Monday, November 14, 2005


Sergeant Jimmy Massey and War as the Archetype of Hell

To the war party, there are never any American atrocities in war. Oh, a few sadly regrettable cases of mistakes due to the fog of war, all richly compensated by American munificence and the gift of democracy. But basically, anyone who dies is a combatant. In the free fire zones of Vietnam, crones and toddlers, not to mention water buffalo, were all communist guerrillas. No court was needed to be certain that the people taken from their homes without due process of law, tortured against any human law, and in cases outright murdered in Operation Phoenix were all guilty. Lieutenant Calley was a hero. And so, when John Kerry stood forward and said that there were atrocities and that they were not mistakes, but organized violence carefully planned (and carefully never directly ordered) from senior military echelons, he became the enemy. John Kerry = Jane Fonda = Hanoi Jane = communist guerrilla. For a veteran suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder, there may be nothing but American atrocities in war. Every person he fired at dies and rises to be killed again and again. Every time he fired a machine gun in one direction, any person who might be cowering behind the flimsy walls in any direction is cut down. Every child's body he sees was broken by his handiwork. And it plays over and over and over and over, as the mind desperately tries to understand what the intellect cannot understand. The veteran suffering such wounds of war is not less sane than the war-lover. Spiritually, he is far more sane. Playing repeatedly in his mind is the vision of the archetype of war, Hell indeed. In war, the mysterious luminescent colors of the organs of a miraculous body turn dull brown, faded yellow, slime green, battered purple. The body turns to putrid meat. The spirit housed in that body, capable of great intelligence and love and laughter, is seen no more. And nothing any human can do can reverse this. The awesome power of the grave troubles the veteran, appalls and frightens him, as well it should. Embraced, the vision can become a prophetic gift, as it did for Robert Graves and Siegfried Sassoon. But few embrace the vision. Many are simply overwhelmed. The war-lover, by contrast, has no problems with seeing the miraculous spirit depart the amazing body. All that there is is what can be seen, used, spent, cast off. The war lover is already in Hell. He cannot imagine any other place. He will never find refuge. And so it is in the case of Sergeant Jimmy Massey, a veteran of The Second Gulf War. Massey tells his story here and here Massey's story has been challenged by other people present. In cases, Massey may contradict himself. None of this is surprising. No one can witness death, even under the most peaceful conditions, without being shaken. Under battlefield conditions, especially under the conditions that the troops who invaded endured, PTSD is expected. Even short of PTSD, false or distorted memories are common. Jimmy Massey seems to be sincere. He deserves the respect due to a man who has seen Hell and hated it. He has mine. But to others, he is an enemy to be destroyed no less ruthlessly than Saddam's sons. The owner of the website linked above, Mike Krempasky is described as the political director of a Virginia advertising firm run by conservative direct-mail king Richard Viguerie. and as a graduate of a school of dirty tricks. I reserve judgment on the specific allegations made by Massey. There are so many false things put out, even by professional journalists, that one doesn't know what to think. We know our military is lying to us-- they can't even discover any senior officer responsible for the well-documented atrocities of Abu Ghraib. All of the investigative institutions-- the Congress, the media, the courts--all are corrupt. Academics and theologians fritter away their moral authority on petty arguments and defending their sinecures rather than calling up the moral authority they have to call this nation to judgment. Before dismissing or judging Jimmy Massey, remember the story of Hugh Thompson and Ron Ridenhour about a village called My Lai . They were dismissed at the time. Everyone denied what they claimed. Even a Major named Colin Powell. What seems certain is that Massey is being targeted by a network of people who sell hate for a living. Nothing about Massey is anywhere near as wrong as that. Despite all of the denials of the war party, and even if Massey's specific allegations are not true, the real face of war is not hidden. This is the real face of war (thanks to ASZ). If the experience of Central America is repeated, 90% of those executed Mafia-style will later be determined to have been executed by persons trained by American handlers and armed with American weapons. The face of war tries to shock us into sanity. And all too often fails. No atrocities here. No sir. Not a one. Powerful new evidence emerged yesterday that the United States dropped massive quantities of white phosphorus on the Iraqi city of Fallujah during the attack on the city in November 2004, killing insurgents and civilians with the appalling burns that are the signature of this weapon.... In December the US government formally denied the reports, describing them as "widespread myths".... But now new information has surfaced, including hideous photographs and videos and interviews with American soldiers who took part in the Fallujah attack, which provides graphic proof that phosphorus shells were widely deployed in the city as a weapon...."Phosphorus burns bodies, in fact it melts the flesh all the way down to the bone ... I saw the burned bodies of women and children. Phosphorus explodes and forms a cloud. Anyone within a radius of 150 metres is done for." [Note added 11/10/05: Having navigated the Blogger Maze to add the comment which follows, I also took the opportunity to correct a couple of typos. Reporter Ron Harris of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote to make clear that his interest is in correcting the record regarding Sergeant Massey's allegations and to point out that other reporters failed to fact-check the story. Harris served as an embedded reporter for a time with Massey's unit. So, there's no question he's a qualified witness, and there's no reason to think he has an ideological ax to grind. I don't think that I have in any way associated him with the people attacking Massey for ideological reasons, but if it wasn't clear, now it is: To the best of my knowledge, Harris just did straight reporting. I did point out to him that, as illustrated by Judith Miller, a lot of news organizations have problems with fact-checking. Very, very few organizations would grant a reporter the time it must have taken Harris to fact-check Jimmy Massey, even given the fact that he already had a network of contacts in Massey's unit.] Update: Massey v. Harris I do not feel further enlightened, but your mileage may vary.
Beat me to it, Charles!

There are some folk who claim that WP is only used for illumination. Except that:

1) Illumination flares are typically attached to parachutes, so they can slowly float down over the area for maximum illumination time. The white globs in the Italian video have no 'chutes: they are being lobbed continously at the civilian target, and falling exactly like any other projectile would.

2) Since the US troops have superior night-vision gear (which is why we like to fight at night), why give the enemy an advantage by illuminating the area?

More on this topic can be found here
and here.
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