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Published in: on November 28, 2009 at 4:34 am  Leave a Comment  


I must confess that at the beginning of this assignment I was not sure that my blog would take any definite shape. Now looking back, I see that the use of questions as a theme proved to be quite effective in dealing with the topics of war and peace. The main reason being that war has no clean cut explanations. The reason for conflicts and the results of them are multi-faceted and need to be looked at analytically and from several viewpoints. Asking questions provides a good start for this.

A truth that I feel I have realized is human nature dictates the need for war. I feel this is proven through the fact that time and time again throughout history humans know what war does and the destruction that is always left in its past. Despite this fact, humans always revert back to the practice of killing each other as a means of resolving an array of issues. However, this fails to explain extreme aspects of war, such as the atrocities of the Holocaust.

No question can yield an answer for something such as the Holocaust. But by asking them the discussion to assure that nothing so horrible happens again can begin. Again, this is a bit disheartening because questioning terrible events has also been a common practice throughout history. Yet, it only seems to develop rather than correct anything.

Ultimately I have been working toward one question; will war ever stop? I submit the answer, no. It is inherent in our society, our history and our future. It is the only guaranteed, effective way to bolster change of some sort. Political means can work, but when discussions become exhausted and certain people become impatient an armed conflict will break out. Time and time again. It’s a bit pessimistic but when you look at the facts it is hard to think otherwise. War is simply human.

Published in: on November 28, 2009 at 2:31 am  Leave a Comment  

Why ask why?

So far this year, at least 334 ser vice members have com­mit ted suicide compared with 297 killed in Afghanistan and 144 in Iraq, according to Congress​.org.

This alarming fact is found in “Our Deadliest Enemy” from The Line of Departure blog. The article goes on to examine the reasons for this a bit. However, the article ultimately offers no single reason. Which leaves me to wonder why. An idea that echoes throughout Vonnegut’s Slaughter House Five.

Perhaps it is like that one commercial where the soldier comes back and sees the empty streets of a big city and only when he meets another soldier does the world around him come back. Certainly soldiers experience things that a regular citizen could never understand but what is the x-factor that seemingly pushes so many soldiers to suicide?

Perhaps it is a way to escape for some of them? Everyone deals with hardships in a unique way but maybe the weight soldiers have to carry is just too much for any normal method of coping to handle. Maybe it is a terrible feeling that no one will ever understand their experiences and it overwhelms them. But what is to be done?

The article mentions how the military is making a significant effort to improve mental health treatment for soldiers in and out of combat. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is finally getting the attention it deserves and hopefully much good will come from these efforts. Despite this there is still much to be said on the subject. Maybe some soldiers will never be able to cure their affliction…

In dealing with this subject one can see yet another terrible example of war’s impact on humanity. And why? What for?

Yes, there are many reasons to go to war but if we could just avoid it than we could avoid asking why to so many terrible questions.

Our Deadliest Enemy

Jamie McIntyre

The Line of Departure

November 25, 2009

Published in: on November 28, 2009 at 1:55 am  Comments (2)  


Kurt Vonnegut alludes to the idea of the absurdity of war time and time again in his book, Slaughter House Five. When looking at the components of warfare, one is hard-pressed to say that the idea of killing others, for the end result of peace, is not absurd.Although this may be necessary in some cases, it still turns logical human reasoning on its head and seems to render many of the moral reasons for going to war as distant and lost objectives. This very idea is illustrated by Vonnegut.

But then, are there remnants of this idea still found today?

In short, yes.

I found a news article that highlights a modern day absurdity surrounding war. It seems as though the British government is questioning the legality of the Iraq War. This in itself is quite ridiculous to me. The legality of a war? A fine time to ask a question like that.

Sir Jeremy Greenstock and other government officials have been compiling information on the British involvement in the Iraq war. A few things seem to be quite certain: the Iraq war was not advocated by most of the British public; the U.S. heavily influenced British involvement; and the grounds for going to war (weapons of mass destruction and such) proved to be sufficient justification. The article states that “… he [Sir Jeremy] believed the US and UK had “established” its legality and that it had never been challenged in court.”

Of course there are many complicated issues that would go into determining the legality of a war, but this idea seems almost comical to me. It is a war. War encapsulates suffering, death, destruction, atrocities. It seems that determining legal issues surrounding a conflict should be done before troops are sent in. I won’t pretend like I understand the whole picture, because I don’t. However, a lot has been lost in the Iraq war and the notion that people and places affected by war can be cured and patched up is a tired one. It continues to be a cycle of build back up and tear back down. So much waste.

Vonnegut’s pessimism on the subject of humans and war seems to be warranted and his idea that war is absurd appears to be a timeless one.



Iraq war legitimacy ‘questionable’ says ex-diplomat

BBC News

November 27, 2009

Published in: on November 27, 2009 at 10:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

Returning to World War One

I have not talked of the subject of World War One for some time in my blog but I have found an article that, I feel, merits a return to the subject. Recently, the diary of John T. French, an English soldier fighting in the Great War, has been revealed to the public. His diary provides primary, first hand accounts of what was going in the trenches during the First World War.

French’s diary is quite an amazing piece of history and can serve the general understanding of what happened. After reading many of the World War One British poets and Vera Brittain’s book, as well as Lee’s The Ghosts May Laugh, this diary brings my understanding full circle.

Many of the British poets were soldiers but their works were a type of art, not to be dismissed, but they were not presented in the way French’s diary is. This diary shows that poets such as Sassoon and Owen were not embellishing anything to make their poems more vivid or more profound. The article describes some of the content from French’s journal that shows this:

They [French’s words] describe the horror of the trenches, such as removing ‘piles of men’ killed in action and ‘shifting and ducking’ bullets which scream ‘like ten thousand devils on the loose’… Enemy snipers, including one particular ‘smart and hot’ shooter, regularly kill his comrades. Mr French describes the ‘awful mess’ of limbs sticking out of the ground and times when he is called to dig out men who have been trapped in mud and collapsed trenches.

The realities of World War One are brought to the forefront through French’s diary. It makes one realize that this was real… here is an actual document from the place and time of this Great War. You can’t ignore it and all of those artful descriptions of destruction and death found in the poetry of the British poets were real.

It just makes me wonder, what kinds of footprints will we find from other wars. Will they bring some terrible truths that have been hidden? Will they affirm a cause or justify actions? It would be nice if tales of war were fiction but John T. French’s journal is an affirmation that they are not.


Come on over, Fritz!

by Cher Thornhill

Mail Online

October 29, 2009

Published in: on October 29, 2009 at 4:29 pm  Comments (1)  

Cover Up

For this blog I would like to talk about two very different cover ups. The first being Art Spiegelman’s in Maus: A Survivor’s Tale. The second is from the military-centered website, The Line of Departure in an article entitled “When Truth is Outlawed…”

Art Spiegelman’s cover up is really a tool to accentuate his point. He uses animals in a comic book format to illustrate his father’s story of surviving the Holocaust. As I was reading through the book this approach really drove his point home. I found myself reading about Jews getting murdered or other terrible things and I would sporadically forget that it was all real. This happened to me several times and each time I came to this realization. I was reminded of how messed up it all was. It is a very unique approach and one that worked quite well on me.

In “When the Truth is Outlawed…” Jamie McIntyre writes about a previous debate between the military and press over whether or not a picture of a mortally wounded American soldier should be shown to the public. Ultimately, the military said it was the discretionary call of the press and the picture was shown. After this the military was quite angry and now has adopted a policy which bans video or still images of any American soldier deaths.

McIntyre feels that the military has gone too far for these reasons:

I certainly understand the intention of the policy, to protect the families of servicemembers from the pain and anguish of seeing photographs of their loved ones splashed across the media, but the heavy-handed ban smacks too much of an attempt to sanitize the war…

He believes that this will set a precedent of military censorship that can continue to “hide under the guise of respect for the dead…” The dead should be respected. But, like everything else, it should be for the right reasons; not as an attempt to sway public support.

It’s kind of funny how cover-ups can be used to both emphasize and hide the truth…

When Truth is Outlawed…

Jamie McIntyre

The Line of

October 15, 2009

Published in: on October 20, 2009 at 5:23 pm  Comments (2)  

Lesson learned?

There must be a switch somewhere deep in the mental psyche of humans that, once it is turned on, allows for atrocities of the ugliest nature to become reality. Alfred Hitchcock’s documentary on the Nazi concentration camps of World War Two display the unprecedented, wholesale death that was the Holocaust; which is perhaps the best example of subhuman atrocities throughout history.

Upon seeing the endless piles of lifeless, faceless, nameless and destroyed bodies one can’t help but ask themselves, “is this real, did this really happen?” That was my reaction to it. How could it be real? That is something you see in sick, twisted and fictitious movies. That sort of thing is suppose to be beyond human capability. How could so many people subscribe to the idea of doing those terrible things to so many innocent people? How can you feel righteous for those actions? All questions with no answer…

After learning of the evils of the Holocaust, surely this kind of hell would never again be recreated by humankind. This notion is true to a certain degree but the reality is still sad. Since the Holocaust there has not been a genocide of 11 million people but there have been numerous atrocities committed, such as the My Lai Massacre during the Vietnam War.

In 1968, United States soldiers killed hundreds of unarmed civilians at the village of My Lai; mostly women, children and elders. Clearly, the lessons that Hitchcock had tried to convey in his documentary failed to be adhered to. How many times must we go in this circle of senseless violence and murder? Its bad enough that human nature points us so frequently toward the horizon of warfare, but must we always watch the world burn? Why destroy innocent lives? Again, questions with no answers…

Maybe an answer could be found in the way we deal with these atrocities. There is no real way to apologize for such terrible things but there is a place for the remorse that could be found on the faces of German officials and citizens who were shown the grizzly reality in those camps. Recently William Calley, the only soldier convicted for the My Lai Massacre, apologized for his actions. Lawrence Colpburn was among the three soldiers to be honored for trying to stop the massacre. He feels that Calley’s apology and remorsefulness would not go wasted:

If he would somehow be able to make the trip back to My Lai and face the survivors and apologize there, face to face, it would be a healthy thing for him to do…If he’s truly remorseful, it’s an opportunity for him to seek that forgiveness…

Through remorse and realization of the terrible things that have been done perhaps we can truly accept them and stop pushing them out of consciousness as we often do. These atrocities become taboo and soon they seem unreal and far away. I think that is why we keep repeating them. If we address them, accept them and correct them we can stop them. Otherwise they are like arguments in a bad relationship; they happen, there is no resolution and they come up again.

My Lai Soldier: Apology Could Answer Survivors

Anonymous 8/23/2009

Published in: on October 7, 2009 at 6:54 pm  Comments (3)  

The Whole Truth

A very crucial element to defining history is truth. How does one obtain the actuality of events rather than some form of actuality? How does one know the rationale behind actions? Answers to these questions can be found in one valuable source… experience.

The story telling of soldiers, through various forms of literature, serves to paint a picture of their experiences. We can see this through the World War One poets who show us the glory and honor of their war and also the hell on earth it created for many of them.

Today, a new history is being written on the world’s battlefields. With the advancements in technology we have been privileged to an instantaneous answering of any questions we may have surrounding a conflict. We experience soldiers blogging from half a world away about their lives and we get an almost bird’s eye view of the truth that their story telling gives.

A blog entitled Embedded in Afghanistan talks about the sway and influence that soldiers can have on the public through their blogs:

I can see where concerns about blogging on the part of the Pentagon would come in, as they have every right to be concerned with the information that comes out of theater, given how important public opinion is in sustaining the war effort. Service members who are bloggers would seem to have a more authoritative voice on the war than an embedded reporter given their status…

After reading this I began to ask, “how different would wars throughout history, especially World War One, have been if the public had access to something like military blogs?”

Americans hardly read military blogs and yet there appears to be a significant affect as a result of them, given the fact that the Pentagon is considering drafting up a policy concerning them. And think of the comparison between now and World War One… Had the millions of men in the trenches of Europe been blogging on their hellish experiences perhaps Rupert Brooke’s poetry would have looked a bit foolish. I believe that the nations at war during the time would have had a hard time keeping up public support for the war effort if the whole truth was as accessible as it is today.

In any case this new found resource is a good one and perhaps can help us all move towards a world in which everyone is aware of what war can do before it happens. The fighting nature of humans is a difficult one to quell but maybe hearing the truth from those who experience war will, at the least, make us more cautious to engage in it.

“In the media 2”


Embedded in Afghanistan… 9/30/2009

Published in: on October 1, 2009 at 12:28 am  Comments (2)  

The Rush

“Combat is like an amphetaminic drug: Thrilling at first, residual effects always, highly addictive, emotionally destructive, and physically dangerous.”

-Found in The Roller Coaster of War: Inside the Combat Experience

These words are quite telling and echo the experiences of many soldiers who witness combat. It also provides insight into another effect of combat and warfare–the change that some soldiers undergo as a result of their experience. One can understand how living under fire, surprise attacks and often harsh conditions would effect a soldier or anyone else in the same situation.

W. Thomas Smith Jr., who is a journalist that has reported on various war zones since the 90’s, talks of the captivation and all encompassing power of war here: “Though it is difficult to explain why, I did not want to leave Iraq: I felt so grafted to the war, and the world beyond it seemed so insignificant.” This provides key insight to the questions of “why does war wrap its victims up so tight?”, and “what about war is worth holding on to?” Warfare presents a different world to a person, a world that is upside down, and once that world is introduced it seems very difficult to emerge from it.

In Vera Brittain’s, Testament of Youth, the changing effect of war is also present. The First World War had separated Vera from her beloved Roland, who was fighting in the death-infested trenches. In an attempt to get closer to Roland, Vera volunteers to be a nurse at a military hospital. The effects of war wear on her when she repeatedly sees the ugliness of what it has done to so many men.

“Before I was in hospital at all I thought that because I suffered I should feel it a grand thing to relieve the sufferings of other people. But now, when i am actually doing something which I know relieves someone’s pain, it is nothing but a matter of business” (p. 212).

Roland too experiences the effects of the war, however, his sentiments more closely resemble those of Smith’s. To these men the effects of war are like an adrenaline rush. Roland writes to Vera on this subject:

“I wonder if your metamorphosis has been as complete as my own. I feel a barbarian, a wild man of the woods, stiff narrowed, practical…” (p. 216)

Perhaps the differing effects between Vera and Roland can be attributed to the aspect of combat. Vera saw the end results. You could say she only experienced the lows. Roland, like Smith, experienced the rush and thrill of combat. This, perhaps, made the sobering reality more bearable.

War in its most basic, stripped-down form is hard to understand, but it undoubtedly changes those who experience it. Unless I were to become a soldier I doubt that I would ever fully grasp what is that war does to a person but, I can understand how and why for some it is a rush and for some it is haunting.

The Roller Coaster of War: Inside the Combat Experience

By: W. Thomas Smith Jr.

The National

Published in: on September 24, 2009 at 1:02 am  Comments (2)  

What’s a soldier to do?

There are some truths in life that few are able to dispute. I feel that one of those truths is that war is as close to hell as one can get. A place where everything is turned upside down. A place where everything is backwards. A place where the ability to make any sense of what’s happening is a luxury. The power of war is perhaps one of the greatest, but what I find intriguing is the manner in which soldiers deal with it.

Soldiers fighting in the First World War, like Rupert Brooke and John McCrae, seem to deal with war in a romantic way. They glorify and stress the honor and integrity of it all with sweeping abstracts like in the sixth and seventh lines of John McCrae’s, In Flanders Fields: “We are the dead; short days ago/ We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow”. Beautiful as those words may be, I find it hard to think of a glowing sunset when discussing the topic of death. I can only assume that these glorious portrayals aren’t entirely accurate due to the fact that so many others, commenting on the same events, wrote from a much different perspective. In Arms and the Boy, Wilfred Owen eloquently describes the destination of a bullet in lines five and six, “Lend him to stroke these blind, blunt bullet-leads/ Which long to nuzzle in the hearts of lads.” This represents the backwardness of war that Owen undoubtedly saw.

But I am forced to ask myself, what images lurk in his conscience to conjure up the idea of a bullet nuzzling in the heart of a young man? What images lurk in others who see similar things? How can one deal with this after being in a war? How can one deal with this during a war? Luckily for appreciators of poetry, Owen and others shared their thoughts and brought awareness to many who may have never had it. Today military blogs act in a similar way. I read a very interesting story about a U.S. soldier who posted a blog about his experience training the Afghan Army. The soldier talked of one instance in which a few Afghanis “duck into a local shop and sip tea as bullets are whizzing past. Some even began eating lunch from their firing positions.” He then goes on to say, “The eating wasn’t even the funny part, The funny part was how much they were enjoying the food and the camaraderie under the circumstances.” This shows another instance in which soldiers are forced to find some sort of comfort in such a horrific situation. To be able to find amusement or relaxation during a firefight boggles my mind, then again I have never been in such a situation and can’t possibly pretend to understand it.

Perhaps all a soldier can do when they are put into a world turned upside down is pretend that they aren’t there. Pretend its okay and the bullets aren’t real. Pretend that they know how each engagement will end. Just pretend. What else is a soldier to do?

In Today’s Army, The GI Diary Is Written In Tweets

By: Kevin Whitelaw 9/15/2009

Published in: on September 16, 2009 at 10:55 pm  Comments (1)