The Kalashnikov assault rifle as “a sacred weapon”

I can understand why the Russians want statues to The Great Patriotic War, fought for survival against a treacherous Nazi Germany that was hugely important in the eventual end of World War 2 for the allies.

I can also understand the desire to recognise the tools of this victory, such as the remarkably effective T-34 medium tank.

But a statue to the Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifle seems a bit odd.  Firstly, because it was produced after WW2, but especially because of its history since then for unlicensed production, illicit black market trade and as the weapon of choice for revolutionaries, terrorists, drug cartels, pirates and criminals.  It made the BBC news because the statue’s designer put the wrong parts diagram on a plate on the statue.

What the BBC did not say was the statue is unpopular locally and the unveiling of the statue to the AK47’s inventor resulted in the arrest of the sole protestor,  link, proclaiming “a creator of weapons is a creator of death”.

But I am puzzled by the words of Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin of the Russian Orthodox Church who describes it as “a sacred weapon.  What a strange Christian.  But then, he also endorses female genital mutilation, so his opinion is not that worthwhile.

Incidentally, the roughly estimated 100 million genuine and copied AK-47s in the world are responsible for about a quarter of a million killings every year.

Military Spending Calculator error

The Conscience Online web site has a military spending calculator on its home page that shows how much has been spent so far this year globally on military expenditure. I noticed it displaying an 11-digit number despite it only being the 7th of January. “Oops” I thought, “I need to change it so it starts again from zero on 1st of January”.

I thought it did that automatically, but decided I must have been mistaken. There is no way we could have spent £22 billion on war-making in under a week.

So I went to see what was wrong and found the error: we spend too much on war-making. In the first six days and nine hours of 2017 the world has already invested £3 per person on killing or readiness to kill one another.

The global news was making a fuss yesterday about the cost of Donald Trump’s proposed wall between the USA and Mexico likely to be about half that with pessimistic estimates expressing concern it will be about the same. If the cost of the wall is a scandal, why isn’t spending 50 times that amount every year on delivering premature death and suffering also a scandal?

The horrors of war: the gueules cassées

I believe gueules cassées is French for ‘broken faces’ or ‘broken jaws’ (I know not which) and is the term used for the French men who had their faces blown off in the Great War.

Some 15 million men were crippled by the Great War.  In the UK alone by the late 1930s there were still over half a million men receiving pensions for physical disability caused by that war (National Archive).  And then there were those who remained in hospital for the rest of their lives.

The nature of trench warfare is such that the face is often the most exposed part of the body meaning the Great War – with its shrapnel and grenades – was the cause of a huge increase in the number of severe facial wounds.  Also, battlefield medicine began to improve during that war increasing the likelihood of wounded men surviving terrible wounds that would have previously been fatal.

But what happens to a young man with no lower jaw or a hole in his skull where his nose was?  And in France losing ones face was not considered a disability so they received no pension, despite being unable to go out in public.

Léon Dufourmentel (1884 – 1957) was a French surgeon responsible for caring for the gueules cassées and was innovative finding methods for repairing facial wounds by transferring flaps of skin from the scalp to, for example, the chin.

Apparently five of his patients were taken from the hospital to the Palace of Versailles for the signing of the peace treaty in 1919.

Such people are still supported in France – because soldiers are still being shot in the face – through the Union des Blessés de la Face et de la Tête (Union for those with Facial and Head Injuries) and the Foundation for Gueules Cassées are.  They organise international events to raise awareness and funding.

Whether you choose to do a Google image search for the term is up to you.  They are seriously horrid pictures.  They are the sort of images the media are prevented from portraying during a war for fear of upsetting morale.  Whether you call that sensible censorship or propaganda is up to you.

Alternatively view the war memorial in Trévières to the dead of 1914-18.  She was herself maimed in the Second World War and now stands as an inadvertent representative of the broken faces.

The War Memorial at Trévières with her lower jaw blown off

The War Memorial at Trévières. Taken from Traces of War.com

As I write this, there is nothing on the English language Wikipedia about the gueules cassées.  Nowadays plastic surgery is commonplace, even expected of the rich and famous – every day the newspapers and news web sites are littered with such ‘news’.  But nothing much is said about those who suffered and made it necessary for innovative techniques in surgery to be invented.  Perhaps a little more exposure to the horrors of war, and a little less commercial censorship, rather than glorifying and sanitising war by  the media and search engines, might not go amiss.

Dinosaur poets

A fellow Open University student wrote in Dinosaur poets TM:

what is/are Poets

Can they die and emerge again

like Dinosaurians

?

which made me think of some of the First World War poets and haiku in response.

Brooke.  Grenfell.  Munro.
Owen.  Rosenberg.  Sorley.
Thomas.  Wilson.  Wyn. 

The Great War is history, and the poets above did not survive it.  But fragments of their work live on, typically preserved in stone, like the fossils of creatures who lived at a time before ours when great beasts roared across the earth, ripping gentler souls limb from limb in the quest for blood to spill and flesh to consume.

Which got me thinking about the metaphor of Hollywood B-movie dinosaurs as great monsters, roaring and killing like the great guns of the artillery blasting away at the soldiers in the trenches.

Children love to see reconstructed dinosaurs and stomp about roaring and pretending to be a T-Rex, chomping great chunks out of authority figures like parents and teachers and elder siblings.  Being so big and powerful that they can do as they like, ruling the earth.

Is this the childish, base desire that prompts people to like to watch war being made on the news?  Gore-porn as entertainment?  How advertisers are clamouring to get their products promoted alongside clips of people being beheaded, blown up, burning alive, shot and gently rotting in the sun?  The advertisers and media know what we like.

Civilisation is a transparently thin veneer.

Nuclear deterrent – Lord Gilbert

Lord Gilbert spoke a few months ago in the House of Lords on how the nuclear deterrent is effective in preventing wars.  At some point I’ll put his argument up here.  Meanwhile, a subset of his words were used in a number of articles online to say he was claiming we should “nuke the Taliban”.  It is ironic he was advocating a solution for maintaining peace to prevent the deaths of huge numbers of civilians and got attacked for it.

Anyway, you’ve gotta love the outraged headlines it produced.  Examples are:

As for what he said, this is taken from Hansard’s proceedings for 22nd November, 2012:

Lord Gilbert: … I draw your Lordships’ attention to what used to be called the neutron bomb.  The main thing was that it was not a standard nuclear warhead.  Its full title was the ERRB: Enhanced Radiation Reduced Blast weapon.  I can think of many uses for it in this day and age. … you could use an ERRB warhead to create cordons sanitaire along various borders where people are causing trouble.

I will give an example.  … nobody lives up in the mountains on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan except for a few goats and a handful of people herding them.  If you told them that some ERRB warheads were going to be dropped there and that it would be a very unpleasant place to go, they would not go there.  You would greatly reduce your problem of protecting those borders from infiltration from one side or another. These things are not talked about, but they should be, because there are great possibilities for deterrence in using the weapons that we already have.

© Parliamentary Copyright

He did not say we should nuke the Taliban.  He was saying there are options for deterrence that are not being considered because the subject is taboo.  The media reaction proved him right.  If you want to read it in context, which is about how deterrence is preferable to war, he started speaking at 3.42 pm.

One has to be very careful what one says when advocating peace methods other than going to outright war.  Many people don’t like it.  Weird, innit?

As H used to say:

If things don’t change, they’ll stay the same.

Children of The Bomb

(Originally written 19/10/2012.)

There was a common acceptance when I was at school that

“There’s not much point getting O Levels or A Levels.  We’ll be dead before we start work anyway”.

This was because we were growing up in the Cold War, after the Cuban Missile Crisis / October Crisis / Caribbean Crisis / Kарибский кризис had occurred, when it was clear the USA really would consider use of a first-strike with nuclear weapons, and knowing there were Mutually Assured Destruction policies in place on both sides.  That is, one small error or political crisis would result in the destruction of missile sites in the UK, and the death of most everyone in Europe and certainly us children before we’d had a chance to grow up.

This made it hard to find the motivation to plan for the future, as there was little point.  There were many of us who had poor grades as a consequence of this, including some who gave up althogether.

And we all knew how we were going to spend our last 7 minutes when the sirens went off.  We certainly talked about it often enough.

Growing up in such a climate cannot be healthy.  Off the top of my head, our cultural exposure included:

1979 – the Protect and Survive films like Casualties
1983 – 99 Red Balloons – Lena
1983 – WarGames
1984 – Two Tribes – Frankie Goes to Hollywood (“War!  What is it good for?” *)
1984 – Threads
1985 – The War Game
1986 – When the Wind Blows

All manner of cheerfulness: www.atomica.co.uk/culture.

Perhaps it is no surprise that my generation, born in the 1960s, have such a strong “think of the children” and “children must be allowed freedom” and “children must be protected from fear” mindset.

My mother, who lived through the second World War, said the Cold War was a huge improvement over the hot sort.

 

* Record sales, apparently.

No New Wars – but what does that mean?

No New Wars 11 11 2018.  Meaning, “let’s ensure No New Wars start as from 11th November 2018“.

How?  By making it clear we expect our leaders to use other means to achieve change.  It will have been a hundred years since the Armistice, a hundred years in which we have learned an awful lot not just people’s ability to harm other, innocent, people, but also about communication, reconciliation, change management, energy creation, environmental management, understanding, and sharing.

In our name, and with our financial support through taxes, people are dropping air-bombs, firing guided missiles, shooting long-range heavy-calibre machine-gun fire, remotely-controlling armed drones … to kill people including civilians.  And is a person who picks up a gun to defend their home a soldier or an armed civilian?  Much of the 20th century involved the deaths of tens of millions of civilians; the 21st century so far has comprised the deaths of 100,000s of civilians, and if you include civilians carrying guns, it is already in the millions.  And the media is glorying in the “Arab Spring” ignoring that it is the worst kind of war: a civil war.  A civil war that is being armed, funded, supported and maintained by external forces who benefit financially or politically from the suffering and deaths of those involved.

Wars are the principle cause of this suffering, and it is time they stopped.  They are not necessary for peace. There are other means, and not just financial sanctions which are only a feeble exercise in trying to show the futility of peaceful solutions. Governments and politicians are just not trying to end war; it neither adds to their power nor is it financially attractive for their sponsors.

Wars are started by politicians being manipulated and promoted by the media.  If politicians can be made to see that war-mongering is no longer going to create votes, they will become peace-makers.  And if the media are hit financially by not getting readers and web page hits, they will lose advertising revenue and so will cease that behaviour.

The trite cliché “War is the continuation of politics by other means” is not only facile, but also two hundred years out of date and inappropriate in a nuclear-energy, internet connected, post-empire world.

I am not so naïve as to think existing wars can be just stopped.  But we can do out bit to create a world where it is not necessary or politically wise to start any new wars.

  • We – that means you – can tell politicians they will lose their jobs if they start down the path of war.
  • We – that means you – can tell the media they will lose advertising revenue and sales if they promote war.

I am not saying we should not support our troops nor have a defence facility.  I am not saying the campaign to stop population growth is wrong.  But I am saying we must actively prevent our leaders from starting down paths that lead to the deaths of thousands of civilians just because that is easier and more attractive to them than any alternatives.

We must make peace more attractive.

No New Wars 11 11 2018

No New Wars 11 11 2018

Meaning, let’s ensure No New Wars start as from 11th November 2018.

How?  By making it clear we expect our leaders to use other means to achieve change.

It will have been a hundred years since the Armistice, a hundred years in which we have learned an awful lot not just people’s ability to harm other, innocent, people, but also about communication, reconciliation, change management, energy creation, environmental management, understanding, and sharing.

In our name, and with our financial support, people are dropping air-bombs, firing guided missiles, shooting long-range heavy-calibre machine-gun fire, remotely-controlling armed drones…to kill people, including civilians.  And is a person who picks up a gun to defend their home a soldier or an armed civilian?  Much of the 20th century involved the deaths of tens of millions of civilians; the 21st century so far has comprised the deaths of 100,000s of civilians, and if you include civilians carrying guns, it is already in the millions.  And the media is glorying in the “Arab Spring” ignoring that it is the worst kind of war: a civil war armed, funded, supported and maintained by external forces who benefit financially or politically from the suffering and deaths of those involved.

Wars are the principle cause of this suffering, and it is time they stopped.  They are not necessary for peace.  There are other means, and not just financial sanctions which are only a feeble exercise in trying to show the futility of peaceful solutions.  Governments and politicians are not ”’trying”’ to end war; it neither adds to their power nor is it financially attractive for their sponsors.

Wars are started by politicians being manipulated and promoted by the media.  If politicians can be made to see that war-mongering is no longer going to create votes, they will become peace-makers.  And if the media are hit financially by not getting readers and web page hits, they will lose advertising revenue and so will cease that behaviour.

The trite cliché “”War is the continuation of politics by other means”” is not only facile, but also two hundred years out of date and inappropriate in a nuclear-energy, internet connected, post-empire world.

I am not so naïve as to think existing wars can be just stopped.  But we can do our bit to create a world where it is not necessary or politically wise to start any new wars.

We—that means you—can tell politicians they will lose their jobs if they start down the path of war.

We—that means you—can tell the media they will lose advertising revenue and sales if they promote war.

I am not saying we should not support our troops nor have a defence facility.  I am not saying the campaign to stop population growth is wrong.  But I am saying we must actively prevent our leaders from starting down paths that lead to the deaths of thousands of civilians just because that is easier and more attractive to them than any alternatives.  We must make peace more attractive.

Other thoughts: I’ll need leaflets, email signatures and other means of publicity.  Also, a blog, a wiki and a forum.

I need to form a No New Wars movement.

I need to start a 11112018 – The Eleven Eleven Twenty Eighteen campaign.

Other thoughts: the modern heroes – the new Ghandis – e.g. the Tienanmen square person with shopping bags in front of the tanks; the people who stand in front of Israeli guns; wikileaks to expose the leaders who lie.  They should not be needed.

(This article was originally published on or before 13/09/2012.)