itself to excite hatred against the enemy in order to create war enthusiasm. It should remember that the destroying hatred it calls into existence will live long after the war, and will inevitably give birth to new wars. The longer the war lasts, the shorter the coming peace will be.

*****

Each of the Great Powers declares the war it is waging is a war of defence. They have all been attacked; they are all fighting for their existence. For all of them murder and lies are necessary means of defence. But since none of the Powers, by their own showing, wanted war, let them make peace.

After twenty-two months’ war, however, peace seems farther off than ever. The fighting nations each and all must first win the victory of civilisation over barbarism — and call civilisation their conception of higher culture, right, justice, or democracy as opposed to militarism.

Civilisation! The first fruit of this civilisation has been to spread over the earth the truth-killing Russian censorship. The second is that we have come back to the days of human sacrifice. With this difference, however, that in the barbarous days of ancient history four or five prisoners of war were offered each year to please a much feared divinity, whereas now four or five millions are sacrificed to the fetiches of the day.

Lamennais once wrote: “Satan inspired the oppressors of mankind with a fiendish thought. He said to them: In each family take the strongest and bravest men and give them arms! Then I shall give them two idols called honour and loyalty, and one law, which they shall call obedience to duty. They shall worship these idols and blindly obey this law.”

When we consider the present war to crush militarism we find that it has brought military compulsion to the only country which had hitherto remained free from it, and while militarism is being fought on the battlefield, civilian rule is being replaced everywhere by the military, or flouted by it.

We follow this fight for freedom during which every shipload, every cargo is inspected or destroyed by the defenders of liberty as well as by the worshippers of might; every letter is opened, even personal letters between neutrals.

We follow the struggle for a higher civilisation, during which Germany has crushed Belgium, Austria-Hungary, Serbia; England, Greece; Russia, East Prussia and Poland: this fight for right in which right is everywhere flouted and the interests of the governments alone considered — this fight for the independence of small states in which that independence is on both sides infringed, disregarded, abolished.

In belligerent countries the armies first of all want victory, but secondly they long for peace. The civilian population everywhere sighs for peace. But the governments, clinging desperately to their seats, dig their spurs into the flanks of the exhausted steed, and race madly on.

The desire for peace is not allowed to find outlet.

In neutral countries public opinion does not consider it seemly to discuss peace. Public opinion is usually on the level of the shop girl who “sympathises” with one side or the other and thereby forgets to add her bit to the scale of justice.

Among neutrals, one power has more influence than all the others combined. Do the United States of America mean only to profit by the war instead of using their infiuence to further peace? Is there, in short, no one who believes in peace, in common sense, and in sound judgment?

The cry for peace that will soon rise from belligerent countries is called cowardly. But if mankind remains silent, the stones will cry. The ruins everywhere call for peace, not revenge. And where stones are silent, fields and meadows cry, watered with blood, fertilised with the dead.

The whole world is in the throes of malicious joy. The only satisfaction is to hurt others, in self-defence. Ships are torpedoed “successfully.” Bombardments have “excellent results.” One man brings down his twentieth aeroplane. And there is rejoicing. If any one asks, “How can you rejoice?” the answer is the phrase hypocritically stamped as jesuitical, as devilish, “The end justifies the means.”

Cruelty has become a duty; compassion is treachery.

The Germans suffer hunger and privations. The Allies rejoice. Belgium and Serbia are crushed. Germans and Austrians rejoice. The Poles are starving, the Jews are inexpressibly wretched. The belligerents are unable to alleviate the misery.

All of the belligerents are proud of the “daring courage and the heroic resistance” of their men. Both sides claim that among their opponents the basest instincts have broken loose, and both sides are unfortunately right.

The Central Powers say they want peace. But they do not seem willing to make any real compromise to obtain it. Their object is to cripple their enemies so that “peace may be lasting.”

The Allies will not hear of peace until the “decisive victory” has been won, i.e., before they have obtained what they for nearly two years have been fighting for fruitlessly, and to which they seem no nearer. They too want to crush their enemies before they will discuss peace.

Whatever happens, no matter how great the battles won, how valuable the ships sunk, how costly the aircraft destroyed, how many belligerents are massacred, one thing is sure: Everything must end in an armistice and in peace negotiations.

Why not, then, discuss those conditions now? What is to be gained by continuing the slaughter? Peace is a sibyl whose books, i.e., whose treasures, must be bought, and they become dearer and rarer for every day that goes.

We are all acquainted with the phrase. “We must first crush the enemy.”

But the enemy cannot be crushed — all that is gained is wholesale murder. Neither of the fighting groups can be crushed.

And when people declare they do not wish to crush Germany but only its militarism, it is as if one were to say, “I don’t want to hurt the porcupine but only to pull out its quills.”

Both parties intend to fight “until the bitter end.” Every day it becomes more bitter. What may be gained by postponing peace negotiations is lost by prolonging the war.

Has humanity forgotten that there are other means of settling human disputes than by resorting to bombs and grenades?

How will future generations judge us? They will say: In those days, in all Europe, there was not a single statesman worthy of the name. Had there been one statesman on each side before the war, it would never have broken out. Had there been one statesman on either side, it would not have lasted a year. Generals have superseded statesmen.

The future will say: That was a time when wars of religion were called barbarous while no one seemed to realise that wars of nationality are worse. That was a time when cabinet wars were considered old-fashioned, while no one understood that trade wars are even more brutal. In the history of humanity the wars of religion are a frightful farce. In the history of the world this war is an appalling tragedy.

It would be best if the war were to end without either side being too deeply humiliated. Otherwise the humiliated party will think of nothing but revenge. And it must be remembered that humiliation inflicted on the enemy does not replace a single human life.

Each human life represents a value. Mankind is not alike. There is slight consolation in the fact that our losses were one thousand, and the enemy’s ten.

Who knows if among those one thousand there was not a man who would have been the honour of his country, the benefactor of humanity throughout the centuries?

There may have been a Shakespeare or a Newton, a Kant or a Goethe, a Moliere or a Pasteur, a Copernicus, a Rubens, a Tolstoi among the hundreds of thousands of twenty-year-old English, French, German, Polish, Belgian, or Russian soldiers who have fallen.

What does a slight change in the boundary line mean in comparison to the loss of such a personality? The gain is temporary; the loss is irretrievable. The gain is that of one country; the loss is humanity’s.

Every one can calculate how war destroys the nations’ wealth, how their capital dwindles until no one will be able to pay the war indemnities. But the loss in human values, the greatest loss of all, is never calculated.

The press, in belligerent countries, has taken upon itself to excite hatred against the enemy in order to create war enthusiasm. It should remember that the destroying hatred it calls into existence will live long after the war, and will inevitably give birth to new wars. The longer the war lasts, the shorter the coming peace will be.

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Johann Gottlieb Fichte: The inexorable law of universal peace

Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Johann Gottlieb Fichte
From The Vocation of Man (1800)
Translated by William Smith

*****

By the establishment of this only true State, this firm foundation of internal peace, the possibility of foreign war…is cut off.

The law concerning the security of neighbours is necessarily a law in every state that is not a robber-state; and by its operation the possibility of any just complaint of one state against another, and consequently every case of self-defence among nations, is entirely prevented.

Between such states as these, there is no rank which can be insulted, no ambition which can be offended. No officer of one state is authorised to intermeddle in the internal affairs of another, nor is there any temptation for him to do so, since he could not derive the slightest personal advantage from any such influence. That a whole nation should determine, for the sake of plunder, to make war on a neighbouring country, is impossible…

Only where the advantage falls to the few oppressors, and the injury, the toil, the expense, to the countless herd of slaves, is a war of spoliation possible and conceivable.

Thus, from the establishment of a just internal organization, and of peace between individuals, there will necessarily result integrity in the external relations of nations towards each other, and universal peace among them.

*****

Our race still laboriously extorts the means of its subsistence and preservation from an opposing Nature. The larger portion of mankind is still condemned through life to severe toil, in order to supply nourishment for itself and for the smaller portion which thinks for it; immortal spirits are compelled to fix their whole thoughts and endeavours on the earth that brings forth their food. It still frequently happens that, when the labourer has finished his toil and has promised himself in return a lasting endurance both for himself and for his work, a hostile element will destroy in a moment that which it has cost him years of patient industry and deliberation to accomplish, and the assiduous and careful man is undeservedly made the prey of hunger and misery; often do floods, storms, volcanoes, desolate whole countries, and works which bear the impress of a rational soul are mingled with their authors in the wild chaos of death and destruction. Disease sweeps into an untimely grave men in the pride of their strength, and children whose existence has as yet borne no fruit; pestilence stalks through blooming lands, leaves the few who escape its ravages like lonely orphans bereaved of the accustomed support of their fellows, and does all that it can do to give back to the desert regions which the labour of man has won from thence as a possession to himself. Thus it is now, but thus it cannot remain for ever.

But it is not Nature, it is Freedom itself, by which the greatest and most terrible disorders incident to our race are produced; man is the crudest enemy of man. Lawless hordes of savages still wander over vast wildernesses; they meet, and the victor devours his foe at the triumphal feast: or where culture has at length united these wild hordes under some social bond, they attack each other, as nations, with the power which law and union have given them. Defying toil and privation, their armies traverse peaceful plains and forests; they meet each other, and the sight of their brethren is the signal for slaughter. Equipt with the mightiest inventions of the human intellect, hostile fleets plough their way through the ocean; through storm and tempest man rushes to meet his fellow men upon the lonely inhospitable sea; they meet, and defy the fury of the elements that they may destroy each other with their own hands. Even in the interior of states, where men seem to be united in equality under the law, it is still for the most part only force and fraud which rule under that venerable name; and here the warfare is so much the more shameful that it is not openly declared to be war, and the party attacked is even deprived of the privilege of defending himself against unjust oppression. Combinations of the few rejoice aloud in the ignorance, the folly, the vice, and the misery in which the greater number of their fellow-men are sunk, avowedly seek to retain them in this state of degradation, and even to plunge them deeper in it in order to perpetuate their slavery; nay, would destroy any one who should venture to enlighten or improve them. No attempt at amelioration can anywhere be made without rousing up from slumber a host of selfish interests to war against it, and uniting even the most varied and opposite in a common hostility. The good cause is ever the weaker, for it is simple, and can be loved only for itself; the bad attracts each individual by the promise which is most seductive to him; and its adherents, always at war among themselves, so soon as the good makes its appearance, conclude a truce that they may unite the whole powers of their wickedness against it. Scarcely, indeed, is such an opposition needed, for even the good themselves are but too often divided by misunderstanding, error, distrust, and secret self-love, and that so much the more violently, the more earnestly each strives to propagate that which he recognizes as best; and thus internal discord dissipates a power, which, even when united, could scarcely hold the balance with evil. One blames the other for rushing onwards with stormy impetuosity to his object, without waiting until the good result shall have been prepared; whilst he in turn is blamed that, through hesitation and cowardice, he accomplishes nothing, but allows all things to remain as they are, contrary to his better conviction, because for him the hour of action never arrives: and only the Omniscient can determine whether either of the parties in the dispute is in the right. Every one regards the undertaking, the necessity of which is most apparent to him, and in the prosecution of which he has acquired the greatest skill, as most important and needful, as the point from which all improvement must proceed; he requires all good men to unite their efforts with his, and to subject themselves to him for the accomplishment of his particular purpose, holding it to be treason to the good cause if they hold back; while they on the other hand make the same demands upon him, and accuse him of similar treason for a similar refusal. Thus do all good intentions among men appear to be lost in vain disputations, which leave behind them no trace of their existence; while in the meantime the world goes on as well, or as ill, as it can without human effort, by the blind mechanism of Nature, and so will go on for ever.

And so go on for ever? No; not so, unless the whole existence of humanity is to be an idle game, without significance and without end. It cannot be intended that those savage tribes should always remain savage; no race can be born with all the capacities of perfect humanity, and yet be destined never to develop these capacities, never to become more than that which a sagacious animal by its own proper nature might become. Those savages must be destined to be the progenitors of more powerful, cultivated, and virtuous generations; otherwise it is impossible to conceive of a purpose in their existence, or even of the possibility of their existence in a world ordered and arranged by reason. Savage races may become civilized, for this has already occurred; the most cultivated nations of modern times are the descendants of savages. Whether civilization is a direct and natural development of human society, or is invariably brought about through instruction and example from without, and the primary source of human culture must be sought in a superhuman guidance, by the same way in which nations which once were savage have emerged into civilization, will those who are yet uncivilized gradually attain it. They must, no doubt, at first pass through the same dangers and corruptions of a merely sensual civilization, by which the civilized nations are still oppressed, but they will thereby be brought into union with the great whole of humanity and be made capable of taking part in its further progress.

It is the vocation of our race to unite itself into one single body, all the parts of which shall be thoroughly known to each other, and all possessed of similar culture. Nature, and even the passions and vices of men, have from the beginning tended towards this end; a great part of the way towards it is already passed, and we may surely calculate that this end, which is the condition of all farther social progress, will in time be attained! Let us not ask of history if man, on the whole, have yet become purely moral.

To a more extended, comprehensive, energetic freedom he has certainly attained; but hitherto it has been an almost necessary result of his position, that this freedom has been applied chiefly to evil purposes. Neither let us ask whether the aesthetic and intellectual culture of the ancient world, concentrated on a few points, may not have excelled in degree that of modern times! It might happen that we should receive a humiliating answer, and that in this respect the human race has not advanced, but rather seemed to retrograde, in its riper years. But let us ask of history at what period the existing culture has been most widely diffused, and distributed among the greatest number of individuals; and we shall doubtless find that from the beginning of history down to our own day, the few light-points of civilization have spread themselves abroad from their centre, that one individual after another, and one nation after another, has been embraced within their circle, and that this wider outspread of culture is proceeding under our own eyes. And this is the first point to be attained in the endless path on which humanity must advance. Until this shall have been attained, until the existing culture of every age shall have been diffused over the whole inhabited globe, and our race becomes capable of the most unlimited inter-communication with itself, one nation or one continent must pause on the great common path of progress, and wait for the advance of the others; and each must bring as an offering to the universal commonwealth, for the sake of which alone it exists, its ages of apparent immobility or retrogression. When that first point shall have been attained, when every useful discovery made at one end of the earth shall be at once made known and communicated to all the rest, then, without farther interruption, without halt or regress, with united strength and equal step, humanity shall move onward to a higher culture, of which we can at present form no conception.

Within those singular associations, thrown together by unreasoning accident, which we call States, after they have subsisted for a time in peace, when the resistance excited by yet new oppression has been lulled to sleep, and the fermentation of contending forces appeased, abuse, by its continuance, and by general sufferance, assumes a sort of established form; and the ruling classes, in the uncontested enjoyment of their extorted privileges, have nothing more to do but to extend them further, and to give to this extension also the same established form. Urged by their insatiable desires, they will continue from generation to generation their efforts to acquire wider and yet wider privileges, and never say “It is enough!” until at last oppression shall reach its limit, and become wholly insupportable, and despair give back to the oppressed that power which their courage, extinguished by centuries of tyranny, could not procure for them. They will then no longer endure any among them who cannot be satisfied to be on an equality with others, and so to remain. In order to protect themselves against internal violence or new oppression, all will take on themselves the same obligations. Their deliberations, in which every man shall decide, whatever he decides, for himself, and not for one subject to him whose sufferings will never affect him, and in whose fate he takes no concern; deliberations, according to which no one can hope that it shall be he who is to practise a permitted injustice, but every one must fear that he may have to suffer it; deliberations that alone deserve the name of legislation, which is something wholly different from the ordinances of combined lords to the countless herds of their slaves; these deliberations will necessarily be guided by justice, and will lay the foundation of a true State, in which each individual, from a regard for his own security, will be irresistibly compelled to respect the security of every other without exception; since, under the supposed legislation, every injury which he should attempt to do to another, would not fall upon its object, but would infallibly recoil upon himself.

By the establishment of this only true State, this firm foundation of internal peace, the possibility of foreign war, at least with other true States, is cut off. Even for its own advantage, even to prevent the thought of injustice, plunder and violence entering the minds of its own citizens, and to leave them no possibility of gain, except by means of industry and diligence within their legitimate sphere of activity, every true state must forbid as strictly, prevent as carefully, compensate as exactly, or punish as severely, any injury to the citizen of a neighbouring state, as to one of its own. The law concerning the security of neighbours is necessarily a law in every state that is not a robber-state; and by its operation the possibility of any just complaint of one state against another, and consequently every case of self-defence among nations, is entirely prevented. There are no necessary, permanent, and immediate relations of states, as such, with each other, which should be productive of strife; there are, properly speaking, only relations of the individual citizens of one state to the individual citizens of another; a state can be injured only in the person of one of its citizens; but such injury will be immediately compensated and the aggrieved state satisfied. Between such states as these, there is no rank which can be insulted, no ambition which can be offended. No officer of one state is authorised to intermeddle in the internal affairs of another, nor is there any temptation for him to do so, since he could not derive the slightest personal advantage from any such influence. That a whole nation should determine, for the sake of plunder, to make war on a neighbouring country, is impossible; for in a state where all are equal, the plunder could not become the booty of a few, but must be equally divided amongst all, and the share of no one individual could ever recompense him for the trouble of the war. Only where the advantage falls to the few oppressors, and the injury, the toil, the expense, to the countless herd of slaves, is a war of spoliation possible and conceivable. Not from states like themselves could such states as these entertain any fear of war; only from savages, or barbarians whose lack of skill to enrich themselves by industry impels them to plunder; or from enslaved nations, driven by their masters to a war from which they themselves will reap no advantage. In the former case, each individual civilized state must already be the stronger through the arts of civilization; against the latter danger, the common advantage of all demands that they should strengthen themselves by union. No free state can reasonably suffer in its vicinity associations governed by rulers whose interests would be promoted by the subjugation of adjacent nations, and whose very existence is therefore a constant source of danger to their neighbours; a regard for their own security compels all free states to transform all around them into free states like themselves; and thus, for the sake of their own welfare, to extend the empire of culture over barbarism, of freedom over slavery. Soon will the nations, civilized or enfranchised by them, find themselves placed in the same relation towards others still enthralled by barbarism or slavery, in which the earlier free nations previously stood towards them, and be compelled to do the same things for these which were previously done for themselves; and thus, of necessity, by reason of the existence of some few really free states, will the empire of civilization, freedom, and with it universal peace, gradually embrace the whole world.

Thus, from the establishment of a just internal organization, and of peace between individuals, there will necessarily result integrity in the external relations of nations towards each other, and universal peace among them. But the establishment of this just internal organization, and the emancipation of the first nation that shall be truly free, arises as a necessary consequence from the ever-growing oppression exercised by the ruling classes towards their subjects, which gradually becomes insupportable, a progress which may be safely left to the passions and the blindness of those classes, even although warned of the result.

In these only true states all temptation to evil, nay, even the possibility of a man resolving upon a bad action with any reasonable hope of benefit to himself, will be entirely taken away; and the strongest possible motives will be offered to every man to make virtue the sole object of his will.

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Arnold Zweig: Education Before Verdun

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Arnold Zweig: Selections on war

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Arnold Zweig
From Education Before Verdun (1935)
Translated by Eric Sutton

Since the middle of May the battle had come to a deadlock. Now, half-way through July, its formless shape still rolled over the low ground between Fleury village and Fort Souville, bloated and beyond all human compass, a swaying, heaving mass of explosions, swaths of acrid smoke, clouds of dust, pulverized earth, and shattered stone and brick-work, riddled through and through by steel splinters and whistling bullets. At night, cloven by the flash and roar of gunfire, the rattle of machine-guns, the crash of hand-grenades, the shouts and cries of stricken men; by day, the dust of the bayonet attack, the sweat of the attackers clambering out of their trenches, the ever-increasing hordes of dead and wounded swelled the turmoil. And not here alone; on the right and left banks of the Meuse, north and south of the Somme, among the southern spurs of the Alps, and in the Bukovina, for a fortnight the locked struggle had swung back and forward; but here its deadliest work was done, in the wreckage and upheaval of a once smiling countryside; and yet, since the end of February it had covered no more than ten kilometres of French soil from end to end, and at most twenty-five kilometres in breadth. But on that field French and Germans had each left sixty thousand dead; nor were they the last. Incessantly, by day and night, the Germans hurled their grey masses forward to the attack; like an elastic band, the French gave ground and then sprang forward once again; and when they yielded, they always left a number of their men wounded or prisoners in the hands of the attackers. The earth lay like a yellow-stained, blood-soaked disc, over which arched the mousetrap of the merciless blue sky, caging humanity in with the torments of its own brutality.

*****

The uproar in the starlit night, the explosions, the bursts of flame, the scream of hurtling shells – how long would it endure? Bertin could bear it no more; to him, half deafened, the repulsive dugout now seemed like a refuge; he stumbled down some steps, pushed aside a tarpaulin, and saw, by the dim illumination of a stearine cartridge, a squad of men sitting and lying about on a wire netting, their weapons ready to hand. The air was thick and smoke-laden. The faces of the sappers, the gunners, and the Saxon riflemen made him feel almost ill. Hitherto he had seen them against a background of glorious illusion; but here no illusion could survive. Here, in this clay and boarded tomb, were men for whom all hope had ended, throw-outs from the world markets now glutted with human material…

*****

The air had turned to thunder, and burst upon them in a thudding tornado of steel cylinders, packed with ekrasite. Impossible to leave the trenches, which indeed were trenches no more; impossible to stay in them, when the very earth quivered and split, and leapt in volcanoes to the sky or poured into ever fresh abysses that were opened on every side. The dugouts, in which the men took refuge, collapsed; the deeper galleries, choked by the heavy shells, buried their struggling, gasping occupants, who were of no further use as fighting men, though they might be actually unhurt…

*****

A gust of flame shot up. The bomb had hit the corridor, just between Room 6 and Ward 3. Seven or eight of the fugitives were flung in a struggling heap; splinters of iron sheeting, beams, burning wood, and blazing tarboards flew in all directions, and almost in a moment the whole outermost wing flared up like a funeral pyre. The wounded, bandaged as they were, beat and kicked and fought their way through the furthest of the three doors. From the wreathing, choking fumes and smoke came screams of agony, the groans of men trampled underfoot, and the yells of those caught by the licking flames. They were lucky whom the bomb had killed outright. On his bed, the planking around him all ablaze, lay the body of Pahl the compositor. Only his body; the wise head, so sorely needed by his fellow workers, had been shattered by the explosion like a hen stamped flat by a horse’s hoof. He had been fast asleep…But before his eyes had even opened, he was a corpse. Nothing would be left of him; the brain and skull were scattered, and the slow relentless flames reduced his disfigured body to the ashes into which his bed and the whole wing gradually collapsed…

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Lucan: Over all the world you are victorious and your soldiers die

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

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Lucan
From Pharsalia (Civil War)
Translated By J.D. Duff

…Caesar was returning triumphant over conquered Spain to carry into a new world his victorious eagles, when the flowing tide of his successes was almost turned aside by Heaven. For, unsubdued in the field, the general feared, within the tents of his camp, to lose the fruits of crime, when those troops that had been faithful through so many wars, sated at last with blood, came near to forsaking him. Was it perhaps the brief lull in the trumpet’s dismal note, and the cooling of the sword in its sheath, that had cast out the evil spirit of war? Or was it greed for greater rewards that made the soldiers repudiate their cause and their leader, and again put up for sale the swords already stained with guilt?

In no peril was Caesar more clearly taught how insecure and even tottering was the eminence from which he looked down on the world, and how the ground he stood on quaked beneath him. Maimed by the loss of so many hands, and almost left to the protection of his own weapon, he, who was dragging to war so many nations, learned that the sword, once drawn, belongs to the soldier and not to the general.

There was an end of timid muttering, an end of anger hidden in the secret heart; for what often binds a wavering allegiance — that each fears those to whom he himself is a terror, and each thinks that he alone resents the injustice of oppression — that motive had lost its hold. For their mere numbers had dispelled their fears and made them bold: the sin of thousands always goes unpunished.

Thus they poured forth their threats: “Give us leave, Caesar, to depart from the madness of civil war. You search over land and sea for swords to pierce our hearts, and you are ready to spill our worthless lives by the hand of any foe. Some of us were snatched from you by Gaul, others by the hard campaigns in Spain; others lie in Italy; over all the world you are victorious and your soldiers die. What boots it to have shed our blood in Northern lands, where we conquered the Rhone and the Rhine? As a reward for so many campaigns you have given me civil war…

“As we go on to every crime, though our hands and swords are guilty, our poverty absolves us. What limit of warfare do you seek? What will satisfy you if Rome is not enough? Consider at last our grey hairs; behold our enfeebled hands and wasted arms. We have lost the enjoyment of life, we have spent all our days in fighting. Now that we are old, disband us to die. See how extravagant are our demands!

“Save us from laying our dying limbs on the hard rampart of the camp, from breathing out our last breath against the bars of the helmet, and from looking in vain for a hand to close our dying eyes; and suffer us to sink into the arms of a weeping wife, and to know that the pyre stands ready for one corpse alone.

“Suffer us to end our old age by sickness; let not death by the sword be the only end for Caesar’s soldiers. Why do you lure us on with promises, as if we did not know the horrors of which we are to be the instruments?”

“Though Caesar was my general on the banks of the Rhine, he is my comrade here; crime levels those whom it pollutes.”

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Herman Melville: Trophies of Peace

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

Herman Melville: War-pits and rattraps. Soldier sold to the army as Faust sold himself to the devil.

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Herman Melville
Trophies of Peace
Illinois in 1840

 

 

Files on files of Prairie Maize:
On hosts of spears the morning plays!
Aloft the rustling streamers show:
The floss embrowned is rich below.

When Asia scarfed in silks came on
Against the Greeks at Marathon,
Did each plume and pennon dance
Sun’lit thus on helm and lance
Mindless of War’s sickle so?

For them, a tassled dance of death:
For these – the reapers reap them low.
Reap them low, and stack the plain
With Ceres’ trophies, golden grain.

Such monuments, and only such,
O Prairie! termless yield,
Though trooper Mars disdainful flout
Nor Annals fame the field.

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Wilfred Owen: Arms and the Boy and Disabled

June 3, 2011 1 comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Wildred Owen: Selections on war

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Wilfred Owen

Arms and the Boy (1917)

Let the boy try along this bayonet-blade
How cold steel is, and keen with hunger of blood;
Blue with all malice, like a madman’s flash;
And thinly drawn with famishing for flesh.

Lend him to stroke these blind, blunt bullet-heads
Which long to muzzle in the hearts of lads.
Or give him cartridges of fine zinc teeth,
Sharp with the sharpness of grief and death.

For his teeth seem for laughing round an apple.
There lurk no claws behind his fingers supple;
And God will grow no talons at his heels,
Nor antlers through the thickness of his curls.

Disabled (1917)

He sat in a wheeled chair, waiting for dark,
And shivered in his ghastly suit of grey,
Legless, sewn short at elbow. Through the park
Voices of boys rang saddening like a hymn,
Voices of play and pleasure after day,
Till gathering sleep had mothered them from him.

About this time Town used to swing so gay
When glow-lamps budded in the light-blue trees
And girls glanced lovelier as the air grew dim,
– In the old times, before he threw away his knees.
Now he will never feel again how slim
Girls’ waists are, or how warm their subtle hands,
All of them touch him like some queer disease.

There was an artist silly for his face,
For it was younger than his youth, last year.
Now he is old; his back will never brace;
He’s lost his colour very far from here,
Poured it down shell-holes till the veins ran dry,
And half his lifetime lapsed in the hot race,
And leap of purple spurted from his thigh.
One time he liked a bloodsmear down his leg,
After the matches carried shoulder-high.
It was after football, when he’d drunk a peg,
He thought he’d better join. He wonders why…
Someone had said he’d look a god in kilts.

That’s why; and maybe, too, to please his Meg,
Aye, that was it, to please the giddy jilts,
He asked to join. He didn’t have to beg;
Smiling they wrote his lie; aged nineteen years.
Germans he scarcely thought of; and no fears
Of Fear came yet. He thought of jewelled hilts
For daggers in plaid socks; of smart salutes;
And care of arms; and leave; and pay arrears;
Esprit de corps; and hints for young recruits.
And soon, he was drafted out with drums and cheers.

Some cheered him home, but not as crowds cheer Goal.
Only a solemn man who brought him fruits
Thanked him; and then inquired about his soul.
Now, he will spend a few sick years in Institutes,
And do what things the rules consider wise,
And take whatever pity they may dole.
To-night he noticed how the women’s eyes
Passed from him to the strong men that were whole.
How cold and late it is! Why don’t they come
And put him into bed? Why don’t they come?

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Sinclair Lewis: It Can(‘t) Happen Here

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

Sinclair Lewis: Selections on war

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Sinclair Lewis

From It Can’t Happen Here (1935)

The grim Secretary of War, Haik, scolded at President Sarason for his influence on the nation, particularly on the troops. Lee laughed at him, but once he was sufficiently flattered by Haik’s tribute to his artistic powers to write a poem for him. It was a poem which was later to be sung by millions; it was, in fact, the most popular of the soldiers’ ballads which were to spring automatically from anonymous soldier bards during the war between the United States and Mexico. Only, being as pious a believer in Modern Advertising as Sarason himself, the efficient Haik wanted to encourage the spontaneous generation of these patriotic folk ballads by providing the automatic springing and the anonymous bard. He had as much foresight, as much “prophetic engineering,” as a motorcar manufacturer.

Sarason was as eager for war with Mexico (or Ethiopia or Siam or Greenland or any other country that would provide his pet young painters with a chance to portray Sarason being heroic amid curious vegetation) as Haik; not only to give malcontents something outside the country to be cross about, but also to give himself a chance to be picturesque. He answered Haik’s request by writing a rollicking military chorus at a time while the country was still theoretically entirely friendly with Mexico. It went to the tune of “Mademoiselle from Armentières”— or “Armenteers.” If the Spanish in it was a little shaky, still, millions were later to understand that “Habla oo?” stood for “¿Habla usted?” signifying “Parlez-vous?” It ran thus, as it came from Sarason’s purple but smoking typewriter:

Señorita from Guadalupe,

Qui usted?

Señorita go roll your hoop,

Or come to bed!

Señorita from Guadalupe

If Padre sees us we’re in the soup,

Hinky, dinky, habla oo?

Señorita from Monterey,

Savvy Yank?

Señorita what’s that you say?

You’re Swede, Ay tank!

But Señorita from Monterey,

You won’t hablar when we hit the hay,

Hinky, dinky, habla oo?

Señorita from Mazatlán,

Once we’ve met,

You’ll smile all over your khaki pan,

You wont forget!

For days you’ll holler, “Oh, what a man!”

And you’ll never marry a Mexican.

Hinky, dinky, habla oo?

If at times President Sarason seemed flippant, he was not at all so during his part in the scientific preparation for war which consisted in rehearsing M.M. choruses in trolling out this ditty with well-trained spontaneity.

His friend Hector Macgoblin, now Secretary of State, told Sarason that this manly chorus was one of his greatest creations. Macgoblin, though personally he did not join in Sarason’s somewhat unusual midnight diversions, was amused by them, and he often told Sarason that he was the only original creative genius among this whole bunch of stuffed shirts, including Haik.

“You want to watch that cuss Haik, Lee,” said Macgoblin. “He’s ambitious, he’s a gorilla, and he’s a pious Puritan, and that’s a triple combination I’m scared of. The troops like him.”

“Rats! He has no attraction for them. He’s just an accurate military bookkeeper,” said Sarason.

That night he had a party at which, for a novelty, rather shocking to his intimates, he actually had girls present, performing certain curious dances. The next morning Haik rebuked him, and — Sarason had a hangover — was stormed at. That night, just a month after Sarason had usurped the Presidency, Haik struck.

There was no melodramatic dagger-and-uplifted-arm business about it, this time — though Haik did traditionally come late, for all Fascists, like all drunkards, seem to function most vigorously at night. Haik marched into the White House with his picked storm troops, found President Sarason in violet silk pajamas among his friends, shot Sarason and most of his companions dead, and proclaimed himself President.

Hector Macgoblin fled by aeroplane to Cuba, then on. When last seen, he was living high up in the mountains of Haiti, wearing only a singlet, dirty white-drill trousers, grass sandals, and a long tan beard; very healthy and happy, occupying a one-room hut with a lovely native girl, practicing modern medicine and studying ancient voodoo.

When Dewey Haik became President, then America really did begin to suffer a little, and to long for the good old democratic, liberal days of Windrip.

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