Chapter 14 – Lamentations of the objectors

To an anti-establishment, he or she will have his or her notions, beliefs and aspirations. The conscientious objector does not believe in war; in taking lives and maiming and in vanquishing other humans. Whether this devotion is reserved for warring outside their country or in defending one’s country when invaded, is not conclusive and it may differ from objector to objector. Like they say, there are two sides to a coin and you can take that to the bank, so to speak. It’s fundamentally a matter of conscience and it’s a general belief that the conscience is the aperture to the soul. This may be what their conscience descries.

It is indubitable that there verily are brave people – those selfless ones who sacrifice their comfort, security and lives for greater good. The brave and the humanitarian hail from all walks of life. In the case of soldiers, they swear allegiance, loyalty and to protect their country. Now that all makes sense doesn’t it but still, what exactly is a hero? Why are heroes pinned with all sorts of medals? Furthermore, there’s also categorization of prestige and stratification to awards. Nevertheless, is it in actual fact a testament of bravery categorically encumbered by love and appreciation by their country in due recognition for their selfless deeds and sacrifices?

Old Dutch Cemetery – Banda Aceh

Were they heroes because they did a world of good or because they steadfastly obeyed orders from their superiors? Or were their sacrifices and lives merely means to ends? There are many types of heroes but some heroes may have actually been duped into sacrificing their limbs and even lives. Was their government of sound mind with a sincere earnest heart in the first place when they sent these heroes-to-be into wars? Or were these heroes unwittingly made to carry-out other peoples’ selfish tasks and for those peoples’ gains or in meeting other peoples’ agendas and objectives? In short, were they systematically deceived?

Were they a machine of war and destruction and that all the carnage and mayhem they created were meant for a greater good? Or was it a situation of destroying the fetid old to reconstruct a hopeful new? Strangely enough, my hero can for all purposes be your most hated villain or revulsive adversary. This cuts both ways. It’s all just a matter of which side you are on. The Japanese kamikazes for instance, were wartime heroes for the Imperial Japanese and after all these years, they are still highly revered. But to the Allied forces and other victimised Asians, the Imperial Japanese Army was a marauding bunch of maniacal and evil humanoid who gave new meaning to the word “cruelty” and “to terrorise”.

And speaking of medals, now let’s say you are a medal recipient awarded for valour and bravery and where in your act of bravery you also lost both your legs. What are you going to actually do with the medal? It’s unlikely that you are going to gallantly pin it on your chest each time you go outdoors or to the corner grocery store. Instead, it’s likely to be kept in a show cabinet somewhere prominent in your home. Probably too, you would only adorn it when there is a patriotic-themed parade in town where you’d march under the hot sun to the music of a military brass band.

Do recipients of such medals get to attach special prefixes to their names such as HC which may straightforwardly stand for Honourable Citizens or BC for Brave Citizen? Would they be instantaneously recognized by members of the public? Do they get recognition at public events such as perhaps special mentions and standing ovations at stadiums prior to important matches?

But what do these medal-givers mean when they proudly announce “For God and Country”? I am only bewildered as to whether God personally asked this of them and by what means did he communicate with them to carry out all those deeds to have made them heroes?

Did their country in totality or absoluteness actually asked that of them or was it merely some mean-streaked rogue politicians ordering superior military officers around? One ought to reconcile with the blatant fact that there are proponents and opponents within any given population of any country and at any given time. So whose country asked that of them? Was it the proponents’ or opponents’ country?

So, nobody can specifically claim that the country asked that of them and that their “heroic” deeds were for the country. More so, no one can ever claim “For God and Country”. The use of God here as you may have suspected is an overly audacious attempt at implied consent merely to justify and sanctify their slaughter and carnage. This is unlike the little Dutch boy who poked his finger to plug a leak in the dyke – where in the process, saved the entire town from being deluged.

For argument sake, was Paul W. Tibbets Jr. who commandeered and piloted the B29 that dropped the inaugural atomic bomb on Hiroshima, a hero or an evil instrument of annihilation? If he was a hero, then whose hero was he? On the other hand, we know whose instrument of annihilation and wanton destruction he was. Still, if he was a hero, was he God’s hero? Was he his country’s hero or was he yours and mine? It’s apparent he wasn’t the victims’ and survivors’ hero but nonetheless the hero of all those Asian and Americans who suffered on account of WWII Japan. One thing we do know is that he was overcome by shock and grief when he turned around and saw that monstrous mushroom cloud. He was a changed man since then and died in 2007 aged 92.

Photo by Pfc. Armen Shamlian

Why do so many Vietnam War veterans, especially those badly scarred by the war feel ever so bitter? Why was the Japanese Imperial Army renowned for its cruelty? How many soldiers have actually been duped into fighting for the interests of politicians and mega-corporations rather than for liberty and in defence? Now, as for medals of bravery, do they come with certificates of authenticity and do they have serial numbers?

What’s the production cost and are they valuable enough for the corner pawnshops to accept in case the decorated recipients are hard-up for cash? Is it a passport to better treatment and discounts when shopping? Are they accorded any discounts on trains and planes or perhaps, special positions in queues? Mostly, are these medals chewable or edible? So where is the tangible privilege of the awards? Is it all but a token of acknowledged appreciation only? Could it all be nothing but a scam with artificial values?

To show their truest sincerity and conviction, why can’t medal presenters accompany the award with a ward of cash? Say a million or two by today’s standards should suffice. That way, the recipients’ lives would have correspondingly improved and they would have received a reward that contains actual tangible values. Sounds better, doesn’t it? But wait a minute! You might have a purely mercenary: “Come on Jerry, put a bullet in me when we are out there OK! My family is destitute and broke. We all face ruin and my trade of life can at least give them a comfortable new start”. Can you imagine such a mercenary-fuelled scenario and what giving money with awards can indirectly propagate?  What if a desperate soldier sacrifices his comrades as well?

Still and on the other hand, the politicians whom these brave men undertook tasks for, are themselves wealthy and live the comforts of high-life. They have enormous homes, luxury cars and all the perks and platinum fringes their jobs grant. They eat all the finest foods they can, drink all the finest wines they want, travel luxuriously to wherever they choose and get feted and treated like kings anywhere they go. So why can’t medals come with a few tangible perks? Wouldn’t it be motivational for them and wouldn’t it extol more acts of bravery from others? Wouldn’t it augur well for morale and wouldn’t it minimize on regrets and bitterness?

War is dirty business

War is about power and dominance. It’s about carnage and mayhem and beyond everything else, it’s about slaughtering great numbers of people to achieve one’s often twisted and greed-drenched objectives. Innocent civilians always get killed. Moreover, smart bombs and precision guided missiles are as good as the information they receive. At times they aren’t that smart after all because humans have proven themselves, time and again or even often times, to be pretty unreliable.

Pretexts for war can be as abstract as a piece of modern art. Often too, one should first be weary and suspicious of the accusers. Wars are also taking on new facets of manifestations. The United States is technically at war with terrorists and vice-versa. It’s not a conventional war as say in WW II but still numbers of lives are lost. Innocent women and children are used as human shields in the conflict and civilians are intently or mistakenly targeted and bombed to splutters.


Pic: US Public Domain

The people responsible for wars are politicians. They may come under the guise of clergymen, military men or just ordinary blokes who happen to be heads of political parties. The bottom line is there is no difference. They are no different from you and me except that they are in a position to conduct world-changing events and to court history. They’re also in a position to instigate for the annihilation of countless numbers of people without actually pulling the trigger themselves. Nor would they be in the forefront of raging battles. Usually, they are reclined in the supreme comforts of their homes or offices clutching fine booze in one hand and a cigar or a jar of Caspian caviar in the other.

In the on-going wars we see today, we can easily comprehend that these wars are being fought by politicians. They tell the military what they want and hide behind the blanket of security – keeping way away from harm’s way. If you were to probe their backgrounds and study their characters and past capabilities you would most likely shudder in fright. Yes indeed they are common fallible folks like you and me yet they make us live on the brink of a precarious edge.

So is it actually God’s army, the peoples’ army or simply the politician’s diabolical machinery of bloodbath? Is there anything sacred about slaughter for material purposes or subjugation of foreign civilizations? Is there anything blessed or sanctified about dispossessing other people’s wealth and resources? So where does God and holiness come into the picture? Isn’t it all nothing but demoniacally using God as branding where all kinds of evils and atrocities can be committed behind this blood-sodden veil?

Yet, why do most people enlist into the military? It could well be an avenue for a decent job with good career and academic prospects. It could also well be a macho psyche. Obviously, some are cajoled but many may be simply attracted to the macho label with boyish dreams of firing the arsenals of modern weaponry. There are virtually thousands of combat movies and these days cyber games provide for an endless array of violent-themed entertainment and played out so realistically.

A nation with a huge arsenal of arms purportedly for national security and defence purposes may be itching to fire them. After all, their theories could also be put into real tests while one need not have to worry too much about shelf-life implications.  Somehow, it’s hard to justify defence when most of the weaponry is more suited for offense. Nevertheless, it is often said that offense is the best defence.

White phosphorous in deployment is a menacingly vilified inclusion into warring arsenals. This has been deployed in the war in Iraq and even in Gaza. What is white phosphorous by the way? Isn’t it a form or rendition of chemical weapon? Aren’t chemical weapons the very issue that was concocted to justify America’s foray into Iraq? Have you forgotten about the claims of mobile chemical laboratories mounted on trucks seemingly concocted against Iraq and the vial of white powder used as exhibit or prop at the United Nations?

Our forefathers were at the mercy of the scourge of smallpox which killed millions. Brave men in clinical attire toiled desperately and untiringly until the wee hours of the morning in their quest for a cure. Hurrah! They succeeded in eradicating the dreaded disease but only to have certain nations culture the virus for their stockpile of germicidal or biological warfare weaponry.

Today, these nations – superpowers especially, possess virtually millions of tons of biological and chemical weapons and are constantly dicing with pilfer and proliferation as well as with storage safety fast deteriorating. The years of “Agent Orange” which the Americans used in the Vietnam War aren’t too far back. The scars and after-effects on the people this chemical devoured are still noticeable. Babies are born deformed. Hence the perpetrators of this scourge can use whatever excuses or justification they want but it all boils down to them, the “accusers” being the actual “doers” and users of chemical weapons themselves.

Now they come with issues about definitions and legality as to what constitutes as a chemical weapon and what doesn’t. Well isn’t the household bleach a chemical or perhaps we can modify terminology and classify it as “a corrosive and caustic laundry solution”. And what exactly is the highly-combustible petroleum jelly or napalm? Could that be easily classified as mineral and organic weapons? Yet, it’s conceived in a lab through chemical reaction and synergy. And how about uranium depleted shells?

Depleted Uranium Weapons (DU)

Depleted uranium is a waste product of the nuclear industry. Radioactive uranium-235 is mixed with U-238 and used in nuclear weapons and reactors. Once extracted, the waste is Depleted uranium or simply referred to by its nefarious acronym DU. As far back as in 1961, two nuclear experts H.E Huxley and Geoffrey Zubay publicised that DU targets the DNA and Master Code. Since then exhaustive studies have been undertaken and continues to this present day.

DU is chemically toxic and is radioactive. So much for that; and they show that it is genotoxic and potentially cause cancers and other serious health problems. DU dust contaminates soils and groundwater. Even tiny particles can have grave consequences when they come into contact or are ingested and can cause digestive diseases, paralysis, birth defects and ultimately, death. But the most rebarbative concern is DU has a “half-life” of 4.5 billion years. This in layman’s terms means just half of the DU atoms take 4,500,000,000 years to decay – or simply, it takes forever!

It’s widely known and acknowledged that DU weapons were used in Gulf War I and II; and in the Balkans. DU use is an innovation to enhance conventional shells and missiles and is used as a coating for anti-tank shells and bunker busting missiles or bombs. Its density easily pierces armour and DU is pyrophoric at impact and incinerates into vapour. After piercing armour, the burning DU incinerates the inside of vehicles like tanks and consuming everything inside in a white inferno. Thousands of these were used in the former-Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Gulf War I and II and the on-going conflict. Surprisingly, machined tungsten, the material used to produce conventional tank shells is far more expensive than DU.

Pic: US Public Domain

Research from the Balkans has shown that DU munitions were used against non-armoured targets as well. In Iraq, it was deployed against the Iraqis but claimed American lives too. Scientists in Yugoslavia, Greece and Bulgaria recorded increased levels of gamma radiation in the first three days of grid and carpet bombing by the Americans. After a DU warhead was salvage from an unexploded missile in Bulgaria, the then NATO head, Lord G. Robertson admitted in public that DU had been used.

When non-Western countries are accused of using or storing weapons of mass destruction, there is outrage. Then comes calls for military intervention but when Western countries use them then it seems to be conditionally permissible and the world can’t act. ICAN (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons release its Don’t Bank on the Bomb Report some years ago citing the Royal Bank of Scotland as the biggest investor in the UK with US$ 5.635 Billion invested in or availed for nuclear weapons producers. The Peace and Justice Centre also encouraged supporters to divest from RBS.

Of the nearly 600,000 military personnel discharged after serving in Gulf War I, over 180,000 were receiving disability compensation, This of course is minus those receiving aid but still serving then and those who have died. From the then current conflict in Iraq, when these figures were released, some 168,000 veterans have left active duty while 27,500 have already sought treatment from VA. Understandably, these are all clumped-up as PTSD and Gulf War Syndrome but quite a significant numbers of those having served report of anomalies and deformities in their babies.

American soldiers that served in the Gulf and Iraq War are also suffering from the fallout of depleted uranium. This was painstakingly discussed by the Campaign Against Depleted Uranium, which campaigns to “a ban on the use of uranium in all conventional weapons and weapon systems and for monitoring, health care, compensation and environmental remediation for communities affected by their use”. Dr. Asaf Durakovic, then professor of nuclear medicine at Washington’s Georgetown University, told a Paris conference of prominent scientists in 2000 that “tens of thousands” of US and UK troops were dying of DU.

Lack of transparency makes assessments very difficult as users of DU are unwilling to make data available. WHO commissioned a scientific study before the 2003 invasion of Iraq warning of the dangers of the use of DU but refrained to publish its findings. The report authored by Dr Keith Baverstock told that “the report was deliberately suppressed” – something which the UN denied; and that the study noted that DU particles were likely to be blown around and inhaled by Iraqi civilians for years to come and that the radioactive particles can trigger the growth of malignant tumours.

Some 155 countries supported a UN General Assembly resolution dealing with risks of DU with opposition from just 4 states. They were the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Israel. Incidentally, November 6 is the International Day of Action Against Depleted Uranium Weapons and also the United Nations’ Day for Prevention of the Exploitation of the Environment during Wars and Armed Conflicts.

Harvard University’s website discussed the fallout of depleted uranium contamination in Iraq. Research from Iraq and the Balkans also revealed that DU weapons were used against non-armoured targets. Use of DU by aircraft and armoured fighting vehicles in conflict zones results in buildings and other civilian infrastructure being targeted. Kosovo was alarmed to discover radioactive contamination just as researchers did in Kuwait after the Gulf War. Vast amounts of contaminated scrap metal, soils and building materials should be identified, separated and safely stored away was the consensus then.

In those years, British and Iraqi doctors have petitioned the U.N. to probe the shocking rise in birth defects at Fallujah’s hospitals. They wrote: “young women in Fallujah are terrified of having children because of the increasing number of babies born grotesquely deformed, with no heads, two heads, a single eye in their foreheads, scaly bodies or missing limbs. In addition, young children in Fallujah have since been experiencing hideous cancers and leukaemia”. The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health published a study entitled Cancer, Infant, Mortality and Birth Sex-Ratio in Fallujah, Iraq 2005-2009 which related to Fallujah experiencing higher rates of cancer, leukaemia and infant mortality far worse than what Hiroshima and Nagasaki did in 1945.

Pic: US Public Domain

Basra Hospital’s College of Medicine state that their studies showed a 100% rise in child leukaemia plus a 242% increase in all types of malignancies in the region in the decade after Gulf War I. Director of the Afghan DU and Recovery Fund, Dr. Daud Miraki, exclaimed that his field researchers found evidence of DU’s effect on civilians in eastern and south-eastern Afghanistan where many children were born with no eyes, no limbs or tumours protruding from their mouths and eyes; and some new-borns are even barely recognisable as human. Many too didn’t survive.

Prominent American international human-rights lawyer, Karen Parker, said “it cannot be “turned off” when the war is over but keeps killing and DU can kill through painful conditions such as cancers and organ damage and can also cause birth defects such as facial deformities and missing limbs. DU cannot be used without unduly damaging the natural environment. In my view, use of DU weaponry violates the grave breach provisions of the Geneva Conventions”, says Parker. “And so its use constitutes a war crime or crime against humanity.”

The Middle East has been severely contaminated, warns scientist Leuren Moret. She added, “that region is radioactive forever”. Dr. Rosalie Bertell, an eminent Canadian scientist related to Al Jazeera: “The particles produced are like ceramic: not soluble in body fluid, non-biodegradable and highly toxic. They tend to concentrate in the lymph nodes, which is the source of lymphomas and leukaemia.”


Author: J. Sam Barr

Greetings from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

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