By JOHN ALLISON
The attack on Guernica by Nazi Condor Legion fighters and bombers in full coordination with and bombing instructions from Spain’s Nationalist dictator, Generalissimo Franco, was carried out on April 26, 1937, 36 hours after my birth on the west coast of North America. This was the first major experiment in modern industrial weapons and methods of control of small dissident populations – “insurgents”; in this case the indigenous Basque people in their spiritual and cultural capital, Guernica. Pablo Picasso made his allegorical protest of this and tribute to the people who died there in his famous painting of that title. Picasso never allowed Guernica to be shown in Spain until after Franco was removed from power 12 years after Picasso’s death; then it was shown in the Prado; now it is housed in Guernica. The Basques say, “Guernica” Guernikara, “Guernica” for Guernica.
….I was the first correspondent to reach Guernica, and was immediately pressed into service by some Basque soldiers collecting charred bodies that the flames had passed over. Some of the soldiers were sobbing like children. There were flames and-smoke and grit, and the smell of burning human flesh was nauseating. Houses were collapsing into the inferno.
In the Plaza, surrounded almost by a wall of fire, were about a hundred refugees. They were wailing and weeping and rocking to and fro. One middle-aged man spoke English. He told me: ‘At four, before the-market closed, many aeroplanes came. They dropped bombs. Some came low and shot bullets into the streets. Father Aroriategui was wonderful. He prayed with the people in the Plaza while the bombs fell.’
…The only things left standing were a church, a sacred Tree, symbol of the Basque people, and, just outside the town, a small munitions factory. There hadn’t been a single anti-aircraft gun in the town. It had been mainly a fire raid.
[http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/guernica.htm accessed February 2, 2011]
Nationalists denied Nazi involvement and claimed that Guernica had been deliberately burned and dynamited by fleeing Republican forces, which had been using the city to store ammunition and explosives; it was also claimed that reports of the extent of the bombing had been exaggerated and were atrocity propaganda. (Sound familiar?)
At that time, Amelia Earhart was preparing for her second and final attempt to fly across the Atlantic. USan’s attention was focused by the media on this spectacle and on the recovery from the Great Depression that had been moved by President Roosevelt’s socialist-like policies. In the background, the global powers were ratcheting up their military machines, and the various rhetorics were pointing to a different road than the Public Works projects as a way to raise the people’s standard of living and education. Behind the scenes, among the moguls of industry – IBM, RAND Corporation, and others – and the military leaders, a competition was already underway for global domination by one or the other as the final solution to the social and economic problems, not of the people, but of the industrial elite, connecting the framework for the global Military Industrial Complex, about which US President Eisenhower later – too late – warned the sleeping US population, which was too busy watching Ozzie and Harriet to care.
In the late 1960s and 1970s, Guernica was in Vietnam, where the indigenous people had revolted against the colonial rule of the West, first against the French, and, after defeating them, against the USA (with 200 years of experience in militarized conquest – knowledge passed down by the Roman Empire – and domination of indigenous peoples of North America) whom the Vietnamese people also defeated, but at great cost in lives and in environmental damage that will continue to affect its people’s health for a long, long time.
During the war on Vietnam the U.S. dropped the equivalent of 450 Hiroshima bombs that killed many hundreds of thousands, and left behind more than 500.000 tons of unexploded ordnance killing an additional 100.000 to 200.000 people. Yet worse was to come. Operation Ranch delivered a poisonous cocktail to Vietnam including cyanide to destroy rice fields and an estimated 49.3 million liters of Agent Orange sprayed into the forests, fields, and streams of South Vietnam. Close to 5 million people were present directly in the areas sprayed, and millions more were effected through contaminated food sources and environment. Agent Orange is the strongest poison known to man, and at least three generations of Vietnamese have suffered damages to physical health and psychological well-being. Acknowledging reluctantly that Agent Orange was responsible, the U.S. Veterans Administration has now placed 14 diseases on the presumptive list as caused by the poison. Yet despite promises made, the victims of the war in Vietnam are still ignored 40 years later. Can Western Europe be a guiding conscience to the U.S. and respond to this unprecedented crisis?…
During the war the US Airforce dropped from two to three times the amount of ordnance dropped during the entire World War 2, but on a much smaller area. It is difficult to imagine the amount of destruction and stress caused by this military strategy of annihilation. The older generation of Vietnamese had already been exposed to decades of war with the French in order to liberate the country from colonialism. That war fresh in memories and with many victims added on to the stress caused by the US during the War on Vietnam. The ordinance dropped produced 20 million large craters, and was the equivalent of 450 Hiroshima bombs. After exiting Vietnam the U.S. left behind 500.000 tons of unexploded ordinance that subsequently killed between 100.000 to 200.000 people (Bouncy, 2006).
Nixon promised billions of dollars for remediation and rehabilitation of land and people after ending the war on Vietnam. None of these promises were kept. The Globe and The Mail (2008) reported that according to the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 4.2 million Vietnamese (2010) were exposed directly to Agent Orange, resulting in 400.000 deaths and disabilities. Furthermore 500.000 children have since been born with birth defects. The poisoning effects from Agent Orange persist today since it became part of the food chain resulting in the birth of children with multiple problems (BBC NEWS: HEALTH (2010). So while 4.8 million were present during the spraying, many more were exposed through the contaminated environment and food (Schecter, 2002; Stellman, 2003).
[Agent Orange and war related stress: Physical and psychological disorders. DR. KNUD S. LARSEN, (Professor emeritus, Department of Psychology, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon, USA) and DR. HAO VAN LE (Head of Department of Cultural Psychology, National Institute of Psychology, Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences, Hanoi, Vietnam) in ZEITSCHRIFT FÜR Sozialmanagement (Journal of Social Management), 2010 Vol. 8 | Number 2 | 2nd semester 2010]
Today is February 3rd, 2011, the day that three Israeli planes landed in Cairo, bringing crowd control weapons for the dictator Mubarak, their consort. Today’s Guernica is Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, La Côte d’Ivoire…,while Tunisians and Egyptians are attempting to stand up to The Beast, and the insurgency seems to be spreading. However, the Zeitgeist that animated the Nazi’s and the Spanish Nationalists at Guernica and the US in Vietnam has since spread to all the European nations and to their approved rulers of the former colonies, with its head, teeth and portavoz vested in the USA, Nuova Roma.
How did the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave fall to such depths, and what is the hope for changing course to return Power to the People from those who have usurped it and continue to solidify their gains?
One can trace the conversion of Barack Obama to the military spirit of Mars that animates this collective Beast. After my refresher course on military culture during Human Terrain System training, I recognized it in the changes in Obama’s rhetoric. Their signature phrases – like “the way forward” – began to creep into his speeches; if you know MilSpeak you will recognize it. He was coolly recasting himself as an emissary of The Mission. His Cabinet appointments demonstrated his intent, not to serve as the absolute upright, manifesting the values and goals which had seduced the US citizenry to choose him as The Way Out of this vice, this vise.
Instead of “change you can believe in”, Obama has gotten in line and traded Commander in Chief for the position of Chief Public Information Officer for the Department of Defense and the global industrial elite of the Empire.
Who knows, maybe Hosni Mubarak held some of the same ideals Obama mouthed, in the beginning, before he bargained away the rights of the Egyptian people for his own aggrandizement; or, maybe both Mubarak and Obama were always on track for their personal careers.
In Nuristan of the Hindu Kush, some of the houses in the isolated high valleys have carved into the oak planks flanking the doors, the zig-zag path of a lightning bolt. I was told that this was the house of an Aula Mətz, a Big Man or Great Man, who was or is a leader, comparable to the Latin American strongman or “caudillo”.
This lightning bolt, I was told, represents his skill at sensing the desires of The People and, in the formal, alpha dialect of the Kalasha, to state for them what they themselves could not state so skillfully; so seductively
The people turned to the Aula Mətz in time of struggle or of crisis to show them the Way Out of their situation. Once he had gained that trust, he could lead them into an entirely different path, and the people would follow his zig-zag course away from the original direction. Of course, in their world, if he fucked with them, they simply killed him and turned to another to lead them.
I was seduced by Obama. I campaigned for him. I voted for him. I had faith in him; there is no other word; maybe because he is mulatto; maybe because he was a community organizer among the down-trodden. I felt his authenticity; I thought that I did.
I’d still like to hope that he has something up his sleeve, and will turn the tables soon; but my hope is evaporating as I disregard his words and look at his actions.. Now, Barack Obama has made clear that his Way Forward is not our way; the way of The People. Rather, he is headed down a path blazed by Generals McChrystal and Petraeus (betray us) under command of the Captains of Industry. And I ain’t goin’ his way.
The Islamic world is laughing and crying over the West’s “freedom and democracy” mantra. They see how skillfully the USans are kept from seeing the truth of their leadership which has recently passed a bill making the elections of their “representatives” available to those who can buy them; the delusion that they are self-determining, represented by leaders who will take them where they want to go; will make their nation walk its talk. But, instead of fulfilling the hope of the downtrodden, they continue to look to “the news” on FOX to learn what to think about the despots.
And now, in Tunisia, in Egypt, in Jordan, Yemen, Algeria … The People are uprising – “insurging” – against the zig-zag leaders that the West has bribed the elite of their own societies to install, who will follow the path of the USans Caudillos, their Aula Mətz. They have suffered the truth of Western “democracy”.
This whole movement returns the clock to the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire into separate nations by the Western colonial powers and the preparation by the British of the State of Palestine to be usurped by Zionist invaders who now rule the colony of Israel – where I spent an entire year with six months’ indoctrination on Kibbutz Dafna, one of the earliest forts established in Palestine by the Zionists, which is what TE Lawrence said – I think it was in the Seven Pillars of Wisdom – will NOT stand, cannot stand; a European colony in the heart of Arabia. That is at the core of this revolutionary struggle – the Arabs own indigenous version of Freedom and Democracy!
These people are indigenous to their lands, regardless of Israeli “scholars’” revisions of history, contradicted by many Jewish, non-Zionist scholars, who get hell for it, denied tenure and such. The Arabic and related Muslim peoples still operate as a society behind the scenes that are depicted on their media that weaves a zig-zag Western Capitalist path. They hear that if they change things to fit their own values and goals, they will “destabilize” their “region”.
The same lies have been overcome now in most of Latin America; first in Cuba, then Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile still sputtering on and off, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Nicaragua, El Salvador …, and according to Hillary Clinton, this “destabilizes” that region.
What the USans need right now is a leader like José Martí; one who has the charisma such as Obama’s, but also the ethics, the knowledge of the ruling elite, the vision of a future to awaken the USans from their stupor, their torpor, their dreaming, and to inspire the USans with the courage to confront what they then will understand as Evil as the Nazi leaders who ordered the devastation of the small town of Guernica the day after my birth.
Of course, given the state of the US population that is so folded into the perspective of the media that is an organ of the Military Industrial Complex, that prescribes their dreams, that leads them down that Zig-Zag Path, it is The Awakening that will be difficult, since we are not an indigenous people, but people stripped of culture and re-dressed in an economic, legal, and political framework that they learn in public schools, churches, the media, who no longer share an oral history, a People’s History of the USA that allows them to independently assess and organize a response to despotism from the grass-roots level. All they have is the “news” and reports of the State of the Union by the Caudillo.
We still sometimes use “pre-literate” to describe peoples who have not been folded in to this dream. As though they will inevitably evolve to a higher state of “culture”, as the USans have. However, some of the technology that might ensnare us also has served those “preliterate” peoples to connect person-to-person, group-to-group, and the result has been shown impressively in the wars of liberation in Tunisia and Egypt. There, in those exploited populations, people had both understanding and courage and they had connections between themselves that enabled their revolutions.
A Nation of Sheep
I am just wondering, how does a herd of fat sheep, each one living in his/her private residence, protected by alarms to the security company, comfortable, too well-fed, distracted and diverted with media and many toys, people who don’t say “hello” but divert their eyes in discomfort, maybe in fear, when you pass them on the sidewalk, … how can they get awakened, get knowledge of a reality beyond their leaders’ isolating media, and get connected directly with one another in discussions that will lead toward a dignified and morally strong society whose government is not so much a world leader and competitor as a cooperator and compañero with good will towards all peoples?
It seems that such websites as this one are the only path open. How do we move beyond preaching to the choir, to the Awakening?
Maybe a Guernica Day Rally in place of Earth Day, and more “fun”?
But, even such websites as this might no longer be available to connect the US citizens to those of like mind in the US and globally. See http://demandprogress.org/blacklist/
If we keep criticizing, Clinton-Obama-Bush might do what Mubarak did to the internet in Egypt’s Crisis. National Security, you know? We might need a Guernica in San Francisco! to protect Freedom and Democracy.
5 thoughts on “America, Guernica and the War of Terror”
Excellent piece Mr. Allison. Thank you.
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I seem to convey that i want Obama to do something; while knowing that he is in a situation that is much more constrained than USans can imagine. So, what do I think he might do?
If President O could just take the to the “airwaves” and tell the people that he is forced by the power behind the elected government to do these things that contradict his promises; and tell the people that they should protest in Tienaman Square, or in Tahrir Square, Times Square, Capitol Mall, Pioneer Square or some square, just tell the people, “this is what is happening behind the scences; these are the choices i am given by the military and the rich”; Just stand up and tell the truth; just explain to us the details behind the scenes.
That is what I would like to see President O do, but, it ain’t hopeful.
We praise “transparency”, then hide the real dynamics of governing in the Real World from The People. Democracy can only operate with transparency; not cover the truth of those dynamics with a National Security Blanket.
I felt, and still feel, Obama’s authenticity. But I agree with you that “he is in a situation that is much more constrained than USans can imagine.” However, I don’t know if his best approach is to directly take to the airways. The counterattack that approach could engender causes me great anxiety.
Perhaps Obama’s supporters should be the ones to organize and “take to the airways.” That would not feel quite so threatening to his enemies. But an organized approach putting forth his “campaign” values, with a candid explanation of why he is having to take such a circuitous route to achieve them, could be very influential.
Yes, that candid explanation would at least be a signal to the “faithful” that O is trying to keep the faith. Of course, i realize that the Big Boys play a hard ball that is the same as Dick Cheney’s “dark side”; and the secrecy and double-agent stuff is what is “reality” as those in power have woven it. They will argue “that is the way it is. Get real!”.
I’d like to see real change in this.
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