The Human Cost of War

Saturday 1425 –  6th April 2013

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This post is rather different to the fun of last weeks “Roll Up, Roll Up.. It’s Time for the Circus” which you can read here

_796For some time now I have been planning to visit the WW2 US Military Cemetery at Madingley, which is just outside Cambridge, principally  to take photographs.  I was waiting for the right weather and this Saturday I got it. The photographs tell their own story but my purpose, as ever where war is concerned, is to highlight the terrible cost in human terms.

Harry Patch, who died a couple of years ago at the age of 111 was the last surviving British soldier of the 1st World war and he said “politicians who took us to war should have been given the guns and told to settle their differences themselves, instead of organising nothing better than legalised mass murder”. His words sum up what I feel about war and apply equally to World War 2 as they do to subsequent wars. 

The Cemetery is a beautifully kept, ironically peaceful place and surrounded by lovely countryside. I noted it was full of birds singing when I was there; heralding spring but not, of course, for those buried here.

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There are 4 figures on the Great Mall wall to represent the 4 services:a soldier, a sailor, an airman and a coast guard.

“Tablets Of the Missing stretch a total of four hundred and seventy two feet in length and contain the details of five thousand one hundred and twenty six missing in action, lost or buried at sea in addition to those who gave their lives but could not be positively identified. Every State of the Union is represented on the tablets and include names of three thousand five hundred and twenty four United States Air Force and Army Air Force Personnel, one thousand three hundred and seventy one Naval personnel, two hundred and one Coast Guard personnel and thirty United States Marine Corps personnel.”_798

Along the top of the wall is the following inscription:

THE AMERICANS WHOSE NAMES HERE APPEAR WERE PART OF THE PRICE THAT FREE MEN FOR THE SECOND TIME IN THIS CENTURY HAVE BEEN FORCED TO PAY TO DEFEND HUMAN LIBERTY AND RIGHTS ALL WHO SHALL HEREAFTER LIVE IN FREEDOM WILL BE HERE REMINDED THAT TO THESE MEN AND THEIR COMRADES WE OWE A DEBT TO BE PAID WITH GRATEFUL REMEMBRANCE OF THEIR SACRIFICE AND THE HIGH RESOLVE THAT THE CAUSE FOR WHICH THEY DIED SHALL LIVE ETERNALLY.

Forced to pay by those who seek war for their own selfish ends with scant regard to all the young people who were persuaded that fighting was the only way to guarantee freedom?  Can you defend human liberty by taking someone else’s? Can taking a life ever be right?  Ever?

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The Memorial Building.

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I picked the cross above entirely at random; it’s the cross of Alton G Speakman who died on May 23rd 1944.

I wonder what his story was? 

For sure he was someone’s son and maybe a husband and father too.  Or he might never have known the joys of intimate love.

He would have had friends who also mourned his death or maybe who died with him. I wonder if he played a musical instrument, liked books, or sport. Maybe he liked to go fishing or play baseball.  

He never got to do any of those things after 1944. I wonder why he joined up?  Did he feel an obligation? Was he scared?

I have deliberately added all those questions to make you think but I have done a little research into this man in the Army enlistment records . He was born on the 4th July 1912, completed 1 year at high school, his occupation on enlisting on 2nd November 1942 to the Air Corp was listed as “unskilled machine shop and related occupations”. His enlistment was “for the duration of the war or other emergency plus 6 months subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to law ”  He became a Sergeant, serving with the 423rd BS, 306th Bomb Group.

He was married and lived in Richmond County, Ohio.  He was 31 when he died.

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Whatever I, or you, might think about war I am certain that this man’s death and the death of all the other servicemen buried in this cemetery will likely have produced terrible grief that will have lasted lifetimes. 

“What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?”

Mahatma Gandhi (1869 – 1948), “Non-Violence in Peace and War”

I say NO to more War and NO to the tragedy of one more life taken.  Each life is one too many.

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Remember what Harry Patch said at the beginning of this piece “politicians who took us to war should have been given the guns and told to settle their differences themselves, instead of organising nothing better than legalised mass murder”.  The very same applies today, those who orchestrate war and make money from it are never those who do the dying; that’s left to people like Alton G Speakman.

Further readinghttp://www.madingleyamericancemetery.info/index.html

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Saturday Girl signing off now. I wonder what next Saturday will bring.  See you then.

You can find my photography blog Photomania here and I hope you’ll pop over and take a look if you haven’t already.. photos of Mallorca , continuing London People and a new minimalism series also in the pipeline to say nothing of a portrait of an allotment to come eventually!

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How did humanity get so lost ?

Saturday 1447 – 3rd November 2012.

The start of my second year of blogging on 1500 Saturdays and I had intended to start with something cheerful but I’m sorry to say that is not going to be the case at all. I was deeply affected by a video I watched today and I mean DEEPLY.

To say it disturbed me would be the biggest of understatements.  I felt tremendous anger and sadness. I wept as I watched and felt my very humanness threatened. 

So why did I watch it?  because to bear witness to something terrible, to human beings doing something terrible to other human beings is to honour the truth and know it will never be forgotten.

It
Must
NEVER
Be Forgotten

I felt a light go out in me today and I couldn’t get it relit. Everything seemed pointless and I could concentrate on nothing. I couldn’t take photos, or edit them. I couldn’t meditate or find any peace.  Those who regularly follow my blog will have seen that I want to make a difference in this world, with kindness and compassion. I don’t want to leave without trying to make it a better place but can I really do that?

I question that now.. maybe humanity is designed to be cruel after all; designed to kill or be killed.  I don’t want to believe it but it is hard not to after what I saw today.  It is easy in my comfortable Western,Well-fed, Ivory Tower to pontificate on compassion and love being all that is needed to change the world but what do I know of what is REALLY happening in other parts of the world?  What do any of us know?

I’m sure you are wondering by now what it is that can have had such an effect on me.  Well I was catching up with some of my favourite blogs early this morning as I am rather behind with my reading. I started with Love Versus Goliath, written by a lovely Australian woman called Robyn who is married to a Nigerian, Mr O, and I got back as far as her October 14th post called We Are The World and this is where I first saw the video. They worried about whether they should put a link to it. I do not. We cannot and must not hide from these horrors and pretend they are not happening or we will surely lose our humanity.

The video shows the most gruesome possible scenes of  the beating to death and burning of 4 young male students who were said to have stolen a phone and a laptop from someone who owed one of them money.. The truth may or may not be entirely different but what is absolutely in no doubt is that no-one deserves to die like this. If you are going to watch it, I have to give you the strongest possible warning as it is harrowing in the extreme and from the first moments.

Many people stand and watch, both men and women and no-one comes to their aid and one films it as we can see.. The photo below is of the four young men killed and what makes it even sadder is that this is not, by any means, an isolated occurence in Nigeria.  Click on the photo to watch the video.. but please remember that I am not exaggerating about how brutal it is.. you will need a very strong stomach and the first seconds may be enough but I think it is very important that it is seen.

2 of the boys Lloyd and Ugonna recorded Heart of the City with others a while before they were killed. Couldn’t have been more appropriate.. you can hear why I say that by listening to it here..

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“The killed students have been identified by the management of the university as 19-year-old Lloyd Toku ( 200 level Civil Engineering); 18-year-old Ugonna Obuzor (200 level Geology student); 20-year-old Chiadika Biringa, (2oo level Theatre Arts student); and Tekena Erikena, a 20-year-old a diploma (Technical) student.”

If you have or have not watched the full video please, please, please follow this link for the Justice for the Uniport 4 petition on Causes and sign it. It will be available for 57 more days and is addressed to President Goodluck Jonathan,  Senate President David Mark and to Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State Nigeria where these killings took place.  A quote from the petition:

“We demand that whoever is involved in this killing must face the music, Nigeria must show to the rest of the world that this country is not a banana republic. You cannot be asking investors to come and invest in your country when barbaric acts such as this are happening almost everywhere in the country”

Robyn bemoaned the fact that the petition had only 11,000 signatories on Oct 14th, it is now November 3rd and still only 14,890 have signed. It’s not enough, there needs to be hundred of thousands. I simply don’t understand why so few, maybe it is because of the way it is worded?  I feel the petition should be going viral to show Nigeria and the world that this kind of brutality is never acceptable.

I have shared the link to the petition on my Facebook page, with some *friends* on there directly and on many other pages on there from Amnesty International to Nigerian pages, I can do no more but I hope some of you who read this will sign and share with others. Let’s do this thing together.  Thank you.

Now I need to go to bed and get some sleep, though somehow I think it is going to be hard to get to sleep tonight as I am haunted by those images.

Addendum Sunday morning – when I woke this morning I thought people may want to do more or think a petition will make no difference. So I have emailed the Nigerian High Commission in London and indeed the British High Commission in Nigeria to ask what the Uk policy is on this.  Links below if you would like to tell them how disgusted you are that this kind of barbarity persists in Nigeria.

in England http://www.nigeriahc.org.uk/enquiries and Nigeria http://ukinnigeria.fco.gov.uk/en/about-us/our-high-commission/contactus/

or in America http://www.nigeriaembassyusa.org/index.php?page=contact-us

Or Canada http://www.canadainternational.gc.ca/nigeria/offices-bureaux/high-com_abuja_haut-com.aspx?lang=eng&view=d

or Australia http://www.nigeria-can.org.au/

Lets add our voices and say NO to this, it took me just a few minutes to do..

Further addendumSunday afternoon

Please see the comment by my good blogging friend Scilla and my response below. This post is not in anyway meant to paint all Nigerian people as killers or brutal and I do indeed recognise the danger of a single story misrepresenting a whole people. I respect Scilla’s opinion greatly as I have found her to be very wise and thank her for her comments and for the link she has posted which I hope you will follow and watch.  She made me question whether this was a good or damaging post to write and it could clearly be seen as either but I have decided to let it stand because to withdraw it would be to pretend the incident did not occur and I could not do that.  Life is made up of a series of single stories and if I felt this was an isolated incident maybe I could pass it by but I know it is not.  Please follow this link to a piece written on the AllAfrica website “National women leaders of registered political parties yesterday in Abuja protested the killing of students in Mubi, Adamawa and Aluu, Port Harcourt, Rivers States, saying the killings are one too many.”

“We are killing our future by murdering our promising youths on daily basis. Every day we are burying our children and yet this is peace time or are we at war? We cannot keep quiet any longer. We are calling on all mothers and Nigerian women to rise and demand answers from Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, Governor Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State and President Goodluck Jonathan. We must hold them responsible for these killings.

“We are tired of palliative rhetorics like ‘the perpetrators will be brought to book’, ‘they will face justice’, etc. We recall the case of NYSC members killed during the electoral crises, was anyone arrested and prosecuted? What was done to protect them? If we do not as mothers, fathers and leaders arrest this descent into anarchy, we are doomed as a nation,” Hajia Mohammed said.

I do always research before I post and this was no exception.

Saturday Girl signing off ’til next week

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You can find my photography blog Photomania here I hope you’ll pop over and take a look if you haven’t already.

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