[NetBehaviour] War

Alan Sondheim sondheim at panix.com
Wed Jun 22 01:29:38 CEST 2022


http://www.alansondheim.org/war.mp3 (older version removed)

Azure Carter, voice
Stephen Dydo, violin
Alan Sondheim, clarinet

A facebook friend who lives in Ukraine corrected me when I wrote

it isn't war, it's slaughter
it isn't war, it's butchery
it isn't war, it's genocide

I've been thinking this through ever since. First and foremost,
of course it's war, it's war in Ukraine. There are incredibly
brave people fighting to save their country, to save everyone,
to save infrastructure and superstructure, to save freedom, so
much, that enumeration seems preposterous. It's war like the US
civil war was war, WWI and WWII were war, Vietnam was war.* And
I and everyone I know admire people fighting for autonomy, for
freedom, for an end to invasion, to the potential for genocide.
All of this should go without saying. We've helped raise money
for Ukraine, I read and watch everything I can, I talk about
issues of war in general, and I've written on the Holocaust in
WWII, and so forth. I've never been to war myself; I can only
imagine what fighting is like. During Vietnam we protested,
wrote against war, and I talk about the Uyghur incarceration
whenever I play dutar, a Uyghur instrument. So why write
butchery, slaughter, genocide?

*(I've known so many Vietnam veterans who returned, often in
silence, often mentally and sometimes damaged by the conflict.
Many wouldn't talk about it, wouldn't say anything. It was and
is heartbreaking. There's no end to it, there never is.)

The Vietnam war destroyed so much that Scientific American had
an article on crater agriculture - so much of the arable land
was pockmarked by bombs as to be basically unusable. I found a
North Vietnamese 16mm film that had been trashed (double
sprocket through the soundtrack) which I duplicated and revived
with a different track; it was about the effects of napalm on
civilians and was almost unbearable to watch. It wasn't
propaganda; it was, for about a half hour, field reportage. I
would call this butchery, slaughter, infecting as much of a
civilian population as possible. (For an older similar
accounting, read Lamentations in the Bible.)

I think of Aleppo, internal wars such as Myanmar, so many kinds
of wars, battles, violence against civilians, attempted erasures
of history (Carthage for example), and most of all, I think of
people falling down, families split apart, that even one death
erases deep history. I think of the constant reportage from
Ukraine, testimonials I've read from Nazi Germany, the Kristevan
notion of clean and proper bodies, Bourdieu's writing on the
minutiae of history, scraps of paper, Sachem marks on Rhode
Island documents from the early 17th century. I think of what I
saw early on in Israel happening to the Arab population, but I
also think of guns fired on our boat in the Galil from Syria
from the top of the Golan heights.

War is not clean and it seems clear that Russia is basing their
onslaught on uncleanliness - why else bomb hospitals, schools,
cultural institutions, convalescent homes, homes for critically
ill children, neighborhoods, shops, non-military factories, and
apartment buildings - anything to create impossible and
genocidal conditions in the east? What we see, through BBC,
Deutsche Welle, CBC, etc., and an enormous number of independent
sources - is the bravery of Ukraine in the midst of what appears
to be a scorched earth policy in large parts of the country,
unbearable destruction, violence, and carnage. I've often
thought of our own civil war here as well; I think of the war
against people of color and indigenous peoples that continues by
and large on a non-combatant level (although that may soon
change, given the guns violence in the US). It is brutality
here, brutality everywhere it seems, fired up, amplified, and
promulgated by electronic media.

Slaughter can be the death of a single person; butchery can be a
punch, a hacking, a kick in the guts, a beheading; genocide can
be the hatred of an other (Other) to such an extent that "they"
must be eliminated at all costs. So for me, it's important to
emphasize that "it's not war, it's genocide, butchery,
slaughter" - is _not_ to say it's not war, but to say that a
fundamental activity of war is something other, what I wrote
about once as "annihilation to the limit" and all that is
implied. (Civil war is different in this regard; it's the body
politic devouring itself, rearrangements, but slaughter and
butchery may well be a factor.)

I'm trying, not to write a thesis on war, but only to explain my
own position in all of this, why I wrote the piece, why it has
become a song. And I hope everyone donates what they can to
Ukraine; it's necessary, it's fundamental, and unfortunately
it's may be the most many of us can do from a distance.


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