Best flying of a U.S. flag in a while

September 6, 2013

You’d forgotten there’s another war going on in South Sudan?

Location of South Sudan in Africa.

Location of South Sudan in Africa (darkened area). Wikipedia image

More:

Best flying of a U.S. flag: A woman carries a bag of food in Gumuruk where @WFP is assisting IDPs uprooted by violence.

Best flying of a U.S. flag: A woman carries a bag of food in Gumuruk where @WFP is assisting IDPs uprooted by violence.


Humanitarian crisis in Syria: Refugee kids need food; here’s how you can help

August 23, 2013

Description from YouTube:

Published on Jun 27, 2013

In Syria, a humanitarian crisis has developed as millions flee conflict, facing homelessness, hunger and food shortages. The United Nations World Food Programme is working to provide emergency assistance to 2.5 million hungry people inside Syria and more than one million refugees who have fled to neighboring countries. Needs remain great and the children of Syria are particularly vulnerable. Syrian families need your support today.

At UpWorthy, Megan Kelley complains that this need for food and other aid for refugees has been eclipsed by news coverage of the civil war.  So she urges you to pass on the video, and the pleas for help:

Maybe someday the world will be peaceful and perfect and we won’t need emergency aid. In the meantime, let’s do what we can to help give Syrians one less thing to worry about.

And at 1:57, remember: Providing aid to people in need is an amazing thing to do, but we can’t forget that the real heroes are the ones who face the tragedy and strive against it every day.

More:

WFP caption: A Syrian refugee smiles as she carries food from the World Food Programme (WFP) home to her family. Thanks to @WFP for posting this photo and more on their Twitter page. - See more at: http://blogs.un.org/blog/tag/undp/#sthash.gFwbkl9a.dpuf

WFP caption: A Syrian refugee smiles as she carries food from the World Food Programme (WFP) home to her family. Thanks to @WFP for posting this photo and more on their Twitter page. – See more at: http://blogs.un.org/blog/tag/undp/#sthash.gFwbkl9a.dpuf


49 years ago: August 7, 1964, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

August 7, 2013

August 7 is the 43rd anniversary of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, the resolution which authorized President Lyndon B. Johnson to move troops into South Vietnam to defend U.S. interests.

Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, passed by Congress on August 7, 1964, as presented to President Lyndon Johnson, and signed by him on August 10.  This is the document that authorized U.S. involvement in Vietnam.  Image from the National Archives, Our Documents display.

Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, passed by Congress on August 7, 1964, as presented to President Lyndon Johnson, and signed by him on August 10. This is the document that authorized U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Image from the National Archives, Our Documents display.

The resolution passed Congress after what appeared to be attacks on two U.S. Navy ships in the Gulf of Tonkin.  At the time, and now, evidence is weak that such attacks took place.

Quick summary from the National Archives:

On August 4, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson announced that two days earlier, U.S. ships in the Gulf of Tonkin had been attacked by the North Vietnamese. Johnson dispatched U.S. planes against the attackers and asked Congress to pass a resolution to support his actions. The joint resolution “to promote the maintenance of international peace and security in southeast Asia” passed on August 7, with only two Senators (Wayne Morse and Ernest Gruening) dissenting, and became the subject of great political controversy in the course of the undeclared war that followed.

The Tonkin Gulf Resolution stated that “Congress approves and supports the determination of the President, as Commander in Chief, to take all necessary measures to repeal any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent any further aggression.” As a result, President Johnson, and later President Nixon, relied on the resolution as the legal basis for their military policies in Vietnam.

As public resistance to the war heightened, the resolution was repealed by Congress in January 1971.

Santayana’s ghost looks on in wonder.

Map of divided Vietnam, during the Vietnam War. History Place map via Mr. Roache's Place

Map of divided Vietnam, during the Vietnam War. History Place map via Mr. Roache’s Place

Considering its powerful effect on American history, the document is very, very brief.  Here’s the text [links added]:

Eighty-eighth Congress of the United States of America
AT THE SECOND SESSION

Begun and held at the City of Washington on Tuesday, the seventh day of January, one thousand nine hundred and sixty-four

Joint Resolution
To promote the maintenance of international peace and security in southeast Asia.

Whereas naval units of the Communist regime in Vietnam, in violation of the principles of the Charter of the United Nations and of international law, have deliberately and repeatedly attacked United Stated naval vessels lawfully present in international waters, and have thereby created a serious threat to international peace; and

Whereas these attackers are part of deliberate and systematic campaign of aggression that the Communist regime in North Vietnam has been waging against its neighbors and the nations joined with them in the collective defense of their freedom; and

Whereas the United States is assisting the peoples of southeast Asia to protest their freedom and has no territorial, military or political ambitions in that area, but desires only that these people should be left in peace to work out their destinies in their own way: Now, therefore be it

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the Congress approves and supports the determination of the President, as Commander in Chief, to take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression.

Map showing ship movements reported during the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, on August 4, 1964; reports that North Vietnamese gunboats attacked and engaged two patrolling U.S. Navy ships pushed Congress to authorize President Johnson to take extensive defensive actions.

Map showing ship movements reported during the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, on August 4, 1964; reports that North Vietnamese gunboats attacked and engaged two patrolling U.S. Navy ships pushed Congress to authorize President Johnson to take extensive defensive actions. (image from Echo Two Seven Tooter)

Section 2. The United States regards as vital to its national interest and to world peace the maintenance of international peace and security in southeast Asia. Consonant with the Constitution of the United States and the Charter of the United Nations and in accordance with its obligations under the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty, the United States is, therefore, prepared, as the President determines, to take all necessary steps, including the use of armed force, to assist any member or protocol state of the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty requesting assistance in defense of its freedom.

Section 3. This resolution shall expire when the President shall determine that the peace and security of the area is reasonably assured by international conditions created by action of the United Nations or otherwise, except that it may be terminated earlier by concurrent resolution of the Congress.

[endorsements]

And on that authority, “Congress approves and supports the determination of the President, as Commander in Chief, to take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression,” the U.S. spent the next 11 years in all-out warfare in Vietnam, with up to 500,000 military troops in the conflict, and losing the lives of more than 58,000 men and women.

U.S. engagement in Vietnam continued well after the repeal of the Tonkin Gulf Resolution in 1971.  In 1973 a peace treaty was signed between the U.S., North Vietnam and South Vietnam.  The provisions of the treaty did not hold; a final North Vietnamese military push in April 1975 crumpled the South Vietnamese government and army.  The few remaining U.S. forces made an emergency withdrawal as Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troops entered Saigon.  Vietnam was reunited by force, under a communist government.

Attacks on the USS Maddox and USS Turner Joy — if they occurred — took place early on August 4.  President Johnson might be excused for having done nothing on the issue at the time.  That was the same day that the bodies of three civil rights workers were discovered by the FBI, murdered by a pro-segregation mob with clear ties to the local Ku Klux Klan.  Either event, the Gulf of Tonkin, or the Mississippi civil rights murders, could be a major event in any presidency, testing to the utmost the leadership and peace-making abilities of a president.  Johnson dealt with both events at the same time.

Three American civil rights’ workers, James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael “Mickey” Schwerner, were lynched on the night of June 21–22, 1964 by members of the Mississippi White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, the Neshoba County‘s Sheriff Office and the Philadelphia Police Department located in Philadelphia, Mississippi. The three had been working on the “Freedom Summer” campaign, attempting to register African Americans to vote.

On a commission from the Dallas Symphony, composer Stephen Stucky composed a piece during the Lyndon Johnson Centennial in 2008; Kathryn and I heard the world premiere of August 4, 1964, on September 18, 2008.  Stucky’s piece (with libretto by Gene Scheer) is the only place I know where anyone has seriously considered the nexus between these two, opposite-side-of-the-world tragedies, and how they set the stage for the rest of the 1960s decade.   The piece has been recorded by the Dallas Symphony.  I highly recommend it.

Here’s a video from the Dallas Symphony on the piece:

More:


August 6: Hiroshima atomic bomb, 68 years ago today

August 6, 2013

A-Bomb Dome in Hiroshima, Japan

A-Bomb Dome in Hiroshima, Japan Wikipedia image

As a Utah Downwinder, I fight depressing ideas every August 6, and August 9.

The first atomic bomb used in war was dropped by my nation on August 6, 1945.  The second, on August 9.  Hiroshima, then Nagasaki, were the targets.

I know the arguments, both ways.  I feel certain my Uncle Leo B. Stewart’s life was saved by the bombs — and the lives of probably two or three million more Americans, and five or ten million Japanese.  And still I am troubled.

I’m troubled that there seems to be so little attention paid to the anniversary in the U.S.  Year by year, it gets tougher to get news out of remembrance ceremonies in Japan.  Here are some Twitter notes on the day.  I may be back with more, later.

This comes from a pseudo-Truman, but it’s an accurate reflection of the angst Truman went through; once he made the decision, he did not have doubts that it was the right one.

Fortunately, in 68 years since, no other nuclear device has ever been used in war. May we have a planet that never sees their use in war, again.

More:


Gracefulness in high places

May 10, 2013

The ability to say the right thing at the right time is a gift.  Sometimes it’s an earned gift, but a gift nevertheless.

Britain’s Prince Harry visited wounded U.S. soldiers in Washington area hospitals today, and he paid a visit to Arlington National Cemetery where he laid a wreath of remembrance at the grave of a soldier who died in a recent war.  Scott Simon of NPR was there.

More:


Photographs for which there are no words: Going to school in Palestine

February 20, 2013

A picture is worth a thousand words?  For some pictures, no adequate words exist.

Ammar Awad/Reuters girl going to school in Palestine, with combat troops looking on

Photo by Ammar Awad, Reuters; caption from L’Express: De l’audace! – 17/03/2010 Afin de se rendre à l’école, une enfant traverse les lieux des affrontements entre les troupes israéliennes et les Palestiniens, dans le camp de réfugiés de Shuafat, près de Jérusalem.

L’Express caption in English:

The audacity! – 17/03/2010

To go to school, a child crosses the scene of clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinians in the refugee camp Shuafat, near Jerusalem.

Rather puts into a different perspective the whines of students about “having to go to school,” not bringing pencils or paper, and not making it to class on time, doesn’t it?  What value does this girl and her family place on education?

To those who think the U.S. should in no case offer aid to Palestinians to build or operate schools, I ask:  Who do you want to pay for this child’s schooling, and direct the curriculum?

Teachers, is this photo useful for studying human rights?  Education?  Middle Eastern human geography (AP), geography, or other issues?  Contrast this girl’s path to school with that of Linda Brown in Topeka, Kansas, in 1951 (Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education).

Is education a civil right? Is education a basic human right?

Tip of the old scrub brush to James Kessler, who posted a slightly profanely-captioned version of this on Facebook.

Update:  Amusing Planet has this photo (with a nice shout out) and several others, showing kids risking their lives to get to school in China, Vietnam, and Indonesia – it’s awe-inspiring, scary and encouraging at the same time.

More:


Ingenious anti-personnel mine finder

December 19, 2012

Brilliant little film about a wonderfully creative guy, a war refugee, who developed a wind-powered device that can find and detonate anti-personnel mines.  It’s part of the GE-sponsored FOCUS/FORWARD film contest:

Description and credits at Vimeo’s site:

MINE KAFON is a Finalist in the $200,000 FOCUS FORWARD Filmmaker Competition and is in the running to become the $100,000 Grand Prize Winner. It could also be named an Audience Favorite if it’s among the ten that receives the most votes. If you love it, vote for it. Click on the VOTE button in the top right corner of the video player. Note that voting may not be available on all mobile platforms, and browser cookies must be enabled to vote.

A short documentary portrait on a designer who has created a low cost solution to landmine clearance.

Check out his website:  massoudhassani.com
or for other films by us at Ardent Film Trust:  ardentfilm.org

DIRECTOR
Callum Cooper
DOP
Michael Latham
CAMERA
Michael Latham
Mahmud Hassani
Callum Cooper
SLOW MOTION CAMERA
Ed Edwards
EDITOR
Anna Meller
COLOR GRADER
Chris Teeder
SOUND MIXER AND DESIGNER
Sandy Milne
TITLE DESIGNER
Ray O’Meara
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
Bobby Kapur
PRODUCERS
Alicia Brown
Michael Latham
Callum Cooper
THANKS
Lucie Kalmar
Slowmo High Speed
Optimism Films
The RNLA explosive ordnance disposal service
Copyright Ardent Film Trust 2012


2012 Anniversary of Pearl Harbor, still “infamous”

December 7, 2012

Encore and traditional post, mostly, from December 7, 2006 with updates.

1941 AP file photo, small boat rescues victims from U.S.S. West Virginia

Caption from Naval History and Heritage Command: Photo #: 80-G-19930
Pearl Harbor Attack, 7 December 1941
Sailors in a motor launch rescue a survivor from the water alongside the sunken USS West Virginia (BB-48) during or shortly after the Japanese air raid on Pearl Harbor.
USS Tennessee (BB-43) is inboard of the sunken battleship.
Note extensive distortion of West Virginia’s lower midships superstructure, caused by torpedoes that exploded below that location.
Also note 5″/25 gun, still partially covered with canvas, boat crane swung outboard and empty boat cradles near the smokestacks, and base of radar antenna atop West Virginia’s foremast.
Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives Collection.

Today is the 71st anniversary of Japan’s attack on the U.S.’s Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Many Americans fly their U.S. flags today.  The date is not one specified in law for flag-flying.  President Obama issued a proclamation asking citizens to fly flags at half-staff today.

Our local newspaper, The Dallas Morning News, ran a front-page story on survivors of the attack in 2006, who have met every five years in reunion at Pearl Harbor. [December 7, 2006] was their last official reunion. The 18-year-olds who suffered the attack, many on their first trips away from home, are in their 80s now. Age makes future reunions impractical.

In 2010, it is estimated that fewer than 4,000 veterans of Pearl Harbor still live to remember, though, of course those surviving do.

From the article:

“We’re like the dodo bird. We’re almost extinct,” said Middlesworth, now an 83-year-old retiree from Upland, Calif., but then – on Dec. 7, 1941 – an 18-year-old Marine on the USS San Francisco.

Nearly 500 survivors from across the nation were expected to make the trip to Hawaii, bringing with them 1,300 family members, numerous wheelchairs and too many haunting memories.

Memories of a shocking, two-hour aerial raid that destroyed or heavily damaged 21 ships and 320 aircraft, that killed 2,390 people and wounded 1,178 others, that plunged the United States into World War II and set in motion the events that led to atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

“I suspect not many people have thought about this, but we’re witnessing history,” said Daniel Martinez, chief historian at the USS Arizona Memorial. “We are seeing the passing of a generation.”

Another article notes the work of retired history professor Ron Marcello from the University of North Texas, in Denton, in creating oral histories from more than 350 of the survivors. This is the sort of project that high school history students could do well, and from which they would learn, and from which the nation would benefit. If you have World War II veterans in your town, encourage the high school history classes to go interview the people. This opportunity will not be available forever.

There is much to be learned, Dr. Marcello said:

Dr. Marcello said that in doing the World War II history project, he learned several common themes among soldiers.

“When they get into battle, they don’t do it because of patriotism, love of country or any of that. It’s about survival, doing your job and not letting down your comrades,” he said. “I heard that over and over.”

Another theme among soldiers is the progression of their fear.

“When they first got into combat, their first thought is ‘It’s not going to happen to me.’ The next thought is ‘It might happen to me,’ and the last thought is ‘I’m living on borrowed time. I hope this is over soon,’ ” Dr. Marcello said.

Dr. Marcello said the collection started in the early 1960s. He took charge of it in 1968. Since Dr. Marcello has retired, Todd Moye has taken over as the director.

Other sources:

While this is not one of the usual dates listed by Congress, you may fly your U.S. flag today.

End of 2006 post —

Other resources (2007):

USS Missouri Memorial – Main Battery - from the Panoramas of World War II site

USS Missouri Memorial – Main Battery – from the Panoramas of World War II site

More, 2012:


“The War Prayer” of Mark Twain (encore post)

September 21, 2012

(Updating dead links, especially from the late and lamented (here at least) VodPod, I found myself back in 2008, with this post on Mark Twain’s “The War Prayer.”  Fortunately, I found the film migrated to YouTube, though split in two parts.  Some information that should have caught our attention in 2008 deserves noting now, and we can update and add new links.)

It’s largely forgotten now, especially in history texts in high schools.  After the Spanish-American War, when the U.S. wrested several territories from Spain, including Guam, Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines, the U.S. quickly got mired in one of the original guerrilla wars in the Philippines.  It took 15 years, but the U.S. finally put down the rebellion — 15 brutal, bloody years.  The conduct of that war shocked many people, including Mark Twain.

This piece was written partly in response to that war.

Many Americans, like Twain, who questioned the war, in turn had their patriotism questioned.  Why wouldn’t they get on board with the war, and kill off those Filipino rebels? the critics asked.

Here’s a film in two parts, a stunning production, produced and directed by Markos Kounalakis (who uploaded the thing); go to the film’s website for a copy of the text.

Part I:

Part II:

Why didn’t I notice this in 2008?  The film is narrated by Peter Coyote.  Poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti plays the minister.  Erik Bauersfeld plays the Stranger.

Another short film of The War Prayer came out in 2007, from Lyceum Productions.  Neither version appears to be available on DVD or Blu-Ray.  Too bad.


Medal of Honor to former Sgt. Dakota Meyer

July 6, 2012

WhiteHouse.org:

President Obama awards Sergeant Dakota L. Meyer, United States Marine Corps, the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty, while serving with Marine Embedded Training Team 2-8, Regional Corps Advisory Command 3-7, in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, on 8 September 2009. [Ceremony:] September 15, 2011.

Video from the White House includes the prayers offered before and after the ceremony (excluded from the commercial television video).

The citation for Meyer’s Medal of Honor described his gallantry in detail:

The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pleasure in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR to

CORPORAL DAKOTA L. MEYER
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS

For service as set forth in the following

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with Marine Embedded Training Team 2-8, Regional Corps Advisory Command 3-7, in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, on 8 September 2009. Corporal Meyer maintained security at a patrol rally point while other members of his team moved on foot with two platoons of Afghan National Army and Border Police into the village of Ganjgal for a pre-dawn meeting with village elders. Moving into the village, the patrol was ambushed by more than 50 enemy fighters firing rocket propelled grenades, mortars, and machine guns from houses and fortified positions on the slopes above. Hearing over the radio that four U.S. team members were cut off, Corporal Meyer seized the initiative. With a fellow Marine driving, Corporal Meyer took the exposed gunner’s position in a gun-truck as they drove down the steeply terraced terrain in a daring attempt to disrupt the enemy attack and locate the trapped U.S. team. Disregarding intense enemy fire now concentrated on their lone vehicle, Corporal Meyer killed a number of enemy fighters with the mounted machine guns and his rifle, some at near point blank range, as he and his driver made three solo trips into the ambush area. During the first two trips, he and his driver evacuated two dozen Afghan soldiers, many of whom were wounded. When one machine gun became inoperable, he directed a return to the rally point to switch to another gun-truck for a third trip into the ambush area where his accurate fire directly supported the remaining U.S. personnel and Afghan soldiers fighting their way out of the ambush. Despite a shrapnel wound to his arm, Corporal Meyer made two more trips into the ambush area in a third gun-truck accompanied by four other Afghan vehicles to recover more wounded Afghan soldiers and search for the missing U.S. team members. Still under heavy enemy fire, he dismounted the vehicle on the fifth trip and moved on foot to locate and recover the bodies of his team members. Corporal Meyer’s daring initiative and bold fighting spirit throughout the 6-hour battle significantly disrupted the enemy’s attack and inspired the members of the combined force to fight on. His unwavering courage and steadfast devotion to his U.S. and Afghan comrades in the face of almost certain death reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.


Lessons of Vietnam: Honor the people who serve

July 5, 2012

Years ago I feared that many of us learned the wrong lessons from Vietnam, or if we learned the right ones, we weren’t applying what we’d learned.  This was a bit more important in the earlier days of our involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq.  So I wrote about one of the lessons we needed to improve on:  Honoring the people who serve, regardless our view on the entire engagement.

Someday, perhaps when I’m wiser, I’ll get back to that series on the lessons of Vietnam.

A lot of water flowed under the bridge since then.  A lot of blood flowed, too.

We did better with our two latest engagements, as a nation, in honoring soldiers.  For just one example, DFW Airport set up a special lounge for soldiers returning stateside, and dozens of organizations set up programs to get people out to welcome the soldiers from Iraq with an indoor parade of sorts — Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, groups of retired veterans and other citizens, school social studies classes, and many more.

That still leaves us with the scab of our treatment of veterans from Vietnam.  It’s been good to see cities and organizations make serious efforts to remember them specifically, as well as veterans of Korea-”The-Forgotten-War,” with soldiers and veterans of the modern conflicts.  There is more we need to do, I’m sure.

I ran into this short video from Moments.org.  I don’t know about the rest of that organization’s ministries, but this video got it right:

So, Wes, McClain, Kevin, Ben, Brenda, Steve, Pat, Al, Ken, Ray, David, Jeff and Jon, and all the rest of you who served, especially in or during Vietnam, consider this as one for you.

Tip of the old scrub brush to cmblake6, who probably won’t ever get another one here.  Happily surprised to find something right over there.

More, Resources:


Howard Zinn: Empire or humanity?

November 1, 2011

We get to choose.

We can choose, if we know there are choices, and how to distinguish between them.

Do we know there are choices?  Can we distinguish?

Wish I’d seen this little film a couple of years earlier; but it’s more poignant now, perhaps, that Zinn is no longer with us.

It’s a film from Henry Holt and Metropolitan Books, made to promote Zinn’s 2008 book, A People’s History of American Empire.  This is how the film is described at the Holt site at YouTube:

Empire or Humanity?
What the Classroom Didn’t Teach Me about the American Empire
by Howard Zinn
Narrated by Viggo Mortensen
Art by Mike Konopacki
Video editing by Eric Wold

To read more from Howard Zinn visit http://www.TomDispatch.com.

A serious student of U.S. history should always consider the view of Howard Zinn on an issue or period.  Teachers of history must consider Zinn’s views, agree or disagree.


Channeling Monty Python: “The border between India and Pakistan is closed for the day”

September 7, 2011

BBC map showing location of Wagah and Punjab

BBC map showing location of Wagah and Punjab, divided between Pakistan and India, south of Kashmir

Written accounts cannot possibly do justice to the ceremonies that mark the daily close of business at the border between India and Pakistan.  I had understood it was quite a good show, rivaling the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.

But, you don’t expect Monty Python to break out at these affairs, do you? Here’s a video of the ceremony as it was conducted prior to July 2010, I believe, which I found at Wimp.com.  It’s a video clip from BBC Worldwide, narrated by comedian Sanjeev Bhaskar.

(If that one doesn’t work, try this one — a bit lower quality video):

(Or, here’s a shorter, YouTube version of Baskar’s film.)

Where in the world is this?  It’s in a town and area called Wagah, in Punjab, divided between India and Pakistan since the 1947 independence of those nations (links to Wikipedia left in for your convenience).

Wagah (Punjabi: ਵਾਘਾ, Hindi: वाघा, Urdu: واہگہ) is the only road border crossing between India and Pakistan[1], and lies on the Grand Trunk Road between the cities of Amritsar, India and Lahore, Pakistan. Wagah itself is a village through which the controversial Radcliffe Line was drawn. The village was divided by independence in 1947. Today, the eastern half of the village remains in the Republic of India while the western half is in Pakistan.

While both nations and local residents fully recognize the silliness, it also stands as a symbol of the deep divisions between the two nations.

The Wagah border, often called the “Berlin wall of Asia”,[2] is a ceremonial border on the India–Pakistan Border where each evening there is a retreat ceremony called ‘lowering of the flags’,[3] which has been held since 1959.[4] At that time there is an energetic parade by the Border Security Force (B.S.F) of India and the Pakistan Rangers soldiers. It may appear slightly aggressive and even hostile to foreigners but in fact the paraders are imitating the pride and anger of a Cockerel.[1][5][6] Troops of each country put on a show in their uniforms with their colorful turbans.[7] Border officials from the two countries sometimes walk over to the offices on the other side for day to day affairs. The happenings at this border post have been a barometer of the India-Pakistan relations over the years.[1]

Did someone say “Pythonesque?”

Here’s Michael Palin narrating another view of the ceremony for one of his BBC enterprises, Himalaya with Michael Palin:

Would you be surprised to hear that local people refer to this as “the dance of the roosters?”

Events at this crossing reflect some minor easing of tension between the two nations in the last decade, and in 2010 both nations announced they would tone down the retreat ceremonies. Surely some scholar has analyzed this retreat ceremony and its history, to determine whether it helped ease the tension, or increased the conflict between the two nations.  Could soldiers who participate in such goings-on actually shoot at each other?

Has anyone got a more recent viewing of the ceremony?

How will you explain this to your sophomore world history class?  Is there anything sillier than humans in conflict?

Video via VodPod.

An astonished tip of the old scrub brush to Judith Shields.

More:


Famine in Somalia: ‘This is a race against time to save lives’ | Need to Know (PBS)

July 24, 2011

About genocide and other political issues that lead to the deaths of tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands of people:  We keep saying “never again!”  When is never?  There is famine today in Somalia.

Alison Stewart of PBS’s Need To Know:

This week, the U.N. declared a state of famine in parts of Somalia. Need to Know speaks with Adrian Edwards of the U.N.’s Refugee Agency about the unfolding humanitarian crisis in the region.

Video: Famine in Somalia: ‘This is a race again…, posted with vodpod

More, Resources:


“Only the dead have seen the end of war.” Who said that?

February 25, 2011

When I wrote about George Santayana’s observation that, “Only the dead have seen the end of war,” I didn’t realize it was a quote with controversy over the attribution.

English: Spanish-American philosopher and writ...

He said it: Spanish-American philosopher and writer George Santayana, early in his career (Photo: Wikipedia)

Ridley Scott‘s outstanding 2001 movie, “Blackhawk Down,” opened with the quote, but attributing it to Plato, according to Plato expert Bernard Suzanne in Paris.  One philosopher is as good as another, you might say, so it’s understandable that a good line from a modern philosopher like Santayana might be attributed to one of the most famous philosophers of all time (“they all look alike,” I hear someone saying).  Or, the cynics might say, perhaps Santayana lifted it from Plato — after all, who but another philosopher would actually read the stuff?  Who would know?

Suzanne’s sleuthing is impressive if only because it shows the murkiness of the issue.  According to Suzanne:

Who put it on the wall of the Imperial War Museum, and why did they misattribute it, just a dozen years after Santayana wrote it?

More:

Quote from George Santayana misattributed to Plato

Quote from George Santayana misattributed to Plato, on a coffee mug from Zazzle


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