Friday, November 18, 2011

Else We Would Love It Too Much

I'd like to you watch the first minute of this video. I can't embed it, it's probably protected by the Stones' record label.

Because as I was hunting for Stones videos I came across this and ended up watching the first minute probably half a dozen times. I couldn't look away.

The camera sails weightlessly along above the lush green of Vietnam. And the blooms of the ordnance - it's napalm, or napalm mixed with white phosphorus - are like perfect fire flowers that rise from the ground in gorgeous, deadly incandescense to the pounding soundtrack of "Paint It Black"."It is well that war is so terrible," said Bobby Lee, "...else we would grow to love it too much." Watch the first minute of this thing and you can understand why people - let's be honest; men - throughout all human time have fallen in love with war. Because in its way it really is incredibly beautiful.

But at the same time it's fucking horrible.

Watch it again. The part of Vietnam we're seeing isn't a factory, or a bridge, or a road. It's not a military base. There don't appear to be troops below the aircraft or within the rain of fire. I think the string of crappy little village shacks are...a string of crappy little village shacks.

And the fast-mover is blowing the shit out of them, apparently at random.

There's no pattern to this I can see. There's no visible "targets"; the aircraft isn't dropping its ordnance on a specific point, or a visible enemy.

It seems to be doing just what it looks like: flying along at 200 feet AGL just bombing the living hell out of random shacks and everything inside them..And I can't imagine how ANY sane human being could love that too much,

or some,

or a tiny bit,

or at all.


Anonymous said...

I've got a downloader program that pulled it into my PC.

Downloads youtube as a "flv" file and also converts to "wmv".

When Baghdad was attacked from the air, we got the term "shock and awe" into our daily discourse. All I could think of was a couple three people I met online from there, riverbend being one of them, who has disappeared and I hope is still with us.

I think I know, maybe not, what's your opinion of video games like call to duty, battlefield that try to simulate modern combat, and those that are just fantasy?

Do you let your kid play them, do you play?

For me, they leave a nasty taste. Maybe I've seen too many pictures of the detritus of war online.


FDChief said...

I'm funny about wargames.

I've played wargames ever since I was a kid, beginning with toy soldiers and then moving on to organized "wargames". I was a game-nerd before there WERE game-nerds, playing Napoleonic wargames with two high school friends back in the early Seventies. In college I played "Diplomacy" and the old Avalon-Hill boardgame "Panzerblitz". I played D&D in the Sinai, and I still play "Axis & Allies" with my son. So I can hardly pretend to be simon-pure about abhorring war in play form.

The first-person shooter games are a little different to me. They seem a little less like "strategy" and a lot more like "killing".

The little man has a couple that he plays on an intermittent basis.

One is just silly and even kind of funny; "Battlefield Heroes". The closest I can come to is that it's like an episode of the cartoon "G.I. Joe" that you write yourself. The screen icons are silly and cartoony, and there's no confusing the "deaths" of the cartoon soldiers with real killing.

But he also plays a couple of others, "Battlefield Play4free" and "World of Tanks" that are much more realistic. I get kind of creeped out watching him play those, but not so much that I've ever though about cutting his screen time off.

And we have had many discussions about the difference between "play" war and real war, and I think he understands. I hope he understands.

And here's the oddest bit of all. I've actually played and enjoyed shooter games. My biggest problem with them isn't the "horror" factor. It's because I get TOO immersed in them - I get really freaky when my on-line "enemy" outsmarts of outfights me - and the limitations of the kinetics of the game. I want to "fight" as I would in real life, and the limitations of the POV screen and having to use the keyboard and mouse rather than actually moving my body freak me out. At one point playing Modern Combat I kept trying to actually look behind me to see if there was anyone there. I wasn't bugged by the sanitization of actual combat for a game - I was bugged that I couldn't "fight" the way I wanted to!

So I guess the answer is that I'm fiercely inconsistent on the subject.

Lisa said...

Fr. a NYT Book Review of Peter Englund's "The Beauty and the Sorrow: An Intimate History of the First World War":

“You feel that, after all, this is what men were intended for rather than to sit in easy chairs with a cigarette and whiskey, the evening paper or the best seller, and to pretend that such a veneer means civilization and that there is no barbarian behind your starched and studded shirt front.”

FDChief said...

I think there's something of both in us, Lisa: the easy chair and the newspaper can sit comfortably with the bloody-handed killer. It's when we try and pretend that the mark of Cain isn't on us that get handed our ass.

One of the reasons I try and be honest about the dark and evil within me is that it helps prevent me from deluding myself about my motives and actions. What I find appalling is the sort of person who can commit atrocities and reassure himself that he or she is doing "God's Work" or is "defending the country" or "fighting terrorism".

And I think a LOT of that comes from the willingness to delude ourselves about our own capacity for bestial cruelty.

Lisa said...

Well-analyzed. Yes, both behaviors constitute a man. Were we to accept our monstrous entirety, most would be too ... disheartened, overwhelmed ...?

Far easier too accept a dogma which gives hope and rewards one for fidelity to, if nothing else, the ritual atonements that give one the feeling of escaping for yet another day of disappointment. It's the greatest shell game in the world.

Like you, I am appalled by hypocrisy and disingenuousness. I want to know the truth, for no matter how "ugly", it is far cleaner than a lie. It is such a challenge to peel back all one's programming, no?!?

Lisa said...


riverbend could be a non-entity.

Remember "A Gay Girl in Damascus" was Thomas MacMaster, white boy.

Lisa said...

“The really terrible thing is that everyone has his reasons.”

--Jean Renoir

FDChief said...

Basil, Lisa: Odd, I was just thinking about the "Baghdad Burning" blog the other day. For no particular reason I suspect that the author really was (is?) a young Sunni Iraqi woman. I think it was the recipes that were the touch that convinced me; I couldn't picture some hairy Fedayeen Saddam propagandist thinking of that to add a touch of verisimilitude to his maskirova.

The transience of on-line acquaintances is a bizarre sort of old-new sort of thing; it reminds me of stories of Civil War soldiers whose death in battle or from sickness was announced only by the end of their letters home. Otherwise they disappeared into the aether, as completely as if they had never existed. "Riverbend" might as well be some New Hampshire private rolled into a nameless grave at the bottom of the hill outside Fredricksburg. I often wonder how many soldiers - and civilians - in the pre-electronic age took advantage of the chaos of war to simply disappear and begin again. Women fleeing bad marriages or abusive families, men dodging creditors or just looking for adventure and wanting to leave their boring wives and kiddies behind.

But in a sense, Lisa, it's easier to pretend that we're the "good guys", the heroes of our own personal adventure stories, even if it means lying to ourselves and others about what we've done or what we're capable of.

For me the ultimate example of this is the current tapdancing we in the U.S. are doing around torture.

If we were honest those of us who tortured would just do it and then announce that we had done it and proclaim that we had done the devil's work because it saved our countrymen's lives and advanced our nation's interests, and march into court and demand to be prosecuted, throwing ourselves on the "mercy of the court".

Instead we've watched the torturers and their apologists argue that the torture isn't really torture, and that it's not illegal even if it is, and that it's a good thing because it's only being done to Bad People. We've watched them hide, and lie, and dodge the law (and all successfully, I should add).

It's sickening, but it's oh-so-human. The alternative - honestly admitting to evil - is almost unseen. And we all know why.

Lisa said...


Per: I think it was the recipes that were the touch that convinced me

-- yes, that was a good touch, but to play devil's advocate, were I on the "riverbend" construction team, you can be sure I'd have suggested such little "giveaway" niceties. (I think I'd do fairly well in psyops.)

Per: I often wonder how many soldiers - and civilians - in the pre-electronic age took advantage of the chaos of war to simply disappear and begin again

I understand my grandfather was one of those guys, conscripted into the Russian Army and jailed for trying to escape and while waiting his being sent back in, he and his cellmates were given "gets" -- divorce decrees. It was presumed they'd be bird food before long, so this was a bureaucratic move to make it easier for the soon-widows. It is said he felt much glee at this "get-out-of-jail-free" card, and never returned.

Per: If we were honest those of us who tortured would just do it and then announce that we had done it

When pigs grow wings. I am dealing with this inadmission on a personal level now. The problems to getting "Truth" are:

1) Not everyone sees the same Truth

2) An admission would be like wearing a scarlet A. If you decline to anser, it never happened (right?)

3) Self-image matters greatly to people. If you're pressing for the Truth, that must mean something is being obscured (it is), and therefore, not socially-sanctioned. Hard-wired in is our knowledge that ostracism is a step away, and that feels like fear, which of course gets sublimated to anger of any manner of things that aren't Truth.

[p.s. -- I find it amusing that my wd. verifier is "refood", as that is what happened to my grandfather (!)

rangeragainstwar said...

re;the nape pic. Pls realize that the villagers were in hidden bunkers under their hootches, and obviously were toasted. They didn't have a chance and we didn't even get to count their bodies b/c they were irretrievable.
My memory of RVN was the poverty of the people.

Anonymous said...


yes, that was a good touch, but to play devil's advocate,

Hoping not to sound too sexist, riverbend wrote like a girl. And she was related to a whole family of bloggers, like "where's raed".

I actually had a conversation with her for a couple of days. She was interested in my background when I mentioned it, and she reminded me of her recipes. I did try one, but either I blew or my taste didn't blow that way.

Chief, since you mentioned Fredericksburg, I am coming to the end of "Fredericksburg", by Kirk Mitchell.


Anonymous said...


"either I blew it"

like I did here. :D


Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

One from the other side


Lisa said...


That is not sexist, but "riverbend wrote like a girl" does not dismiss the possibility that riverbend may not exist. Women could be part of her construction, too.

. . .why did that recipe taste so bad,. hmmm . . .?

Lisa said...

And a further thought, just a possibility:

What if the consortium that is "riverbend" did front a young woman author (we'll never know, b/c "she" remains unidentified)? Who profits from that book -- "Baghdad Burning" -- that I know every well-meaning liberal in my sphere purchased?

That could have been a money-maker for the Islamic Brotherhood, and a few chats w/ folks like bb could have been intel-gathering efforts on the "crazy Americans".

One must entertain all possibilities, after all.

FDChief said...

Lisa: I think at some point Occam's Razor has to be applied. Otherwise we wind up in the tinfoil-hat corral with the 9/11 Truthers and the black-helicopter nuts.

The simplest explanation for the "Baghdad Burning" blog is that it was written by a young Sunni woman in Iraq. It managed no great impact on the course of events, was simply one more POV account of what was happening, seems to correlate well with other verifiable POV blogs like Read Jarrar's...

And the real end point is, I suppose, that it's a dead letter. The woman, or the propagandist, or whoever he/she was, has disappeared, likely dead, or as just another refugee from that troubled land.

Regardless of whatever lay behind the digital image, that person is as much dunnage from our idiotic Crusade in the land of the Two Rivers as any legless GI or Sadr City orphan.

"It was in another country and, beside, the wench is dead."

rangeragainstwar said...

i'll tip a MALTA to the dead wench.

Anonymous said...

Last I heard, she and family were headed into Syria.


I would like to think she and hers are still around.


Lisa said...


No, not "likely dead" as "her" last posts were from Syria. Per, "Regardless of whatever lay behind the digital image", we must remember we have no digital image. And just like "Gay Girl from Damascus", I could be a 400-lb-Sumo wrestler in Tobago (but I'm not :))

As you say, it doesn't amount to much in this case, other than someone making some profits off the ANON book sales, but I don't think it's too far afield to say we must be cautious in our judgments in this world of quickly-created online personas.

We WANT to believe certain things, like a freedom-yearning young woman is working to keep us informed at the risk of her own neck, but this doesn't make them so.

Just sayin'.

FDChief said...

Lisa: The posts I read of "hers" were not really the stuff of good propaganda. If anything they made me think of what we might have read if there had been blogs in 1919 from the disgruntled daughter of a wealthy merchant in St. Petersburg, or, if there had been blogs in 1946, from a German industrialist's daughter in Leipzig.

She bitched about the loss of power, about the inconvenience of having to wear Islamic dress, about the U.S. troops driving like jerks. She was clearly used to being privileged in Saddam's Sunni-first secular Iraq and didn't like what had happened since 2003.

I never got the sense that her writing really made any difference, other than to point up that things for the Sunnis in Baghdad had gone to hell since 2003 (and anyone with a functioning hindbrain could figure THAT out...). The Right wing dismissed her as the "Baathist Bitch", and the left was useless - nobody was listening to the Dirty Fucking Hippies about how farkling about in the Third World trying to make post-Ottoman crap into a crap souffle' was a bad idea.

So my guess is - not that it matters, not that it's more than a guess - that she was a Sunni technocrat's or bureaucrat's daughter.

And I would also guess that the chance that she's dead is quite likely; the Iraqi refugees in Syria were desperately poor and pretty thoroughly despised PRIOR to the present unrest. My understanding is that they have suffered disproportionately during the present insurrection.

Lisa said...

Agreed on the presentation not being polished propaganda. But mediocre films like "The Blair Witch Project" and "Paranormal Activity" work because they look like films of real, scared people.

Should the persona be real, your take is a good one. But I doubt she's dead for as you say, "she" was a person of privilege. Families of privileged functionaries usually manage to survive.

The absence of the persona after her transplantation makes her identity that much more suspect, in my book. But as you say, at it's best, it is a snippet of time, and who can argue about the upheaval?

I just usually cast a wry eye upon things that seem like propaganda.