Tag Archives: war

Poppy: medicine, or opiate?

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ALEX KENNEDY 
November 11, 2016

This is a poppy.

It’s a symbol.

It can be used to get people to remember multiple horrific events in our history, and try to talk about, unpack, and reflect upon them, and break apart our insidious myths about war.

Or it can be used to fetishize certain horrific incidents, elevate certain players with thought-terminating cliches about how “Solemn” or “Sacred” all this is…. and completely obliterate the relevance of other horrific events on our history.

Some people who wear this symbol on their chests do so in good faith.

Some people who wear this symbol on their chest do not.

Some literal properties of the poppy:

It can be used to help cope with pain.

It can be used as a drug.

Too much of it is poison.

If understood wisely it is medicine.

© Alex Kennedy 2016

12473838_10153313958817308_2484724313123505070_oAlex Kennedy is a writer, artist, artisan, activist, and former member of the Canadian Armed Forces.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Remembering War

GREG LOCKE
November 11, 2016

I can’t do Remembrance Day anymore. Just don’t have it in me. I don’t mean it to be disrespectful. In fact, my respect is infinite. I have had relatives serve in the Canadian, British and American military going back to WWI. I’ve attended the National War Memorial in St John’s, Newfoundland with my father-in-law, a veteran of the Battle of Altona in Italy during WWII, and the rest of the old men many times. I have talked about war far too many times.

Today I have young friends, still in their 20s, who are veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq, and I see their pain. I have been to wars and “peace keeping missions” in the Balkans, Central America, the Middle East and Central Africa. Bosnia, Kurdistan, Somalia, Sudan, Rwanda, Haiti, Congo: all beautiful places with rich cultures and decent people, but which are now synonymous with Hell for so many.

While I understand that a culture needs to maintain its ceremonies and traditions and no, we should never forget, I never want to hear canned platitudes like “ultimate sacrifice” and “lest we forget” ever again. For me it trivializes human suffering. Just official words we are trained to mouth. And, because humans do forget. Witness their continuation of self-destruction. Witness how our soldiers and other victims of war are treated.

I keep this photo gallery on my website to remind me that Remembrance Day is not just about the old men and ceremonies at sterile monuments around the country. It reminds me of the soldiers, aid workers, civilians, journalists, friends I met and worked with in Bosnia, and the people I know now still suffering from war.

Nobody comes home unscathed.

DEPLETED URANIUM IMPLICATED IN HEALTH PROBLEMS IN NATO TROOPSBosnia-2-2-c14.jpgBosnia-2-4-c5.jpgbosnia21-c31.jpgbosnia22-c62.jpg

 

Copyright Greg Locke 2016

Photographer and journalist Greg LockeGreg Locke is a founder and the managing partner, visual, of Facts and Opinions. He built the Facts and Opinions website, produces F&O’s photo essays, reports for Dispatches, writes and photographs Think magazine pieces, and contributes to the blogs. Visit his website at www.greglocke.com

 

 

 

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Pope at Auschwitz, Says Same Horrors Happening Today

Pope Francis pays respect in front of graves during his visit to Birkenau's former Nazi death camp in Oswiecim, Poland, July 29, 2016.  REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

Pope Francis pays respect in front of graves during his visit to Birkenau’s former Nazi death camp in Oswiecim, Poland, July 29, 2016. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

By Philip Pullella 
July 30, 2016

OSWIECIM, Poland (Reuters) – Pope Francis made an emotional and silent visit to the former Nazi death camp at Auschwitz on Friday and later said many of the horrors committed are happening in places at war today.

Seated on a bench near the gate to the camp site in Poland, Pope Francis prayed in silence in tribute to the 1.5 million people, most of them Jews, killed there by Nazi occupiers during World War Two.

The third pope to visit Auschwitz and the first not to have lived through the war in Europe, he entered the camp by foot, passing through iron gates under the infamous sign reading “Arbeit Macht Frei”, German for “Work Sets You Free”.

Visibly moved by the sight of the wooden guard towers, barbed wire fences and inmate barracks, he sat in silent prayer for about 15 minutes. Francis said before the trip that he had decided to make no statement as silence was the best way to honour the dead.

Reflecting on his visit several hours later, Francis asked young people: “Is it possible that man, created in God’s image and likeness, is capable of doing these things?”

“Cruelty did not end at Auschwitz and Birkenau,” he said. “It is still around today … in many places in the world where there is war, the same things are happening.”

He cited torture, over-crowded prisons and starving children.

The pope spent a few minutes quietly greeting about a dozen Auschwitz survivors, kissing each of them on both cheeks. One man gave the pope a picture of himself surrounded by other emaciated inmates in a bunk, and asked Francis to sign it.

The 79-year-old Argentine-born pontiff then proceeded to walk through the barely lit corridors of the drab, brick building of Auschwitz Block 11, which had housed prisoners selected for special punishment.

With aides using small flashlights to light his way, Francis visited the underground cell where Franciscan monk Maksymilian Kolbe was killed after offering his life to save a Polish man whom had been picked to die of starvation.

Just outside the cell, in Auschwitz’s commemorative book, Francis wrote in Spanish: “Lord, have mercy on your people. Lord, forgiveness for so much cruelty”.

German occupation forces set up the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp during World War Two in Oswiecim, a town about 70 km (43 miles) from Poland’s second city, Krakow.

Between 1940 and 1945, Auschwitz developed into a vast complex of barracks, workshops, gas chambers and crematoriums.

GAVE LIFE FOR ANOTHER

On July 29, 1941, the camp director, in reprisal for the escape of a prisoner, chose 10 others and sentenced them to death by starvation.

When the selection was completed, Kolbe stepped forward and volunteered to die in place of a man with a family, Franciszek Gajowniczek. Kolbe was later killed by lethal injection but the man he saved survived the war. Kolbe was made a saint in 1982 by Pope John Paul II, a Pole.

Later, the pope, who has made many strong condemnations of anti-Semitism, also visited Birkenau, a part of the camp where most of the killings were in gas chambers, and was driven past ruins of crematoriums that the Nazis blew up before the camp was liberated by the Soviet Red Army on Jan. 27, 1945.

He listened silently as Poland’s chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, sang from Psalm 130 and a priest read the psalm in Polish, just metres (yards) away from the end of the single rail track where cattle cars brought hundreds of thousands of prisoners to the camp.

After greeting some 25 people who have been honoured as “Righteous Among the Nations” for helping save Jews, Francis left as quietly as he had arrived.

Copyright Reuters 2016

(Additional reporting by Wojciech Zurawski, Pawel Florkiewicz and Wiktor Szary; Writing by Justyna Pawlak and Philip Pullella; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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Climate watch: the world cannot afford a war

PENNEY KOME: OVER EASY 
December, 2015

Depiction of mass bomber raid on Cologne, by The National Archives, UK. via Wikimedia Commons

Depiction of mass bomber raid on Cologne, by The National Archives, UK. via Wikimedia Commons

War, the most costly and damaging human activity, is outside the scope of Paris climate talks.

Like most Canadians, I think, I was pleased when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau signalled that his government recognizes climate change as an urgent issue, and appointed Catherine McKenna as Minister of the Environment and Climate Change. Another climate decision was less obvious:  his government’s decision to step back from the Syrian bombing runs.  War is the most destructive of all human activities, environmentally as well as materially.

And that is today’s Over Easy. On one hand, compared to five years ago, it’s phenomenal that 195 nations could come together in Paris to work on a treaty to reduce climate change. Turn the discussion over gently, though, and nothing I’ve read indicates that the treaty bans war. Lately there’s a whole lot of sabre rattling going on. France joined the United States and United Kingdom in bombing Syria, in revenge for the Paris attacks.  Turkey shot down a Russian airplane.  An army of dispossessed refugees brought their desperation back to the European nations, which triggered staggering humanitarian crises that prompted calls for US or North Atlantic Treaty Organization military intervention. And US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has vowed to ban Muslims from entering the United States.

In Paris, national leaders have acknowledged that, much as they may agree on the objective, they are dealing with a tinderbox of political and geophysical tensions.  They’re not just asking people to give up their cars or put on another sweater. Two-thirds of carbon emissions come from industries  and the military.  For example, the US Pentagon is the single biggest user of fuel oil in the world – even more so, during a war.

“If the war was ranked as a country in terms of emissions, it would emit more CO2 each year than 139 of the world’s nations do annually, more than 60 percent of all countries,” the non-profit group Oil Change calculated in 2008, estimating the impact of the US occupation of Iraq.

I’ve been Googling “war and environment” since forever, and after years of practically no hits, these days a search delivers 522 million hits.  I also got 138 millions hits on “war and climate change” but most of those are reports on the growing category of “climate refugees,” people forced from their homes by floods, wildfires, droughts (like the Syrians) or famines caused by climate change.

You don’t need to smell the gunpowder when big bombs go off. Just watch the billowing smoke clouds to realize that modern warfare is a distinct threat to the climate.  I fretted about buying carbon offsets when I flew home to see my Mother in the U.S. Look at the US-led occupation of Iraq.  In 2003, George W Bush’s Operation Shock and Awe attack involved nearly 30,000 bombing sorties over Baghdad in the first few days, and 800 Tomahawk missiles.  Day and night for 48 hours, on TV the sky looked like someone had tossed a match into a fireworks factory. Millions of kilos of explosives pounded Baghdad, loading the atmosphere with ash and dust, as well as CO2 from burning fuel.

Then there was Fallujah, the city the US-led coalition destroyed in order to save it, with cluster bombs and incendiary white phosphorous. Some sixty percent of Fallujah’s buildings were smashed by missiles or artillery, and 40 to 60 percent of the population killed or dispersed.

The 1991 first Gulf War, Operation Desert Storm, had environmentally catastrophic consequences, when Iraqi president Saddam Hussein set fire to more than 600 oil wells in the Kuwaiti oil fields he coveted. The fields burned for about ten months, consuming an estimated six million barrels a day, and releasing an estimated half a billion tons of CO2 into the sky.

Where there’s smoke, there’s carbon. Carbon is a very useful element – none of us would be alive without it – but the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned since 1988 about CO2 and the greenhouse effect.  Now every year is hotter than the one before, and so is every month. The World Meteorological Institute projected that 2015 will the hottest year on record and also that  2011-2015 has been the warmest five-year period ever recorded, with many extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, influenced by climate change.

Insurance companies blame climate change for extreme weather, such as polar vortexes, floods, droughts, forest fires, Superstorm Sandy, and other catastrophic events that have caused unprecedented huge compensation claims. But worse may be on the horizon. In May 2015, the Environmental Defense Fund listed six “Environmental Tipping Points” that could push the earth beyond recovery, including sections of Antarctica melting, and much longer El Ninos (such as we’re seeing this year.)

Canada’s prime minister won applause in Paris for stepping up to the cause – whole-heartedly, if only in comparison with the government of previous prime minister Stephen Harper. But talking about cars and coal-fired power plants is not enough.  Despite Christiana Figueres’ five years of hard groundwork to bring 195 nations together for an agreement on a climate protection treaty, one vital aspect remains unspoken.

Trudeau addressed the military’s role in climate change when he suspended Canadian overflights, even if that wasn’t his intent. And among US President Barack Obama’s great unsung achievements, IMO, is that he has persistently sliced away at the military grip on the federal budget, US foreign policy, and the national economy –  moving the States back to a civilian economy and away from the war-based economy described in Addicted to War.

World leaders may sign an agreement to cap, contain and reduce carbon emissions in the civilian economy. That alone is a mammoth task. But to prevent one major Shock and Awe style attack from tipping the world’s climate over an edge, they must also find a way to ban war – in the face of Vladimir Putin’s aggression. They can sign a million climate treaties and pledge their countries will reach 100% renewable energy by 2030, and I’ll be in the front row cheering. The world climate action campaigners can take a few moments to pat themselves on the back too. But all their efforts will be in vain if a escalating conflicts push the world over a tipping point into climate catastrophe. To have a peaceful climate, we must have a peaceful world.

Copyright Penney Kome 2015

Penney KomePenney Kome is co-editor of Peace: A Dream Unfolding (Sierra Club Books 1986), with a foreward by the Nobel-winning presidents of International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War.

Read her bio on Facts and Opinions here.

Contact:  komeca AT yahoo.com

 

 

 

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