Ooh, see the fire is sweepin’Our very street today
Burns like a red coal carpetMad bull lost it’s way
War, children, it’s just a shot awayIt’s just a shot away
War, children, it’s just a shot awayIt’s just a shot away
Rape, murder!It’s just a shot awayIt’s just a shot away
- The Rolling Stones: Gimme Shelter
If Mick Jagger and the boys had any balls left whatsoever they would have opened the garish free market capitalist travesty that was the Super Bowl XL halftime show with the roiling menace of their classic Gimme Shelter followed by Sympathy for the Devil and Street Fighting Man despite their pre-arranged set. Once the anal retentive fuck-sticks who run the heavily censored corporate media were able to scrape their jaws off of the control room floor would they have cut the power to the entire set? If a line like "you can make a dead man come" is too provocative for the childlike minds of the year’s biggest infomercial what would a triple barreled blast of pure sixties rebellion do? A nation obsessed with graphic details about fucking but adverse to any similar graphic details about dying ugly….especially when the dying occurs in an illegal foreign war of intervention that is far more complicated than the bunting draped patiotic horseshit that is now so ubiquitious at national sporting events and other hoohah that distracts the simple minded.
In Kurt Vonnegut’s classic novel Slaughterhouse Five he uses the books of a fictional science fiction writer named Kilgore Trout to insert social commentary into his overall story. One of ‘Trout’s’ tales addressed the strange contradictions of a society that will accept with open arms one who kills civilians with state sanction during wartime while ostracizing one for silly, superficial reasons:
The Gutless Wonder: This, too, was the title of a book by Trout, The Gutless Wonder. It was about a robot who had bad breath, who became popular after his halitosis was cured. But what made the story remarkable, since it was written in 1932, was that it predicted the widespread use of burning jellied gasoline on human beings. It was dropped on them from airplanes. Robots did the dropping. They had no conscience, and no circuits which would allow them to imagine what was happening to the people on the ground.Trout's leading robot looked like a human being, and could talk and dance and so on, and go out with girls. And nobody held it against him that he dropped jellied gasoline on people. But they found his halitosis unforgivable. And then he cleared that up, and he was welcomed to the human race.
Vonnegut of course was present at Dresden on the night that allied bombers laid waste to the "Florence of the Elbe", a historic city as well as a non-military target with little or no air defense system that was packed with refugees and prisoners and was targeted by bombers that incinerated over one hundred thousand civilians. Vonnegut spoke of seeing the boiled bodies of schoolgirls floating in a water tower through his character Billy Pilgrim and also of being forced to dig through the wreckage in the aftermath to find "corpse mines" and described the odor of the bodies:
“They didn’t smell bad at first…but then the bodies rotted and liquefied, and the stink was like roses and mustard gas”
He also spoke of a character, another soldier who died of the dry heaves from having to go down into a corpse mine and being overcome by the stench:
“He tore himself to pieces, throwing up and throwing up”
Dresden doesn’t get much mention when it comes to our nation’s war history, neither does the decimation of the Japanese homeland by bombing of civilian areas nor the bombing of Viet Nam nor the brown skinned dead in any other foreign imperialist adventure undertaken by the politicians and their wealthy backers who cash in on the destroyed lives and flesh of those who become victims so that they may live opulent lives of carefree exploitation. I do want to make the statement that in doing so I am differentiating between ‘combatants’ and what is deemed to be acceptable ‘collateral damage’ to those dropping their bombs or launching their shells and missiles from far away lest they actually have to bear witness to the devastation. ‘Trout’s’ Gutless Wonder is a perfect metaphor for the apathetic and cruel philistines who allow for the murder of innocents to take place in their name as long as it doesn’t intrude upon their pathetic and selfish little lives.
I want to at this time take an opportunity to recognize it here for the sake of the memory of the dead and perhaps the hope of the living that we can one day finally recognize war for the profitable, industrialized slaughter that it is by listing a few accounts:
“The firestorm is incredible, there are calls for help and screams from somewhere but all around is one single inferno. To my left I suddenly see a woman. I can see her to this day and shall never forget it. She carries a bundle in her arms. It is a baby. She runs, she falls, and the child flies in an arc into the fire. Suddenly, I saw people again, right in front of me. They scream and gesticulate with their hands, and then - to my utter horror and amazement - I see how one after the other they simply seem to let themselves drop to the ground. (Today I know that these unfortunate people were the victims of lack of oxygen). They fainted and then burnt to cinders.” (Margaret Freyer: Dresden Resident)
“The elephants gave spine-chilling screams. The baby cow elephant was lying in the narrow barrier-moat on her back, her legs up in the sky. She had suffered severe stomach injuries and could not move. A 90 cwt. cow elephant had been flung clear across the barrier moat and the fence by some terrific blast wave, and stood there trembling. I had no choice but to leave these animals to their fate. I had known for one hour now that the most difficult task could ever bring was facing me. "Lehmann, we must get to the carnivores," I called. We did what we had to do, but it broke my heart.” (Otto Sailer-Jackson: Dresden Zookeeper)
"We did not recognize our street any more. Fire, only fire wherever we looked. Our 4th floor did not exist anymore. The broken remains of our house were burning. On the streets there were burning vehicles and carts with refugees, people, horses, all of them screaming and shouting in fear of death. I saw hurt women, children, old people searching a way through ruins and flames. We fled into another cellar overcrowded with injured and distraught men women and children shouting, crying and praying. No light except some electric torches. And then suddenly the second raid began. This shelter was hit too, and so we fled through cellar after cellar. Many, so many, desperate people came in from the streets. lt is not possible to describe! Explosion after explosion. It was beyond belief, worse than the blackest nightmare. So many people were horribly burnt and injured. lt became more and more difficult to breathe. lt was dark and all of us tried to leave this cellar with inconceivable panic. Dead and dying people were trampled upon, luggage was left or snatched up out of our hands by rescuers. The basket with our twins covered with wet cloths was snatched up out of my mothers hands and we were pushed upstairs by the people behind us. We saw the burning street, the falling ruins and the terrible firestorm. My mother covered us with wet blankets and coats she found in a water tub". (Lothar Metzger: Dresden Resident)
Among other things Vonnegut later wrote:
"You guys burnt the place down, turned it into a single column of flame. More people died there in the firestorm, in that one big flame, than died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined."
And of course he is correct, the dropping of Fat Man and Little Boy and whether it was ultimately necessary against a broken enemy or was merely an opening gambit in the Cold War will be debated until the end of our days but the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki will always be interpreted by most as necessary steps to end a long, cruel and far too bloody war and to spare even more American casualites. I can even see the validity of this argument although I am not a convert but these were only two events, albeit massive in the systematic destruction and the breaking of the will of the Land of the Rising Sun.
Regarding the bombing of Japan an excellent resource would be Errol Morris’ fine film the Fog of War during which he interviews at length former Secretary of Defense and Viet Nam war architect Robert McNamara who was Rumsfeld before Rumsfield in his arrogance. The film while not depicting the slaughter on the ground offered a glimpse into the methodology of industrialized mass murder. General Curtis LeMay, McNamara's superior and the commander of the Twenty-First Bomber Command that devastated the Japanese Home Islands in the late days of the war plays a prominent part. In the film McNamara explains his role in the incendiary attack by chillingly reducing it to the banality of number crunching as to the potential casualty tally. LeMay, who was savagely lampooned in Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove as General Jack D. Ripper who kicks off nuclear Armageddon is featured in actual film clips that are among the most interesting parts of the movie.
In a precursor to modern corporate number crunching the bombing run efficiency was maximized to the point where stripped B-29s were sent in flying so low that they literally reeked of burning flesh, a good and short although militaristic account on LeMay and the bombing has been written by Victor Davis Hanson and entitled The Right Man, this piece is featured in the World War II compilation called No End Save Victory, a pretty good book of essays that you could likely pick up cheap online. The ruthless efficiency of the incendiary bombings even had LeMay himself to comment that “I suppose if I had lost the war, I would have been tried as a war criminal”.
On the nights of March 9 & 10 in 1945 Tokyo was subjected to an incredible incendiary bombardment that destroyed sixteen square miles of the city, boiling asphalt and cooking flesh. Although the true number will never be known it is estimated that nearly 100,000 were killed, most incinerated and most civilians including women and children and the helpless elderly. The fire consumed the city structures that were mainly built out of wood and the heat according to Nicholas Von Hoffman as published in Pat Buchanan’s Where The Right Went Wrong “boiled the water in lakes and ponds, cooking those who fled to safety there like human lobsters” But this is always the way that it is in war isn’t it? General LeMay was correct, the victors are never the war criminals and never the terrorists, the infamy as well as the true costs of agrression are not ultimately paid by the warmongers but suffered by the poor bastards who just happen to live under the rule of rogue governments or those that otherwise fall into disfavor with the most powerful of nations.
The graphic examples of civilian ‘collateral damage’ aren’t something that the public want to see or know about, they like their wars sanitized, neat, convenient, and morally clear along the lines of a John Wayne movie or other simplistic celluloid trash. Americans are mostly ignorant and express indifference at the true suffering of war and are generally the most mindless and unenlightened citizens of the world’s most dangerous of empires. We as a society gorge ourselves on violent fantasy on television, in movies and in video games reveling in every beheading, rape, dismemberment, shooting, knifing, incinerating and bludgeoning as long as we can remain safely detached and free from ever having to consider the actual consequences of violence. This is hypocrisy, a society so conditioned to accept the abominable as long as it is a part of the great American myth of righteousness and destiny glorifies death but when that death is real, nobody wants the gory details of what is perpetrated in our name. The exception being the near masturbatory glee that the mutilated and widely displayed corpses of Uday and Qusay Hussein elicited from a voyeuristic public addicted to sensationalistic cheap thrills. The bullet riddled bodies of the sons of Saddam were constantly and graphically displayed in order to feed the bloodlust necessary for rabid and continued support of the war against the Islamic savages. The outrage over the images was made all the more conspicuous by it’s absence.
A while back, after the early afterglow of Shock and Awe had subsided and when the truth was slowly starting to seep out that "mission accomplished" was just another two word phrase along the lines of bull shit and cluster fuck I read a letter to the editor in my local newspaper that had dared to display the gruesome hanging of the charred corpses of four ‘contractors’ who were killed by a mob in the Iraqi city of Fallujah which would go on to be severely punished later. Some ridiculously dumb bitch had the audacity to write expressing her "outrage" that she actually had to explain this to her children. Americans love their wars as long as they don’t actually have to see what is being done in their names. As for the four ‘contractors’ I have no mercy and nothing but contempt for them, they were mercenaries, nothing but parasites that move from host to host preying on human misery for both the thrill and the money that comes with it but that alas is lost on those who shelter their spoiled children from all but electronic video violence. I doubt that she bothered to dash off a similar protestation over the bloody display of the war trophies that were the sons of Saddam.
What is lost in translation was the fact that the government was contracting mercenaries to do the wet work for the military. It is obvious that they were targeted for a reason, quite possibly the torture or murder of friends or family members of the rioters during one of the death squad raids that are now common in Iraq. I find the ongoing use of these ‘contractors’ to be repugnant and abhorrent, not only are they far more highly paid than the actual members of the military but they operate independent of any sort of congressional oversight and bear no accountability for their actions. I have no sympathy for bastards like that who are cruel violence junkies and arrogant psychopaths more into it for the thrill of the kill than the actual money. Just think of how great that a heroin addict would find it if he could be paid for riding the dragon. The assemblage and widespread use of private armies by the Pentagon is a very foreboding thing and may prove to have extremely grave consequences to us at home if their existence becomes acceptable to the general public and future domestic operations are commenced. Blackwater, one of the top mercenary firms was providing 'contractors' in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and no doubt these paramilitary goons already have contingency contracts lined up in the event of a 'terrorist' attack on the homeland.
I am not merely being callous over the violent fate of the ‘contractors’ , I just have far more sympathy for the innocent victims. Victims such as the Hassan family whose seventeen members were packed into a 1974 Land Rover in the early days of the invasion and were driving toward their dream of democracy and freedom from the evil savagery of Saddam. Instead of democracy, this family (the grandfather was dressed in his finest garment, a pin striped suit to look American for the celebratory occasion of their deliverance) was slaughtered in an unimaginably horrific manner by a nervous American soldier at a checkpoint who panicked and unloaded a barrage of military ordnance into the oncoming vehicle. Eleven members of the family were destroyed, not just killed but destroyed…as a veteran you can appreciate the power of military weaponry. Lamea, the pregnant wife of Bakhat Hassan survived the attack that turned the vehicle into an abattoir in which she described as follows:
"I saw the heads of my two little girls come off, my girls — I watched their heads come off their bodies. My son is dead."
An army public relations officer stated that it was "A miscommunication with civilians” after which the surviving members of the family were offered monetary compensation for their loss. As Bob Dylan once sang “money doesn’t talk it swears” and the true obscenity in this tableau is that we as Americans are so ignorant of the culture of others and so empty in our very souls that anybody could possibly offer money as a remedy for this atrocity. Unfortunately things such as this don’t get much play in the American mainstream media, there is always a Michael Jackson, Laci Petersen, Tom and Katie, Bennifer or Kobe Bryant to exploit in order to save some pathetic cunt from having to explain the insanity and abhorrence that is a war being waged in her name to some pathetically spoiled child who is pampered and indulged on the now traditional journey to become a selfishly ignorant and obese adult in the land of plenty while the impoverished children of the third world are dying of starvation.
Fallujah would go on to perish for our sins, targeted for destruction by a series of brutal military operations to quell the insurgency and to avenge the deaths of the mercenaries and to wash the bitter taste of public humiliation from the mouths of war planners. In a series of sieges that reduced the city to rubble civilians as well as combatants were targeted, snipers targeted ambulances, access to the main hospital was blocked, hundreds of Iraqis were killed and the 'collateral damage' was significant. A foreign documentary entitled Fallujah: The Hidden Massacre was produced and showed that the U.S. military was using incendiary White Phosphorous in the assaults. The video is highly recommended although not for those without a strong stomach, the evidence is as brutal as the imagery of the burned bodies. Of course this would never be allowed to air in the homeland. The media downplays the truth that is the charnel house of Iraq, there is always a king's crusade to glorify or a celebrity to worship or a lurid sex scandal to lasciviously salivate over. Just another day in the empire according to the corporate press of the ruling party.
For real journalism and truths about the bloody quagmire we must utilize foreign sources, a sick joke in a land where a free and unimpeded press is supposed to act as a vital check against the tyranny of madmen. Dahr Jamail is essential reading for those who seek to stay informed as is Robert Fisk whose brutal honesty would serve as a slap across the face were any domestic sources permitted to carry his columns on a regular basis. Were the corporate media to have any balls or the majority of the public have any brains this is what they would be reading:
So we are going to support the myth. As the headless bodies are found along the Tigris, as the mortuaries fill up, as the American dead grow far beyond 1,700 - and, let us remember, the Iraqi dead go into the tens of thousands - Europe and the rest of the world still support the American project. The smell of the dead pours into the street through the air-conditioning ducts. Hot, sweet, overwhelming. Inside the Baghdad morgue, there are so many corpses that the fridges are overflowing. The dead are on the floor. Dozens of them. Outside, in the 46C (114F) heat, Qadum Ganawi tells me how his brother Hassan was murdered. "He was bringing supper home for our family in Palestine Street but he never reached our home. Then we got a phone call saying we could have him back if we paid $50,000 [£27,500]. We didn’t have $50,000. So we sold part of our home and many of our things and we borrowed $15,000 and we paid over the money to a man in a car who was wearing a keffiyeh scarf round his head. "Then we got another phone call, telling us that Hassan was at the Saidiyeh police station. He was. He was blindfolded and gagged and he had two bullets in his head. They had taken our money and then they had killed him." There is a wail of grief from the yard behind us where 50 people are waiting in the shade of the Baghdad mortuary wall.
There are wooden coffins in the street, stacked against the wall, lying on the pavement.
The American public has neither the time nor the stomach to trouble themselves with vagaries as this and the absence of the widespread syndication of Fisk’s work is a testament to a nation of selfish, apathetic, timorous fools who are far more concerned with halitosis than the stench of burning and rotting corpses that is so commonplace in the wars fought in their name. The atrocities of course take place in any war, war is a horrible thing, not something of valor and honor but an exercise in sorrow, death, destruction and the piles of stinking corpses and shattered lives that are left in the aftermath, such is as it always has been and always will be in the future. A public too accustomed to the sanitized death and violence of their false little worlds of television and video games and never forced to confront the real thing.
And So It Goes...
The military industrial complex has a vested interest in hiding this from the general population and of perpetuating the myths through propaganda. Hiding behind impugning the patriotism of others and invoking empty sloganeering such as ‘support the troops’ is not only of the lowest form of morality but of the highest form of cowardice and in the case of those who turn their magnetic ribbon stickers sideways to represent the Jesus fish, hypocrisy and apostasy. A large number of Americans ignorantly spout the jingoist phrase “nuke them all” when referring to non-Caucasian, non-Christian countries, specifically those in the middle east. This only reinforces their stupidity and lack of knowledge of the true horrors of war borne by those whose only crime was in happening to be citizens of a regime deemed to be an enemy of the American state and therefore subject to the full wrath of the arsenal of democracy, an arsenal that will always be restocked by the merchants of death that are the defense contractors.
Our cultural priorities have become so corrupted and polluted that a glimpse of a woman's nipple shown on national television dominates all media coverage and elicits outrage while the illicit occupation in Iraq with women and children being blown apart into bloody bits in the name of the never ending and all encompassing ‘war on terror’ does not make it into the national psyche who are more interested in getting their next hit of vicarious celebrity living off of the electronic crack pipe. Our idiot king has alienated us from the rest of the world and the psychotic court jesters of his rogue administration only continue to conspire to lead us all down the path that will ultimately conclude with the destruction of the very ideals of a democratic society if not the lives of those not only here in America but throughout the world. The crack down on dissent is coming that much is certain, too many people are starting to become restless and beginning to ask questions for it not to.
The equilibrium of international relations has not only been upset by these fools and charlatans but sent off spinning into the depths of some bizarre parallel universe in which up is down, wrong is right, truth is ignorance and war is peace. We have begun the journey down the rabbit hole, let us hope that the rabbit hole does not eventually end up being a mass grave. We are now on the precipice of the new crusades, a war of civilizations and religions perpetuated by those both ignorant of history as well as world culture.
We are now playing for keeps.