Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Los Desastres de la Guerra

It's been about two hundred years since Francisco Goya (1746-1828) began, in his sixties, Los Desastres de la Guerra / The Disasters of War series. Anyone thinking of electively plunging into war might want to study it carefully. Here is a scan of Plate 12, Para eso habéis nacido / This is what you were born for.

The present "low level" "all-volunteer" conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan percolate through the collective American psyche from time to time, but mostly we seem to have adopted an Anglo-Orwellian outlook: stay calm and carry on. Wars and S'mores -- it's all good!  As long as there's no draft, who cares who, why or how we're fighting?

Soon, I'm going to send off a copy of my journal from 1981, covering my first European trip (when I was twenty) with a history class that took a good close-up look at World War I battlefields, among other things. (It'll go to Wilson Library's Special Collections at UNC Chapel Hill). Here's a snippet from the journal about a typical day on the Western Front, six decades after the end of the Great War. Dr. Jim Leutze conducted the class, a double credit summer semester experience I'll not forget anytime soon. 

Off we went through the Somme countryside to the section known by the British and Canadians as the “Battle of Albert.” Dr. Leutze gave a brief lecture about the Great War’s impact on the British Empire atop the Newfoundland Memorial. The cream of a generation fell in the ground in front of us and places like it. It is a rolling pasture interspersed with small forests and crisscrossed with the still visible trenches and lines of barbed wire stakes; the area of No Man’s Land down to the Somme River and over is completely pockmarked with shell holes. Flocks of sheep incongruously roam part of No Man’s Land now, and out in the field stand the shriveled remains of the only tree still left from 1916. That “Age of Innocence” is really appalling to me. I could never submit to the arbitrary whims of a government in peace or war without at least questioning them, though if born a generation ago I’m sure I would do so “patriotically.” Given a cause I believed in, perhaps I’d fight, but for something as stupid and senseless as the First World War, forget it.

Are the long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq causes you still believe in or ever believed in? How about the U.S.-Vietnam War?  The Panama Invasion of 1989?  How about the Invasion of Grenada in 1983?   Should universal conscription be re-introduced? Who gains? Who pays? Who loses? The answers to these questions are vital, not pointless: Para eso habéis nacido.

Today's Rune: Warrior.      


Charles Gramlich said...

reminds me of the star trek episode where the two planets had had war for centuries because they had made it nice and neat and tidy.

the walking man said...

I think we never should have gone into Iraq in the first place. It WAS a sovereign nation and a secular buffer to Iran. Now it is a suburb of Tehran.

Afghanistan. Shit they have been continuously at war for 2000 years. I may have played some cat and mouse and waited until the mousie jumped up and killed him. Or just Nuked the whole region and let shit happen.

But no I never have believed in either of the damn wars. when they start to draft the "Senator's Son" then I think it will all end.

Mark Krone said...

Amazing how many US wars were based on false information. Spanish-American War, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Iraq, WW I, US-Indian Wars, etc.

General Smedley Butler's essay on war as business profiteering is eye opening:


Erik Donald France said...

Thank you, dudes, for the comentários. Much appreciated. Charles, indeed, given the use of drones and missiles, it's realluy moving in that direction. Walking Man, sounds about right. Mark K., definitely with few exceptions, war is a racket.