Updated: 20/07/2003; 5:24:41 PM.
What does it mean under the surface

Sunday, July 20, 2003

This very long film film, 223 minutes, has just been released in DVD (July 2003). Most of the formal reviews have panned the film. I have now seen it twice and I feel compelled to make a case for it being actually a great film. I don't mean to use the adjective lightly. I mean great in scale and in its humanity: it addresses mythic material in an epic form. The initial reaction to the film was poor in the mainstream press. It was too long. It contained many subplots and themes that could have been excised to increase the pace. It did not pay enough attention to the evils of slavery. That the religiosity of Jackson and the pedantry of Chamberlain were jarring.

I think that these are criticisms of those that are so entrenched in their "modern" world view, that they cannot access the most moving of all forms of human communication- the Homeric Epic.

When I was a boy I read the Odyssey and Moby Dick. At the age of 9, these appeared to me to be only adventure stories. I think that most of the reviewers of Gods and Generals used this type of lens to "see" the film. I am going to be a bit mean now, but maybe this is the only level that they were prepared to experience life? One reviewer complained about the lack of blood! One thought that the subplot with Jackson and the little girl had pedophilic undertones? Many complained that not enough had been done to show the evils of slavery - they wanted more cruelty on the screen. In particular, many felt exceptionally uncomfortable about Jackson's faith in God and his willingness to converse with God at all times. All negative reviews felt crushed by the pace and the length of the film. Maybe if they were to read the Odyssey and Moby Dick today, would they would make the same type of criticisms? I suspect that they would find the books long-winded, slow, with too many subplots. Many would find the scene where Ishmael and the Harpooner share a bed at the beginning of the book homo-erotic. They would miss the meaning completely as they did with this film.

I fear that we, as moderns, have been cut off from the epic by the pace and the superficiality of modern life. It is hard for us to go beneath the surface any more.

Maybe the DVD and a bottle of wine can help to expand the frame. I sat enthralled and mostly in tears throughout the 3 hours plus of this film. Central to my emotion, was the interplay between choice and destiny.

At the heart of the film is the clash of two civilizations. We witness, with Jackson's death at the end of the film, the first step of the death of an heroic world where character is central. Where relationships are intense between people and where God, Place and Family are worth dying for. The South relies on imagination, flexibility and skill but is overwhelmed by a machine world where economic power is central. Where human relationships are replaced by machine parts

The first part of the film shows the issue of choice and duty. Lee cannot take up the leadership of the Union Army as he owes his greater allegiance to his "country" Virginia. I fear that many modern reviewers simply miss this point. They cannot know the role that Lee, Jackson and other southern leaders have previously played in the Army of the union in Mexico. Nor do they know of their time at the Point. Many of these men were as brothers.  Armistead and Hancock are best friends. Pete  Longstreet was the best man at Grant's wedding!. Lee had been a central figure in Mexico and had the enduring trust of Winfield Scott. The men who lead both sides had joined the Army of the United State and gave their oath at a time when oaths meant something. But for the Southerners, they answered a higher calling, their "country".

We who are so mobile today, Americans move on average every 5 years, have no experience anymore of what it might be like to be part of a stable society. We know little of the power of place.

The film offers a number of these choices to us at its outset. A son rejects his father's appeal to move back to the North with him. Jackson's first father in law leaves the south to wipe the dirt from his feet on crossing the Potomac. These are powerful and poignant choices. We watch Jim Lewis, a slave, sign up to serve his country too as Jackson's cook. This is no fabrication of the director. Lewis walked behind Jackson's coffin alone holding Jackson's horse at his funeral. In an epic, there is no simple relationship. The film shows the paradox of the burden of slavery in the context of the relationships. Masters and slaves were also people who shared a place and had feelings toward each other. Jim prays to be free but is also a native Virginian and is the friend and confidant of Jackson.

We witness Chamberlain in a painful confrontation with his wife. He leaves her like a Greek warrior for Troy. She can hardly bear to see him go. What wife could? We see in Chamberlain's going to war with his brother Tom another aspect of the particular acting for the general in epic.

This was the time when units of the army, especially in the south, were formed regionally. 6,000 men served in the Stonewall Brigade, all from the Shenandoah Valley. All were brothers and sons, cousins and Uncles, friends and neighbours. Can we come close to imagining what this was like in our anonymous age? So Tom and his brother, whom he constantly fails to call Colonel, are the mythic brothers for all the brothers. Only 200 of the 6,0000 who served in the Brigade survived the war. The region lost all its men. Since then the US Army deliberately does not have locals serve in the same unit.

In true epic, a single person embodies the larger theme. So Jackson embodies the South. He is a two-sided man. Much of the film explores his tenderness and also his fierceness.

A reviewer pours scorn on the scenes in the film where Jackson develops an intense relationship with a 6 year old girl. Maybe he, the reviewer, needed more context. Jackson had been orphaned at 7. His greatest fear was the loss of loved ones. The girl's greatest fear was that her Daddy would not come home. There is a remarkable Christmas scene, where Jackson asks her what she wants and she tells him that she wants her Daddy to come home. He embraces her and says "All the daddies will come home" - Of course Jackson means that they will all come home to God. Everyone that Jackson had loved has died. His parents, his first wife and his first child. What he fears the most is that his current wife will also die with their child. When this little girl dies of scarlet fever, he breaks down and weeps in front of his staff. One asks how can he weep for this girl when he has not wept for any of his men and even for his friends. Dr McGuire answers that he is weeping now for them all.

We also see his fierce side. He advocates taking no prisoners. He, like Grant, knows that war is not a game. That it should only be pursued with great force so that it can end as soon as possible. Jackson is a man whose life is an adventure. His enduring faith in God enable him to accept his destiny. He fears not his own death knowing that it is inevitable. So he is quite fearless and hence inspiring in battle. This sense of destiny and the immanence of God pervades the film and offers us all a other way of being in the world.

The film, like the Iliad, is an intermix of intense human vignettes with grand battle scenes. A reviewer noted that Ron Maxwell should look at Private Ryan for lessons in how to make a battle scene. Really? This is a different time. Here the issue is to show how men summoned the courage to march into a hail of bullets - to stand yards away from your enemy and to return fire and reload when completely exposed. I found the battle scenes enthralling. 7,000 re-enactors who really know what they are doing knock the spots off any CGI effect. Witnessing the Irish Brigade charge up the hill in a  foreshadowing of Gettysburg was a great moment of film. The men accelerating through the fire, crouched as they ran as if they were trying to shelter from rain. Men standing shoulder to shoulder 30 yards from the wall and their enemy. What we see is pure courage.

Ironically we then we see Armistead and Pickett, who were to do the same only 4 months later, comment on the bravery and the folly of such an act. We know that Armistead will die on a wall just like this and that Pickett will have his division and his life destroyed on a wall just like this.. The cheer of anguish and salute of the Irish brigade of the CFA at the wall after they had slaughtered their brothers of the Irish Brigade of the Union was a Homeric moment. This cheer too foreshadows another moment in the future. In the years after the war, a great tradition emerged at Gettysburg. At the reunions, long lines of grey-coated old man would walk stiffly up the hill to Cemetery Ridge where at the wall a long line of old men in blue awaited them. When they reached the wall, their union brothers would reach across and pull them over the wall into their embrace.

The flanking attack at the end of the film just before Jackson's shooting, is also a great moment. For me it is the blend of action with thousands of extras and the score. In silence, the men stand still at the edge of the Wilderness. Then they walk and then run still in silence as the score picks up the pace. It is balletic!

The film takes maybe 20 minutes to show us Jacksons' death. Too long? What we witness is the death not only of one man but the death of the South. From this moment it is downhill all the way. In his single death we see the death of all the 600,000 who died who left their wives and children, their fathers and mothers, their brothers and sisters all behind. In his death, we also see the end of any chance that leadership in itself could make the difference. Now it will be only a game of mathematics where the numbers and the economic might of the North will grind the South down.

My advice for Ron Maxwell and Ted Turner? The complaint heard regarding both films was that they were too long. Yet we see 13 hours of Band of Brother as being OK. Maybe HBO is the venue of the Last Full Measure? LFM demands an even grander canvass. I cannot see how a 3 hour film can do justice to the scale of the last year 2 years of the war where the scale expands and the drama deepens so much Maybe these films are in fact too short? The modern audience cannot easily take a 3 hour film in a cinema but can take a 13 hour series at home if well made. HBO have shown that they are the masters of this format.

Ron and Ted - please do not give up. I know that you want to make a difference. Having the 3 films made would be an act of great historic import.  The birth story of the US is the Civil War. This is the furnace from which has come our modern age. LFM above all shows how Lincoln and Grant understood this and how our own time was created.  We have to see how these titanic forces were mobilized and applied to understand who we are today.

We have to go to the Mississippi. We have to follow Sherman to Atlanta. We have to go into the Wilderness again and we have to end up at the entrenchment, at the first mine and we have to find our way to the small courthouse where we have to witness the meeting of Lee in his best uniform and Grant in his dusty clothes. We have to see that all of Lee's brilliance was of no avail once a new leader emerged that understood what the real job was - to wear Lee's army down to nothing. We have to see how Lee was bled not just of numbers but of talented subordinates and friends. We have to endure all of this with him to see why at the end he can make the choice not to throw away the last remnant of his army. We have to see that he did give indeed the last full measure. We have to see how, in spite of all of what has happened, all the horror and slaughter, that honour still remains. We have to see the supreme moment of coincidence, when Chamberlain leads the guard of Unions troops in salute their defeated brothers as they march off into history.

9:53:04 AM    comment []

Friday, April 25, 2003

dolighan cartoon The title of this essay alone is likely to get me into trouble with both Canadians ("We do not!") and Americans ("You ingrates still don't get it."), but someone ought to talk about this. Let me start by dispensing with two myths: That most Canadians and Americans are really very similar, and that Canada couldn't exist without American support and forbearance.

I spend half of my work life working with Americans and half with Canadians. While there are dangers in generalizing, recent opinion polls illustrate fundamental differences between American and Canadian worldviews and value. Here are three major differences:
  • Americans are unilateralists, Canadians are multilateralists: The latest Environics poll shows that 70% of Canadians still oppose the attack on Iraq, not because they think Saddam was a great guy, but because they think military action against another country must have international support. Seventy percent of Americans now think the Iraq war was justified. That's a huge difference of opinion. The very concept of a pre-emptive unilateral attack on another nation is anathema to most Canadians. And having the majority of a country right beside you support a regime that relishes pre-emptive unilateral military adventures is terrifying.
  • Americans have an authoritarian worldview, Canadians have a conciliatory worldview: A survey taken in 2000 revealed that 44% of Americans but only 20% of Canadians believe "the father of the family should be the master of his own house" and that "good parents make and enforce strict rules for their children". If you buy Lakoff's nation-as-family metaphor for conservatives (strict father worldview) and liberals (nurturing parent worldview), this means that Americans are evenly split (perhaps badly, even schizophrenically split) between conservative and liberal worldviews, while Canadians, like Europeans, are overwhelmingly liberal. The US is arguably the only developed country in the world where conservative views are sufficiently prevalent today to elect a government. To most Canadians this ideology is so outdated, so nonsensical and doctrinaire , that to see it pursued so aggressively by the most powerful nation the world has ever known is frightening.
  • Americans like hierarchy and structure, Canadians like heterarchy and diversity: Another survey taken in 2000 revealed that 47% of Canadians, but only 19% of Americans, believe organizations work best when there is no single leader in charge. Many Canadians have learned the hard way that you don't criticize your American boss. The American cult of leadership is hard for Canadians to fathom: Canadians routinely poke fun at their managers and ridicule their Prime Minister. Canadian managers get paid much less than their American counterparts, while new recruits get paid more. Americans' fanatical patriotism and flag-waving is seen by Canadians as xenophobia and intimidating zealotry rather than as pride and respect for their country and authority.

Put aside for a moment the Bush administration's bullying and threats of retaliation against Canada for its non-support of the war. Put aside the hypocrisy of Bush's claim to support free trade while his trade negotiators are reneging on every existing trade agreement that restricts American companies. Put aside Bush's refusal to sign Kyoto and his attempt to undermine the World Court of Justice. I think most Canadians see these actions as Bush/neocon excess, and not representative of the views of Americans. The only thing frightening about these particular actions is that the US political system allows one small group of mostly (entirely?) unelected people to wield this much power so undemocratically. The only Canadian prime minister that expected that kind of blind trust from the electorate (Brian Mulroney) almost destroyed the country when Canadians refused to be bullied into accepting his reckless plan for constitutional reform. He was ousted in disgrace and his Conservative party has never recovered. Americans seem to like arrogant, swaggering leaders; Canadians loathe them.

Most Canadians also think the 'average' American (not to mention the average Republican president) is woefully ignorant of world history, geography, culture, and current events outside the US and Iraq. That may or may not be a fair assessment, but it underlies the Canadian perception that Americans see Canada as somehow utterly dependent on US largesse. By every standard except GDP, Canadian living standards are higher than those in the US. The trade interdependence is two-way: to a significant degree the 1990s US economic boom was sustained by handy access to Canadian labour that is more productive and 30% cheaper than their US counterparts', and by Canadians' willingness to sell them raw materials at bargain prices and then buy back the finished goods at a premium. And while Canadians would clearly be unable to defend themselves from an attack by a larger enemy, they also believe that no one else could or should defend Canada either, and that the best defence is hence neutrality, negotiation, consensus-building and a global reputation for peace-keeping and fairness.

Ironically, Canada's very proximity to the US seems to reinforce these differences and the fear they elicit among Canadians. Those Canadians who are conservative, materialistic, entrepreneurial and religious are far more likely to move to the US, widening the Canada/US worldview gulf further. Twice the proportion of Americans vs. Canadians believe in trying to convert non-Christians, and three times the proportion describe themselves as evangelical Christians or as 'born-again'. Twice the proportion of Canadians believe the government should guarantee adequate health, education and welfare for all citizens, but Canadians are even more opposed to government restrictions on civil liberties than Americans.

Canadians opened their hearts and wallets to help America after 9/11. They fought side-by-side with Americans in Afghanistan. It was Canadians who liberated the American hostages from Iran. But now 70% of Canadians fear retaliation from the neighbour with whom they are economically joined at the hip. They read that 30% of Americans would like to annex Canada. They hear about US boycotts of Canadian goods, and US demonstrations whose leaders propose to 'nuke Canada'. And they read that 70% of Americans support an administration that stands against almost everything Canadians stand for. They don't understand, and they're afraid.

Postscript: Lovely quote from (Canadian) Robert MacNeil of PBS MacNeil-Lehrer Report fame: Canadians view America with a little kind of ironic distance. It's part of the Canadian psychological mechanism for asserting its own identity in the face of the overwhelming force of the American economy and popular culture.

[How to Save the World]

Hi Dave - so close and yet so different. Is not a key difference, when we look at Iraq, that America was born from an armed revolt and was shaped by the bloody civil war. So maybe In the US myth good things come from armed conflict. On the other hand no wild west in Canada but the Mounties creating law and order mainly not via the gun but by "presence" It is not that Canadians are wimps nor that they do not know how to fight. In World War I, Canada outfought all others and waere used as the shock tropps of Empire.. In WWII Canada ended the war with the 3rd lasrgets Navy in the world and bore the brunt of the War of the Atlantic as well as at D Day and the 1944-5 campagin in Europe. But we tend to fight for principle and then revert to being highly non militaristic. We go for duty but not becuase our myjt is built on war itself

6:23:00 PM    comment []

Monday, April 21, 2003

Many business leaders are beginning to think about the lessons of the Iraq war. Some questions might be:

  • How did the US Forces manage such coordination between the Army, the Navy (Marines) and the Airforce when we can't get any of our silos to talk to each other?
  • How did they move so fast - when a "pause" was just a few hours - why can't we move that fast?
  • How did they get the initiative and hold it? Why do we merely defend?
  • How do they plan when so much is so uncertain? They surely have a bigger logistics and movement problem than we do but they were able to keep their flexibility when we can't.
  • How have they been so successful in integrating new technology so well? Why can't we use ours - What do they know that we don't about collaboration?
  • How come they have the leaders that I want but can't seem to find?
  • How come Non Coms and enlisted men perform so well when my workers are so unmotivated?

Here is a collection of powerful papers (some quite long which are best printed) that tell the story. The story begins in defeat and failure when a group of captains, Majors and Colonels came back from Vietnam determined not to put their Army and the nation through such an experience again. Our 20th century organizational model came from the success of the military in two world wars. Once again it will be worth looking at the intellectual underpinnings of the US Army and Marine Corps to see the network structures for the 21st century that have replaced the traditional Command and control system of the 20th.

This is a browse, save and print collection for the real student

3:13:43 PM    comment []

Monday, April 07, 2003

What Warfighters Can Teach Business Leaders. Literally from it's earliest issue, Fast Company has looked to the best minds and most effective units in the military for lessons about strategy, tactics, and execution that can be applied to business. At a moment in which the attention of the world is focused on military conflict and its aftermath, we've assembled a collection of articles that may change how you run your company -- and shape how you behave as a leader. [Fast Company]

A wonderful group of relevant stories amd lessons

3:47:21 PM    comment []

Friday, April 04, 2003

Here is the classic scene from Monty Python's the Life of Brian where the Terrorists - I can never remember which group. Was it the People's Front for the Liberation of Judea or the Front for the People's Liberation of Judea? You know where I am going  (They hate each other more than the Romans) argue about what the Romans ever did for them.

While you have to laugh - it is eerily topical today

9:44:11 PM    comment []

Is war all bad?

One of the unintended consequences of the two World Wars was the emancipation of women from the home. What this picture tells me, as does the reality that American Women are in harm's way, is that once again, War will act as a driver for further breaches to the glass ceiling. I suspect that in the back of our men and women's minds was the feeling that when push came to shove, men were still the only game in town. Rosie showed that the workplace was open to women. Iraq I think is showing that there is no limit to the norms of women's participation in all aspects of Western Society.

War does result in much suffering but it has unintended benefits. The end of slavery. The end of aristocratic government. The end of many dictatorships. The emancipation of women. I am not advocating war - I am saying that a kneejerk negative denies a reality. That in life everything that happens to us that seems bad can have positives and much of what happens that is good has negatives.

8:15:47 AM    comment []

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Here are Andrew Sullivan's stats for the war -

HOME NEWS: March was another record traffic month: 1.88 million visits to the site from almost half a million separate people. 2.5 million page views. But my favorite piece of data is from Alexa.com. They rank websites, and like most such rankings, they're fallible, so don't put too much weight on this little piece of information. But according to Alexa, this site is now neck and neck, in traffic terms, with the Nation. In fact, the very latest data show this site just ahead of the Nation: we were ranked 6,116 Monday; they were ranked 8,728. No, I'm not putting out a full-fledged magazine, but the more you think about that simple statistic, the more remarkable it is. This site didn't exist three years ago; the Nation has been around for a century. This site, thanks to you, is comfortably in the black with no debt. The Nation has bled money for decades, as most such magazines do. Moreover, compare the stats for last month with the same month a year ago: we had 805,000 visits in March 2002 and 1,880,000 in March 2003. Yes, the war has boosted traffic this month, and that may subside in the future. But the trend is really strong. Thanks so much for your support, your faith and your constant criticism.

2:13:30 PM    comment []

Two ways of seeing the world. From the Fortress as a Conqueror or from the Community as a Partner 


Continue reading 'British show the way'

The impression the American forces give as they thunder up Route Tampa towards Baghdad is that everyone outside their ranks is a potential enemy: certainly the awe-struck peasants whose nervous waves are met with blank stares; and possibly the "unilateral" independent news teams whose pleas for food, fuel and shelter are brusquely rejected.

Indeed anyone who is not in a uniform that they instantly recognise is seen as a threat. The other day, British soldiers who were working on the edge of a camp I was staying in were fired on by a passing American convoy, who thought it was easier to shoot than to ask questions.

The British troops, by contrast, seem remarkably well disposed towards the Iraqis, even though among those smiling and cadging cigarettes are men who would be happy to kill them. The confidence-building got off to a slow start. Then, as always, it was the children who came forward first. Now the gates of the bases in Umm Qasr and Zubayr have a permanent throng of the curious, the friendly and the importuning, just as they did in Bosnia and Kosovo.

British soldiers seem to have a natural sympathy for the poor foreigners they habitually find themselves having to sort out and a mild interest in the political and cultural forces that created the mess. If they are in a place long enough, they play football with the local men and sleep with and sometimes marry their sisters.

The right and wrongs of the situation may be of less concern now that the war has started, than the result of the Ireland-England rugby game. That is not to say that they don't have their own opinions, usually shrewd when they are expressed and laced with a genial cynicism that would probably dismay Tony Blair.

The American troops whom I have come across appear uninterested in their immediate surroundings. They do, though, pay attention to their leader and seem to accept the White House version of what this is all about. They talk without embarrassment about honour and duty. The boys from the Mersey and the Thames and the Tyne feel these things as profoundly as any American, but they would die of shame before they uttered the words.

They look on their allies with a mixture of alarm and condescension. The Septics, as the Cockneys call them, are often the first suspects when there is news of casualties. The Brits distrust their reliance on technology and laugh - though perhaps not without envy - at their superabundance of kit.

Many feel disquiet at the massive use of force that seems to accompany the most minor operations. Last week. British troops watched with horrified fascination as an empty building near Umm Qasr, which sketchy reports said may have contained a handful of Saddam's men, was bombed and rocketed continuously for several hours. The British are uncomfortable with displays of military macho.

The American military's awkwardness with the people it finds itself among used to be blamed on its lack of experience in messy, complicated places like Northern Ireland. But that has not been the case for some time. American troops went into Bosnia in 1995 as peacekeepers and later to Kosovo. In both deployments there was minimal contact with the locals and off-duty life was lived behind the ramparts of gigantic enclosures.

The American soldiers' conduct is the consequence of a doctrine that puts the security of the military - force protection - at the forefront of all thought and action. Even though the prosecution of this war is exposing American forces to far greater risk than any recent such conflict, and even though their rules of engagement are more restrictive than ours, that disengaged, by-the-book form of warfare continues to dominate their style in the field.

In practice, this means having as little to do as possible with civilians. On garrison duty in Europe or Asia, this attitude may not matter much, but in Iraq it has the potential to derail the mission.

Many, probably most, Iraqis are willing to be persuaded that the Americans are in their country as liberators, not invaders. To do that, American soldiers have to not only curb their trigger-happy ways, but also come out from behind their Ray-Bans. They must start to recognise when it is time to forget the rule book and think of local sensibilities. They should learn to do simple things like waving at the children and saying hello in Arabic to their elders. In short, they must work harder to show that they belong to the human race.

They do not have to look far to see how this is done. They are sitting alongside the most professional and humane army on earth. Britain's contribution in men and weapons to the campaign may not be large enough to give us much say in how the fighting is done. But the weight we bring to the parallel allied effort to persuade the Iraqis not to hate us is enormous.

Posted By Gabriel Syme (Samizdata) at April 2, 2003 04:52 AM | TrackBack

8:36:30 AM    comment []

This war is probably helping China.
James Moore
China as the winner of US v. Iraq

Joi Ito just wrote from Japan, and I recall that at last summer's Fortune Brainstorm conference Joi was emphasizing the hidden power of the Chinese--and that the Chinese really aspire to superpower status, and a major form of global leadership.

I think that the Chinese are the real winners in the war on Iraq. While the United States blows resources on a destructive cause, the Chinese are staying focused on strengthening their core economy. The United States ties itself up in years of economically and morally-draining occupation of Iraq--while the Chinese stay free and focused.

I figure that the war on Iraq probably will hasten Chinese leadership over the US

I was invited to the Forture conference last year and Japan had become so insignificant that as probably the only participant from Japan, I was stuck on the China Panel. (There was no panel or session on Japan.) ;-) Pretty good indication of what people are interested in these days. I didn't remember this conversation with Jim until he blogged it, but, yes. I think China is obviously shooting to be super-power and in my recent visits to China at least some of the people presented the situation to me as "so you should choose China instead of the US as your primary partner since we're (China) going to beat the US soon."

I think that if the US totally botches the Iraq thing and China ends up being the force that neutralizes the North Korea situation, China could potentially be catapulted into quite a strong geopolitical position. It's interesting to watch China's foreign policy right now.

[Joi Ito's Web]

Good point. Did this not happen to the US as a consequence of the two world wars of the last century? Europe was devastated by the conflicts. America took off as the new power in the vacuum

8:31:05 AM    comment []

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

For those of you that do not know this is a British Great War memorial that was desecrated today in France

This time last year I went to France with my uncle to follow his father's war in France. He arrived in February 1915 in time to face the first gas attack of the war and we finished in a small cemetery which had been an aid post where he was gassed in September 1918. He survived and his gassing got him back to England which probably saved his life as the Canadian Corps lost 25% of its men in the next two months. As my uncle and I wandered around the front we were staggered at the loss. I am not exaggerating every mile or less there is another cemetery. I cannot explain to you the sheer physical impact and the full extent of the sacrifice made by the English, the Canadians, the Australians, the New Zealanders and South Africans on the English side of the front. Many were never found at all swallowed up in the mud. Many graves simply tell you that this was soldier of the Great War - not even a cap badge or buckle to tell us what regiment he came from. More than outright losses, a generation of leadership perished as well. More than 70% of those who went to my school in England between 1910 and 1918 were killed. More than 85% of those that went to my college at Oxford were killed. You can scoff today at their reasons but at the time they were motivated by the highest calling. In Canada every soldier was a volunteer.

I know that this act of vandalism is probably the act of the type of teen that causes trouble everywhere BUT I have never felt so angry as I do now looking at this desecration.  A nation that forgets the price for their freedom paid by others is not worthy to be called a nation.

11:13:16 PM    comment []

I got an email yesterday with the following story:
When in England at a fairly large conference, Colin Powell was asked by the Archbishop of Canterbury if our plans for Iraq were just an example of empire building by George Bush.

He answered by saying that, "Over the years, the United States has sent many of its fine young men and women into great peril to fight for freedom beyond our borders. The only amount of land we have ever asked for in return is enough to bury those that did not return."

It became very quiet in the room.

Great story. But whenever I get anything like this I always check, usually at The Urban Legands site. Sure enough, they have the scoop on this story. As so often turns out with a great story, reality is quite different. In this case, reality is actually much more interesting and displays why I have a tremendous amount of respect for Powell. The big conference was the World Economic Forum at Davos in January and you can read the entire transcript of his speech and the Q/A afterwards. It was a former Archbishop who asked a question and it was not whether we were empire building in Iraq. It was a somewhat convoluted question dealing with the proper use of soft or hard power, when to use each and how we should. He was worried that the US may be relying too much on hard power instead of soft power. Powell then gave an incredibly eloquent answer, expressing the views of most Americans. Simply, We do not like to use hard power. We prefer soft but if hard is the only way, we will not shirk from using it. Read his response. It is much better than this short synopsis. I do not disagree with this. I think many people worldwide would agree that hard, military power has to be used. The disagreement comes deciding what point must be reached before hard power needs to be used. My favorite quote from his repsonse is this:
I mean, it was not soft power that freed Europe. It was hard power. And what followed immediately after hard power? Did the United States ask for dominion over a single nation in Europe? No. Soft power came in the Marshall Plan. Soft power came with American GIs who put their weapons down once the war was over and helped all those nations rebuild. We did the same thing in Japan. So our record of living our values and letting our values be an inspiration to others I think is clear. And I don't think I have anything to be ashamed of or apologize for with respect to what America has done for the world.
After he finishes this, there is loud applause. Not a silent room. A lot of people agree with him. Then he next speaks the part that was quoted in the story, although there is substantial editting to make it more powerful and, in fact, more miltaristic and disrepectful of the audience. His real words are just as important and heartfelt but they do not have the hard edge that is present in the story.
We have gone forth from our shores repeatedly over the last hundred years and we've done this as recently as the last year in Afghanistan and put wonderful young men and women at risk, many of whom have lost their lives, and we have asked for nothing except enough ground to bury them in, and otherwise we have returned home to seek our own, you know, to seek our own lives in peace, to live our own lives in peace. But there comes a time when soft power or talking with evil will not work where, unfortunately, hard power is the only thing that works.

Not as pretty as the story. Powell's answer to this one question was interrupted twice by applause. His entire speech was interrupted 8 times. The audience treated him with respect, as he did the audience. The first question was put to him by the Secretary General of Amnesty International. The one following was by a businessman. Both asked very good questions in a respectful fashion. Powell answered both with the same measure of respect, never dismissive in his response. He showed a strong sense of humility and a sharp sense of history. The truth is SOOO much more complex and interesting than the skewed message in the email. If you want to get tears in your eyes, read the answer to the last question. The moderator asked Powell how 9/11 had affected him personally. This man is someone I would trust with my country. My major worry has been that his views have become more marginalized in the Administration over the past year, if not longer. There are strong neoconservative views opposing his moderate ones. When several advisors wanted to go after Saddam within days of 9/11, not because Iraq was involved but because it fit their strategic views, Powell more than anyone else forced the focus back to Osama. If Powell can avoid the long knives and forge a strong political career separate from Bush, he could have a huge effect on the future course of America. At least in my (not so humble) opinion. How his career will play out is not knowable but here is one person's opinion. [A Man with a Ph.D. - Richard Gayle's Weblog]

There is something essentially noble about Colin Powell. When I think of him I think of the finer points of the Roman character. In particular I think of Agrippa who was the man who enabled Octavian to become Augustus. If you don't know whom I am talking about check the link and see if you can see where I am going with this.

While history does not repeat itself, maybe it comes close in pattern. There is something about the man that tells us even today, before history has had its perspective, that he is special. An immigrant from Jamaica whose career is the examplar of the American dream - who shows us that in the American forces, the Field Marshall's baton is in any private's pack. Who belies the need for affrmative action by the excellence of his ability and of his character. Who is the ideal "Servant Leader".

Maybe I have had too much single malt this evening - but I feel that true tragedy is when a great man serves a lesser.

8:55:44 PM    comment []

Here is a chart that explains a lot at the UN - Thanks Command Post
12:58:46 PM    comment []

Need to keep this so that I can read it more thoroughly

Northern Light.

A "Canadian mother" with a U.S. background writes,

I think Joshua Micah Marshall is on the money...

It is hard to watch as America falls sway to an administration that appears to be headed in the direction that Josh indicates.

If you stepped out of the US for a period you would get out of the emotional carpet bombing that has been going on for months...the weekend terror alerts, plastic and duct tape and now the constant war images.

The so called Patriot Bill 2 is as scary a piece of legislation as I have seen in my half century of life.

I find myself angry and in mourning for a people that are being manipulated by a very clever propaganda campaign that would make the old Nazi masters proud. The scary thing is how well it works.

There is an image of Canada as a mouse living beside an elephant. Many of us are looking at the elephant as having gone rogue.

Check out The Anglo-American Military Axis by Michel Chossudovsky.

Check out the Dee Hock and Mark Twain quotes in David Isenberg's last Smart Letter.

They go well with the quotes below.

"Let me remind you what fascism is. It need not wear a brown shirt or a green shirt--it may even wear a dress shirt. Fascism begins the moment a ruling class, fearing the people may use their political democracy to gain economic democracy, begins to destroy political democracy in order to retain its power of exploitation and special privilege." Tommy Douglas (Link to source.)

Fascism should rightly be called Corporatism as it is a merge of state and corporate power. Benito Mussolini (Link to source.)

Benito Mussolini

"Why, of course, the people don't want war," Goering shrugged. "Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship."

"There is one difference," I pointed out. "In a democracy the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars."

"Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

"Why, of course, the people don't want war," Goering shrugged. "Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship." Hermann Goering, from Nuremberg Diary, by Gustave Gilbert. (Link to source.)

The links to sources are mine. Not only is it easier to copy and paste from a browser than from email (with all those returns to remove), but some of the longer source pieces are worth reading as well.

Bonus link: American hawks' plan sounds chilling today, by Vinay Menon in the Toronto Star.

[The Doc Searls Weblog]
10:40:28 AM    comment []

More from the Times this morning on Rumsfeld and the Generals. The best part of the article is on the second page where we find out more about the tense relationship between Rumsfeld and the Chief of the Army.
9:21:51 AM    comment []

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