On my way from my hotel to the National Press Club the other night, I found my route across the Ellipse closed off by security, so I had to detour past the front of the White House instead. I noticed a “peace vigil” display across from the grounds as I went by, so the next morning before I left town I dropped by the place again for a closer look.
The man who runs it told me that his display had been in continuous operation since 1981. He has a friend who helps him out, and they maintain the vigil in shifts.
The peace guy is not your typical 21st-century Bushitler demonstrator. For one thing, he’s obviously a throwback to the good old days, probably about my age. If you take his word for it, he’s been out there day in and day out, through rain or shine, since the early days of the first Reagan administration. Twenty-five years for the cause of peace — you have to admire his dedication.
Another indication: he rolls his own. That’s doubleplus ungood here in the anti-tobacco postmodern age. But, in his defense, he might well be using organic all-natural leaf grown on a non-profit commune in North Carolina.
If you click this image to see the larger one, you’ll notice that the cover on the donation bowl says, “Save the Children”. It’s for the sake of the children.
It always is, isn’t it? The occupant of the house across the road, the madman, or corporate shill, or puppet of the special interests, or whatever he might be in any given administration — that President doesn’t give a fig about the children, does he? But the peace guy does.
To highlight his concern for the children, he has a display board that illustrates the horrors that war inflicts on children and babies. It has some gruesome photos, mainly of babies injured in Hiroshima or Nagasaki in 1945, and emphasizes the horrible reality of radiation burns.
This is another instance of war porn, but still, it is something that he obviously feels is necessary to bring home the horrors of war to the blissfully unaware tourists who wander past his display.
I thanked the peace guy for his time, took my pictures, and then came home. His group may be retro, but it’s modern enough to have its own website. The font on the main page was too small for my old eyes, but you young folks will want to stop by and see what Proposition 1 has to say.
So it’s all about the children, at least the ones who are allowed into the world after a woman exercises her right to choose.
War is harmful to children; we love children; therefore we will make war no more.
That was easy. So why doesn’t it work out that way? Our evil leaders just keep taking us to war over and over again, caring nothing for what war does to babies.
But let’s leave Hiroshima and Nagasaki aside for a little while and think about some kids from other places. How about this one? This baby is one of the thousands of Kurdish victims of Saddam’s genocidal attack on Halabja back in 1988. She had the good fortune not to have been exposed to nuclear radiation, but poison gas seems to have been at least as effective.
There aren’t that many photos of all the thousands of babies who were the victims of Saddam’s purges and genocidal operations. He didn’t usually bring along an official photographer to record the piles of corpses being bulldozed into mass graves.
There were some photographers around, however, while those babies were exhumed from their resting places over the last three years. By that time they were not so gruesome: a handful of dust, a few little bones, the occasional poignant baby outfit pulled intact out of the sand. No good War Porn in these.
And then there are these kids, walking into Auschwitz with their parents. They’re still wearing their civilian clothes, but it looks like one of them is making the trek in his stocking feet.
There are not many photos of those kids and the hundreds of thousands of others like them when they met their end. Nothing to see but the piles of baby clothes that were still there in storage rooms when the Allies entered the camp in 1945.
No good War Porn to be found.
This little fellow is one of the few child victims of the Ukrainian famine of 1933 who has left a photographic record. Stalin engineered the famine, but he neglected to send an official Soviet photographer out to the countryside to take lots of pictures.
In fact the famine didn’t exist. It never happened. Just ask Walter Duranty. He said so in The New York Times, and got the Pulitzer Prize for saying it. So you know it must be true, right?
And now look at this toddler, one of the few survivors of the Japanese bombing of South Station in Shanghai during the Rape of Nanking in 1937.
Assuming he managed to survive his injuries and the rest of the war and grow up, what do you think was his opinion of the atomic bomb at Hiroshima? Was his heart touched by the photos of all those Japanese babies with radiation burns?
Millions of babies died in the famine created by Mao Tse Tung during his “Great Leap Forward” in the late 1950s. Literally millions — an estimated thirty to forty million people died during the famine. No War Porn there; no affecting images of children with yaws and rickets to tug at your heartstrings, just millions of dead children in graves scattered all across China.
During the murderous reign of Pol Pot in Cambodia, a third of the population died or was murdered. Those heaps of skulls from the “killing fields” include innumerable tiny ones. There was no radiation damage and no high-tech weaponry, but the children were just as finally and irrefutably dead.
I could go on and on.
All of the examples I have just listed occurred under the most brutal totalitarian dictatorships that the 20th century could devise. When those children died, there were no protesters camped in front of Stalin’s dacha, nor were there any peace advocates heckling Mao at Politburo photo ops.
As a final irony, most of those children didn’t suffer horribly and die in war, at least not what our peace guy would call “war”. Most of them were victims of their own governments during the Dictatorship of the Proletariat in one or another of the world’s socialist paradises.
Saddam’s victims were from a time of “peace”, the same peace that the vigil in front of the White House wishes had never been broken and longs to re-establish.
The disfigured and dead babies from these regimes don’t exist; they can’t exist for the advocates of “peace”. The only children that are harmed are the victims of the war machine of the United States and its allies.
But if you decide to take those other babies into account, you are forced to perform a different calculus.
As much as we might wish it to be so, the choice isn’t between dead babies killed in American-led wars and no dead babies at all. It’s a choice between the dead babies killed in the wars we make, and the dead babies that are killed when we don’t make war.
The former group is adequately documented, thanks to CNN and Al Jazeerah and all the reutered photographs from southern Lebanon. You’ll have no problem finding War Porn of all those dead babies.
But the others, millions upon millions of them, trail off as far as the mind’s eye can see, backwards into the dust of history. Not much to see there: some grainy old photos, a few bones, some scraps of clothing.
But both sets of babies have to be taken into account. For the foreseeable future there will no shortage of babies dying horrible deaths. There is no path available which does not lead to them. Which path is the least evil?
Somebody has to make the choice. Someone has to do the calculus.
You do it: which one will it be?