January 8, 2001
I have mentioned in my last commentary, ...Dream, a recent novel, The Advocate. The story concerns a WWII
American fighter group decimated by German bombing whose five surviving
pilots strike an occupied Belgian town, Helsvagen, used by the Germans as
a fuel depot. In doing so, they also take out the town and down one of
theirs (who may have intended to report the excess reaction) on the way
back to base.
Two issues concern the Judge Advocate's office: 1) murder: the two surviving pilots shot down one of the other survivors just as they were about to return to England and 2) overkill: the destruction of the nearby town more than just the military-targeted German fuel depot -- at that time in technical violation of rules of engagement governing the mission.
Harry, the assigned Judge Advocate General (JAG) lawyer, runs into a high level coverup, the overlapping rationalizations of exceeding mission constraints and the escalations of attacking civilian populations, and eventually is hastily posted back to the US near his hometown in New Jersey.
The novel ends:
"And poor old Harry? He was posted to Fort Dix, New Jersey just a short drive from his family. Perhaps the posting was a bribe, or a reminder of what he'd been missing -- and would miss again with another transfer. That was enough to secure his future silence. Or, perhaps like Dennis O'Connell [one of the dead pilots], by war's end, Harry didn't care any longer . . . or thought no one else would care."
By 1945, against the complete gutting of such metropolises as Berlin, Cologne, and Dresden and their tens of thousands of civilian dead, the thousand or so who died at Helsvagen hardly seemed worth the bother. In the closing act of the war in the Pacific, Curtis LeMay sent his B-29 Super Fortresses, their bellies filled with incendiaries, against a rota of Japanese cities of paper and wood, burning away 16 square miles of Tokyo; a third of Yokohama; two thirds of Shizuoka. Kobe was torched, Nagoya, Osaka, Kawasaki, and when great cities were cinders, LeMay worked his way through the smaller ones: over half of Tsu burned away; two thirds of Aomori; three quarters of Ichinomiya; nearly all of Toyama. Just a few weeks before the dropping of the first atomic bomb on August 6, 1945, Fifth Air Force Intelligence would issue the following statement:
"There are no civilians in Japan. We are making war and making it in the all-out fashion that saves American lives, shortens the agony which War is, and seeks to bring about an enduring Peace. We intend to seek out and destroy the enemy wherever he or she is, in the greatest possible numbers, in the shortest possible time.'And how many millions of Harrys are there among us yet?
Analysis after analysis, study after study has alleged that bombing of civilians does little or nothing to destroy morale or will to continue. Yet, bombing of civilians is still and remains a core of American military strategies.
Note: Many well-read and well-informed people know little or nothing about any of these bombings and related events. And many know also little or nothing about the excesses* of Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Guatamala, Nicaragua, Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, Afghanistan, Angola, Rwanda, Congo, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Sudan, Mozambique, Iraq, Somalia, Yugoslavia and where next?
* Excesses are not confined to any one "side" of a conflict or exceeding party (ies) but to the cumulative and escalating thereof. Kids with machetes, clubs, AK-47s or M-16s, grenade and rocket launchers, stingers and the like are a reasonable, even rational, response to over-technological capabilities and capacities of more affluent forces. We can expect more rather than less of such responses as resources as well as religions and nationalisms come to dominate controversies and conflicts.
Milo Clark, a founding member of Swans, had it all: Harvard MBA, big house, three-car garage, top management... Yet, once he had seemingly achieved the famed American dream he felt something was missing somewhere. As any good executive he decided to investigate. Since then, he has become a curmudgeon and, after living in Berkeley, California, where he was growing bamboos, making water gardens, listening to muses, writing, cogitating and pondering, he has moved on to the Big Island in Hawaii where he creates thought forms about sunshine. Milo can be reached at Swans
Please, DO NOT steal, scavenge or repost this work without the expressed written authorization of Swans, which will seek permission from the author. This material is copyrighted. All rights reserved.
...Dream - by Milo Clark
War Against Women and Other Civilians in Yugoslavia: Terror Keyed Triumph of the New Colonialism - by Geoff Berne
Freedom to Kill, Right to Live - by Jan Baughman
Depleted Uranium: The Balkans Syndrome - by Gilles d'Aymery
Short Excerpts of I Had Seen Castles - A Novel by Cynthia Rylant
Resources on the War in Yugoslavia and its Aftermath
Articles Published on Swans Regarding the War in Yugoslavia and its Aftermath