Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Monday, March 05, 2018


I just finished reading The Second World War by Antony Beevor. This was a most unpleasant experience, but one to which you would be well served to subject yourself. Beevor discusses the subject of writing about horrific truths here, with reporter Keith Lowe.

“One has to try to understand these things,” he says. “Let’s face it, the duty of a historian is to understand, and to try to convey that understanding to others.” In fact, given the brutal nature of war, he feels he has actually been relatively restrained. There are many details that have never made it into his books. In his history of the Soviet attack on Berlin, for example, he stopped short of including graphic accounts of German suicide attempts, including the suicides of young children. “I left them out because you couldn’t read them without bursting into tears. There are things that you can’t put in a book because they are too horrific. And yet at the same time you wonder afterwards if you are chickening out by not putting them in.” 
In reading The Second World War, it never occurred to me that he had chickened out. He describes the Shoah, mass rape and murder of civilians, cannibalism, intentional starvation of whole cities, and a whole lot more with unflinching specificity. But as it turns out, he did omit the mass murder of German POWs by U.S. and British troops in the Battle of the Bulge, and he did omit the suicides of children in the fall of Berlin. So now he's telling it like it is.

Here's the deal, folks. War is not glorious, it is not ennobling, it is not patriotic. The term "war  crime" is redundant because all war is a crime. War is degrading, vile, and befouls every one who participates. The Nazis started WWII and there was no choice but to confront them. But the U.S. started the Vietnam War and the War in Iraq and both of those were crimes against humanity.

George W. Bush is now apparently regarded with growing fondness. He is in fact a monstrous criminal. And sadly, for all his accomplishments, Lyndon Johnson was as well.

No more.


Irving R. Blum said...

War--HUNH!!--what is it good for? Absolutely NOTHING! It's WORSE than nothing! I teach students and I tell them, "War is like disagreeing with your friend about a movie, so you say to him, 'Well, I disagree with you, so I'm going to kill you.'"

One great reason why women need to run the world now. Men have struck out! People who give birth won't be so quick to send their children off to die.

BTW, the "victors" in WWI--"The Great War"--basically set up WWII to happen.

Jobs and health care for everyone! Get rid of the Fox Abomination Network! Let's have one gigantic "international army" to go into places like Syria to end the atrocities.

Gay Boy Bob said...

The Nazis started WWII and there was no choice but to confront them. But the U.S. started the Vietnam War and the War in Iraq and both of those were crimes against humanity.

US declares war on Germany in 1941 in response to their declaration of war against the US. That was it. It appeared at that time that if we did not do so, the alternative would be worse.

US did not start the Vietnam war. US assisted the French and then continued the war because at that time, the alternative of allowing communists to walk all over Southeast Asia looked much worse. The accepted "domino" theory predicted that these countries would align themselves with other communist regimes and ultimately diminish US world influence. Obviously, it was not true.

Iraq was not a good idea.

Afghanistan was in response to an attack on the US. Even Democratic liberals at that time called it the "good" war.

The lesson is that hindsight is always 20/20. If Hitler started walking all over Europe with today's political attitudes, I can guarantee that in that moment, you would not be in favor or going to war with Germany.

Now, decades later, you think it was the right thing to do, and so do I.

Irving R. Blum said...

To reiterate, WWII was made inevitable by the Treaty of Versailles after WWI. It didn't need to happen.

Howard Zinn, whom Cervantes was acquainted with, makes a strong case in his book, "Declarations of Independence," that NO war is justified. And yes, that includes WWII. And Howard Zinn was not only a scholar, and infinitely (to the Googleth power) more great a mind than Cervantes's idiot groupie, "Gay Boy Bob"; but he also flew on a bomber in WWII as a young man and only later realized the horror of the war he'd been in. Through the study of history, he came to see that, as Cervantes has written, all war is an atrocity. And it is abetted by cowards and traitors like Cheney, the Bushes, and our most recent horrifyingly stupid and corrupt White House resident.

Talk and comments on blogs are cheap. The sooner Cervantes makes commenters register in order to write--so that he can weed out the riffraff--the better.

Cervantes said...

I'm considering requiring registration. Yes, I did know Howard. As a historian, he of course knew the true history of the Vietnam war. Vietnam was a French colony. A rebellion by the Viet Minh (which the U.S. had armed during WWII to combat the Japanese) ended French rule in 1954. By agreement, Vietnam was partitioned at the 17th parallel, with the communist Viet Minh in control of the north. Elections were to be held to reunify the country, but they were never held. Opinion is unanimous that the Viet Minh would have won overwhelmingly. An insurgency arose in the south against the dictator Ngo Din Diem.

"From April to June 1955, Diệm eliminated any political opposition in the south by launching military operations against two religious groups: the Cao Đài and Hòa Hảo of Ba Cụt. The campaign also focused on the Bình Xuyên organized crime group which was allied with members of the communist party secret police and had some military elements. As broad-based opposition to his harsh tactics mounted, Diệm increasingly sought to blame the communists.[37] In a referendum on the future of the State of Vietnam on 23 October 1955, Diệm rigged the poll supervised by his brother Ngô Đình Nhu and was credited with 98.2 percent of the vote, including 133% in Saigon. His American advisors had recommended a more modest winning margin of "60 to 70 percent." Diệm, however, viewed the election as a test of authority.[108] Three days later, he declared South Vietnam to be an independent state under the name Republic of Vietnam (ROV), with himself as president."

An insurgency arose in the south, which did not in fact receive support from the North Vietnamese government until 1960. While John Kennedy provided some military training and advice to the inept South Vietnamese army, Lyndon Johnson intervened more forcefully in the Vietnamese civil war, using the pretext of a hoax attack on U.S. naval vessels by North Vietnamese forces in the Gulf of Tonkin. So the U.S. did not start the war exactly in the sense that there was an ongoing civil war, the U.S. did invade the country and initiate fighting between U.S. troops and Vietnamese insurgents.

The Communists won. Communist Vietnam now has friendly relations with the U.S. and is a trading partner.

Gay Boy Bob said...

It appears that Cervantes disagrees with Howard Zinn as he stated that "there was no choice but to confront them" when discussing the Nazis and WWII.

That's OK. Probably a majority disagree with Howard Zinn's writings.

And while Mr. Blum in his comment above seems to champion the Zinn philosophy, he is not consistent in his condemnation of US leaders and conveniently leaves out President Obama who has the distinction of being the first two term president to be at war for all of his tenure. He launched airstrikes or military raids in at least seven countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan.

Gay Boy Bob said...

Howard Zinn, whom Cervantes was acquainted with, makes a strong case in his book, "Declarations of Independence," that NO war is justified.

I would ask your readers (especially Mr. Blum) which one of them would consider the American Civil War unjustified.

Don Quixote said...

Lucky Gay Boy Bob! Here's his chance to shut up for a while, take a break from his knee-jerk perversity, and go read Howard Zinn! In addition to "Declarations of Independence," Zinn also wrote his "People's History of the United States"--available in softcover!

Here's a good quote from Zinn:

“Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is that people all over the world have obeyed the dictates of leaders...and millions have been killed because of this obedience...Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves...(and) the grand thieves are running the country. That’s our problem.”

If it sounds like it's still true, that's because it's still true :-)