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Australian Soldier in Afghanistan Awarded VC
January 15, 2009 8:06 PM   Subscribe


 
So?
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 8:08 PM on January 15, 2009


Next up, McDonalds worker named employee of the month.
posted by allen.spaulding at 8:11 PM on January 15, 2009


Yeah, um. Hooray? Is this fpp-worthy? Are we missing something?
posted by the dief at 8:11 PM on January 15, 2009


So they don't exactly award the Victoria Cross that often.
posted by Sargas at 8:12 PM on January 15, 2009


Yeah, I can see the demand for context, but that is a pretty spectacular story. Good work, cobber.
posted by Brockles at 8:12 PM on January 15, 2009


Good for him, but a little more info mightn't have gone astray.

More on the Victoria Cross, for a start.
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:12 PM on January 15, 2009


My co-workers got team of the quarter for reducing back orders.
posted by fixedgear at 8:13 PM on January 15, 2009


Dang Turgid I was just about to post that link.
posted by Sargas at 8:15 PM on January 15, 2009


A great story, too. That would make a heck of an exciting movie, with the added bonus that, since he's an Aussie, half the film won't be made up of him jawing about patriotism and his momma's apple pies.
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:16 PM on January 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


Wow.
During the conduct of this vehicle manoeuvre to extract the convoy from the engagement area, a severely wounded coalition force interpreter was inadvertently left behind. Of his own volition and displaying complete disregard for his own safety, Trooper Donaldson moved alone, on foot, across approximately 80 metres of exposed ground to recover the wounded interpreter. His movement, once identified by the enemy, drew intense and accurate machine gun fire from entrenched positions. Upon reaching the wounded coalition force interpreter, Trooper Donaldson picked him up and carried him back to the relative safety of the vehicles then provided immediate first aid before returning to the fight.
And, actually, there's context right there in the link:
History

The Victoria Cross was created by Queen Victoria in 1856 and made retrospective to 1854 to cover the period of the Crimea War.
Until the Victoria Cross for Australia was created in 1991, Australians were eligible for the Victoria Cross and other awards under the Imperial system of honours.
The Imperial Victoria Cross has been awarded to ninety six Australians. Ninety one received the Victoria Cross while others serving with Australian forces and five Australians received the award while serving with South African and British units.
posted by rtha at 8:26 PM on January 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well I guess that just about makes all of us half-men.
posted by The White Hat at 8:41 PM on January 15, 2009


well that wikipedia link hell of jazzed things up
posted by boo_radley at 8:41 PM on January 15, 2009


Yes, from the article you discover that the last Victoria Cross awarded was during Vietnam, during which they gave out four, and that this is the first Victoria Cross for Australia ever given since they 'took over' the task of giving them out in 1991 from the British (I wonder what the story is behind that).
posted by Bokononist at 8:44 PM on January 15, 2009


(clarification: the last Victoria Cross awarded to an Australian was during Vietnam).
posted by Bokononist at 8:46 PM on January 15, 2009


When are they going to run out of old Russian guns?
posted by pompomtom at 8:47 PM on January 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


The Victoria Cross for Australia is the highest award in the Australian Honours System, superseding the Victoria Cross for issue to Australians. It was created by letters patent signed by Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia, on 15 January 1991. The first medal was awarded on 16 January 2009 to Trooper Mark Donaldson, for the rescue of a coalition forces interpreter from heavy fire in Oruzgan Province in Afghanistan.

-- from Wikipedia. The article goes on to detail how the different Commonwealth Realms introduced their own honors systems, but Australia went on to get permission to issue their own Victoria Cross (Canada has one, too).

Additional info from The Australian Government.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:55 PM on January 15, 2009


This is great.

New Zealand soldier Cpl. Bill Apiata was awarded the VC in 2007 - also for action in Afghanistan, some of which sounds quite similar (the rescue of a fallen comrade under heavy enemy fire, and so on).

I wonder if it's even harder for an SAS trooper to be awarded a VC than a non-special forces personnel? I mean, given that we kind of expect them to act heroically in the face of adversity as part of the job description.
posted by The Monkey at 9:17 PM on January 15, 2009


So, what, none of you guys ever saw Zulu? Rorke's Drift, all that? Very big honor.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:23 PM on January 15, 2009


So?
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 8:08 PM on January 15 [+] [!]


Next up, McDonalds worker named employee of the month.
posted by allen.spaulding at 8:11 PM on January 15 [+] [!]


You know, I'm no fan of militarism; however even I'm able to distinguish between what Donaldson did for this award from ordinary fry vat operations at Mickey D's. Maybe y'all come accross this sort of altruism and courage every day; but personally, I find the story of Donaldson's actions remarkable, to say the least.
posted by washburn at 9:24 PM on January 15, 2009 [38 favorites]


I wonder if it's even harder for an SAS trooper to be awarded a VC than a non-special forces personnel? I mean, given that we kind of expect them to act heroically in the face of adversity as part of the job description.

I think it would be much easier for an SAS trooper to get the VC since they're always going into combat with those black bars over their eyes, which must make their operations at least twice as difficult.
posted by turgid dahlia at 9:32 PM on January 15, 2009 [6 favorites]


For those not in the know, the Victoria Cross is not something to be handed out like candy, nore is it something you can earn just by leading others who are heroic or for being shot in the ass. The cross is the highest military award given to soldiers in Commonwealth countries. A Canadian hasn't earned one since WWII and only 13 others have been awarded since WWII.

Each and every Victoria Cross story is incredible. The one I'm most familiar with is of Joseph Kaeble, who in WWI was the only person to survive out of the 50 or so in his troop, and who ran over a parapet emptying his machine gun, successfully taking over an enemy machine gun nest, even after being shot several times, and turning the machine gun on other oncoming enemy troops, causing them to retreat. He died of his wounds the next day.

The word hero gets tossed around a lot, but there can be no doubt that anyone who had won the Victoria Cross is a hero. You win this and in the military you are considered a god (if you aren't already dead). Only three people have ever won it twice.

Thanks for posting this, it's a big deal for those in the know.
posted by furtive at 9:55 PM on January 15, 2009 [5 favorites]


War sucks. Glorifying war exploits sucks even more. I've saved lives to my own detriment. I've got scars from a bomb and scars from a couple of incidents where snipers targeted me for death. I've got nightmares and health problems from starving and freezing. All that, and I hadn't signed up for a second of it. I wasn't looking for adventure. I was a teenaged girl who was sad about my graduation ceremony, the ability to walk down the street with a friend or a date for a coffee. I know plenty of people who did amazing things in war, despite doing everything they could to avoid bad situations and confrontations. Even though none of us enlisted, we did what we had to do. It's an embarrassment to my country and the world that any of us had to.

If someone had given me an award, I would have pulled my skirt and panties down and taken a shit right on it. In front of everyone. Honestly, I would have.

As long as there's glory in war, there's going to be war.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 10:13 PM on January 15, 2009 [9 favorites]


As long as there's glory in war, there's going to be war.

I suspect you're correct. Moreover, medals for individual heroics never really make sense. You don't go into battle as an individual - you are always part of a unit. If the choices you make lead you to act heroically, it is only because of your unit that you were in the position to make those choices.

Therefore, I don't think medals should be awarded to individual soldiers, but only ever to the regiment/company/squadron of which they're a part.
posted by Ritchie at 10:33 PM on January 15, 2009


Dee- I very much sympathise with what you write but still think one can recognise heroism. Sadly I don't think merely thinking there's no glory in war will stop it, because the questions of power and violence wouldn't go away.
My favourite poet Sorley MacLean ended up fighting in the Western Desert in WWII and wrote this (his own translation from his original Gaelic):

Heroes

I did not see Lannes at Ratisbon
nor MacLennan at Auldearn
nor Gillies MacBain at Culloden,
but I saw an Englishman in Egypt.

A poor little chap with chubby cheeks
and knees grinding each other,
pimply unattractive face –
garment of the bravest spirit.

He was not a bit “in the pub
in the time of the fists being closed,”
but a lion against the breast of battle,
in the morose wounding showers.

His hour came with the shells,
with the notched iron splinters,
in the smoke and flame,
in the shaking and terror of the battlefield.

Word came to him in the bullet shower
that he should be a hero briskly,
and he was that while he lasted
but it wasn't much time he got.

He kept his guns to the tanks,
bucking with tearing crashing screech,
until he himself got, about the stomach,
that biff that put him to the ground,
mouth down in sand and gravel,
without a chirp from his ugly high-pitched voice.

No cross or medal was put to his
chest or to his name or to his family;
there were not many of his troop alive,
and if there were their word would not be strong.
And at any rate, if a battle post stands
many are knocked down because of him,
not expecting fame, not wanting a medal
or any froth from the mouth of the field of slaughter.

I saw a great warrior of England,
a poor manikin on whom no eye would rest;
no Alasdair of Glen Garry;
and he took a little weeping to my eyes.
posted by Abiezer at 11:19 PM on January 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


Urgh, C&P without checking. Should be 'He was not a hit “in the pub
in the time of the fists being closed...”'
posted by Abiezer at 11:21 PM on January 15, 2009




As long as there's glory in war, there's going to be war.

As long as we're going to have wars, we might as well get a little glory and some good stories out of it. It's pretty much that, or accept that all of human history is a steaming pile of depressing idiocy, except for the faceless unthinking march of technology.
posted by freebird at 11:40 PM on January 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


Son, we live in a world that has walls and those walls need to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lieutenant Weinberg?

You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use then as the backbone of a life trying to defend something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said "thank you," and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest that you pick up a weapon and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you are entitled to.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 11:49 PM on January 15, 2009


pfft. that's nothing.

not compared with former aussie prime minister john howard recently receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the USA's highest civilian award, designed to recognize individuals who have made "an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors."

past recipients have included Dr Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks, Lech Walesa, Mother Teresa and Donald Rumsfeld.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:50 PM on January 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


Jesus tit!

I was half way thru editing that. It was going to be a spectacularly funny post when I removed Lieutenant Weinberg and replaced it with Dee Xtrovert.

What's the keyboard shortcut for Post Comment??? Coz that's what I accidentally did.

I have a George Cross at home. Mum tells me it's one below the VC. I don't know its provenance - certainly not one of my Grandpappies. They were yellowbellies never went to war.

//GODAMMIT! Got me thinking. I don't even know why my Grandpappies never went to war. I vaguely remember one story about one being a truck builder and that was classed a "required civilian job" or something. But that smells a bit fishy. I thought the ladeeez did all that sort of blue collar work during WWII?
posted by uncanny hengeman at 11:58 PM on January 15, 2009


war exploits

Dee, I concede that what you must have gone through sucks, but to call what this man did an "exploit" means you've missed the plot completely.

In a really shitty situation he managed to pull off some pretty heroic actions and save lives that otherwise would have been wasted. If you can't see the good in that, within the larger picture of the "war" you disagree with, well, I just don't know what to say.

He was awarded the honor due to his life-saving tactics and actions, and not because of the number of enemies he killed.
posted by zap rowsdower at 12:01 AM on January 16, 2009


past recipients have included Dr Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks, Lech Walesa, Mother Teresa and Donald Rumsfeld.

Which makes John Howard receiving the award - for simply falling in line with Bush - even more agregious.

War sucks. Glorifying war exploits sucks even more.

Read the goddamned link before you make crass generalisations about war and the war machine. It doesn't glorify war, the VC honours a man whose actions were way above the call of duty.

Honestly, I'm as anti-war as they come, but disrespecting individual soldiers and their achievements does nobody any good. All not honouring individual soldiers does is allow us to condemn the machine while forgetting about the people inside it.
posted by crossoverman at 12:03 AM on January 16, 2009


From a comment above

...80 metres of exposed ground to recover the wounded interpreter. His movement, once identified by the enemy, drew intense and accurate machine gun fire from entrenched positions. Upon reaching the wounded coalition force interpreter, Trooper Donaldson picked him up and carried him back to the relative safety of the vehicles then provided immediate first aid before returning to the fight.

Hmmm. I make that 90 meters, 80 of them with a dead weight on his back. Completely exposed.

"Accurate machine gun fire"? Come come.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 12:04 AM on January 16, 2009


It is nice, however, to see that Trooper Donaldson echoes the typical Aussie "yeh, mate, s'pose so" humility that is always displayed by football man-of-the-match recipients in post-match interviews:

we'll keep going from day to day and we'll see how we go," he told reporters after receiving the award.

"I don't see myself as a hero, honestly. I still see myself as a fullback soldier first and foremost."

Donaldson said he had not really thought about the danger when he went to make the match-saving tackle rescue the stricken interpreter.

"I'm a footballer soldier ... I'm trained to play fight, that's what we do. It's instinct and it's natural and you don't really think about it at the time," he said.

"I just saw him there, I went over there and got him, that was it."

posted by UbuRoivas at 12:10 AM on January 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


When are they going to run out of old Russian guns?

Pretty much never. The Russians built 'em to last.
posted by Amanojaku at 12:21 AM on January 16, 2009


yeh, they're not rushin' to rust.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:26 AM on January 16, 2009


past recipients have included Dr Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks, Lech Walesa, Mother Teresa and Donald Rumsfeld.

Which makes John Howard receiving the award - for simply falling in line with Bush - even more agregious.


tell me about it.

howard isn't fit to lick rumsfeld's boots.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:37 AM on January 16, 2009


As long as there's glory in war, there's going to be war.

Incorrect.

As long as there are humans, there's going to be war.
posted by turgid dahlia at 12:54 AM on January 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


BULLSHIT. COME OVER HERE AND SAY THAT!!!
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:56 AM on January 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have a George Cross at home. Mum tells me it's one below the VC.

From my husband:

Technically, the GC is not 'one below' the VC, it's the equivalent of the VC. It's only second in order of precedence because the VC has to be won 'in the face of the enemy'. If there's not 'enemy' around and you did something VC-worthy then you get a GC instead. For this reason, the GC is awarded to civilians as well as military types working outside the front lines (there have been a number of awards for bomb disposal) and there have been a number of awards made during peacetime.

Whoever it was who won that medal might not ever have faced combat. But whatever they did, it was bloody brave.
posted by jb at 6:31 AM on January 16, 2009


The george cross is definitely the equivalent of the victoria cross, for actions not in the face of the enemy, thus is usually awarded to civilians showing exceptional bravery and valour. The reason it's awarded second (and would be worn second if anyone ever is awarded both) is only because it's a newer medal.

"Since the end of the Second World War the original VC has been awarded 13 times: four in the Korean War, one in the Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation in 1965, four to Australians in the Vietnam War, two during the Falklands War in 1982, one in the Iraq War in 2004, and one in the War in Afghanistan in 2006. The Victoria Cross for New Zealand has been awarded once, which was earned in 2004 but awarded in 2007."

Plus this latest award, under the new Australian system. Traditionally, any holder of a VC is saluted by all other ranks. That's assuming it wasn't awarded post-humously, and many of them are.

The US Medal of Honor is roughly equivalent, and similarly rare.
posted by ArkhanJG at 6:43 AM on January 16, 2009


Cool, thanks. I had that dreadful feeling that I should Wiki it first, but I was at work and didn't want to jin around too much. Really appreciate the info, jb, ArkhanJG. Mum and Nan were numismatists of sorts, and I've wound up with most of their stuff. There were a couple of medals in with the coins.

Alas, no 1930 penny in their penny jars. I've checked about 10 times!
posted by uncanny hengeman at 8:07 AM on January 16, 2009


Last time the VC was awarded for action in Afghanistan.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:14 AM on January 16, 2009


Sorry to do a bit of a repeat, but it has to be done.

When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains
And the women come out to cut up what remains
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
And go to your gawd like a soldier


Only recently realised what a great poet he was.

Kipling ~DOES NOT EQUAL~ Disney's Jungle Book.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 8:46 AM on January 16, 2009


When are they going to run out of old Russian guns?

For those who missed this reference, the VC is supposedly made from the metal of the cascabels (big knob on the end) from two Russian cannon captured at Sebastopol in 1855, during the Crimean War - after which was when the VC was first awarded.

Metallurgic examination of the medals showed it's actually of ancient chinese manufacture; the theory goes that the cannon were originally Chinese, then captured and re-used by the Russians. Some medals from the 1st and 2nd World Wars are made from other metals, source unknown.

In answer to the question though, there's supposedly enough left of one cascabel to make 80-85 more medals. Then they could use either the barrels, or something else. Given they've only issued 13 in the last 65 years, there's hopefully a while yet before they run out.
posted by ArkhanJG at 11:42 AM on January 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Incidentally, uncanny hengeman, only 159 people have been awarded the George Cross directly, with 404 awarded in total including those who were 'upgraded' from other medals.

Whatever the story behind your one is, I imagine it's pretty incredible. Inscribed on the back should be the recipient's title or rank, full name, and where appropriate, unit, together with the appropriate London Gazette date.

Here is the database of George Cross recipients; hopefully you can find out a little more about it's recipient's backstory there. They also publish books with the full stories of the recipients, alphabetically.
posted by ArkhanJG at 12:12 PM on January 16, 2009


Oh, and it's probably pretty valuable. One GC sold in June last year for £20,000. A VC has sold for up to £400,000.
posted by ArkhanJG at 12:21 PM on January 16, 2009


"As long as there's glory in war, there's going to be war."

I don’t know how an engineer would react if someone made an analogous statement in the hard sciences.
‘As long as there are bridges, rivers are going to form’
‘As long as ships have engines, we’re going to have ships sinking.’

Medals are a relatively new invention in the history of warfare. Bonaparte was the first to really spread their usage (that and tin cans). Certainly there were accolades, marches, parades, etc.
But for the most part there was money in it for the generals or gifted soldiers. Whether in the armor (which was valuable in itself) of a vanquished foe or land or whatever.
With the exception of how the spoils are divided, that’s the one thing that hasn’t changed in war.

So - as long as there’s profit in it, there will be war.
I’m no stranger to combat zones myself.

It’s been my experience that glory, religion, ethnicity, all the other supposed motivations are nearly always facades for seizing wealth. Oppression (and its attendant benefits) is typically secondary goal.
I’m sorry you took that kind of heat, but a lot of us serve exactly because we don’t want to see people oppressed or eradicated.
Not that this ideal is always the result of that altruism. But there are people who have the natural ‘sheepdog’ proclivity.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:09 PM on January 16, 2009


Jeremy Clarkson did a good documentary on the Victoria Cross, talking to a lot of the past recipients. I'm surprised it's not up on Youtube, but I'm sure it's out there somewhere.
posted by smackfu at 2:28 PM on January 16, 2009


Wow, I guess you guys spit on stories about Anne Frank and Oskar Schindler as well, right? After all, those are about war too.
posted by jacalata at 6:28 AM on January 17, 2009


Amazing story, thanks Fiasco.
posted by WPW at 8:17 AM on January 17, 2009


Wow, I guess you guys spit on stories about Anne Frank and Oskar Schindler as well, right? After all, those are about war too.

Obviously, this is a touchy subject. What Donaldson did was brave, beyond question. But there are many brave people in the world, and not all of them get FPPs on Metafilter. Okay, that's just the way life is.

It might come across as churlish to point out that the actions undertaken by the undeniably brave Mark Donaldson in all likelihood advanced the strategic goals of the war by not one iota, but there it is. Very, very few acts of individual heroism do. There is no question that the immediate, human, impacts of his actions were immense - some lived to go home to their families, others died - but the operational outcomes were unaffected.

So the effect of awarding a medal ends up simply obscuring the fact that the coalition is failing to achieve their strategic objectives in Afghanistan as well as in other parts of the world, and no personal sacrifice by Mark Donaldson can change that.

Seen in this light (and you're going to despise me for saying this), the awarding of the VC becomes akin to a struggling company giving out a Tidy Desk Award - it's about keeping up morale and encouraging people to hang in there, and recognizing that people are making an effort.

Which is just good management technique. But that's all it is. The fact that society (and not just the armed forces) chooses to make a big deal out of medals earned through conspicuous bravery in the face of imminent destruction as opposed to conspicuous bravery in any other context is, I suspect, one of the many little oddities of our culture.
posted by Ritchie at 7:04 PM on January 17, 2009


Actually, I agree with your attitude, Ritchie. But I see that as completely unrelated to the comments arguing that war sucks, and anything anybody does related to a war should be vilified because it is glorifying war to do otherwise, and being part of war means that Donaldson's actions are completely despicable and not worthy of being recognised as brave.
posted by jacalata at 12:33 AM on January 18, 2009


Another comment from my husband:

Another way to look at the whole misery/glory dichotomy is that (in the Commonwealth and since the First World War) it has become difficult to separate out the awarding of medals from the process of war remembrance.

Notice how Donaldson himself talks about the award of his medal: 'I don't wear this just for my action, it's also for my mates that were there and my mates that are also serving now'. This is a very typical response when talking about the award of senior medals these days, and it's one that has been very consciously fostered by veterans organisations. The idea is that the medals themselves are like little, portable, war memorials. Since the stories of individuals are more, shall we say emotionally potent, than the stories of vast and anonymous groups of people, the medal focusses the attention of future generations on a particular moment in history and a particular group of people, and therefore causes them to remember.

Naturally, such a point of view is not without its down side. Ideally, top level medals should not be given out for people committing war crimes (although this has happened), so memorials centred around medals are unlikely to talk about some of the more shameful aspects of war. However, they do often speak about death, self-sacrifice, horrific wounds, the randomness of war, and the role of chance and circumstance in the fate of the combatant. I would point out that all of these subjects have come up on the above thread; the discussion of Donaldson has indeed lead to a wider discussion of the meaning and nature of war just as the people who hand out these medals intended.

Zooming back in to the Australian context: at the Australian War Memorial there is a room called the 'Hall of Valour'. It has the largest collection of VC's in the world, all displayed together. One might say that this is the physical instantiation, the physical melding, of medal and memorial.
posted by jb at 5:38 AM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


'I don't wear this just for my action, it's also for my mates that were there and my mates that are also serving now'. This is a very typical response when talking about the award of senior medals these days

That's one way to look at it, but I still prefer to read it as some guy parroting footballer-speak.

"Yeah, mate, I'm real wrapped to win this Dally M Brownlow Medal, but I couldn'ta done it without me mates in the team. When we had to put in the hard yards they dug deep, stuck to their guns & we came up trumps. This award really belongs to the whole team; I wouldnt'a been here today without those blokes"
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:10 AM on January 18, 2009


The fact that society (and not just the armed forces) chooses to make a big deal out of medals earned through conspicuous bravery in the face of imminent destruction as opposed to conspicuous bravery in any other context is, I suspect, one of the many little oddities of our culture.
This is complete cobblers though, at least in the UK context. You're just as likely, if not more, to hear about "Children of Courage", X's "brave fight with cancer/addicition", or the awards given to civilian services like the fire brigades than you are military awards. It's just the form of recognition that's different.
posted by Abiezer at 10:35 AM on January 18, 2009


Cobblers in the U.S. context, as well. Five Medals of Honor have been awarded to soldiers serving in Iraq/Afghanistan, all posthumously. None of the recipients' deeds got a lot (any?) play in the national press.

We don't make any kind of deal, let a alone a big one, about MOH recipients. It isn't glorified. It's unacknowledged.
posted by rtha at 12:27 PM on January 18, 2009


as opposed to conspicuous bravery in any other context

like conspicuous bravery when being tickled by a feather? or fending off a gummy mauling by toothless kittens?
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:42 PM on January 18, 2009


“We don't make any kind of deal, let a alone a big one, about MOH recipients.”

Which is in keeping with how we more or less completely ignore the war, its attendant carnage on the civilian populace and the sacrifices of our own people.
While I don’t believe war should be glorified, I certainly do think it should, y’know, be acknowleged.
Otherwise it will be tolerated for nearly any reason, hell, just the sport of it. And it will go on and on and on and on - smothered by the attention of the masses on more ‘important’ matters. Like shopping or what Britany is up to now.
So while we’re here chatting nicely men are heroically or ignobly or hopelessly enduring one of the most horrific things humans can visit upon one another.
Sweet.

What strikes me is that each condition - the self-sacrifice and valor of the courageous, the banality of the war criminals and the cries of despair of those caught in the middle, each calls out to us for attention to do - something. To, at the very least, understand what went on at this absolutely extreme breakdown of humanity.
I myself would like people to know what it’s like to have someone, not only shoot at you, but do their best to actively try and kill you. It’s an appaling experience.
One that should be avoided at nearly all costs (never been in chains or oppressed, I’ve seen systematic rape and murder tho’, that I would, and have, go to war to stop).

And it won’t be given the due consideration - a perspective that can be derived from any or each of the above heroism, villany or victim - unless we examine the experience and heed the words of those who have been through it.

All too often we exploit those perspectives, the hawks latch onto and exploit the heroes, the doves exploit the victims, and one man’s villian is another’s hero or victim. Meanwhile the war profiteers, as they have since they were war camp followers, whore, steal, and pick everyone’s pockets.

And yet, even this exploitation, this absolute pimping of political perspective and war pornography is preferable to what we do.
I mean, even the glorification of war ensures it will end. Someone must claim victory after all, and return to triumph.

But we change the channel. We don’t want to hear about it. We ignore it.

And it’s that which ensures that war, like the exploitation of all its trappings for party politics, will never end.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:04 AM on January 20, 2009


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