War and Peace

War_terrorFrom Anonymous ART of Revolution

Today I came across this thought-provoking image on my Facebook page. Very good point. War is terror.

Unfortunately, there are still too much wars and terror on this planet. Will that ever stop? I hope it will. Like Martin Luther King, “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless  midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can  never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love  will have the final word.”

We entered the era, when ease of communication and travel started breaking old cultural and geographical barriers, improving understanding between people. Hopefully, younger generation will progress that even further, at both interpersonal and intergovernmental levels. Hannah Nelson’s speech in the video below gives me some hope, that the bright daybreak of peace can be achieved – hopefully, in Hannah’s life time. I wish young people of Hannah’s generation to see that peaceful day on our planet.

Young and Female in the U.S. Army

Man Woman

“Women are no different to men in their corruptibility. Women are just as competent – and just as incompetent.”

Kayla Williams )

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WomenArmy

“As I write this in the early months of 2005, 91 percent of all Army career fields are now open to women, and 67 percent of Army positions can be filled by women. Women are currently authorized to sign up for 87 percent of all enlisted military occupational specialities (MOS). But isn’t Congress keeping women out of combat? There are no women in artillery, no women in the infantry. We are not permitted to drive tanks. We can’t be Rangers or Special Forces. There are also some teams we rarely go out with because the gear is considered too heavy for the average female to hump on her back.

So people conclude that girls don’t do combat zones. That we’re somewhere else from where the action is. But that’s bullshit. We are Marines. We are Military Police. We are there as support to the infantry in almost every way you might imagine. We even act in support roles for the Special Forces. We carry weapons – and we use them. We may kick down doors when an Iraqi village gets cleared. We do crowd control. We are also often the soldiers who negotiate with the locals – nearly one third of Military Intelligence (MI), where I work, is female.

Insurgents’ mortar attacks reach us, too. In fact, because insurgents strike supply routes so often, it’s frequently the non-infantry soldiers like us – with fewer up-armored vehicles – who end up getting hit and engaging in combat…

In Iraq… I saw death. I speak Arabic, so I participated in interrogations. I had to deal with the tension between wanting to help the locals and having to do battle with them… I’ve understood things and seen things I need to forget : Humiliation. Torture. It was not just Abu Ghraib – it happened elsewhere, too.

Sometimes I wake up and I feel frightened all over again. The darkness is like the blackest night on the mountains west of Mosul, no moon, no stars, no light anywhere in the whole freaking world. I want so very much to vanish from the planet. Just evaporate like vapour trails after the jets have gone.

The smell of dead animals being burned. Dogs barking as I pull guard in the night… How the faces of local women, and especially little girls, just lit up with pleasure at the sight of a female soldier: shy smiles…

I don’t forget. I can’t forget any of it. From basic training all the way to Iraq and back home again…”

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TrainingFrom Aircraft Dinamic

“I understood that basic training was indoctrination. I understood the aim was to break us down and rebuild us into what the Army wanted. But I was not too amenable to the concept.

It was generally frowned upon to challenge our drill sergeants, but  I remember in an Army Values class I could not keep quiet. The drill sergeant was complaining about American anti-war activists: “Those damned anti-war protesters don’t know anything. They don’t understand how wrong they are and how wrong it is that they do that. They shouldn’t be allowed to protest.” And so on.

So I responded: “The right of American people to say whatever they want is one reason I joined the military. It’s one reason I’m willing to die for my country. Those protesters are exercising their ultimate responsibility as Americans by expressing their political opinion.”

The drill sergeant did not yell at me. I got the impression it caused him to think – if only for a moment or two…

I felt like a freak until I realised that so many of us were freaks in one sense or another. I found people at boot camp who appreciated the same alternative music I did, and felt the same cynicism I did about fitting the Army mold. The guys in particular were basically good guys, though they gave us females endless shit for the differential female standards on PT tests: Girls get off easy… Girls can’t hack it.

They had a point. Females had twenty minutes to run two miles compare to fifteen minutes for males. Push-ups: We needed a much lower minimum to qualify; the guys had to do more than twice as many. But guys couldn’t bitch if we passed the male tests. That was my response.  I was eventually able to surpass the male minimum standard for push-ups for my age group. I also worked hard to get my run to where I’d meet the male standards. Other girls didn’t give a shit. They’d argue that our body types were different, that females tended to have strong abs, but we didn’t usually have the same innate upper-body strength as most guys. And some guys understood that.

It’s poetic justice that of the two people who didn’t make it through Basic, one was male and one female. The girl collapsed quietly; the guy lunged for a drill sergeant’s throat and had to be dragged away kicking and screaming by Military Police.”

* * *

HumveeFrom U.S. Department of Defense

“Humvees are remarkable machines. They work almost everywhere and can do almost anything an off-road vehicle needs to do. But this mountain was rocky and it was steep. Very steep. We were going slow… and I was creeping us up, holding tight to the wheel.

Then we slipped a little sideways.

“Hey,” Quinn said, popping the passenger door. “Let me ground-guide you.”

A sensible call. The goal here was to help avoid the larger rocks and steer us past them. But the wheels began to slip some more no matter where I turned…

“Hey,” Reid said, popping open the door in the back. “I’m getting out of this thing.”

So now I was alone in the Humvee. This was unbelievable. The guys in my team out there walking up the mountain. Me in the Humvee feeling pretty confident the truck was about to flip over.

“You guys are fucking pussies!” I yelled.

No one contradicted me. No one volunteered to get back in the Humvee, either…

My legs started to tremble, and I clutched the steering wheel. Sweaty palms made a firm grip theoretical… Honestly, I thought this was the end of me.

Finally, though, when we arrived at the site, the FISTers were grinning. Said they’d been watching us through binos the whole way up. Said they were betting for sure we’d flip it. Surprised to find a girl behind the wheel…

I could tell right away that they were laughing with me, not at me. I had won their respect by driving while the guys walked.”

* * *

Award

“The FISTers always gave me credit when I deserved credit. They would always tell me: “You’re really smart. You’re smarter than we are.”

And I’d give them credit, too. I would tell them: “Sure, I’ve read more books than you guys. I can speak Arabic. But I couldn’t fix my truck if my life depended on it. I know thing about engines. I would never be able to understand your equipment. You are all smarter than I am about how to make things work.”

Being around these guys and military personnel in general had given me a whole new appreciation for non-intellectual skills. These were people with manual skills. They knew how to use their hands. They were not afraid to get sweaty or dirty. And I respected them for that.”

( from “Love my rifle more than you:
young and female in the US army”
by Kayla Williams )

* * *

Today’s Women Soldiers

Woman

•Prior to the 1994 DoD assignment rule, 67 percent of the positions in the Army were open to women

•Today, 70 percent of the positions in the Army are open to women, and women serve in 93 percent of all Army occupations (active duty and the reserve components), as of June 2009.

•Women represent about 13.4 percent of the active Army, 23.7 percent of the Army Reserve and 14.0 percent of the Army National Guard as of fiscal year 2009.

•An increasing proportion of senior-level active duty and DoD positions are being filled by women.

•The percentage of female officers in the active Army in grades O-4 (rank of major) and above increased from 11.5 percent in fiscal year 1995 to 13.3 percent in fiscal year 2009.

•The same is true for enlisted active-duty women in grades E-7 (rank of sergeant first class) through E-9 (rank of first sergeant), who went from 8.3 percent in 1995 to approximately 10.8 percent as of fiscal year 2009.

•In the grades GS-13 through senior executive service, the percentage of female civilian Army employees increased from 18.9 percent in 1995 to 30.9 percent as of fiscal year 2009.

From Women in the U.S. Army

Minesweeper

minesweeper-is-a-game-in-your-country-1354451495From Fotoninja

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1893436-L

Afghanistan 1984-1986

“In Afghanistan, one of the most respected professions among the soldiers was that of minesweeper. Without minesweeper along, no group ever went into the mountains, no car ever drove off the base, and no transport column ever set out along the road. There were mines everywhere: along the roads, on mountain paths, in abandoned houses. There were different kinds of mines: anti-transport and anti-personnel; mines that jumped out of the ground and mines that were activated by the vibrations of human steps; mines that killed any living thing for a radius of fifty meters; mines that were set off by radio and mines that were set off by mine-detectors. Often, bombs were placed under the mines, so that the explosions would be more powerful.

It was precisely on such a mine, one with a bomb underneath, that three minesweepers from my platoon were killed instantly in July 1985. Two others were gravely wounded, with severe concussions.

The names of those three minesweepers were not the last names to go on the list of those who had died in our platoon…

“Minesweeper? Is that the one who lays the mines?” I was asked once.

“No, he’s the one who gets blown away by them,” I answered….

A minesweeper has to work alone on a mine he finds – even if it explodes, the others will still have to check the road ahead. … ”

(From “Afghanistan: Soviet Vietnam” by Vladislav Tamarov)

* * *

Afghanistan 2009

Enduring FreedomFrom U.S. Department of Defence

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Daniel Bemenderfer, with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, uses a mine sweeper to search for improvised explosive devices in Nawa, Afghanistan, on Aug. 19, 2009. The Marines are deployed with Regimental Combat Team 3 to conduct counterinsurgency operations in partnership with Afghan National Security Forces in southern Afghanistan.   DoD photo by Sgt. Freddy G. Cantu,U.S. Marine Corps.

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Afghanistan 2012

Can this crazy-looking ball save people from land mines?

Land mines are one of the most devastating weapons of war. They kill thousands each year and can destroy lives long after a conflict has ended. Hopefully this innovative solution will help curb their deadly legacy.

It is important that we study the religious texts in their proper context…

“It is important that we study the religious texts in their proper context. When these texts are not read in their proper textual and historical contexts they are manipulated and distorted. It is true that some Muslims manipulate these verses for their own goals. But this is not only with Islamic texts, it is also true with the texts of other religions. I can quote dozens of verses from the Bible which seem very violent, if taken out from their historical context. These Biblical texts have been used by many violent Jewish and Christian groups. Crusaders used them against Muslims and Jews. Nazis used them against Jews. Recently Serbian Christians used them against Bosnian Muslims.”

(From Islamic Writings)

* * *

From OpEdNews

“Orthodox Christians have often failed to proclaim the severe tension between the use of violence and a life of holiness. Serbia, however, provides a recent example of the church opposing the abuse of the faith in support of war. In the midst of the Bosnian civil war, Patriarch Pavle proclaimed that “the Church must condemn all atrocities that are committed, no matter what the faith or origin of the person committing them may be. No sin committed by one person justifies a sin committed by another. We will all face the Last Judgment together where each of us must answer for his sins. No one can justify his sins by saying someone else is guilty of a crime.” The Serbian bishops declared that “The way of nonviolence and cooperation is the only way blessed by God.” They also added the following petition to the Liturgy: “For all those who commit injustice against their neighbours, whether by causing sorrow to orphans, spilling innocent blood or by returning hatred for hatred, that God will grant them repentance, enlighten their minds and their hearts and illumine their souls with the light of love even toward their enemies, let us pray to the Lord.”

(From In Communion)

“I want to assure you that we Muslims also do not hate non-Muslims, be they Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhist or followers of any religion or no religion. Our religion does not allow killing any innocent person regardless of his or her religion. The life of all human beings is sacrosanct according to the teachings of the Qur’an and the guidance of our blessed Prophet Muhammad – peace be upon him and upon all the Prophets and Messengers of Allah. The Qur’an says about the prohibition of murder:”

(From Does the Qur’an teaches violence?)

“The Qur’an repeatedly emphasizes that defensive war — fighting to protect oneself against invading enemies — is the only kind of combat sanctioned (2:190 – 191). In numerous other examples, it teaches that the use of force should be a last resort (2:192, 4:90); that normal relations between peoples, nations and states, whether Muslim or not, should be peaceful (49:13); that necessary wars must be limited in time and space (2:190); that maximum effort must be applied at all times to advance the cause of peace (10:25); that whatever means are undertaken to work for peace during a conflict (such as mediation and arbitration) must be attempted over and over again until resolution is achieved (8:61); that freedom of religion must be granted to every one (2:256), and so on.”

(From Does the Qur’an sanction violence )

We have to face the fact…

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“I myself did a lot of break-dancing when I came back from Afghanistan. I worked in a professional dance troupe. For me, break-dancing is a language without words, one which I can speak freely. A language of movement….

One time our dance group met with the Yale University Slavic Chorus, which sings beautifully in Russian and English. We went to see them off at the Moscow railroad station. We started dancing for them, there on the platform, and they began to sing us Russian songs. It was unforgettable, the way the whole Moscow railroad station clapped wildly for us. But when they’d gotten on the train and gone, I saw one young guy who’d been watching them with a rage and fury so strong that I couldn’t stop myself from going up to him. Then I heard him say: “I was in Afghanistan! And those shits! Their rockets…” I felt pain and sorrow for him. He was blaming the American people for the American rockets. The American people, who, I’m sure, like the majority of us, sincerely want peace and hate war.

Not long ago I took part in a meeting of Afghan vets and American Vietnam vets. Among them was on American who had lost both his legs in Vietnam, to Soviet rockets. And he had come to this meeting, to help Afghan vets maimed in the Afghan war by teaching them to make prosthetic devices. What else is there to say?”

(From “Afghanistan: Soviet Vietnam” by Vladislav Tamarov)

From NavyTimes

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Yale Slavic Chorus’ Spring Wine & Cheese Concert, 2011

Leaders who do not act dialogically…

“Leaders who do not act dialogically, but insist on imposing their decisions, do not organize the people – they manipulate them. They do not liberate, nor are they liberated: they oppress.” 

Paulo Freire from the Pedagogy of the Oppressed

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From the Brooklyn Rail

Iraq
2003-2004

“Later that week this lieutenant showed up and ordered us to put up concertina wire everywhere. He discussed the possibility of booby traps and the need for all of us to dig in. Adopt fighting positions.

It made no sense at all unless the goal was to lose the hearts and minds of the people. To make them stop thinking of us as liberators and start thinking of us as occupiers….

The fortification of our site encouraged us to hole up, and it encouraged the locals to minimize their contact with us. We moved dutifully to establish fighting positions that would block potential fire coming at us and keep the enemy from seeing us clearly.

However, we didn’t have a lot of materials to make our fighting positions. We had rocks. Lots and lots of rocks. That was it. So out fighting positions involved piling rocks into a kind of enclosure where we might comfortably take cover.

The locals, who build their homes and their walls and everything else by stacking rocks on top of one another, saw us in our little rock-piling project.

They watched us, intrigued.

“No, no. Please. Let us help you.”

“This is a military precaution,” we explained. “To protect us. From attack.”

“Yes. Yes. But please. Let us assist. We know how to do this better.”

So we agreed. What  else were we going to do? And so the locals built our fighting positions for us. To help us protect ourselves. From them.”

(From “Love my rifle more than you:
Young and Female in the U.S. Army”
by Kayla Williams)

Compassion

“Compassion, even towards one’s enemies, is a sign of nobleness and spiritual perfection.”

Ostad Elahi (1895-1974)

* * *

“The ship I had been loaded onto had been the Sebastiano Venier, also known as the Jason… On 9 December 1941, the Sebastiano Venier was hit by a torpedo fired from one of our subs, HMS Porpoise, commanded by Lieutenant Commander Pizey. Hundreds of allied soldiers, many of them New Zealanders, were killed. Nowadays they’d probably call it friendly fire, and it would rank amongst the worst examples in history, but back then the calculation had been much simpler: wars weren’t won by captives and enemy shipping was helping resupply Rommel. No matter how many prisoners died the ships had to be sunk to save the lives of those still fighting. The greater good depended on it whatever the cost. The price was paid by men like us…

The carnage on board, especially in the hold where the torpedo had struck, had been appalling but…not all the prisoners on the ship had perished, and in fact most had survived the attack…

I had made it up on deck soon after the torpedo struck and went straight over the side without a thought, kicking as hard as I could to get away from the stricken ship. I had seen the ship receding slowly into the distance and tilting ever deeper towards the bow as it went and then I lost sight of it. I was convinced that boat had gone down with all those poor lads trapped inside it…

The Sebastiano Venier did not go down, in fact it became famous for staying afloat…

The Sebastiano Venier’s outward voyage, taking supplies to Benghazi, had been a terrible passage for the crew and theirs was he only ship of five to get through… The experience had shredded the crew’s nerves. The Italian captain in particular had been nervous and jittery as they put to sea again… They made it as far as the southern coast of Greece, when, according to the surviving accounts, the captain spotted the periscope of an allied sub poking through the waves. He panicked and concluded rashly that the game was up. He feared that the moment a torpedo struck, the 2,000 or so allied prisoners would fight their way on deck and overwhelm the few lifeboats on board. He ordered the crew to abandon ship before the first torpedo struck in order to save his own skin…

The man who saved this ship and the remaining prisoners was a mysterious German who had never been identified to this day. He appeared like the strangest sort of guardian angel, brandishing a Luger pistol and a heavy spanner. He restored the order and got the few Italian engineers who had been left behind by their superiors to fall in line and then, working through an allied NCO, he convinced the prisoners to calm down and stay on board He told them they might be able to save the ship if they worked together and that the sea was now their greatest enemy. He ordered the men to the rear of the vessel, telling them that their weight would help relieve the strain – however fractionally – on the forward bulkhead; he said their lives depended upon it. He gave instructions for first-aid posts to be set up to treat the injured and got the engines going again but very slowly…

With the waterlogged bow of the ship acting as a drag the mystery German got the boat going astern and very slowly he edged it the remaining miles towards the shore. Several hours later, he beached it on the rocks to the grinding sound of steel. There were hearty Allied cheers for the German sailor who had put enmity aside to get as many men as possible to safety…

The German, who vanished as quickly as he appeared,… was probably a marine engineer but his consideration for the wounded prisoners was never forgotten and those who encountered him spoke of a man of great courage and humanity who, enemy or not, had saved hundreds of allied lives…”

(From “The man who broke into Auschwitz”
by Denis Avey with Rob Broomby)

Ship Sebastiano Venier aground at Point Methoni, Greece, photographed December 1941 by an unknown photographer.
From Alexander Turnbull Library

 

Compassion during the war

“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Viktor Frankl

Soviet soldier with a sword holding a child, standing over a broken swastika by Soviet sculptor Yevgeny Vuchetich.

“Vuchetich’s inspiration for the monument was Soviet soldier Nikolai Masalov (1922-2001), who on April 30, 1945 found a German girl wandering near Potsdamer Platz during the Battle of Berlin and brought her to safety. Despite rumors that this episode was Soviet propaganda, owing to a journalist use of a different name for the girl’s rescuer, officially confirmed documents exist that substantiate at least five cases of Russian solders delivering small German children to orphanages during the Battle of Berlin.”

(from Soviet War Memorial)

* * *

Soviet’s helping a wounded German.

“I can tell you my grandfather’s story. I heard it from him when I was about 7-8, so there are things I do not know.

He was an officer of the Military Engineers or what it’s called. They planted mines and dismantled German mines. He was severely wounded twice, and this story is about the second time.

I do not know how they got to be in the battle, or which one it was, or even where. The Russians “won”, collected the bodies and buried all, Russian and German alike, in a “brotherhood” grave.

My grandfather was wounded in the head… He was considered dead and buried with all the bodies.

Some time after he came to and discovered he was lying in a pitch dark hole with bodies piled on him. It took him a while to get what happened, but he knew he must try to get out. He started pushing the bodies and wriggling to get higher, and it was very hard. Then he discovered he was not the only one alive, one of the Germans was, too, lying right there close to him. When they knew they were both of them alive, they started cooperating and it took them a very long time, but they managed to help each other out. They lay on the opened grave for a long time, resting (remember that both were gravely wounded and lost a lot of blood). Then they started to move away.

They walked and rested alternately for two days, and on the third morning they have come up on a Russian regiment. My grandfather did not acceppt treatment until he was assured that the German would be treated and taken to the hospital, too. He was later demobilized, after a long period in the hospital, and he kept track of the German, and made sure he was moved to a prisoner camp and later freed.

He said there were many stories like this one, and he always wondered how many didn’t make it out of the graves.”

(from Compassion during World War 2)

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German soldiers helping a wounded Soviet soldier.

Everyone is a moon, and has a dark side…

“Everyone is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody.”

Mark Twain

From Freaking News

* * *

“In a war you see people as they really are, and the truth may be the opposite to what you would expect… When fear and hunger set in, people forgot the ties of friendship and looked out for their own families, but as fear grew, and the likelihood of dying increased, even family members could be forgotten; people then thought only of keeping themselves alive…

The parachute drops began… The only way you could know where they’d landed was the loud cracking sound of the pallet hitting the ground. And when you heard that sound, you knew that if you were ever underneath it, you’d be squashed into pate.

When you reached the pallet, there was more danger. People were desperate; they would be searching in groups, carrying knives for opening the pallets, and may be guns – and people would steal those weapons from others if they got the chance. I usually went with another girl, my friend Nermina, and we would look out for each other. Sometimes knives would slash at your fingers when you reached for the food. Two girls were shot by a man spraying bullets to keep people back; one of them never regained the use of her legs. And these people were all on the same side!…

My worst experience of the parachute drops was when a pallet landed in a large, deep, pit-like hole. I was with a group of friends and when we got to that hole and looked down, we saw a mass of people, about two hundred of them, fighting and shouting over the food… One of my friends gave me a pistol to look after while he was in the hole grabbing for food… I was on the edge of the hole…, when a man who had been running around muttering and cursing to himself suddenly produced a grenade and began waving it around. He was crazy with rage because he had missed out on the food packs.

‘I’ll kill you. I’ll kill you all you bastards,’ he shouted above the clamour of fighting. Everyone fell silent. He was just a few metres from me. I knew that man; I went to school with his daughter; and their family were distant cousins of ours. He was holding the pin of the grenade. ‘I’ll pull this. I will.’

I raised the pistol that was in my hand. ‘Move your finger and I’ll shoot you.’

‘You’ll be dead,” he said. “This grenade will kill you.’

‘I don’t care. You can kill us all but you’ll die first.’… My finger was on the trigger….

Then he turned and walked away….”

(from ‘Escape from Bosnia’ as told to Sue McCauley)