This Is War
an unblinking lookin words and imagesat the reality of warfare
Dead Iraqi soldier in Gulf War. © Kenneth Jarecke
our troops enter a bombed village the pariah dogs are already at work eating
the corpses of the babies and old women who have been killed. Many suffer
from ghastly wounds, especially some of the younger children who...are covered
with flies and crying for water."
Colonel Osburn of Britain, quoted in a May 1935 issue of the Manchester Guardian. Reprinted in A History of Bombing by Sven Lindqvist (The New Press, 2001), p 68.
Soldiers who survived WW I. From War Against War!
|"I could watch a burned infant trying to nurse from its dead mother's
breast, see young men with their faces blown away, witness a boy deliberately
gutted...and never protest."
reporter Richard Boyle in Vietnam. The Flower of the Dragon: The Breakdown of the US Army in Vietnam by Richard Boyle (San Francisco, 1972), p. 22. Reprinted in An Intimate History of Killing by Joanna Bourke (Basic Books, 1999), p 199.
Al-Jazeera screenshots of US's post-9/11 attack on Afghanistan
| "But [bombings] arouse a completely personal hate that no one can
really understand who has not huddled in a cellar or burrowed his face in
a field to escape dive bombers or seen a mother search for her son's torn-off
head or smelled the stench of burning schoolchildren."
Reporter Edgar Snow in Chunking, China. Quoted in A History of Bombing, p 75.
Nagasaki, Japan, 10 August 1945. © Yosuke Yamahata
|"Those poor bastards sat in the air-raid shelters of 16,000 apartment
buildings that burned down. Those who followed instructions and dutifully
sat there, as I myself would have done, were all killed. They were suffocated
when the shelter filled with smoke or when the firestorm had consumed all
the oxygen. Only their bodies could testify as to how they had died.
The corpses often lay crowded into heaps near the barricaded exits. Other bodies were stuck in the hardened black mass of their own fat, which had melted and run out onto the floor.
The infants lay in rows like grilled chickens. Other corpses had vanished completely; nothing was left but a fine layer of ash on the tables and chairs.
Most of those who left the shelters burned to death out on the street instead. Many lay facedown, with one arm over their heads, as if to shield themselves. Many had shrunk to the size of dwarves; others had blown up like balloons. Some seemed completely unharmed but were nakedall of their clothes except their shoes had disappeared. Others lay with outstretched arms and blank faces, like mannequins. Still others were totally charred. Their skulls had burst at the temples where the brain pushed out, and their intestines bulged out under their ribs."
Sven Lindqvist, describing the British firebombing of Hamburg, Germany in 1943. From his book A History of Bombing.
Associated Press photos of US's post-9/11 attack on Afghanistan. © AP
|"Nothing but parts of bodies, arms, legs, heads, hands and torsos,
being shoveled into a big heap... Then petrol was poured over it and the
whole heap was burnt. Lorries came all the time and brought more of these
dismembered people. I became incapable of walking away. The only thing I
could think of was, could it be that Mother is among these mutilated things?
Mesmerized I stared at the heaps of human remains... Mentally, I started
to put together these parts of bodies in order to see whether they could
be any of my family."
Eva Beyer, after the firebombing of Dresden, Germany. In The Bombers: The RAF Offensive Against Germay, 1939-1945 (1983). Quoted in A History of Bombing, p 103.
Scenes from Napoleon's Peninsular War (1807-14) from the series Disasters of War by Francisco Goya.
|"My force was standing knee-deep in mutilated bodies, surrounded
by the guttural moans of dying people, looking into the eyes of children
bleeding to death with their wounds burning in the sun and being invaded
by maggots and flies. I found myself walking through villages where the only
sign of life was a dead goat, or a chicken, or song-bird, as the people were
dead, their bodies being eaten by voracious packs of wild dogs."
quoted in A People Betrayed: The Role of the West in Rwanda's Genocide (Zed Books, 2000), pp 174-5.
Rwanda, 1994. © James Nachtwey
|"A member of Doctors Without Borders told of rescuing an eleven-year-old
boy and his nine-year-old sister from a gang of Hutus, who were laughing
at them and spitting on them. By that time, both children had already been
raped, and their father's severed penis had been stuffed into the girl's
from a review of A People Betrayed: The Role of the West in Rwanda's Genocide by L.R. Melvern (Zed Books, 2000). Reviewed in Everything You Know Is Wrong, edited by Russ Kick (The Disinformation Company, 2002), p 329.
Vietnam, 8 June 1972. Photo of Kim Phuc. © Nick Ut
|"I became a fucking animal. I started fucking putting fucking heads
on poles. Leaving fucking notes for the motherfuckers. Digging up fucking
graves. I didn't give a fuck anymore. Y'know, I wanted. They wanted
a fucking hero, so I gave it to them. They wanted fucking body count, so
I gave them body count."
unnamed Vietnam Veteran, quoted in Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character (New York, 1994). Reprinted in An Intimate History of Killing.
Iraq during Gulf War I. © Peter Turnley
|"Sergeant Michael McCuster recalled one time when his Marine platoon
went into a village [in Vietnam] and gang-raped a woman (the last man to
rape her, shot her). He recalled that their sergeant 'took no part in the
raid. It was against his morals. So instead of telling his squad not to do
it, because they wouldn't listen to him anyway, the sergeant went into another
side of the village and just sat and stared bleakly at the ground.'"
from An Intimate History of Killing, p 200. McCuster's quote is from Vietnam Veterans Against the War, The Winter Soldier Investigation (1972), p 29.
Reuters photos of US's post-9/11 attack on Afghanistan. © Reuters
|"Over by the...gate lay five civilian victims on stretchers, waiting
for their coffins to arrive. They were terribly mutilated and very dirty,
for the force of the explosion had tattooed their flesh with gravel and sand.
Beside one corpse was a brand-new, undamaged straw hat. All the bodies looked
very small, very poor, and very dead, but, as we stood beside one old woman,
whose brains were soaking obscenely through a little towel, I saw the blood-caked
mouth open and shut, and the hand beneath the sack-covering clench and
poets W.H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood, describing a 1937 bombing attack on China by Japan. From their book Journey to a War (1939). Quoted in A History of Bombing.
|"In front of us a curious figure was standing a little crouched,
legs straddled, arms held out from his sides. He had no eyes, and the whole
of his body, nearly all of which was visible through the tatters of burned
rags, was covered with a hard black crust speckled with yellow pus.... He
had to stand because he was no longer covered with skin, but with a crust-like
crackling which broke easily."
BBC correspondent Rene Cutforth, describing the Korean War for the Manchester Guardian (1952). Quoted in A History of Bombing.
Northern Alliance soldier removing gold teeth
|"In the Pacific theatre of war, men collected breasts from the bodies
of killed (or captured) Japanese women.... The tendency to collect human
trophies escalated during the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam when the bodily
parts most favoured were ears, teeth, and fingers, but the collection of
heads, penises, hands, and toes were all reported."
From An Intimate History of Killing, PP 26-7
The My Lai massacre, 16 March 1968
|"By the time Calley and men sat down to lunch, they had rounded
up and slaughtered around 500 unarmed civilians. Within those few hours,
members of Charlie Company had 'fooled around' and laughed as they sodomized
and raped women, ripped vaginas open with knives, bayoneted civilians, scalped
corpses, and carved "C Company" or the ace of spades onto their chests,
slaughtered animals, and torched hooches. Other soldiers had wept openly
as they fired on crowds of unresisting old men, women, children, and
description of the My Lai massacre (16 March 1968). From An Intimate History of Killing, p 160.
The My Lai massacre
|"We heard then what sounded at first like a little girl crying,
a subdued, delicate wailing, and as we listened it became louder and more
intense, taking on pain as it grew until it was a full, piercing shriek.
The three of us turned to each other, we could almost feel each other shivering.
It was terrible, absorbing every other sound coming from the darkness. Whoever
it was, he was past caring about anything except the thing he was screaming
reporter Michael Herr in Vietnam. Dispatches (Avon, 1978), p 150
Execution by the Northern Alliance
|"[Sergeant Bruce F. Anello] describes the grotesque pranks played
upon corpses, the rapes, and the way platoons were 'willing to kill any body'
simply in order to beat another platoon's 'kill record.'"
from An Intimate History of Killing, p 205
From the series Disasters of War by Francisco Goya.
|"A jeep pulled up to the dump and a Marine jumped out carrying a
bunched-up fatigue jacket held out away from him. He looked very serious
and scared. Some guy in his company, some guy he didn't even know, had been
blown away right next to him, all over him. He held the fatigues up and I
reporter Michael Herr in Vietnam. Dispatches, p 118.
Al-Jazeera screenshots of US's post-9/11 attack on Afghanistan
|"[Former Marine William Broyles] described what his men had done
to a North Vietnamese soldier whom they had recently killed. The had propped
the corpse against some C-rations, placed sunglasses across his eyes and
a cigarette in his mouth, and balanced a 'large and perfectly formed' piece
of shit on his head."
From An Intimate History of Killing, p 3
Iraq during Gulf War I. © Peter Turnley
|"Fight, rape, war, pillage, burn. Filmic images of death and carnage
are pornography for the military man.''
Jarhead: A Marine's Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles by former sniper Anthony Swofford (Scribner, 2003).
All images and quotes are copyrighted by their original owners. They are used hereon a 100% noncommercial Websitefor the purpose of education.
|posted 10 March 2003 | copyright 2003 Russ Kick|
So... You Want
to Go to War? - Introduction
for this school note: Grades 9, 10, 11, 12
Think long and hard about whether to send your children off to war. For whom, and what purpose, will you allow your children to spill their blood?