April 25, 2014 was the 99th Anniversary of the Disastrous Battle of Gallipoli
Not too long ago I watched Johnny Got His Gun, the film adaptation of Dalton Trumbo’s famous antiwar novel with the same title about a young American soldier who came home from the trenches of World War One France, having miraculously survived an artillery explosion that blew away his face, as well as both legs and both arms – not to mention his dog tags and genitals. The helpless victim, with absolutely no hope of ever attaining a useful, pain-free life was being kept alive in the back wards of a military hospital by his “caregivers”, mostly out of scientific curiosity. The doctors and nurses treated him as a vegetable that was unable to communicate. Moreover, the staff believed that he was unable to perceive pain or have feelings.
Because the military didn’t want the public to be aware of this horrific example of the gruesomeness of war, he was segregated (as is still done to this very day in veterans’ hospitals and nursing homes) to a locked room where nobody, especially the obediently pro-war public, would be able to give witness to his plight. A series of flashbacks provided sympathetic evidence of the victim’s innocent pre-war civilian life and total lack of appreciation about the ghastly reality of organized mass slaughter that is modern war.
What was most moving about Johnny Got His Gun was the fact that the victim, kept alive by stomach and tracheotomy tubes, was actually quite aware of his surroundings and what was being done to him without his consent. Finally finding a way to communicate with his caregivers, the story ends with no certain resolution, forcing the viewer to think about end of life ethics, militarism and the lies, half-truths and cover-ups of the gruesome long-term consequences of war.
Many years ago I read portions of a book entitled The First Casualty: From the Crimea to Vietnam: The War Correspondent as Hero, Propagandist and Myth Maker by Phillip Knightley.
Knightley points out in that book that in order to start (and then perpetuate) a war, a nation’s leaders have to lie, and the lies usually start with the war correspondents or “embedded” journalists who obediently only tell pre-approved sugar-coated, heavily censored versions of what is really happening in the war zone. Conservative editors, who are sensitive to the demands of patriotic advertisers, typically edit out the unpleasantness that has been written by their more progressive journalists, who want to write the truth, even if it is gory truth.
It is a historical reality that aggressive nation-states often cunningly provoke their intended nation-victims into drawing “first blood”. That is a tactic that most bullies employ, even inexperienced playground bullies.
All militarized aggressor nations that are spoiling for a fight try to find ways to lie themselves into war, often by claiming “self-defense”. Invasion, occupation and colonization can easily be obfuscated by the nation’s propaganda machine by calling it “liberation” or “protective custody” rather than criminal acts of theft, rape and murder.
Sadly, whistleblowing truth-seekers who try to expose the dark underbelly of war usually are silenced and accused of being unpatriotic or subversive or, in the case of capitalist and fascist nations – “soft on communism” and insufficiently punitive.
Promoting lies and half-truths about a nation’s wars has certainly been true of most kingdoms, empires, dictatorships and other totalitarian states, and that includes the Greek and Roman Empires, the British Empire and the various Fascist imperialist powers like Hirohito’s Japan, Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany, and it has also been true of almost every American war in recent memory.
Part of the propaganda campaign to glorify American war-making via propaganda was the change in the name of the pre-World War II Depar
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