Friday, August 8, 2008

Human Smoke

I've started reading a book emphatically recommended to me by a physician from Iran that has taken refuge in our lovely city of Portland. The book, Human Smoke The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization (2008) by Nicholson Baker, is filled with quotes by world leaders and excerpts from govement transcripts. There are first hand accounts from journalists and others speaking from all possible perspectives as this war unfolded.
If you're interested in history, power, politics or peace, this book is a must read. There are also numerous quotes by Gandhi, adding insight into the Indian struggles and success against the British Empire.
The opening quote of the book is by Alfred Nobel of the Nobel Prize. Speaking to his friend the Baroness Bertha von Suttner (a founder of the European antiwar movement)regarding his expolsives factories, they "will put an end to war even sooner than your congresses. On the day that two army corps may mutually annihilate each other in a second, probably all civilized nations will recoil with horror and disband their troops."
But the weapons continue to grow in number and magnitude of destruction. The targets of these evil machinations are no longer military but almost entirely peace loving, tax paying civilians. It seems that the goal of modern warfare is to see who has the most civilians left at the end as a determination for winning. The weapons not only maim and kill the living, but pollute with radioactive waste such that those left surviving will suffer for many generations levels of cancer and deformation in their young previously unknown. To kill even one person, guilty or innocent, is the deepest crime against the human soul. May we learn to save lives and save ourselves.

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