This picture had been sitting on my desktop for weeks and a few days ago I cracked and put it in a virgin post, a picture in search of a story....damned if a doozy didn't appear....
I don't know what had struck me about this photo. I think it's something about the vertical lines, the sticks with white flags, then the green ones camouflaged against the trees in the background....then the big red cross, put together it would appear, with cardboard, drooping almost comically like a Gumby doll, sickly in color.
The red cross is ill.
Indeed. The photo depicts a protest held after the killing of 17 Afghan men, women and children by one Sergeant Robert Bales on the night of March 11, 2012. He almost shares a name with one Christian Bale, not that there's any relationship whatsoever between the two, but the happenstance does remind us of the perception of the Afghan people that the West is engaged in a Christian crusade against Islam.
Is that why the cross is red, like a Templar cross? Or is it a cross soaked in blood?
Remember that pastor in Gainesville who was roundly condemned after burning a Koran in 2010, when critics said the gesture could endanger troops and send the wrong impression? Early this year Korans were burned in Afghanistan by US troops, resulting in deadly riots and other mayhem. Guards were also accused of desecrating the Koran at Guantanamo back in 2005.
Assorted goofballs believe the world will end this year. Maybe they're right. In January, US troops were videotaped pissing on Taliban corpses. In February, a photo showing Marines posing before a flag with a SS-like logo was released. In March, Bales blows a fuse and goes on a murderous rampage.
And just when you thought our boys had finished "getting their Abu Ghraib on", pictures from two years ago came to light this week showing American troops posing with the body parts and corpses of Taliban fighters.
I wonder if the Templars would have done the same thing?
The red of the Templar cross is said to represent the blood of martyrdom; the Templars believed that dying in battle was an instant ticket into Heaven. Which is what we are told the Taliban believe. All this comes at the beginning of the trial of Anders Breivik, the guy who killed all those people in Oslo. So far, prosecuters have investigated his claims to part of a group of Templars, a claim we've looked at before. Given the "death and glory" link between Templars and terrorists, it's relevant that Breivik has also expressed admiration for al-Qaeda and, in a page taken from their playbook, revealed that he'd planned to behead the Norway's ex-Prime Minister....
....the man who said his crimes were designed to save Europe from destruction at the hands of radical Islam came out as an admirer of al-Qaeda. Osama bin Laden's creation was the "most successful revolutionary force in the world", said Breivik, and European ultra-nationalists had much to learn from its cell structure and "cult of martyrdom".
And then of course, there are those old Blackwater/Xe/Academi allegations about a crusader mentality, replete with the use of Templar call signs and code names....
Apocalypse Now and Then? Hard not for the Afghanis to see a pattern when there is one, even it it does represent the actions of a tiny minority.
Hey, guess what? War fucks people up. It can turn good men bad and bad men worse. I'm not judging these soldiers, nor the war, nor the people who sent them there. I'm not assuming guilt in the cases where the facts are not clear. I'm not condemning the use of potentially offensive imagery. But the perception of all these hazy things, coupled with the undeniable facts, are making the US look like a bunch of savage assholes.
Here's an essay from today Washington Post which says pretty much what I've been crassly attempting to say here. Namely, that war twists people....and that trophy-taking is as old as conflict itself. This posing with body parts is gruesome and distasteful, but is it worse than cutting some guy's head off with a butcher's knife and sharing the videotape? Or dragging the corpses of American mercenaries through the streets and hanging them from a bridge? (graphic images) Is it much different than those wild west photos of a sheriff and his posse posing with their prey? Hey, we've all read the Iliad, no?
One thing's for sure: the pretense of moral authority has taken a hammering.
Politicians and PR flaks love to speak about "hearts and minds." One Vietnam vet I knew (and I've known a lot of them, starting with my old man, uncle etc. etc.) told me that part of what they had to do those days was to make the people more scared of the GI's than they were of the VC. And at times that meant getting medieval.
That's what you're paying for folks, when you wave your war flags. And maybe that's the real reason these photos anger the brass The bloated, blackened corpses caked with blood and swarming with flies....that's a naked lunch no one wants to bite into except for the soul-dead and the deranged.
There is not such thing as a "holy" war or even a "just" war. War is not sublime and noble, full of honor and grace and gentlemanly acts. Let's stop acting surprised, shocked, wagging fingers. If you want this kind of stuff to stop, you have to stop making wars.
I wouldn't hold my breath on that, though.
See these related posts:
The east/west conflict in film:
Trophy photos of the dead, Che Guevara and Bin Laden:
More on the use of post-mortem imagery:
Gun scopes with Bible verses: