Anonymous German Artist
Saint Gregory the Moor
The Image of the Black in Western Art Research Project and Photo Archive, W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, Harvard University
Culture of Illusion - On the Rare Reporting of WWII Allied War Crimes.
War makes monsters of us all and there were, no doubt, many instances where the Allies committed what would today be defined as war crimes. However, it seems to me that, given the horror that the Nazis perpetrated, we tend, in the West to overlook any…
Having just completed a reading of World War II by Martin Gilbert, a generally well written and factual account of the conflict, I have only managed to find one instance of allied action that could be counted as a war crime. Here is the very short passage in a very large book:
On the day of the Deptford rocket bomb, a British submarine, HMSSturdy, on its way from Australia to Indonesian waters, stopped a Japanese cargo ship by surface shellfire. The Japanese crew having abandoned their ship, the only people left on board were fifty women and children, all of them Indonesians. In order to deny the Japanese any use of the ship’s cargo, the submarine commander ordered the ship to be sunk, despite a protest from the officer who had to lay the explosive charges. ‘Get on with it’, was the commander’s response. The cargo ship and its passengers were then blown up, together with the ship’s war supplies.
The Second World War – A Complete History, Martin Gilbert. p. 614
So a ship full of unarmed women and children were blown up. It is interesting to note how the author furnishes the commander with suitable justification for, what seems to be a heinous act. It was entirely okay for him to murder women and children because there were war supplies on the ship.
The date of this war crime, for war crime it surely appears, was November 25 1944.
There are few other examples in the book but given the size and scope of the war it seems unlikely that this is the only war crime on the allies side that went unpunished. In a fair and just world those who commit crimes would be prosecuted regardless on what side of the battle line there found themselves.
If the world was a just one then the author of this book might assign the same revulsion to this awful murder as he does, rightfully so, to the awful things that the Nazis did in the name of their Reich.
I think that these civilians were dismissed, by the commander and by the author, because they were Indonesian. I find it almost impossible to believe that had these civilians been upstanding members of the British Empire who understood the rules of cricket, had their tea at 4pm every day and had pale anglo-saxon skin that they would have suffered the same fate.
Maybe I am being terribly cynical though and I am unaware of many important facts concerning the fifth column nature of these Indonesian woman and children.
One day we will live in a world where we can acknowledge our own war crimes. That day does not seem to be today.
addendum: in my stupidity I overlooked the firebombing of Dresden, firebombing of Tokyo, the two nuclear bombs and any number of other “revenge” killings of German soldiers. However my aim with the small quote above was to highlight what seems like the slaughter of innocent women and children without the “luxury” of dropping bombs from a great height. The soldiers who committed this atrocity were actually on the boat laying the explosives. Whether they looked into the eyes of their victims or forced them, at gunpoint to stay on the boat, is not mentioned in the book.
Does anyone have any thoughts on this?
Official Program for the March on Washington
50 years ago on August 28, 1963, more than 250,000 demonstrators descended upon the nation’s capital to participate in the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” Not only was it the largest demonstration for human rights in United States history, but it also occasioned a rare display of unity among the various civil rights organizations. The event began with a rally at the Washington Monument featuring several celebrities and musicians. Participants then marched the mile-long National Mall to the Memorial. The three-hour long program at the Lincoln Memorial included speeches from prominent civil rights and religious leaders. The day ended with a meeting between the march leaders and President John F. Kennedy at the White House.
The idea for the 1963 March on Washington was envisioned by A. Philip Randolph, a long-time civil rights activist dedicated to improving the economic condition of black Americans. When Randolph first proposed the march in late 1962, he received little response from other civil rights leaders. He knew that cooperation would be difficult because each had his own agenda for the civil rights movement, and the leaders competed for funding and press coverage. Success of the March on Washington would depend on the involvement of the so-called “Big Six”—Randolph and the heads of the five major civil rights organizations: Roy Wilkins of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); Whitney Young, Jr., of the National Urban League; Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC); James Farmer of the Conference of Racial Equality (CORE); and John Lewis of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).
The details and organization of the march were handled by Bayard Rustin, Randolph’s trusted associate. Rustin was a veteran activist with extensive experience in putting together mass protest. With only two months to plan, Rustin established his headquarters in Harlem, NY, with a smaller office in Washington. He and his core staff of 200 volunteers quickly put together the largest peaceful demonstration in U.S. history.
The National Archives marks the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom with a featured display of an iconic image from the march, a special program and film screenings of THE MARCH, James Blue’s 1964 film that documents this event.
August 3, 1492: Christopher Columbus Sails the Ocean Blue
On this day in 1492, Christopher Columbus set sail on his first of four voyages to the “New World” of the Americas (what he believed to be Asia) with three ships: the Santa Maria, the Pinta and the Santa Clara (nicknamed the Niña).
Columbus’ arrival in the Americas signified the joining of two worlds that for thousands of years had been developing completely independent of one another.
Image: Christopher Columbus bids farewell to the Queen of Spain on his departure for the New World, August 3, 1492 Painting by L.. Prang & Co.(National Archives)
And here we are today…
Mr. Columbus has a lot to answer for.
1967 in review with Woody Allen and William F. Buckley Jr.
Particularly interesting is their analysis of the Middle East given that, a year later, there was a War.
I won’t spoil it by quoting the section. Watch it, it’s not long.
At the end of the 18th century, slavery in the United States was a declining institution. Tobacco planters in Virginia and Maryland had exhausted their soil and were switching to wheat. Wage labor was increasingly replacing slave labor in both the urban and the rural areas of the upper South.
And then came cotton.
The first part of the story is well known: the invention of the cotton gin in the 1790s and the concomitant rise of industrial capacity in Britain and the urban North made possible the profitable cultivation of cotton in a vast region of the lower South (Native land), one that stretched from South Carolina to Louisiana, which came to be called the “Cotton Kingdom.”
Between 1803 and 1838, the United States, most famously personified by Andrew Jackson, fought a multifront war in the Deep South. In those years, the United States suppressed slave revolts and pacified whites still loyal to the European powers that had once controlled the region. These wars culminated in the ethnic cleansing of the Deep South. By the end of the 1830s, the Seminole, the Creek, the Chickasaw, the Choctaw and the Cherokee had all been “removed” to lands west of the Mississippi. Their expropriated land provided the foundation of the leading sector of the global economy in the first half of the 19th century.
In the 1830s, hundreds of millions of acres of conquered land were surveyed and put up for sale by the United States. This vast privatization of the public domain touched off one of the greatest economic booms in the history of the world up to that time. Investment capital from Britain, the Continent and the Northern states poured into the land market. “Under this stimulating process, prices rose like smoke,” the journalist Joseph Baldwin wrote in his memoir, “The Flush Times of Alabama and Mississippi.”
Without slavery, however, the survey maps of the General Land Office would have remained a sort of science-fiction plan for a society that could never happen. Between 1820 and 1860 more than a million enslaved people were transported from the upper to the lower South, the vast majority by the venture-capitalist slave traders the slaves called “soul drivers.” The first wave cleared the region for cultivation. “Forests were literally dragged out by the roots,” the former slave John Parker remembered in “His Promised Land.” Those who followed planted the fields in cotton, which they then protected, picked, packed and shipped — from “sunup to sundown” every day for the rest of their lives.
Eighty-five percent of the cotton Southern slaves picked was shipped to Britain. The mills that have come to symbolize the Industrial Revolution and the slave-tilled fields of the South were mutually dependent. Every year, British merchant banks advanced millions of pounds to American planters in anticipation of the sale of the cotton crop. Planters then traded credit in pounds for the goods they needed to get through the year, many of them produced in the North. “From the rattle with which the nurse tickles the ear of the child born in the South, to the shroud that covers the cold form of the dead, everything comes to us from the North,” said one Southerner.
As slaveholders supplied themselves (and, much more meanly, their slaves) with Northern goods, the credit originally advanced against cotton made its way north, into the hands of New York and New England merchants who used it to purchase British goods. Thus were Indian land, African-American labor, Atlantic finance and British industry synthesized into racial domination, profit and economic development on a national and a global scale.When the cotton crop came in short and sales failed to meet advanced payments, planters found themselves indebted to merchants and bankers. Slaves were sold to make up the difference. The mobility and salability of slaves meant they functioned as the primary form of collateral in the credit-and-cotton economy of the 19th century.
It is not simply that the labor of enslaved people underwrote 19th-century capitalism. Enslaved people were the capital: four million people worth at least $3 billion in 1860, which was more than all the capital invested in railroads and factories in the United States combined. Seen in this light, the conventional distinction between slavery and capitalism fades into meaninglessness.
We are accustomed to reckoning the legacy of slavery in the United States in terms of black disadvantage. The centrality of slavery to the nation’s economic development, however, suggests that any calculation of the nation’s unpaid debt for slavery must include a measure of the wealth it produced, of advantage as well as disadvantage. The United States, as W. E. B. Du Bois wrote, was “built upon a groan.” (via New York Times)
Capitalism as Slavery. Slavery as Capitalism.
The Red Hand of Injustice. It was stencilled onto a wall at Alcatraz during the little remembered occupation of the Island by Native Americans in 1969. Learn about it here: Alcatraz is not an Island.
It also brings to mind a childhood “game” that was played in Scotland when I was a child. It went something like this
Child 1: Do you want to join The Red Hand Gang?
Child 2: Is that a good gang?
Child 1: It’s the best gang.
Child 2: How do I join?
Child 1: It’s easy.
Child 2: Okay then.
(Child 1 and any other assorted children then proceed to slap Child 2 until he is covered in red hand marks.)
I write child but, as memory serves me, it was a gang that was exclusively male in it’s membership. Scotland. Great days.
Source: SoundCloud / Mélo
The Early Price of being a Couch Potato.
In December of 1953 the first color television became available to the American consumer. It’s cost then was a hefty $1,175.
I was curious as to what that would be today, calculating for inflation.
So I opened up an inflation calculator -
and got this answer: $9,899.00
Then I went searching for an image of the kind of television you would have been able to purchase for that amount.
Here it is:
I mean it’s lovely and all… but really? Nearly $10,000?
God Bless Amerika. Maybe if they were that expensive now there would be more going outside. Maybe.
Lessons from the past #23
(I stole this thought from another blog that I barely use) As I happened to be reading Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville, this Sunday morning, I came across a passage that resonated as regards the current and approaching Circus. Here I share it with you now: For a long while before the appointed time is at hand the election becomes the most important and the all-engrossing topic of discussion. The ardor of faction is redoubled; and all the artificial passions which the imagination can create in the bosom of a happy and peaceful land are agitated and brought to light. The President, on the other hand, is absorbed by the cares of self-defence. He no longer governs for the interest of the State, but for that of his re-election; he does homage to the majority, and instead of checking its passions, as his duty commands him to do, he frequently courts its worst caprices. As the election draws near, the activity of intrigue and the agitation of the populace increase; the citizens are divided into hostile camps, each of which assumes the name of its favorite candidate; the whole nation glows with feverish excitement; the election is the daily theme of the public papers, the subject of private conversation, the end of every thought and every action , the sole interest of the present. As soon as the choice is determined, this ardor is dispelled; and as a calmer season returns, the current of the State, which had nearly broken its banks, sinks to its usual level: but who can refrain from astonishment at the causes of the storm. Thus do we continue to return to the thing that we try to escape from.
(I stole this thought from another blog that I barely use)
As I happened to be reading Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville, this Sunday morning, I came across a passage that resonated as regards the current and approaching Circus. Here I share it with you now:
For a long while before the appointed time is at hand the election becomes the most important and the all-engrossing topic of discussion. The ardor of faction is redoubled; and all the artificial passions which the imagination can create in the bosom of a happy and peaceful land are agitated and brought to light. The President, on the other hand, is absorbed by the cares of self-defence. He no longer governs for the interest of the State, but for that of his re-election; he does homage to the majority, and instead of checking its passions, as his duty commands him to do, he frequently courts its worst caprices. As the election draws near, the activity of intrigue and the agitation of the populace increase; the citizens are divided into hostile camps, each of which assumes the name of its favorite candidate; the whole nation glows with feverish excitement; the election is the daily theme of the public papers, the subject of private conversation, the end of every thought and every action , the sole interest of the present. As soon as the choice is determined, this ardor is dispelled; and as a calmer season returns, the current of the State, which had nearly broken its banks, sinks to its usual level: but who can refrain from astonishment at the causes of the storm.
Thus do we continue to return to the thing that we try to escape from.