Tag Archives: war

June 6, 1944: Souviens-Toi

6 Jun

US GIs Marching to the Docks June 1944

70 years ago today, thousands of Allied men crossed the English Channel to land on the beaches of Normandy to help defeat European fascism. 

Anyone with a passing general knowledge of history knows about D-Day and its significance – the war was over less than a year later. This montage of then-and-now images published by the Guardian is simply incredible

Less well-known in the US is the fate of the French town of Oradour-sur-Glane. On June 10, 1944, the town was under the control of Vichy France.  That day, a German Panzer division massacred 642 men, women, and children – most of them shot and then burned alive in the town church – for no known reason. It’s suspected that the massacre was in retaliation for the killing of some German soldiers in the area (possibly in another town also named “Oradour”) by the French resistance. 

The French government left the town as it stood on that day. It is a monument to the relentlessly brutal German occupation, and to the innocent victims of Naziism. 

A Peugeot allegedly belonging to the town doctor stands where it was parked as the doctor arrived back to town from a house call just as the round-up of villagers began. 

Via Wikipedia

Here, two visitors walk through the ruins of the village, where time stood still. 

Via Wikipedia


Via Oradour.info

Post-Bratstvo i Jedinstvo

10 Apr

License plates are little, mundane slabs of metal or plastic that generally serve two purposes – to identify vehicles, and to promote a culture. I find them fascinating.

We just returned from a phenomenal, once-in-a-lifetime 3-generational tour of the former Yugoslavia, from where my parents emigrated in the 60s. Since breaking up in 1991, these countries have gone from waging war against each other to varying degrees of recovery. Slovenia is in the EU, and Croatia will join this July. Bosnia and Hercegovina is almost perpetually in political / ethnic crisis, while Serbia and Montenegro have just recently gone their separate ways, having dissolved their confederation. Macedonia is plugging away, nestled between the Serbia-Kosovo conflict and the Greek economic crisis. 

The title of this post is the slogan of the former League of Communists of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia – Tito and his successors promoted “Brotherhood and Unity” among the Southern Slavic peoples, who were united after World War I under Serbian rule and then fought each other mercilessly during the second World War. Perhaps it was always doomed to fail, as the Yugoslav nations had distinctly dissimilar backgrounds – Slovenes and Croats were under the Austrians and/or Hungarians for centuries. The Serbs, Macedonians, Kosovars, and Bosnians under Ottoman rule. Serbs and Croats essentially share a language, but the Serbian Orthodox Christian heritage didn’t always mesh with Croatian Catholicism, and while the former writes in Cyrillic, the latter uses the Latin alphabet. Small differences that, with the right spark, can result in inexplicable cruelty and violence. 

I have a similar fascination with international frontiers. It seems astonishing to me sometimes to think how an arbitrary, imaginary line on a mountaintop or the middle of a creek can so starkly separate two distinct languages, histories, religions, and cultures. 

During our trip, I cataloged the plates I saw that represented a once-united country. The only ones I didn’t see were Kosovo’s (although I saw several new and old-style Albanian plates, which were unheard-of when I was a kid and Albania was Europe’s North Korea.) 

Only Slovenia can display the blue Euroband with the gold stars of the EU. All the rest, except Croatia, have a blue area for the Euroband without the stars, but with the country’s international vehicle registration code. (Slovenia = SLO, Croatia = HR, Bosnia and Herzegovina = BIH, Montenegro = MNE, Serbia = SRB, Macedonia = MK, Kosovo = RKS – note that Kosovo used to be a province of Yugoslavia and then Serbia, and the two countries have not yet resolved their dispute over Kosovo’s independence). Croatia has no Euroband, but left room for it to the left of the regional code that precedes the Croatian coat of arms (shown here is PU for Pula). 

A lot of blood was shed to get to this point, where there now exist seven independent and sovereign republics where once there was one federal entity. The irony, it seems, is that they all seek to enter a troubled European confederation where the movement of people and goods would once again be completely without frontier or limit. 

Governing and War

11 Feb

Two things: 

1. A decade ago, our mass media mostly parroted the notion that Iraq was such an imminent threat that a “pre-emptive” invasion and occupation was justified. 

Back in 2002, America was still reeling from 9/11, and Iraq was subjected to myriad UN sanctions, inspection schemes, no-fly zones, and other restrictions stemming from its invasion of Kuwait and subsequent defeat a decade before. Saddam Hussein was undoubtedly a brutal dictator whose Ba’athist Arabic-unity, socialist ideology had been perverted into nothing more than an Arabic construct of fascism. His rule was corrupt and murderous, and he had started two expansionist wars during his reign, neither of which worked out well for his country. He, on the other hand, lived like a king.

But there are lots of bad actors running horribly brutal dictatorships around the world. We can’t invade them all. Nor, if you ask most Republicans when they’re being honest, should we. Just ask most Republican commentators when President Clinton got NATO militarily involved in Bosnia and Serbia.

Turning back to 2002, the UN had implemented a new set of sanctions based on what turned out to be incorrect intelligence that Iraq was developing nuclear weapons and stockpiling weapons of mass destruction. The UN – never one to rush into war – sent neutral inspectors into Iraq to look for these WMDs. Hans Blix’s team of inspectors went everywhere the US government told them to look. Spy satellites, after all, don’t lie.

UNMOVIC inspectors under Hans Blix were in Iraq for 111 days, and they didn’t find the WMDs they were looking for.

United States troops were in Iraq for 2,724 days, and they didn’t find them either, instead merely stockpiles of old WMDs that the Saddam regime had in its possession, and which it had used against Iran, Kuwait, and the Kurds. The US did not find any evidence of any new production or ramp-ups towards same. We know Saddam had used gas in Kuwait and on Kurds. But that’s not what we were sold in 2003 when Powell addressed the Security Council.

…the facts and Iraq’s behavior show that Saddam Hussein and his regime are concealing their efforts to produce more weapons of mass destruction…

…A second source, an Iraqi civil engineer in a position to know the details of the program, confirmed the existence of transportable facilities moving on trailers.

A third source, also in a position to know, reported in summer 2002 that Iraq had manufactured mobile production systems mounted on road trailer units and on rail cars.

Finally, a fourth source, an Iraqi major, who defected, confirmed that Iraq has mobile biological research laboratories, in addition to the production facilities I mentioned earlier….

The war was based on either poor information or lies. Neither one will resurrect a fallen American or innocent Iraqi civilian.

And the neoconservatives’ follow-up “rationales”? Hamas and Israel continue to murder each other. What a fundamental waste of lives, money, and dignity.

That was the legal basis on which we invaded Iraq – that they had deliberately violated UN sanctions regarding WMDs. There was no other legal rationale. What the Bush Administration’s neoconservative hawks did was just shift the objective to eliminating Ba’athism, regime change, stopping Iraq’s support for terror, help Israel in its efforts against terrorism, etc. After 7 years of battles, death, destruction, we gave Iraq its democracy, but the other regional goals have never been met. Instead, Iraq became flypaper for every disaffected, pimpled Arab teen who wanted to kill Americans. Once Saddam was gone, we had Zarqawi to deal with. Thousands of American men and women died.

So, to my mind, it’s not time to navel-gaze about whether the surge worked and whether Obama was wrong about it, and whether he is sufficiently remorseful or introspective about how wrong he was. Instead, we should re-evaluate why we invaded Iraq in the first place, further destabilizing an already unstable region; subjecting an oppressed people to 7+ years of war, terrorism, and occupation.

To my mind, it’s time to re-examine the so-called “Powell Doctrine”, which was completely disregarded in March 2003 by then-Secretary of State Colin Powell and his bosses.

  • Is a vital national security interest threatened?
  • Do we have a clear attainable objective?
  • Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed?
  • Have all other non-violent policy means been fully exhausted?
  • Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?
  • Have the consequences of our action been fully considered?
  • Is the action supported by the American people?
  • Do we have genuine broad international support?

Now? This same band is trying to get payback through words such as “Benghazi” and “drones”. Payback for being wrong? 

2. If you haven’t yet, please do read this report from the Economist, which explains that the Nordic countries that are usually – ignorantly and anachronistically – so derided as socialist hellholes, are economically outperforming the US and the rest of Europe. There is a remarkably high public trust in government institutions, and these countries have done much to reform without damaging the social safety net for which they’re known. If you deride the Democrats or Obama for wanting to turn the US into Sweden, it beats the Republicans’ efforts to turn the country into the Sudan. 

The Long Walk: Released Today

10 Jul

Today is a big day for my friend and former WNYMedia.net colleague, Brian Castner. A book he wrote about his experiences in Iraq as a bomb disposal unit commander, and about his readjustment to civilian life, is released today. He led a group that would find and destroy IEDs, investigate the aftermath of their detonation, and conduct house-to-house searches for the perpetrators. Almost more chilling is what that sort of experience does to a person when they return Stateside. 

Brian is a gifted and intelligent writer and he offers a unique perspective on a conflict we who weren’t there understand only in the abstract. Congratulations to him – I hope the book is a hit, and I thank him for sharing his experience with a wider audience. 

Brian appeared on NPR’s Fresh Air yesterday, and you can listen to his interview here. He has also talked with Nick Mendola, Artvoice, Publisher’s Weekly, and maintains his own blog here

Follow Brian on Twitter, and “like” his Facebook page here

Collins, Marines, and SOPA

13 Jan

1. And in the end, Mr. Collins merely had to unplug the lights and radio in order to return them to their rightful owner, the people of Erie County. He didn’t need to deal with a guy he fired, he didn’t need to go to Cappellino’s.  It’s simply wonderful to be rid of him and his sense of nobility and entitlement, isn’t it? The notion that he’s looking to (a) challenge the well-liked, hard-working Kathy Hochul; and, in turn, (b) primary David Bellavia, who is still waiting to run that race, is simply delicious.

2. A video showing American Marines pissing on the dead bodies of Taliban fighters has everyone saying predictably angry things. That’s why you should read what Hamilton Nolan has to say about war, and what we should really be pissing on.

3. For some unknown reason, the federal government appears poised to pass the improperly named “Stop Online Privacy Act“, or SOPA. It criminalizes sites that store, maintain, stream or otherwise offer pirated content, and permits the government to revoke IP addresses and domain names. Also, once an offshore piracy site is summarily deemed illegal by the US Attorney General, the government can force domestic ISPs to block their customer’s access to those IPs. Furthermore, the proposed penalty would weaken security when you’re, say, doing online banking. But most ridiculously, SOPA allows the government to block your IP and track what you’re up to on the internet.

Deep packet inspection is the only way to block data from specific Web pages, or URLs. It also may raise new privacy concerns about SOPA because it relies on intercepting customers’ Web browsing, analyzing the protocols to see what’s going on, and reviewing the packets’ contents. That looks a lot like wiretapping, and a bipartisan group of House members soundly condemned it when a company named NebuAd tried it in 2008.

SOPA restricts and monitors Americans’ internet experience, censors what websites they can see, monitors what they’re doing, and places unreasonable burdens on domestic ISPs and hosting companies. It would create a governmental blacklist of websites. The whole thing takes the unbridled nature of the internet – the free-wheeling communications platform we all use and depend on, and turns our experience into something resembling a third-world authoritarian dictatorship, all so some Chinese website doesn’t offer pirated Metallica MP3s. The cure is worse than the disease. Senator Gillibrand is a co-sponsor of SOPA. Senator Schumer supports it, as well. It’s time to contact them and urge them to vote against the internet blacklist. Also, visit the “Stop American Censorship” site for more information and how to get involved.

PROTECT IP / SOPA Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future on Vimeo.

The WECK Manifesto

16 Feb

Sorry for two WECK-related posts in as many days, but it’s not every day a local media outlet declares all-out war on another. It’s not every day someone publicly displays some hustle; some fire in the belly.  It’s not every day that David takes it upon himself to trash-talk and challenge Goliath. It’s not every day that a small, local upstart takes a fight directly to its competitor.  This was blowing Twitter up locally yesterday, and it deserves your consideration.

But that’s exactly what WECK 1230-AM’s new program director, Brad Riter, did yesterday.  He declared war on WGR, WBEN, and Entercom, and pledged to grow WECK by focusing on local hosts and local programming, Dennis Miller contractually notwithstanding.  The response he’s received has been enthusiastically positive. Seems as if people are looking for quality local programming.

Have a listen to the declaration of his manifesto.



23 Nov

HT Marquil at EmpireWire.com

Tonight: “Sir! No Sir!”

4 Oct

Tonight at 7PM at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, Chapter 128 of Veterans for Peace will present the film, Sir! No Sir!

In August of 1968, two 19-year-old draft resisters—Bruce Cline and Bruce Beyer—took symbolic sanctuary in the Unitarian Universalist Church in Buffalo, NY, to highlight their opposition to the war in Vietnam. As they burned their orders to report for induction on the steps of the church, they were joined by Cline’s brother David. Wounded in combat and home on medical leave from Ft. Hood, David Cline heroically stood with the two resisters to proclaim his opposition to the war. The story of the church sanctuary is legendary and the story of David Cline’s struggle against American militarism spans four decades. David’s story weaves inexorably through the history of soldiers on the front lines of antiwar resistance.

In anticipation of an event in Ft. Erie, Ontario, on October 16th entitled Refusing Orders/Crossing Borders: a dialogue with American war resisters, Chapter #128 of Veterans for Peace presents a screening of David Zeiger’s 2005 film Sir! No Sir! This powerful film documents the struggle of antiwar GI organizers during the Indochina war. We hope this film screening will inspire people to travel to Canada to meet with Iraq war resisters seeking asylum in Canada.

“The past isn’t dead; it isn’t even past” — William Faulkner.

Sir! No Sir! is the story of one of the most vibrant and widespread upheavals of the 1960s—one that had a profound impact on American society, yet has been virtually obliterated from the collective memory of that time. Although the Vietnam War has been the subject of hundreds of fiction and nonfiction films, the story of the rebellion of thousands of American soldiers against the war has never been told in film. By the Pentagon’s own figures, from 1966–1971, 503,926 “incidents of desertion” occurred. By 1971 entire units were refusing to go into battle in unprecedented numbers. Stockades and federal prisons were filling up with soldiers jailed for their opposition to the war and the military.

“In the course of a few short years, over 200 underground newspapers were published by soldiers around the world; local and national antiwar GI organizations were joined by thousands; thousands more demonstrated against the war at every major base in the world in 1970 and 1971, including in Vietnam itself.” Using never before seen archival footage, as well as rare documents from the resistance, Zeiger’s documentary forcibly reveals the untold story of the GI movement to end the war in Vietnam.

“Perfectly timed with new doubts about the Iraq War” (Variety).

When Hallwalls’ Film Program first showed this film in January 2007, the screening quickly sold out, and a second screening had to be scheduled the following month to accommodate the demand.

Bruce Cline will introduce the film with a couple of ballads and Veterans for Peace chapter members will be on hand to discuss the film and upcoming event.

Obama is Soft on Trrr

2 Feb

From Andrew Sullivan:

In a matter of months, both leaders of the Qaeda-allied Taliban in Pakistan have been targeted and killed by US drone attacks. The latest was in retaliation for the murder of CIA officials in a suicide attack by a double agent who turned on the US. If you add this record – and there are many examples of similar surgical strikes decapitating Qaeda figures in the last year – to the ramp-up of forces in Afghanistan and overhaul of strategy there, I think you can make a very solid case that in the war on Jihadist terrorism, Obama is proving far more effective – in both soft and hard power – than the Bush administration ever was.

The Republicans will not concede this, because their war is not really at this point on al Qaeda. It’s on Obama.

Remember that next time some Bush deadender tries to tell you that Obama is soft on terrorism.

Hi, Karl! Hi, Dick!

You call it Dithering, I call it Careful Deliberation

13 Nov

After all, this isn’t the land of make-believe. This is real life with real consequences, ranging from the very personal to the geopolitical.

Colin Powell advises President Obama:

“If you decide to send more troops or that’s what you feel it is necessary, make sure you have a good understanding of what those troops are going to be doing and some assurance that the additional troops will be successful,” Powell says he told the president. “You can’t guarantee success in a very complex theater like Afghanistan and increasingly with the Pakistan problem next door, but you have to have some sense of what these additional troops will be able to do.

“And secondly, take your time,” Powell said, “and third, you’ve got to ensure that you’re putting this commitment on a solid base, and the base is a little soft right now. We’ve got a president in Afghanistan that had a rough election; a lot of corruption associated with the election; a lot of corruption in the government. And he has been told — Mr. Karzai has been told, and I know him very well — he’s been told he’s got to do something about this; he’s got to do something about the drug problem, and he’s got to start pulling the Afghan people together. And so the president has to measure that; what kind of base is he putting this new strategy on because it isn’t just what we do; what do the Afghans do. And as I said a moment ago, it’s made particularly difficult because of the unstable situation along the Pakistan border and in Pakistan.”

General McChrystal wants a troop surge. Ambassador Eikenberry says that’s exactly the wrong thing to do.

Either way, the fact that the administration isn’t rushing into anything, and is carefully weighing not only the immediate effect of the various options, but also their long-term efficacy, is heartening.