Monday, August 13, 2012

August13: Apologies

The last thing I remember of Wednesday night was lying helpless on my back with a masked man standing over me.  He had a knife. Then all went black. When I came to, many hours later, a young woman was prodding me in a normally no trespassing area, while another was doing something with a long, plastic tube that I should have preferred not to  have done to me, not even with a short, plastic tube.

However, I'm now home, and short by an appendix. By the way, if  you ever suffer a sharp pain in your lower, right abdomen,  don't waste your time taking it out on an angry blog. Go to emergency right away. Luckily, they were able to have me in an operating room within 90 minutes.

I won't write a regular blog right now because I've barely looked at today's paper - and because I have a pile of other jobs backed up. I'll start as, I think, my last blog said I would, with Norbert's column of last Wednesday on the Mars landing.

Norbert sees it as a magnificent triumph, an exciting moment in our knowledge of the universe - and so it is. But the US Congress does not give billions to NASA simply to provide us with show biz thrills. At root, space science is a military project; and NASA serves military purposes.

NASA research gave the US the ability to put spy stations into space, to keep them there; and it developed the technology to see a situation better and with more information than an agent on the spot could. The drone, a robot aircraft. can now be flown any place on earth to get information - or to kill, with the dead always reported as 'militants'. Maybe they are. But, if so, there must be a large number of children, even infants, women and elderly who are militants.

Drones are used to carry out assassinations, to attack countries with whom we are not at war, and which are no military threat to us. Best of all, there are usually no western witnesses to such attacks. Nor have our news media shown any eagerness to get the facts. The drone is very much a product of NASA research.

Since making drones is a very profitable venture for the defence industry, various forms of them are already on sale to countries and police forces around the world. The next step, with some designs already complete, is for drones that will have no pilot in the plane or on the ground. It will make its own decisions about who to kill. (Notice how the Mars vehicle makes some decisions on its own?). Fighter versions of such drones will travel many times are fast as the F-35; and, without the limits of human stress to worry about, will be the most  manoeuverable aircraft ever built. Nor is this in the distant future. Indeed, such a drone is likely to be in service before the F-35, which would make our F-35s, at 40 billion? 50? 80?. the most expensive museum display pieces in history.

Oh - a final touch - plenty of countries can develop such aircaft. And are  developing them. China, Russia, India are examples. As well, they will be, as most other weapons are, available on the open market.

War has, for this child  of World War Two, changed since the days I ran around the schoolyard, my arms outstretched as the wings of a Spitfire shouting ratatat tat as I came up behind a Messerschmitt. (He shouted he was Spitfire, too. But they all try to fool you.)

We were all there. We were all in it. And there was no torture (that we knew of), no deliberate killing of civilians (that we knew of). We didn't  hate, at least, not much. In fact, it was only late in World War Two that armies learned that most soldiers didn't want to kill. That's when psychologists were called in to make soldiers want to kill, even to enjoy it. Not coincidentally, we now have growing rates of mental illness and suicide among soldiers.

The hired killers, the mercenaries. have become so common that the coporations which recruit them have become among the biggest corporations in the world. They also supply police forces for whole countries. Even in a regular army, like that of the US, many soldiers are not citizens of the country they fight for. Foreigners join the US army on the promise they will be given citizenship on discharge. As wars become more brutal, most of us have become increasingly detached.

Partly, that's because with all the possibilies of modern news media, we are getting even less news than we did on World War One. We understood why we sent troops to France in 1914. We knew why we sent troops to Hong Kong in 1941. (It was a bad idea; but we knew what the intent was.)

But why did we bomb Libya? Why did we join the absurd war in Afghanistan? Why did the US and Britain invade Iraq? Why are drones attacking Somalia and Yemen? Why are we preparing to invade Syria to help the rebels defeat the government? After all, the major reason a rebellion exists is because the rebels have been getting money, training, weapons and mercenaries from western and certain Arab powers. As well, many of the rebels are Islamic Jihadists. Aren't we supposed to be against them?

Never before in history has so much money been spent on so many news media - with so little result.

These thoughts of the stunning changes in warfare, the general ignorance of what is going on, and our detachment from it all, were going through my mind on a sleepless night at the hospital. Suddenly, another great change occured to me. Where were the popular war songs?

Going back over a century and a half to the early days of mass popular music, every war produced masses of popular songs. As early as the Napoleonic wars, "Heart of Oak" was a hit in music halls and pubs.  In the American civil war, sheet music popularized, "John Brown's Body".
Nor were such songs necessarily militant. There were more tender songs about the impact of war on home life '"Just Before the Battle,  Mother". In the Boer War, there was "We are Marching to Praetoria." In World War One, there were hundreds of songs in sheet music, music halls, and early records."It's a long way to Tiperarry", "The whole world is waiting for the sunrise". By World War Two, " There'll always be an England"(check this on youtube with Vera Lynn. Magnificent.)

"A nightingale sang in Berkeley Square". "Praise the Lord; and pass the ammunition."  Sometimes defiant, sometimes loving, sometimes nostalgic, sometimes hoping, songs like these dominated the charts through the war years. At the end of the war,there was even a war song that bridged the way to peace. Originally, a Czech song, it was copied the the Germans, then by the Allies as "Lili Marlene".

Then it stopped.

The only hit songs of the Vietnam war were protest songs like "Where have all the flowers gone?"

Then nothing. It's the same with movies. Afghanistan, the longest war the US has ever fought - and at the greatest cost in money - ---care to name a hit movie about it? US studios were making hit movies about World War Two before the US even entered it. It made them throughout the war - and still does.

It's as if we were deliberately detaching ourselves, giving up on any responsiblity, refusing to see what is happening, what has happened to us.....


Oh, I did glance at Norbert's column for today. He ranted that all bloggers are vain, attention-seeking, and ignorant. I agree. And it gives me a wonderful idea. Here is a great chance for Norbert to challenge a blogger to a public debate so he can show how ignorant the blogger is.  Modesty forbids me to mention a'm not modest. I'm a blogger. I'm vain.

My vanity suggests I should be the blogger for Norbert to challenge. And my attention-seeking side demands that he should be allowed to have his whole editorial staff with him to argue against me.


  1. Welcome back Graeme, your first paragraph is exceptionally funny. Continue your great analysis.

  2. Thanks Graeme for getting rid of that dangerous appendix! I'm glad you're back! I would've missed you if you hadn't returned. The world surely needs more people with the same mindset as yours!

  3. Hello again,

    I missed your blog posts but assumed you were on a vacation. The hospital is no place to go on vacation, Graeme. It is a great place to go in an emergency. I'm relieved that you were able to get prompt medical help. And that you are home again...and writing...and looking after yourself?
    Be good to yourself.