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War Stories: Bad Wars and the Voice of Disillusion

By John Grant

 

      When lo! An angel called him out of heaven,

      Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad, . . .

Supporting Democracy is So Yesterday: Washington’s Rats are Abandoning Maliki

By Dave Lindorff 


The rat, among mammals, is one of the most successful animals on the planet. Cunning, ruthless, competitive and above all adaptable -- it is able to change its habits quickly as needed to accommodate the situation it finds itself in.  


When it comes to foreign policy, the US government is filled with rats.

The Legacy of World War II

By Elliott Adams, WarIsACrime.org

June 6th came once more. D-day was a long time ago and I didn't intend to make anything of it.  I was surprised by the emotional turmoil I felt, by how I felt about that day in my gut.  I realized that while I was born after the war was over, D-day and World War II were a real and tangible part of my childhood.  It was part of my family's life, my teachers lives, my friends parent's lives. It wasn't just old men who remembered it, every adult in my youth had stories from that war. It was amputees on street corners selling pencils and people all around me still dealing with it. It was part of my life and it played a role in my enlistment for Vietnam.  Of course I felt this day in my guts. Why did I think it would be otherwise?

The stories were part of the world I grew up in; stories of D-day, of every counter-espionage agent for a year saying the first attack will be a feint, of the phantom 1st Army with decoy tanks, fake radio chatter and empty tents looking like an army poised for an imminent invasion, of Omaha Beach, of Utah Beach.  The death, the military blunders, the maimed, the successes, the “discovery” of the concentration camps, the Battle of the Bulge, these stories were tangible and a part of my childhood. Many of the stories were told after I was in bed, at breakfast they were alluded to quietly by my parents, and we children were told never to ask the adults about them.

So what is the legacy of WWII?  For the people around me in my youth it was not D-day or even VE day or VJ day. Those were just markers of relief, of joy, that the war would come to an end.  The war was not fought just to win the war. No, the adults of my youth knew there was a bigger issue – how do we keep this from ever happening again?  In their experience, the world could not live through another world war, and it could not afford another war at all.  The legacy of World War II was the question of how we assure that the next crazy, the next despot, the next aggressor nation does not start another war. 

The Allies discussed this.  Stalin believed that we should take the top 50,000 living Nazi leaders and execute them. That would send a clear message to not only the heads of state, but to the people who did the work to implement their aggression.  Churchill, who incidentally had not personally been touched by the 30 million deaths on the Eastern Front, thought that Stalin was being excessive. Churchill proposed that executing the top 5,000 Nazi leaders would be enough death to make those who might support an aggressive nation's acts of war think twice.  Truman thought we needed the rule of law, that we needed to establish that these acts of war were crimes and that people could expect to be prosecuted for them. Thus the Nuremberg Tribunals were formed. The Tokyo Tribunals followed, but it was Nuremberg that set the standard and established the law.

Robert H. Jackson, a US Supreme Court Justice who took a leave from the court to become a main architect of the Nuremberg Tribunals, said on August 12, 1945 “We must make clear to the Germans that the wrong for which their fallen leaders are on trial is not that they lost the war, but that they started it. And we must not allow ourselves to be drawn into a trial of the causes of the war, for our position is that no grievances or policies will justify a resort to aggressive war. It is utterly renounced and condemned as an instrument of policy.” This, not D-day, is what the people of my youth talked about. This was the legacy the war, this was the high ideal that made the whole war effort worth while.

I was recently talking with some US Airmen and found that they did not know what the Nuremberg Tribunals were, even when I prompted them with leads like WWII and trials.  Is it possible that after all that blood and gore, the lasting legacy, the summation of what WWII was fought for has been lost? Lost even to our people in uniform.

In preparation for the tribunals the Allied powers passed the Nuremberg Charter. This set out the process of the trials and the crimes that would be prosecuted. There would be no revenge summary executions. The process established was for fair and open trials in which each defendant was presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, with right to present evidence of defense.  The Nuremberg Charter went on to establish the crimes that would be prosecuted, thus we have words familiar to us today, such as war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes against peace. 

It was the intent of the Nuremberg Tribunals to make starting a war illegal and prosecutable, even planning a war of aggression was a crime.  The new laws established by Nuremberg were summed up in the seven Nuremberg Principles, among them that the sovereign or the head of a sovereign state is not above the law, and could be tried for war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes against peace. Up until then they were generally considered above the law, or more accurately were considered to be the law, thus could not be prosecuted. Principle IV says if you participate in a war crime, you can not be absolved of guilt by claiming you had just followed orders; if you were part of the war crime you can be prosecuted. These two principles alone radically changed the prospect for the officials and functionaries of an aggressor state and hopefully would would keep rogue leaders from starting wars and their subordinates from going along with them.

At the opening of the Nuremberg Tribunals on November 10, 1945, Robert H. Jackson, US Chief Prosecutor at the Tribunals, on leave from the US Supreme Court, said ”The privilege of opening the first trial in history for crimes against the peace of the world imposes a grave responsibility. The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant, and so devastating, that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored, because it cannot survive their being repeated. That four great nations, flushed with victory and stung with injury stay the hand of vengeance and voluntarily submit their captive enemies to the judgment of the law is one of the most significant tributes that Power has ever paid to Reason.”   

Returning to June 6th and what it means, the veterans and people I grew up among in the shadow of World War II did not talk about winning another war, they believed the world could not even survive another war – they talked about Nuremberg, what it meant and the hope that Nuremberg brought.  As we remember that day, D-day, let us not loose sight of what all those lives were lost for, of what the people who lived through that war did to keep the scourge of war from ever consuming our world again. Make June 6th your day to study the Nuremberg Tribunals. Look up the Nuremberg Charter (also called the London Charter), the Nuremberg Tribunals and perhaps most importantly, the Nuremberg Principles.  It would be wrong, no it would worse than just wrong, for us to let the loss of 72 million lives, the pain, and the destruction wrought by World War II to be for naught by our forgetting about Nuremberg.

 

Elliot Adams is a Veterans For Peace (VFP) member from New York State and past president of VFP’s National Board.

Like Madoff telling a bum to get a job: After Running from his Anti-War Past, Kerry Tells Snowden ‘Man Up’ and Face Trial in US

By Dave Lindorff

 

            Our prissy Secretary of State John Kerry, hair carefully coiffed for his interview, told NBC’s Brian Williams last week that fugitive National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden should “man up” and return to the US to “stand in our system of justice and make his case.”

ND Treasurer: Red Carpet Rollout for Gen. Petraeus Fracking Field Trip "Not Unusual"

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

North Dakota Treasurer Kelly Schmidt has responded to DeSmogBlog's investigation of the Bakken Shale basin fracking field trip her office facilitated for former CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus, who now works at the Manhattan-based private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR)

David Petraeus Kelly Schmidt

Krauthammer is right: The US Empire is in Decline

By Dave Lindorff


I was shocked to find myself in almost perfect agreement today with a recent column by the neoconservative pundit Charles Krauthammer. 


Usually Krauthammer has me groaning, but yesterday his column nailed it.


Look who’s calling voting ‘divisive’ and ‘illegal’: The Blood-soaked US Has No Business Opposing Sovereignty Plebiscites

By Dave Lindorff



The rot at the core of US international relations, domestic politics and the corporate media is evident in the American approach to the Ukraine crisis.


Bearing the Pain of Affirmative Action: The Shame of Clarence Thomas

By John Grant

 
    Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
    Everybody knows that the captain lied ...
    Everybody knows the deal is rotten
    Old Black Joe's still pickin' cotton
    For your ribbons and bows

                                       - Leonard Cohen
 

In honor of our Supreme Court I’ve decided to start this piece with a prayer.

For First Time, TransCanada Says Tar Sands Flowing to Gulf in Keystone XL South

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

TransCanada admitted for the first time that tar sands oil is now flowing through Keystone XL's southern leg, now rebranded the Gulf Coast Pipeline Project. The company confirmed the pipeline activity in its 2014 quarter one earnings call.

Cover-up in progress?: The Case of the Dead Brazilian Torturer Gets Murkier

By Michael Uhl


They haven't killed him yet.

Paulo Malhaes, the confessed Brazilian torturer whose death I recently reported on this site may not have been murdered after all. At least that’s what police investigating the case have been loudly proclaiming for the past week.

Killing of leaders was being planned: Exposing the Federal Government’s Plan to Crush the Occupy Movement (Part I)

By Dave Lindorff


  Listen to Dave Lindorff explain on Santa Barbara radio KCSB's Radio Occupy program how the federal government, in collusion with state and local police, and possibly with private bank and oil company security firms, planned to use "suppressed sniper fire" to assassinate the leaders of Occupy Houston, and perhaps also the leaders of other Occupy Movement actions around the country.

Punishment or Witness Elimination?: Confessed Brazilian Torturer Found Murdered

By Michael Uhl

  

            At approximately four o’clock this past Thursday afternoon, Paulo Malhaes, a retired officer who served in the ‘70s  during the years of Brazil’s military dictatorship, was murdered at his small farm outside of Rio de Janeiro.

The Night of the Generals: When Brazilians were Tortured and Disappeared

By Michael Uhl


“The Face of Evil,” flashed the eye catching headline in Brazil’s major daily on a morning late this March, and the accompanying photo of Army lieutenant-colonel Paulo Malhaes, retired, could not have portrayed a more convincing ogre had it been photo shopped by central casting. Malhaes, a self-described torturer and murderer operated in the early 1970′s, the most repressive period in Brazil’s harsh era of prolonged military rule,

Taking the low road to war: Washington and the Corporate Media are in Full Propaganda Mode on Ukraine

By Dave Lindorff


The lies, propaganda and rank hypocrisy emanating from Washington, and echoed by the US corporate media regarding events in Ukraine are stunning and would be laughable, but for the fact that they appear to be aimed at conditioning the US public for increasing confrontation with Russia – confrontation which could easily tip over the edge into direct military conflict, with consequences that are too dreadful to contemplate.


Forty Years After the Carnation Revolution

Portugal as a Model for a New Socialism?

by Leila Dregger

 

Preliminary note of the author:
In this text the words socialism and communism are used synonymously. I see their differentiation and the rift, which has been stretched between their representatives, as no longer appropriate today. This article is directed toward all those interested in justice, solidarity and freedom.

 

 

End the Drug War: Happy Pot Legalization Day!

A Special Report today on the issue of ending Marijuana Prohibition and the massively destructive War on Drugs, by TCBH! collective journalist Linn Washington, Jr. and three students in his Temple University journalism class:


Marijuana: Facts and Falacies, by Linn Washington


Clueless or Callous?: Philly's DA Professes Dubious Expertise on Prejudice

By Linn Washington Jr.


Philadelphia’s District Attorney, Rufus Seth Williams, the first African-American in Pennsylvania to hold a powerful top prosecutor post, persistently projects himself as an expert on racism.

Commendably Williams has acknowledged the corrosive impact of racism within the criminal justice system.

Admiral Dennis Blair: "We Sent Troops to Middle East...Because of Oil-Based Importance of Region"

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

At the just-completed U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing titled, "The Geopolitical Potential of the U.S. Energy Boom," Admiral Dennis Blair — former Director of National Intelligence, President and CEO of Institute for Defense Analyses and Commander in Chief of U.S. Pacific Command — admitted what's still considered conspiratorial to some.

Put tersely: the U.S. and allied forces launched the ongoing occupation in Iraq and occupy large swaths of the Middle East to secure the flow of oil to the U.S. and its global allies, explained Blair. 

Follow the Money: Three Energy Export Congressional Hearings, Climate Undiscussed

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

In light of ongoing geopolitical tensions in Russia, Ukraine and hotly contested Crimea, three (yes, three!) U.S. Congressional Committees held hearings this week on the U.S. using its newfangled oil and gas bounty as a blunt tool to fend off Russian dominance of the global gas market.

U.S. Sen Mary Landrieu at the U.S. Sen. Committee on Energy and Natural Resources; Photo Credit:  U.S. Sen. Committee on Energy and Natural Resources

Though 14 combined witnesses testified in front of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Energy and Power and U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, not a single environmental voice received an invitation. Climate change and environmental concerns were only voiced by two witnesses. 

Using the ongoing regional tumult as a rationale to discuss exports of U.S. oil and gas obtained mainly via hydraulic fracturing ("fracking"), the lack of discussion on climate change doesn't mean the issue isn't important to national security types.

Indeed, the Pentagon's recently published Quadrennial Defense Review coins climate change a "threat force multiplier" that could lead to resource scarcity and resource wars. Though directly related to rampant resource extraction and global oil and gas marketing, with fracking's accompanying climate change and ecological impacts, "threat force multiplication" impacts of climate change went undiscussed. 

With another LNG (liquefied natural gas) export terminal approved by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in Coos Bay, Ore., to non-Free Trade Agreement countries on March 24 (the seventh so far, with two dozen still pending), the heat is on to export U.S. fracked oil and gas to the global market.   

So, why wasn't the LNG climate trump card discussed in a loud and clear way? Well, just consider the source: ten of the witnesses had ties in one way or another to the oil and gas industry.

Not funny, but it’s still hard not to laugh: How Can the US Accuse Russia of Violating International Law?

By Dave Lindorff


If you want to make moral or legal pronouncements, or to condemn bad behavior, you have to be a moral, law-abiding person yourself. It is laughable when we see someone like Rush Limbaugh criticizing drug addicts or a corrupt politician like former Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) voting for more prisons, more cops, and tougher rules against appeals of sentences.


The same thing goes for nations.

Operation Nazification

Annie Jacobsen's new book is called Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program That Brought Nazi Scientists to America.  It isn't terribly secret anymore, of course, and it was never very intelligent.  Jacobsen has added some details, and the U.S. government is still hiding many more.  But the basic facts have been available; they're just left out of most U.S. history books, movies, and television programs.

After World War II, the U.S. military hired sixteen hundred former Nazi scientists and doctors, including some of Adolf Hitler's closest collaborators, including men responsible for murder, slavery, and human experimentation, including men convicted of war crimes, men acquitted of war crimes, and men who never stood trial.  Some of the Nazis tried at Nuremberg had already been working for the U.S. in either Germany or the U.S. prior to the trials.  Some were protected from their past by the U.S. government for years, as they lived and worked in Boston Harbor, Long Island, Maryland, Ohio, Texas, Alabama, and elsewhere, or were flown by the U.S. government to Argentina to protect them from prosecution.  Some trial transcripts were classified in their entirety to avoid exposing the pasts of important U.S. scientists. Some of the Nazis brought over were frauds who had passed themselves off as scientists, some of whom subsequently learned their fields while working for the U.S. military.

The U.S. occupiers of Germany after World War II declared that all military research in Germany was to cease, as part of the process of denazification.  Yet that research went on and expanded in secret, under U.S. authority, both in Germany and in the United States, as part of a process that it's possible to view as nazification.  Not only scientists were hired. Former Nazi spies, most of them former S.S., were hired by the U.S. in post-war Germany to spy on -- and torture -- Soviets. 

The U.S. military shifted in numerous ways when former Nazis were put into prominent positions. It was Nazi rocket scientists who proposed placing nuclear bombs on rockets and began developing the intercontinental ballistic missile.  It was Nazi engineers who had designed Hitler's bunker beneath Berlin, who now designed underground fortresses for the U.S. government in the Catoctin and Blue Ridge Mountains.  Known Nazi liars were employed by the U.S. military to draft classified intelligence briefs falsely hyping the Soviet menace. Nazi scientists developed U.S. chemical and biological weapons programs, bringing over their knowledge of tabun and sarin, not to mention thalidomide -- and their eagerness for human experimentation, which the U.S. military and the newly created CIA readily engaged in on a major scale.  Every bizarre and gruesome notion of how a person might be assassinated or an army immobilized was of interest to their research. New weapons were developed, including VX and Agent Orange.  A new drive to visit and weaponize outerspace was created, and former Nazis were put in charge of a new agency called NASA. 

Permanent war thinking, limitless war thinking, and creative war thinking in which science and technology overshadowed death and suffering, all went mainstream.  When a former Nazi spoke to a women's luncheon at the Rochester Junior Chamber of Commerce in 1953, the event's headline was "Buzz Bomb Mastermind to Address Jaycees Today."  That doesn't sound terribly odd to us, but might have shocked anyone living in the United States anytime prior to World War II.  Watch this Walt Disney television program featuring a former Nazi who worked slaves to death in a cave building rockets.  Before long, President Dwight Eisenhower would be lamenting that "the total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government." Eisenhower was not referring to Nazism but to the power of the military-industrial complex.  Yet, when asked whom he had in mind in remarking in the same speech that "public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite," Eisenhower named two scientists, one of them the former Nazi in the Disney video linked above.

The decision to inject 1,600 of Hitler's scientific-technological elite into the U.S. military was driven by fears of the USSR, both reasonable and the result of fraudulent fear mongering.  The decision evolved over time and was the product of many misguided minds. But the buck stopped with President Harry S Truman.  Henry Wallace, Truman's predecessor as vice-president who we like to imagine would have guided the world in a better direction than Truman did as president, actually pushed Truman to hire the Nazis as a jobs program.  It would be good for American industry, said our progressive hero.  Truman's subordinates debated, but Truman decided.  As bits of Operation Paperclip became known, the American Federation of Scientists, Albert Einstein, and others urged Truman to end it. Nuclear physicist Hans Bethe and his colleague Henri Sack asked Truman:

"Did the fact that the Germans might save the nation millions of dollars imply that permanent residence and citizenship could be bought? Could the United States count on [the German scientists] to work for peace when their indoctrinated hatred against the Russians might contribute to increase the divergence between the great powers? Had the war been fought to allow Nazi ideology to creep into our educational and scientific institutions by the back door? Do we want science at any price?"

In 1947 Operation Paperclip, still rather small, was in danger of being terminated. Instead, Truman transformed the U.S. military with the National Security Act, and created the best ally that Operation Paperclip could want: the CIA. Now the program took off, intentionally and willfully, with the full knowledge and understanding of the same U.S. President who had declared as a senator that if the Russians were winning the U.S. should help the Germans, and vice versa, to ensure that the most people possible died, the same president who viciously and pointlessly dropped two nuclear bombs on Japanese cities, the same president who brought us the war on Korea, the war without declaration, the secret wars, the permanent expanded empire of bases, the military secrecy in all matters, the imperial presidency, and the military-industrial complex.  The U.S. Chemical Warfare Service took up the study of German chemical weapons at the end of the war as a means to continue in existence.  George Merck both diagnosed biological weapons threats for the military and sold the military vaccines to handle them.  War was business and business was going to be good for a long time to come.

But how big a change did the United States go through after World War II, and how much of it can be credited to Operation Paperclip?  Isn't a government that would give immunity to both Nazi and Japanese war criminals in order to learn their criminal ways already in a bad place?  As one of the defendants argued in trial at Nuremberg, the U.S. had already engaged in its own experiments on humans using almost identical justifications to those offered by the Nazis.  If that defendant had been aware, he could have pointed out that the U.S. was in that very moment engaged in such experiments in Guatemala.  The Nazis had learned some of their eugenics and other nasty inclinations from Americans.  Some of the Paperclip scientists had worked in the U.S. before the war, as many Americans had worked in Germany.  These were not isolated worlds.

Looking beyond the secondary, scandalous, and sadistic crimes of war, what about the crime of war itself?  We picture the United States as less guilty because it maneuvered the Japanese into the first attack, and because it did prosecute some of the war's losers.  But an impartial trial would have prosecuted Americans too.  Bombs dropped on civilians killed and injured and destroyed more than any concentration camps -- camps that in Germany had been modeled in part after U.S. camps for native Americans.  Is it possible that Nazi scientists blended into the U.S. military so well because an institution that had already done what it had done to the Philippines was not in all that much need of nazification?

Yet, somehow, we think of the firebombing of Japanese cities and the complete leveling of German cities as less offensive that the hiring of Nazi scientists.  But what is it that offends us about Nazi scientists?  I don't think it should be that they engaged in mass-murder for the wrong side, an error balanced out in some minds but their later work for mass-murder by the right side.  And I don't think it should be entirely that they engaged in sick human experimentation and forced labor.  I do think those actions should offend us.  But so should the construction of rockets that take thousands of lives.  And it should offend us whomever it's done for.

It's curious to imagine a civilized society somewhere on earth some years from now. Would an immigrant with a past in the U.S. military be able to find a job? Would a review be needed? Had they tortured prisoners? Had they drone-struck children? Had they leveled houses or shot up civilians in any number of countries? Had they used cluster bombs? Depleted uranium? White phosphorous? Had they ever worked in the U.S. prison system? Immigrant detention system? Death row? How thorough a review would be needed? Would there be some level of just-following-orders behavior that would be deemed acceptable? Would it matter, not just what the person had done, but how they thought about the world?

Misremembering America’s Wars, 2003-2053

The Pentagon’s Latest “Mission Accomplished” Moment 
By Nick Turse, TomDispatch

It’s 2053 -- 20 years since you needed a computer, tablet, or smart phone to go online.  At least, that’s true in the developed world: you know, China, India, Brazil, and even some parts of the United States.  Cybernetic eye implants allow you to see everything with a digital overlay.  And once facial recognition software was linked to high-speed records searches, you had the lowdown on every person standing around you.  Of course, in polite society you still introduce yourself as if you don’t instantly know another person’s net worth, arrest record, and Amazooglebook search history.  (Yes, the fading old-tech firms Amazon, Google, and Facebook merged in 2033.) You also get a tax break these days if you log into one of the government’s immersive propaganda portals.  (Nope, “propaganda” doesn’t have negative connotations anymore.)  So you choose the Iraq War 50th Anniversary Commemoration Experience and take a stroll through the virtual interactive timeline. 

Look to your right, and you see happy Iraqis pulling down Saddam’s statue and showering U.S. Marines with flowers and candy.  Was that exactly how it happened?  Who really remembers?  Now, you’re walking on the flight deck of what they used to call an aircraft carrier behind a flight-suit-clad President George W. Bush.  He turns and shoots you a thumbs-up under a “mission accomplished” banner.  A voice beamed into your head says that Bush proclaimed victory that day, but that for years afterward, valiant U.S. troops would have to re-win the war again and again.  Sounds a little strange, but okay. 

A few more paces down the digital road and you encounter a sullen looking woman holding a dog leash, the collar attached to a man lying nude on the floor of a prison.  Your digital tour guide explains: “An unfortunate picture was taken.  Luckily, the bad apple was punished and military honor was restored.”  Fair enough.  Soon, a digital General David Petraeus strides forward and shoots you another thumbs-up.  (It looks as if they just put a new cyber-skin over the President Bush avatar to save money.)  “He surged his way to victory and the mission was accomplished again,” you hear over strains of the National Anthem and a chorus of “hooahs.”

A man of many convictions: The Shape-Shifting Secretary of State John Kerry

By Dave Lindorff

 

US Secretary of State John Kerry is a man of many convictions--many of them in open conflict with one another. 

Recall that back in 2004, while trying to unseat President George W. Bush, he famously told students at Marshall University who wanted to know his stand on the US invasion of Iraq, that he “actually did vote for” a bill funding the war “before I voted against it.”

The Militant Mystery of World War I

By Clancy Sigal

Boys like me like to blow up things. I was trained to place Composition B plastic explosive in bridge struts and watch them  explode sky high in the Texas sun. It's fun. Blam! That’s why there is no such thing as an “antiwar” movie if it shows us cannons shooting and guns blasting.  ANY violence is a recruiting poster for the beast inside us.

We'll be seeing a lot more of this in the coming months that “celebrate” the 100th anniversary of the August 19l4 opening barrage of World War One.

Already there’s a flood of books, articles and TV specials focused on muddy trenches, corpses hanging on barbed wire, German Maschinengewehr spitting at a firing rate of up to 400 7.92mm rounds per minute at French, British, Canadian, Italian, Australian, colonial (Senegalese and Vietnamese) soldiers dying in insane assaults designed by generals most of whom slept soundly in their beds during battle.

While strolling or marching down London’s Whitehall I always had this terrible temptation to take some of that Composition B and place a sticky bomb under the arrogant horseback statue of Butcher Haig, the Great War commander of the British Expeditionary Force in France whose class-based stupidity was responsible for the two million casualties under his command 19l5-18.  This isn’t simpleminded officer-prejudice since so many junior officers were slaughtered in abbatoirs like Haig’s Somme and Ypres.

I emigrated to England in time to talk to still-living Great War survivors.  Hitchhiking one day this older gentleman picked me up in his three wheeler  just outside Eastwood, Notts, birthplace of D.H. Lawrence.  He chatted about his 45th Foot-Sherwood Foresters regiment in 1916.  “Oh aye, hardly anyone from my lot got back.  I was gassed.  The mustard.  After, went back down to (coal) pit.  Imagine, with my lungs.  You know, they killed us all, even ones like me made it out felt dead.  Don’t let anyone tell you different.  My wife knew.  Daft kid I was.  For a long time, I couldn’t stop shitting myself like I did before a Heinie attack.  Not a bit ashamed to say it.  It’s what I remember most.  The bloody embarrassment.”

Triggered by a young Serbian’s assassination of Austria-Hungary’s Archduke Ferdinant and his wife at Sarajevo, it began as a minor family quarrel among cousins: King George V, his lookalike Kaiser Wilhelm and Tsar Nicholas 2d, all from Queen Victoria’s brood.

There was nothing at stake in this war except prestige and more African colonies.

Nobody wanted it except the decision makers and their generals and admirals.  But oh boy did they love the prospect.  As British admiral Jackie Fischer wrote of the atmosphere in his navy, “We prepared for war…talked war, thought war, and hoped for war.”

The French and German brass and their poodle politicians couldn’t wait for a short sharp war – like 19th century wars – that would result in quick medals for the boys and a glory parade – not to speak of  profits to the “merchants of death”, the munitions makers like Krupp , Vickers Armstrong, Winchester, Browning and  Remington, Westinghouse and DuPont. The generals had not reckoned on advances in weaponry like the tank, mustard gas, barbed wire and aeroplane.

Before shooting began there were energetic antiwar movements in France and especially Germany. Marxists, anarchists, and radical trade unionists were influential all over Europe, causing strikes and talking class struggle.  The socialist Second International was a sort of think tank for antiwar resistance.  Meetings were held, resolutions passed, members swore to heaven they would never raise a hand or bayonet against their fellow working classes of another country.

In July 1914 the Social Democrats, Germany’s strongest party polling the most votes, called for militant street demonstrations against impending war.  A few days later it voted “war credits” to the Kaiser opening the way for 37 million people to be killed in four years of slugmatch trench warfare…and creating chaos exploitable for a future Hitler and Stalin.  (Lenin thought the coming war a fine idea because, as he correctly predicted, it would cause revolution in Russia.)

General Haig was the military moron who caused the needless deaths of his men by frontal assault in the face of withering machinegun fire.   But who today remembers the names of the German  and French socialists who were pacifists on Sunday and warmongers Monday and as responsible for the catastrophe as any blundering field marshal?

A wave of militarism engineered and propagandized from the chancelleries swept Europe.  It took extraordinary guts to stand out against the patriotic orgasm.  Civilians who had no grudge against their fellows across the border suddenly jumped to join the colors and murder their brother workers.  The “war against war”, except for a few lonely souls like Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht – both assassinated for their protest - was forgotten in a popular blood lust of we-versus-them.  British women formed a White Feather League to shame men into fighting (“British Women Say – GO!”), and many once-radical Pankhurst suffragettes bought into the war in exchange for the promise of getting the vote.

Lessons for today?  I just hope that the Democratic presidential front runner, the war hawk Hilary Clinton, who wanted to intervene in Syria and advocated U.S. bombing of Libya and was terribly keen on Afghanistan, has read her Barbara Tuchman and better yet a good biography of Rosa Luxemburg.

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