Tag Archives: anti war

Howard Zinn On War by Howard Zinn

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The collection of essays by WWII veteran turned peace activist and history professor, Howard Zinn, in Howard Zinn On War is indispensable to any person seeking to understand the vulgar reality of war. What makes his essays powerful is his reinterpretation of a history we’ve all been brought up to believe. The spirit of Zinn’s writing is urged on by the same moral conviction that reinterpreted Christopher Columbus from a noble explorer to the more accurate description of a genocidal expansionist. Zinn applies this sense of historical integrity to the subject of war. The disgracing of nationally admired myths to their truthful representation is always painful, enlightening, and fiercely resisted. Zinn takes the highly unpopular stance that there is no such thing as a just war.

Zinn attacks the justification of atrocities committed under the guise of patriotic duty and self-deception. “When you plant a bomb in a discotheque, the death of bystanders is deliberate; when you drop bombs on a city, it’s accidental. We can ease our conscience that way, but only by lying to ourselves. Because, when you bomb a city from the air, you know, absolutely know, that innocent people will die.” His investigations reveal a history of unnecessary atrocities done to make political statements. Millions of people killed in various instances for the sake of making points vain as crude machismo. This is the inevitable outcome in all wars.

I would like to go into every point discussed in this book. Each essay slays another little “Christopher Columbus” regarding precision bombing, defense of democracy, terrorism, and our government’s claim to fighting tyranny. These reflections would be too lengthy for simple review. Zinn maintained a 45 year friendship with Noam Chomsky who referred to him as one of the great historian and activists of a generation. Zinn has a lifetime career as a fighter for civil rights and anti-war through non-violent protest and civil disobedience. I highly recommend a documentary of his life entitled You Can’t Remain Neutral on Moving Train (it is available in its entirety on youtube). His life will serve as an example for people everywhere in the struggle for a more peaceful world.

 

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Everything we had: An oral history of the vietnam war by Al Santoli

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A powerfully unapologetic book. It completely destroyed the Hollywood and Media fantasy notion of what war is. The stories by these Vietnam veterans are raw and make no attempt to come off as politically correct. They talk about their experiences in their own word without regard to being politically correct. The testimonies follow a chronological order that start from the beginning of the war, all the way to leaving Vietnam. What I like about this book is that you got to hear from a wide range of soldiers, everything from Marines, SEALS, medics, Navy, and POW’s. There’s even some photographs of the men and women in the book.

What I admired about this book was the brutal honesty. The soldiers speak about incompetent leaders, crazy soldiers, fear, courage, death, and a lot of other things that is usually overshadowed by an overtly patriotic message. This is one of those books people of this generation need so badly read. These voices from a not so distant past are trying to warn of us of the true nature of war. Some of the stories are enough to make you laugh out loud, such as the soldier who enlisted after a wild night of drinking then sobered up really fast. Other accounts by special forces who lived deep in enemy territory are grim and reveal the deep psychological scarring of what they did to survive and do their duty.

I’d like to close a review with a poem by Lee Byron “Lee Boy” Childress. He is a contributor in Everything We Had. Childress passed away on July 31, 1997 from lung cancer brought on by exposure to the chemical Agent Orange.

Alone

Old soldiers never die;
They just wish they could.

He’s your brother.
He’s your son.
He’s the one who humped your gun.
Now his mind has come undone
And you applaud it.

Through a ten-year war it seems
You were hatching all your dreams
So you couldn’t hear the screams
Your own son dying.

He’s back, put to bed,
Alone,
Sleeping with the dead,
Bloated on the lies you fed.

For he cannot stop the popping
Or the helicopter chopping down his brain.

He’s so hooked,
He’s so fried,
Blood
Screaming from his eyes.
Alone,
Psychomanglized.

More of this poetry is printed on http://www.ragbaby.com/magazine/19990321.htm

Al Stanoli

Al Stanoli

 

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Can we End all Wars?

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I’ve often wondered about the necessity of war. True, if we hadn’t intervened in WWII the Nazi’s could have taken over. At the same time I have to acknowledge that the US government is guilty of committing and supporting its own atrocities before and after the war. And so I wonder what it means that one abusive superpower had defeated another. For example, we stopped Imperial Japan by committing one of the greatest atrocities in human history, the dropping of two Atomic bombs on large civilian cities which killed close to a million people in totality.

Perhaps it is human nature that there will always be war. This is especially true when we are taught to dehumanize at will, economic policies encourage the exploitation of weaker people, history is edited to produce a living myth, and people celebrate war rather than condemn it.

I do agree that abuses happen because good people do nothing. But I also think that our education system has greatly failed in teaching us the tools for becoming critical, independent thinkers and humane people. Thus we have a responsibility to educate ourselves. Especially in the US where information is for the most part free compared to the rest of the world. Pick up some Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Thich Nhat Hanh, and as Bill Hicks puts it, “squeegee your third eye.”

Maybe we’ll never be able to END ALL WARS, but we can at least end all unnecessary ones committed on our part.

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Fire From the Ashes: Short Stories about Hiroshima and Nagasaki

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Fire from the Ashes: Short Stories about Hiroshima and Nagasaki is an anthology of short stories by Japanese writers who experienced the Atomic bomb or lived during the era. The stories are presented and edited by Nobel Prize Laureate Kenzaburō Ōe. Through their stories a wide spectrum of the devastation is given in unwavering detail. Some of the stories take place within the raw carnage of countless burned people in a setting that is an almost surreal representation of the end of the world. Other stories tell of the aftermath in which people attempt to make sense of what happened, live with their injuries, internalize the death of their loved ones, revisit the bombsite, and experience ostracization within their own country.

In compiling this anthology I have come to realize anew that the short stories included herein are not merely literary expressions, composed by looking back at the past, of what happened at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the summer of 1945. They are also highly significant vehicles for thinking about the contemporary world over which hangs the awesome threat of vastly expanded nuclear arsenals. They are, that is, a means for stirring our imaginative powers to consider the fundamental conditions of human existence; they are relevant to the present and to our movement toward all tomorrows. (Kenzaburō Ōe)

This book is the cumulative result by a group of writers to intellectually confront the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the realities of living in an age of nuclear weapons. The stories themselves are written at the highest caliber of modern literature and done so with a degree of restraint that adds an immense solemnity. Nuclear annihilation is the ultimate method of dehumanization and self-destruction. It goes beyond all atrocities for at least in traditional genocide the killer must see the faces of their victims, and so acknowledge their humanity, before killing them. A nuclear weapon dropped from the sky or fired as a warhead from miles away is impersonal as ringing a doorbell. Japanese and American people, though tied by this historic event see it in a different light. Japan says it as an atrocity, while most Americans see it as a justified means to an end. Yet if take it on sheer numbers, a devastation of one-hundred 9/11’s in a single instant is still preferable to one Hiroshima or Nagasaki. That is to speak nothing about the agonizing effects of radiation burning and birth deformities that would ensue. This is not a defense of one atrocity over the other, but a condemnation of them all. The question of extinction vs. salvation raised in this book has not ceased to be relevant. The torch has been passed to our generation and it is up to us whether we will use it to cook for the hungry, or continue to crush it out on people from above.

The following writers are included in Fire from the Ashes: Masuji Ibuse, Tamiki Hara, Katsuzo Oda, Yoko Ota, Ineko Sata, Kyoko Hayashi, Mitsuharu Inoue, Hiroko Takenishi.

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War is a force that gives us meaning by Chris Hedges

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Chis Hedges was a war correspondent for the New York Times in many of the defining warzones of our times: the Balkans, Central America, and the Middle East. He has reported on wars from the inside, surviving ambushes, diving for cover alongside his military escorts, and witnessing the aftermath of every atrocity imaginable. The psychological scars from knowing the face of mass produced death are still with him. In his travels around the world he’s found a recurring dynamic at work, the addiction of soldiers and citizens to the ecstasy of war. Hedges covers this topic exclusively in his book, War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning.

This book is journalistic, philosophical, and part social critique. It is effectiveness rests in analyzing the myth of war. He explains how it’s created, who perpetuates it, how it’s disseminated in society, what function it serves, its psychological effects, how it’s maintained, and what happens when it’s finally punctured by the undeniable reality of war. He cites his own experiences and the accounts of soldiers and citizens in war to illustrate where and how these recurring themes unfold in real life. These accounts include graphic accounts of murder, rape, torture, suicide, genocide that deflate the glorious lie which herds generations of men into battle. Yet amongst all this carnage there is a lust for combat and its incomparable rush that fills the emptiness felt by entire nations. No longer is anyone insignificant in the theater of war, we are elevated to the calling of destiny, and to push back against it feels almost impossible. To avoid its intoxicating effects is outright hopeless.

I have often wondered how people I’ve greatly respected for their intelligence and wisdom, people I have personally known, would become incapable of discussing war in any rational way. Their responses on every aspect of the War on Terror would be variations of the empty, clichéd reasons parroted from mainstream media; “they hate us for our freedom”, “Muslims are evil”, and “torture is permissible when we do it.” I wouldn’t accept such absurd reasons for going to war, and so I turned away from the news and began reading writers like Noam Chomsky who gave a grimmer picture of what’s going on. When I approached people with this newfound evidence they’d dismiss it all and hold tighter to robotic ways of thinking. I increasingly became an outsider, an intellectual minority. The whole time I’ve been wondering what this hypnotic like way of thinking is. Could it simply be effective propaganda? The answer is that war is a force that gives us meaning. It is a longing for death that is inside us all. We decorate and justify it with patriotic and glorious gestures, but that death drive is always there. This is a work that lays bare our naked desire for death and recognition. Nobody in our generation can afford to miss out on this highly enlightening work.

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a review of “the happy birthday of death” by gregory corso. Beat poetry and the anarchy of language.

It was strange, I still don’t know exactly what to think of The Happy Birthday of Death (1960),  except that I enjoyed it greatly. At first Corso’s poems seemed like pure chaos. I picked up this book at a second hand store, it was the first time I had even heard of Gregory Corso (1930-2001). The words he used, and how he used them, barely held in relation to the others. Sometimes they appeared as if chosen at random. Perhaps they were. An anarchy of words! These odd combinations resulted in creations such as “pie glue” and “penguin dust.” In every poem there was a meaning that defied reason, even by the standards of poetry, but something was there that held it together. An amorphous purpose that can only be communicated in the funky style that Corso writes in.

His experimental style is so different from everything out there, that even the more open minded readers are in for a poetic curve ball. Corso celebrates the liberation of language and ideas. Most importantly, he has fun with poetry. Poetry is not some sacred tradition that’s has grown stale as an ancient vase in a museum. Corso has commented on the subject,

“How I love to probe life…. That’s what poetry is to me, a wondrous prober….It is not a meter or a measure of a line, a breath; not ‘law’ music; but the assembly of great eye sounds placed into an inspired measured idea.”

Breaking rules is what he does best. Corso’s beat poetry style bounces around the page shattering the glass castle of tradition. He has the soul of a jester philosopher. Poems such as “Marriage” are just a stone’s throw away from stand up comedy, while “Bomb” and “Police,” deal with the horror of war and societal repression. In the back of my head a nagging thought continually arose, “are you even allowed to do that?” The Happy Birthday of Death is a short read that packs a punch and is small enough to squeeze into your pocket. Put on your “fried shoes,” walk to your local bookstore, and tell the clerk, “Penguin dust, bring me penguin dust, I want penguin dust!”

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