Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

May 28, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

THE WAR PRAYER.... In 1904, disgusted by the aftermath of the Spanish-American War and the subsequent Philippine-American War, Mark Twain wrote a short anti-war prose poem called "The War Prayer." His family begged him not to publish it, his friends advised him to bury it, and his publisher rejected it, thinking it too inflammatory for the times. Twain agreed, but instructed that it be published after his death, saying famously:

None but the dead are permitted to tell the truth.

"The War Prayer" was eventually published after World War I, when its message was more in tune with the times. Now, Washington Monthly's publisher, Markos Kounalakis, who was affected by Twain's words when he covered the war in Yugoslavia in the early 90s, has made "The War Prayer" into a short video for release this Memorial Day weekend. It features stunning illustrations by Akis Dimitrakopoulos and is narrated by Peter Coyote, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Erik Bauersfeld. You can view it here.

Kevin Drum 2:50 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (92)

Bookmark and Share
 
Comments

Worse. Creatures. On. Earth:

A human being that believes in God.

Posted by: ROTFLMLiberalAO on May 28, 2007 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

That was positively horrid. The overwrought visuals and sound effects distract from (if not completely bury) some of Twain's most eloquent words. I watched it and felt like I'd just seen a PowerPoint presentation. Some things are meant to be read as written, not made into a YouTube video.

Posted by: charlie don't surf on May 28, 2007 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

I take Twain's message to be that if the whole truth of war was understood and acknowledged beforehand, wars would truly only be fought as a last resort.

Posted by: Del Capslock on May 28, 2007 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

It's not belief in God that causes the problem, it's the belief that he's a magic talisman which will grant our every wish.

Abraham Lincoln once said, "Let us not pray that God be on our side, but that we would be on God's side."

Posted by: Doctor Jay on May 28, 2007 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

Why do I say:

Worst. Creatures. Ever?

Simple.

Every other creature on earth is true simultaneously:

--to itself
--to its environment

The human being that believes in god
is true to neither of these...

Rather,
the god-believing human
is true to a sick fairy tale that promises it everlasting life beyond earth.
A lie.
A fantasy.
A false reality.

Earth would be Eden,
if everyone that believed in God.
disappeared in a puff of violet smoke:

Right. Now. This. Instant.

Puff!

Posted by: ROTFLMLiberalAO on May 28, 2007 at 3:35 PM | PERMALINK

My husband calls them god fearers and when he says it, contempt drips from his voice.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on May 28, 2007 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

is that why...

In daytime, FNC devoted 6 percent of its time to Iraq, and 17 percent of its time to Anna Nicole.

(For CNN, the mix was 20 percent Iraq, 5 percent Anna; for MSNBC, the mix was 18 percent Iraq, 10 percent Anna.)

- Project for Excellence in Journalism's first quarter News Coverage Index

Posted by: mr. irony on May 28, 2007 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

God botherers is funnier, at least.

Sorry, but I found the treatment overblown, as well.

(And, Kevin, why doesn't the system remember personal info anymore?)

Posted by: Kenji on May 28, 2007 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

Here's the full text if you want to read it instead:
http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_War_Prayer

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on May 28, 2007 at 4:25 PM | PERMALINK

Ah yes, "overblown."

Things must be presented more subtly, with a tinge of irony, such that we make it clear we don't take this seriously, but only offer it as an aside.

It's not like men, women, and children are dying for no cause but greed and ego or anything. If they were, then it would be fine to be somewhat overblown and un-subtle.

Posted by: Charles on May 28, 2007 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with others here, this was a very poor production. Had 1/10 the impact of just reading Twain's words in print. No added profundity signals needed.

Posted by: Fel on May 28, 2007 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK

There has been a link to it on my site, under the "Required Reading" links for as long as I have had a blog, and I posted the text today, as I have every Memorial Day since this clusterfuck started.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on May 28, 2007 at 4:44 PM | PERMALINK

The writer Geoffrey Perret takes Twain's position that war is, for the most part, unnecessary. In his latest book Commander in Chief, he examines the role of three U.S. presidents who engaged in wars of choice, Harry Truman in Korea, LBJ in Vietnam, and GWB in Iraq. As Perret correctly notes, "At a time of high emotion they acted on their own visceral reponses, ignoring the advice of the military and of major allies."

Mark Twain's War Prayer was in response to the U.S. invasion of the Philippines during the turn of the twentieth century. Perret quotes Manuel Quezon who became the first president of a free and independent Philippines: "I would rather live in a hell ruled by Filipinos than in a heaven ruled by Americans."

Posted by: Erroll on May 28, 2007 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, Kevin.

I will not watch your video.

Mark Twain died when? 1800's? Yeah, he's still relevant (not). He's basically consigned to 10th grade english classes and dusty library shelves. Nobody reads his racist tracks any more.

Posted by: egbert on May 28, 2007 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

Was the clip overwrought? Perhaps. But I'll bet that the people for whom the message was primarily intended could use the added emphasis.

Posted by: Jason on May 28, 2007 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, egbert...

Oh, never mind. The poster-child for the failures of home-schooling has joined us again.

He still hasn't joined the Marines, tho, I notice.

Chickenshit.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on May 28, 2007 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK

What I found interesting about Twain's poem is that it bases its appeal only on the damage wrought by a successful war, and only to the opposing side.

Not even spoken is the possibility that the war might be a failure, or entirely without point, or that harm might come to the loved ones sent off to fight.

Posted by: frankly0 on May 28, 2007 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

To 4:47pm: ....what's a racist track? Belmont, Pimlico, Monticello??

Posted by: downtown on May 28, 2007 at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, how I tremble before the racist tracks!

Posted by: cld on May 28, 2007 at 5:21 PM | PERMALINK

I'd been aware of Twain's attitudes on war and imperialism for some time, but the War Prayer was brought to my attention by Babylon V with an episode of the same name - which Stracysinski states is a direct reference to Twain's work. He links to the original at:

http://www.midwinter.com/lurk/making/warprayer.html

And, if anyone thinks the current situation with Iraq is something new in American history, Mark Engler has a summary of Twain's response to an earlier great adventure.

http://www.commondreams.org/views03/1031-11.htm

There are some direct quotes attributed to Twain here:

http://www.historywiz.com/primarysources/marktwain-imperialism.htm

Here's another- an excerpt from Twain’s essay, To the Person Sitting in Darkness:

http://www.msc.edu.ph/centennial/filam4.html

Here we are a hundred years later, and the things Twain saw and wrote about are being enacted all over again, writ even larger and with more cynicism: American soldiers committing atrocities and torture; authority figures extolling the virtue of America 'rescuing' people from tyranny; the religious duty of the White Man to those poor benighted heathens, greed, exploitation, and all the other elements of bloody farce.

It's hard to argue that if you want a real understanding of American character and all of its contradictions, you could do far worse than read all of Twain's work. Twain would have had no trouble spotting the NeoCon atavisms who think they've invented something new, when all they've really done is succeed in blinding themselves to everything we might have learned as a country in the last hundred years, and shouting down anyone who might try to remind us of those lessons. Mark Twain today would probably be hated by the Right eve more than Michael Moore.

It would be a great public service to unearth Twain's words again and start spreading them throughout the MSM; I'm sure the Democratic candidates could find many useful quotes - and it would doubtless cause the empty talking heads of the punditocracy to explode. They love to quote Churchill - I don't think they could face Twain.

Posted by: xaxnar on May 28, 2007 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

Eg, only a fool would call Twain a racist.

Folks who know better realize that when Huck decides "alright, I'll GO to hell" is the turning point in American culture; that Jim is one of the most honest and decent portrayals of a human being in context in world history, and that Twain's non-fiction writing on imperialism in Africa and the treatment of Chinese in America are close to the best and most honest approaches to race in world affairs EVER.

It's funny how conservatives like to bitch about 'political correctness', but when they're confronted with a REAL example of telling truth to power, they're too 'correct' to see it.

Posted by: theAmericanist on May 28, 2007 at 5:28 PM | PERMALINK

Jesus Christ, has our education system reached reaced such a low point that we don't know how understand a humorist/ironist like Twain any more? Folks, the twist is in the coda. The production was probably meant to be overwrought - at least it fits the spirit of Mark Twain. It is was allows the coda to have such an impact. For Godsakes!!!! You may like it or dislike it, but try and really think about it.

Posted by: Wilbur on May 28, 2007 at 5:34 PM | PERMALINK

Oh Eggie, go walk to the bathroom, sit on the pot, and hope for a loud, gaseous explosion outward, lasting for a long, long time.

There now. You're almost civil, with a heart even. No, not quite yet. Now go back and try again.

Posted by: kim on May 28, 2007 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks, Kevin.

Posted by: Senor Bozo on May 28, 2007 at 5:40 PM | PERMALINK

A fitting reminder on this day. To echo frankly0... As righteous and just as any conflict may seem, it can never be more than a lesser evil.

Posted by: has407 on May 28, 2007 at 6:07 PM | PERMALINK

I don't get it. I suppose you guys want to provide free mental health services to people like the old guy in the story. Quite a bit of stretch tying your communist propoganda to memorial day though. Is it mental health week or something?

Posted by: A1 on May 28, 2007 at 6:31 PM | PERMALINK

Does that comment have a point, steak sauce?

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on May 28, 2007 at 6:35 PM | PERMALINK

What an excellent choice for Memorial Day, Kevin. What America should really have is a holiday to celebrate the innocent victims of our militarism. Instead of glorifying the U.S. military, which is at best, a necessary evil, celebrate the incinerated civilians of Dresden, the radiation victims and vaporized children in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the widows of the "disappeared" in El Salvador and Nicaragua, the poisoned victims of Agent Orange in Vietnam and Laos, the limbless cluster bomb victims in Lebanon and the victims of "shock and awe" and depleted uranium in Iraq and Bosnia.

We are a violent and hate-filled people and Twain's poem pleads to our better angels to change the way we view militatrism. Thanks for a sobering counterpoint to the mindless flag-waving and dime store patriotism on display on Memorial Day.

TCD

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on May 28, 2007 at 6:37 PM | PERMALINK

Oh - and we want to provide mental health services to the pathological war-mongers, not the only guy in the room who made sense.

Duh.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on May 28, 2007 at 6:38 PM | PERMALINK

Of course, it suited Mark Twain, a man who fought briefly on the wrong side in the Civil War, and then ran away, to spend the rest of his life sneering at the Union veterans who actually ended slavery. Mark Twain waited until 20 or 30 years after slavery had been ended (by Union soldiers) and then wrote several books mocking slavery, to ensure that progressive morons and fools of the 21st century would revere him.

The plain fact is, if everyone were the sneering coward Mark Twain was, slavery would still be the law of the land.

Posted by: y81 on May 28, 2007 at 6:44 PM | PERMALINK

Twenty bucks says y81's never been within fifty feet of a recruiter.

Posted by: Doug H. on May 28, 2007 at 6:54 PM | PERMALINK

I don't remember the professor who taught my Freshman American Lit class, but I remember The War Prayer. I didn't sell the book at the end of the semester because I wanted to keep it forever in the first form I encountered it. Corny, yes. And I still have the book. That text has since accompanied me to billets all over the world. A few pieces have been revisited (Dresher's The Lost Phoebe, Hart's Tennessee's Partner) but The War Prayer gets read and reread regularly.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on May 28, 2007 at 7:16 PM | PERMALINK

Really pitiful, Kevin. Today is Memorial day, that day that we celebrate all those men who gave their lives for this country. But Kevin chooses to politicize it for his own ends, by trotting out this liberal piece of propoganda to try to discredit our effort in Iraq. We may not always get it right, but America is a force for good in this world, and Bush's intentions are honorable. But some want to put Bush's and bin Ladens and Sadam's intentions on the same playing field. Those are the worst kind of scum of all.

Posted by: egbert on May 28, 2007 at 7:20 PM | PERMALINK

Dreiser, not Dresher.

Clicking "Preview" woulda caught that...

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on May 28, 2007 at 7:20 PM | PERMALINK

Those are the worst kind of scum of all.

Really? I reserve that epithet for cartoon characters who fellate a failed fool who has wrecked this nation, negated the social contract and destabilized an entire economically and strategically important part of the globe.

You really are a douchebag, egbert.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on May 28, 2007 at 7:29 PM | PERMALINK

"The loud little handful - as usual - will shout for the war. The pulpit will - warily and cautiously - object... at first. The great, big, dull bulk of the nation will rub its sleepy eyes and try to make out why there should be a war, and will say, earnestly and indignantly, 'It is unjust and dishonorable, and there is no necessity for it.'

"Then the handful will shout louder. A few fair men on the other side will argue and reason against the war with speech and pen, and at first will have a hearing and be applauded, but it will not last long; those others will outshout them, and presently the antiwar audiences will thin out and lose popularity.

"Before long, you will see this curious thing: the speakers stoned from the platform, and free speech strangled by hordes of furious men...

"Next the statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception."

-Mark Twain, "The Mysterious Stranger" (1910)

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on May 28, 2007 at 7:49 PM | PERMALINK

100 years ago, Sam Clemens had it nailed.

Sadly, I perhaps 1 in 10 occupants on this planet have evolved enough to figure it along with him.

Posted by: Buford on May 28, 2007 at 8:01 PM | PERMALINK

A1: "Quite a bit of stretch tying your communist propoganda to memorial day though. Is it mental health week or something?"

Yeah, and good news, too -- thanks to our connections, we managed to get you, egbert and the other trolls here a group rate.

----------------------------------------------

egbert: "Really pitiful, Kevin. Today is Memorial day, that day that we celebrate all those men who gave their lives for this country. But Kevin chooses to politicize it for his own ends ..."

You know, Kevin's far too gracious a host to formally acknowledge your utter rudeness -- so, speaking on this beautiful Memorial Day as someone who lost his father to the folly that was the Vietnam War, I will:

Fuck you, chickenhawk.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on May 28, 2007 at 8:07 PM | PERMALINK

Sam Clemens was never in the Confederate army, he was in a Confederate militia formed by a group of his friends which got into a fight where one man was killed. The militia decided to join the Confederate army proper, and at that point Clemens opted out and went west with his brother who had been made secretary to the territorial governor of Nevada.

I don't see any real opening for cowardice in this despite his own self-deprecating description.

Posted by: cld on May 28, 2007 at 8:29 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps we should have an American holiday where we celebrate all the great Liberal, Progressive achievements of our history, like
The Declaration of Independence
The abolition of slavery
The Women's Rights movement
The New Deal
The Civil Rights revolution
etc.

We should also have a day on which we recall all the great things which Conservatives have done for this country, like
defend Slavery
spawn the Robber Barons
bring on the Great Depression
resist American involvement in WWII
oppose the Civil Rights movement
Watergate
the invasion of Iraq

Go Conservatives!!

Posted by: lampwick on May 28, 2007 at 8:30 PM | PERMALINK

Egbert is a studious practitioner of denial, reflected in his short-sighted, dismissive post.
No sense of dignity, justice or peace. If he was in the room with me I would show him the door.
Easy for him to post such misguided sentiments anonymously.

Posted by: consider wisely on May 28, 2007 at 8:31 PM | PERMALINK

Check out this photo, Mark Twain and Nikola Tesla.

Mark Twain (a/k/a Samuel Langhorne Clemens) in the lab of Nikola Tesla, spring of 1894.

Taken in the spring of 1894, and originally published as part of an article by T.C. Martin called "Tesla's Oscillator and Other Inventions" that appeared in the Century Magazine (April 1895).

Posted by: cld on May 28, 2007 at 8:38 PM | PERMALINK

So the "racist" Mark Twain wrote this "liberal piece of propoganda?" Getting desperate, aren't we, eggie? Mark Twain died in 1910, not the 1800's. Does egbert's fiancee' know he's illiterate?

Posted by: fyreflye on May 28, 2007 at 8:38 PM | PERMALINK

'Taken in the spring of 1894, and originally published as part of an article by T.C. Martin called "Tesla's Oscillator and Other Inventions" that appeared in the Century Magazine (April 1895).'
--cld

Q. How do you titillate an ocelot?
A. Oscillate her tit a lot.

Posted by: Joe Bob Briggs on May 28, 2007 at 8:54 PM | PERMALINK

Not to be contrarian, but I think we are doing okay in regard to honoring our progressive history.

The Declaration of Independence

We celebrate the Fourth of July. It's one of the nine federal holidays.

The abolition of slavery

The black community celebrates Juneteenth in every city where I have lived.

The Women's Rights movement

The entire month of March is set aside as Women's History Month.

Although I would dearly love to see November 12 (the birthdate of Elizabeth Cady Stanton) or February 22 (the ratification of the 19th amendment) designated as a federal holiday.

The New Deal

Ah hell - Labor Day?

The Civil Rights revolution

Martin Luther King day.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on May 28, 2007 at 8:55 PM | PERMALINK

True it is terrible to start an unnecessary war.
But it is even worse not to fight a necessary one.

Posted by: TruthPolitik on May 28, 2007 at 8:55 PM | PERMALINK

G. C. -

You're right about the holidays - that was pretty oblivious of me to miss. Add Arbor Day, and of course Mother's Day, originally Mother's Day for Peace.

Progressive heroes make a pretty good showing on our money as well (especially if we include Sacagawea, Susan B. Anthony, and the figures wearing pony-tails on the nickel and quarter)

Posted by: lampwick on May 28, 2007 at 9:07 PM | PERMALINK

August 18 - not Feb 22. Now I have to figure out why that date is stuck in my head. Teh Google should clear it up for me....

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on May 28, 2007 at 9:08 PM | PERMALINK

Egbert is Albot 4.0. RNC junior staffers get time-and-a-half for holidays.

Posted by: dr sardonicus on May 28, 2007 at 9:08 PM | PERMALINK

No problem - I know you know stuff! :)

And I know why I screwed up the date of ratification. I confused it with the date that the Supreme Court upheld the 19th Amendment in Lester v Garnett.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on May 28, 2007 at 9:11 PM | PERMALINK

Donald, sorry to hear about your dad.

Posted by: Disputo on May 28, 2007 at 9:12 PM | PERMALINK

Here's a link to the text of "To the Person Sitting in Darkness" and you can decide whether Twain was full of it or not. Easy to see how "The War Prayer" would come from the same source. Too bad Twain isn't alive today to write about Bush's Iraq war. I see some similarities -which maybe aren't coincidental since Rove has said he just really admires McKinley so much, and Bush is on record, before the 2000 election, saying how much a "splendid little war" could do for a presidency.

To the Person Sitting in Darkness:
http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/general/twain/personsitting.htm


I read that Twain gave an interview after returning to the US from overseas following the Spanish-American War. He said that he thought that the US should be honest about the whole matter and change its flag to the skull and crossbones, and admit that it had become a pirate enterprise. After great public uproar, Twain apologized.

Twain changed his mind about both race and US manifest destiny. You can still read his newspaper pieces from when he was a reporter in San Francisco, and see his attitude changing -which produces some weird results: I piece starts out with racist stereotypes and then by the end has turned everything on its head and is making fun of the racists. When he first when overseas to report he was a Manifest Destiny booster. He changed his mind when he saw US influence first hand in Hawaii.

http://www.historywiz.com/primarysources/marktwain-imperialism.htm

Posted by: anon on May 28, 2007 at 9:17 PM | PERMALINK

Yes Donald. We have talked about this before, but I sincerely offer my condolences every day, but on this day especially.

My father did not die in Vietnam, but he was changed by it in a profound way. My grandmother watched her son go off to fight three wars, but the last one was the one that broke his spirit and her heart.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on May 28, 2007 at 9:18 PM | PERMALINK

Okay, after that display of raised-by-wolves grammar, I have made a contribution to an adult literacy program.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on May 28, 2007 at 9:26 PM | PERMALINK

Well, okay. But the problem with Twain's War Prayer in this age is that people like eggbarf KNOW that they're praying for the slaughter as well as the victory. And they're okay with it.

Posted by: DrBB on May 28, 2007 at 9:31 PM | PERMALINK

Anti war? ANTI WAR? Here's anti war and honoring the soldiers:

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, cough like hags, we curse through sludge
Til on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, out-stripped five-nines that fell behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick boys!
An ecstasy of fumbling, fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still is yelling out and stumbling,
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.

Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a sea of green, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me guttering, choking, drowning.

If, in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's face sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues --
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children, ardent for some desperate glory,
The old lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro Patria mori


Maybe I'll repeat it November 11th.

Posted by: notthere on May 28, 2007 at 9:53 PM | PERMALINK

Damn, I hate to think that DrBB is right.

Plus, what Donald said. There aren't words after that, not for egbert or for the Chickenhawk-in-Chief.

Posted by: thersites on May 28, 2007 at 10:00 PM | PERMALINK

And while we're on the subject of eggfart and the genuine cowards of this world, let us never forget his having rhetorically spat on a triple-amputee Viet Nam vet by reiterating the dishonorable and disgusting rightwing slur on Max Clellan, which I will not lower myself to repeat. He showed himself to be as cowardly and reprehensible a piece of vermin that day as walks the earth, and nothing he has said since is deserving of anything but contempt--ESPECIALLY when it comes to those who place their lives, bodies and minds at risk for military service--unless it is an abject apology. Which he does not have the courage or moral fortitude to utter. Go ahead asswipe, apologize. Prove me wrong. Or continue to be the shameful posturing fraud that you are.

Posted by: DrBB on May 28, 2007 at 10:21 PM | PERMALINK

There is only one thing worse than war:
The occupation of an innocent country.

Why is it worse?

Because an occupied people have the moral right to rid themselves of the occupiers.
By whatever means they can employ...
They shall honor no restraints.
(For example: The Minutemen used asymmetrical warfare techniques.)

That's the way it has been.
That's the way it will forever be.

Suggestion:

Refer to it as: Bush's occupation.

And remember:

Dumbo has got all the moral rights of a Hitler in Poland, or a Moor in Spain or a Bonaparte in Russia or a ....

Posted by: ROTFLMLiberalAO on May 28, 2007 at 10:50 PM | PERMALINK

If we are going to offer verse with an anti-war message, I submit the following:

The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner
by Randall Jarrell

From my mother's sleep I fell into the State,
And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
Six miles from earth, loosed from the dream of life,
I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on May 28, 2007 at 11:02 PM | PERMALINK

Couldn't finish watching. The unrelenting insistence of the script to explain in detail the point of Twain's words prior to actually saying them left me rolling my eyes and clicking away. I get it. I get the point. No, really. Really.

Posted by: pHfactor on May 28, 2007 at 11:07 PM | PERMALINK

egsmell: "Those are the worst kind of scum of all."

No, that would be you, you pathetic litte worm. In order to "celebrate" the deaths of so many fine "men", as you so predictably put it, who don't you take some of Mark Twain's 10th-grade "tracks", roll them up carefully, and then ram them up your ass!

It might give you something else to think about for a while, and anyway, that's as close as you'll be getting this decade to having sex! After that, you'll be ready to join all those homosexuals who are ruining our army with all their communist abortions, and then you can get your empty head blown off by an IUD left by an insurgent gynecologist. In the end, we can "celebrate" all you gave to the country you hate so much.

Until then, happy trembling!

Posted by: Kenji on May 28, 2007 at 11:09 PM | PERMALINK

And speaking of a pray. Everyone should listen to Martha Raddatz report on Iraq.

ABC's Martha Raddatz, Writing on Iraq

Martha Raddatz tells listeners about Bush's war in Iraq. NPR plays back a March 1st interview about all the horrors of this war and how Bush is simply lying to Americans about the war in Iraq.

On the Memorial Day - having the sobering truth about Iraq should be what is most required. And if 72% of Americans have doubts the war outcome - waiting until September certainly want be the ticket for the GOP.

Posted by: Me_again on May 28, 2007 at 11:51 PM | PERMALINK

better to read Walt Whitman's poem, "Come in from the fields, father"

Posted by: MatthewRmarler on May 29, 2007 at 12:43 AM | PERMALINK

I liked the production. It seemed in keeping with the Prayer, its language and the time in which it was written, and I found it both moving and consoling to feel so connected to what had seemed such a distant time. But now, after hearing it, not so distant after all.

Thank you, Mr. Twain.

Posted by: Lindy on May 29, 2007 at 1:11 AM | PERMALINK

notthere, while we're quoting Wilfred Owen, how about bringing in the priests and the journalists?

AT A CAVALRY NEAR THE ANCRE
One ever hangs where shelled roads part.
In this war He too lost a limb,
But His disciples hide apart;
And now the Soldiers bear with Him.

Near Golgotha strolls many a priest,
And in their faces there is pride
That they were flesh-marked by the Beast
By whom the gentle Christ's denied.

The scribes on all the people shove
And bawl allegiance to the state,
But they who love the greater love
Lay down their life; they do not hate.

Posted by: snicker-snack on May 29, 2007 at 1:27 AM | PERMALINK

G.C.,
I was going to post "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner" when I saw you'd done so. A poem that made me realize in high school how powerful an art form poetry could be. So eloquent and sad. As is life, I suppose.

Posted by: Captain on May 29, 2007 at 2:36 AM | PERMALINK

G.C.,
I was going to post "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner" when I saw you'd done so. A poem that made me realize in high school how powerful an art form poetry could be. So eloquent and sad. As is life, I suppose.

Posted by: Captain on May 29, 2007 at 2:37 AM | PERMALINK

And over all, depicted in a tower,
Sat Conquest, high in honour and in power,
Yet with a sharp sword hanging o'er his head
But by the tenuous twisting of a thread.
...
Mars' image stood upon a chariot,
Armed, and so grim that mad he seemed, God wot;
...
This god of armies was companioned thus:
A wolf there was before him, at his feet,
Red-eyed, and of a dead man he did eat.

Posted by: Geoffrey on May 29, 2007 at 4:33 AM | PERMALINK

y81:
"The plain fact is, if everyone were the sneering coward Mark Twain was, slavery would still be the law of the land."

Ambrose Bierce wasn't. Did his duty bravely in Union blue. Why don't you look up his celebration of his service?
http://www.classicreader.com/read.php/bookid.1167/sec./

Posted by: Steve Paradis on May 29, 2007 at 8:55 AM | PERMALINK

Yep, that's what we need to do--celebrate the innocent victims of our militarism. Don't you just know that America is behind all the ills of the world, even destroying the Earth itself with our extravagant consumption?

Yet never was there a land like us for the common man and common woman, which is precisely why virtually all the immigration is in-bound. Mark Twain hated the Spanish-American war and the Phillipine Insurrection (a popular insurgency which the U.S. defeated on a very small war budget.)

I am sure I would rather live in the Phillipines today than in CUBA! All of the Filipino-Americans I have known are more patriotic than the average American and more understanding about the brutal politics of Asia.

BTW, only YOUR consumption is extravagant. Bush's home near Crawford, Texas is less than 4,000 sq ft and is extremely energy efficient, as is mine here in the Pacific NW. All my mother's people are buried near Crawford, including the ones who were dam-builders and experts in irrigation projects.

Posted by: mike cook on May 29, 2007 at 9:16 AM | PERMALINK

Almost forgot this--for some reason Texas provided a highly disproportionate number of the aircraft crews for the daylight bombing of the Nazism out of Germany. My uncle fell from his mother's sleep into the tail gunner seat of a B-17, which was in a dead heat with the ball turret gunner for the most lethal job on the aircraft.

Worse for him, he went to a USO dance featuring a swing band in a hanger the night before takeoff on his last flight. He was still wearing his dancing shoes and when he had to bail out the jerk of the chute opening was so great his shoes flew off. He landed in 8 inches of snow and barefoot. Nearby a little German country school beckoned, smoke curling out its chimney. The single teacher was a beautiful young woman who let him in and he sat warming his frozen toes by the wood stove with amazed children around him while they waited for the police to come.

Posted by: mike cook on May 29, 2007 at 9:30 AM | PERMALINK

"These fought in any case,
and some believing,
pro domo, in any case

Some quick to arm,
some for adventure.
some for fear of weakness,
some for fear of censure,
some for love of slaughter, in imagination,
learning later . . .
some in fear, learning love of slaughter;

Died some, pro patria,
non "dulce" non "et decor" . . .
walked eye-deep in hell
believing in old men's lies, then unbelieving
came home, home to a lie,
home to many new deceits,
home to old lies and new infamy;
usury age-old and age-thick
and liars in public places.

Daring as never before, wastage as never before.
Young blood and high blood,
fair cheeks and fine bodies;
fortitude as never before

frankness as never before,
disillusions as ever told in the old days,
hysterias, trench confessions,
laughter out of dead bellies."

-from Pound's 'Hugh Selwyn Mauberley'.

And while egbert could justly condemn Pound for many things (if he knows what they are), he's not wrong here.

I'm still stuck on "racist tracks" - with marks from a long white sheet?. Alternately, it could be a track where the white horses always win. Of course, in war too, that jockey riding a pale horse always wins - and the odds are a killer . . .

Posted by: Dan S. on May 29, 2007 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

I see. It was Texans that bombed the Nazism out of Germany, that 85% of the German army was tied down on the Eastern front fighting the Soviets a mere historical footnote. Yea, Mike Cook, it's always you Yanks in the foreground, always, whatever, always, always... and damn the damn facts. My God, man, you're a living caricature.

Posted by: snicker-snack on May 29, 2007 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

Steve Paradis, Bierce doesn't mock Union soldiers. Twain, in order to retain his own self-respect, had to convince himself that the Civil War was a pointless farce. Otherwise he would have had to admit the shamefulness of his absence. That is why "Huck Finn" makes the rescue of Jim into a pointless farce ginned up to satisfy Tom Sawyer's romantic fantasies: Twain was saying that the Civil War was just as silly and unnecessary as the rescue of Jim. And the Union soldiers were silly boys. And to cheer for our soldiers would be as silly as cheering for one side or another in a boys' imaginary game. To quote Twain seriously is to endorse this misguided set of beliefs.

None of which alters the fact that Twain was a great writer. So was Henry Timrod. That doesn't make their politics worth taking seriously.

Posted by: y81 on May 29, 2007 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

mike cook: YOUR consumption is extravagant. Bush's home near Crawford, Texas is less than 4,000 sq ft

And your point? Mine is less that 1,000 sq ft but that's not what makes Bush contemptible. And if we don't remember the innocent victims of militarism who the fuck will? Surely not people like you.

Your Uncle could have easily bombed the shit out of the schoolteacher by whose fire he warmed his toes. Which doesn't make him wrong, or the war against Nazism unjustified but it should at least make you think about where the bombs fall.

Posted by: thersites on May 29, 2007 at 10:54 AM | PERMALINK

"Mark Twain hated the Spanish-American war and the Phillipine Insurrection (a popular insurgency which the U.S. defeated on a very small war budget.)"

Insisting that it was an "insurrection" by "insurgents" is, of course, century-old propaganda. As the Spanish-American war was sold in part on humanitarian grounds - freeing esp. Cuba from Spanish oppression and bringing them the blessings of liberty - it's not surprising that the pre-existing independence movement would have felt a bit betrayed by folks they had believed to be allies, once they declared independence only to have the U.S. go, no, I don't think so, you'll be independent when we say so, but first we need to colonize you to prepare you for independence . . .

It also took about 126,000 American troops - with 4,324 dead and 3000 wounded - 16,000 Filipino soldiers killed, and anywhere from a quarter of a million to a million civilian casualties. By the end U.S. soldiers were committing numerous atrocities - burning villages, herding civilians into concentration camps, the execution of enemy wounded, etc.

Some folks have argued that the Spanish- and Philipine-American Wars are a better (though obviously still imperfect) comparison for Iraq than the Vietnam War, esp. in terms of propaganda and jingoism.

The rest of the comment sounds somewhat hysterical and not really in need of a reply. Who do you imagine you are arguing with? (Although I do have to add that the energy efficiency of Bush's house is almost entirely beside the point - while it's nice of him to make that kind of personal statement, what we need is energy-efficient policies, not individual (if admirable) indulgence by a very wealthy man.)

Posted by: Dan S. on May 29, 2007 at 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

Keep up the good work, Mike Cook.

Sold a ton a newsprint because of "My War".

Remember the Maine, Mike, old chap.

Imperialism, Uber Alles.

Posted by: Ghost of William Randolph Hearst on May 29, 2007 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

"racist tracks" - Must have been referring to a race at a small eastern track, where a friend of mine once, near the end of the meet, was allowed to write a "Hi Yo Silver" race - Only roans permitted. Or, it may have been at many tracks, including Churchill Downs, who banned African-American jockies, even though many had been very prominent in winning and training, including the Kentucky Derby.

BGRS, the 22th of Feb - Must have been thinking about the old days, where that was the holiday for the birth of George Washington - And, in the north, the 12th of Feb was for Lincoln - Of course, this was in the days when Memorial Day, in the north, was always celebrated six weeks to the day before July 4, on May 30.

Posted by: stupid git on May 29, 2007 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

But y81, even if one accepts your rather interesting analysis of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and and of Samuel Clemens, The War Prayer doesn't consist of any sneering at Union soldiers and has no obvious connection to the Civil War. Rather, it's - as Wikipedia puts it - " a scathing indictment of war, and particularly of blind patriotic and religious fervor as motivations for war." (Perhaps you haven't read it?) The most obvious (and well-understood) reference, universality aside, are the contemporary Spanish- and Philippine-American Wars, and one should also note Clemens' position as vice-president of the Anti-Imperialist League at the time. Whatever one believes of his motivations, The War Prayer stands (or falls) on its own merits - you seem unwilling or unable to criticize it on those grounds.

Posted by: Dan S. on May 29, 2007 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK


I come and stand at every door,
But none can hear my silent tread,
I stand and yet remain unseen,
For I am dead, for I am dead.

I'm only seven although I died
In Hiroshima long ago,
I'm seven now as I was then,
When children die they do not grow.

My hair was scorched by swirling flames,
My eyes grew dim, my eyes grew blind,
Death came and turned my bones to dust,
And that was scattered by the wind.

I need no fruit, I need no rice,
I need no meat, nor even bread,
I ask for nothing for myself
For I am dead, for I am dead.

All that I ask is that for peace
You fight today, you fight today,
So that the children of this world
My live and grow and laugh and play.

-- N. Hikmet

Posted by: thersites on May 29, 2007 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

Up thread, there was a mention of "celebrating" Memorial Day - This was never the intent of recognizing a day of remembrance for the fallen in battle - It was a day to honor those fallen and a day of reconciliation. In fact, at the first public ceremony in 1868, flags were placed on the graves of both the Northern and Southern troops.

To honor, one has a moment of silence on that day and listens to "Taps" being played.

To "celebrate", one races down to Home Depot or Loew's and taps out one's credit card to help our War, er 9/11 economy.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on May 29, 2007 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

I have read "Moby Dick" twice , "Heart of Darkness"
twice , "A Light In August", "A Tale of Two Cities",
"The Adentures of Huckleberry Finn" and "Ivanhoe"
once, and "Tom Sawyer" twenty seven times.

Posted by: baksaw on May 29, 2007 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

thethirdPaul: To honor...

You forgot the part about flipping the bird at a guy that doesn't have a flag flying from his car. It seemed to be important to some of my neighbors.

Posted by: thersites on May 29, 2007 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

A lady in my work parking lot has a bumper sticker which proclaims "War IS Terrorism". To my aging, demon-rum besotted mind, that sounds like equating what American soldiers do currently with what the terrorists do.

So what do the terrorists do? From recent headlines, they load suicide bombing cars up with children so as to make it through checkpoints, not bothering to let the kids out before detonating. They put on Iraqi police uniforms and stop cars with whole families in them, then kill them all.

I know, it's Bush's fault the insurgents are like that. If only we had left Saddam & Sons in power, over-all things would be much better for Iraqis. Why, even now, if we cut and run things will immediately improve don't you know!

It is tempting not to be envious of Mr. Putin and the Russian technique of defeating Islamic insurgency in Chechnya. First you kill the journalists, then poison your own traitors, then recognize that Moslem terrorism usually has a tribal and even a family component, so once you wipe out the most active families the show is all over, at least for this generation. The Russians have been putting down Chechen independence in this manner for centuries. . .

But America can't do things that way anymore. Heck, our cops in NYC can't even challenge a group of teens who skip school to do a swaggering gang parade after one of their members gets fatally driven-by. We are a VERY sensitive society. Don't you know polar bears are now drowning en masse due to ice floe deficit disorder? I'm sure that's right. . .

George W. Bush is only guilty of being the last politician in America decent enought to believe that democracy and justice are good even for the unwashed masses of the world.

Bush built his small, energy efficient house near Crawford a dozen years ago. Mine has come along more recently. Today I am trying to make Chevrolet dealers confess that the 5.3 liter V-8 that burns E-85 can also (1) have the hybrid package, and (2) come with the natural gas fleet vehicle option. I have already priced my own home natural gas compression station.

How cool would this be--a full-size truck that can optionally burn regular gas, E-85, or CNG?
In regular gasolene 2wd version the Silverado 4-door should pull 22 mpg! Now don't tell me I am still a pig because I will only log about 5,000 miles per year on this truck and I will most likely pass away before the warranty even runs out!

Posted by: mike cook on May 29, 2007 at 10:01 PM | PERMALINK

mike cook says:

It is tempting not to be envious of Mr. Putin and the Russian technique of defeating Islamic insurgency in Chechnya. First you kill the journalists, then poison your own traitors, then recognize that Moslem terrorism usually has a tribal and even a family component, so once you wipe out the most active families the show is all over, at least for this generation. The Russians have been putting down Chechen independence in this manner for centuries. . .

This paragraph says all we need to know about you.

The Russians suppress long-standing aspirations toward local independence by being even more brutal and indiscriminate than the "terrorists" they are fighting, and you feel tempted to be envious?

Posted by: Tanstaafl on May 29, 2007 at 11:07 PM | PERMALINK

mike cook,

please go away.

sincerely,
Dan S.

Posted by: Dan S. on May 30, 2007 at 12:04 AM | PERMALINK

Well, I must confess, I am a long-standing Russo-phile. I learned the language decades ago, even learned to appreciate the way Russians think. You tell a Russian that torture doesn't work in a military sense and he or she will look at you like you are an idiot. Of course it works. Always has, always will, grow up for God's sake!

The million-dollar question is whether you do or do not dare offend the truly moral ultimate powers of the univese by using torture? Now that is a question you really can't ask or answer in the abstract--it absolutely must be the real deal.

I devoutely hope it never falls to me such a situation that I might cross the line. I don't want to be a fictional hero like in "24". On the other hand, anybody who seriously threatens my immediate family will find I have both the means and the will to totally ruin their day.

Cultural relativism stands as another matter. Russians are different than Americans. Always have been, always will be. Blood gushes from every page of Russian history. Now when Mr. Putin kissed the little boy on the bare belly does that prove that he is a child molestor, or only that Putin's exiled enemies are as absolutely vicious in opposition to him as he is in his singular consolidation of power?

Posted by: mike cook on May 30, 2007 at 1:50 AM | PERMALINK

Ooh, thersites. I liked that Hikmet. I must look it up.

Posted by: notthere on May 30, 2007 at 2:12 AM | PERMALINK

notthere:

The version I know was adapted by Pete Seeger, and recorded by the Byrds. Still gives me chills when I play the record. "Fifth Dimension" is the album, if you want to know.

Posted by: thersites on May 30, 2007 at 10:18 AM | PERMALINK

Mark Twain died when? 1800's? Yeah, he's still relevant (not).

Jesus died when? Mohammed died when? Moses died when? Martin Luther King Jr. died when? Ghandi died when? Lao Tsu died when?

Yeah, thought so: the timing of one's death is irrelevant to the truth and power of their words and deeds.

Posted by: Edo on May 30, 2007 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK
You tell a Russian that torture doesn't work in a military sense and he or she will look at you like you are an idiot. Of course it works. Always has, always will.... mike kook at 1:50 AM
Studies show that torture is not effective, so you'll have to get your rocks off some other way. Posted by: Mike on May 30, 2007 at 7:27 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM



buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly