He wakes up. It is very early. He makes his way to the mva again with all of his documents but when he gets there he has no bill of sale so he cannot prove that he has bought the car and the old owner is now in Guatemala so that is a problem because his car is going to be towed if he does not move it but he can’t move it because the battery is dead and later on in the evening he will discover when he changes the batter for another battery that it was not the battery that was the problem but some other unknown issue with the old $900 car but for now all is can do is worry that he wasted a two hour bus journey to the mva and he will have to do the same journey tomorrow but he did eat some wonderful fresh tacos from the taco truck that is just next to the mva and he bought two and it only cost $4 and they were lovely and he left a tip of $1 which was probably enough. Then later on at work he makes some pictures and he finds a shop where he might be able to buy a battery for his car and finds a shop near to his house which is lucky as he imagines these batteries are pretty heavy. Then President Rouhani is everyone’s new best friend and the Western media don’t really know what to do with this information but this will probably be a passing phase and he will become a slavering demon in no time. He drinks some carrot juice and plots secret plots. He remembers conversations that he overheard on public transport and he is glad that he wrote them all down in his notebook for use at some later date. He buys the battery. It is very heavy. He staggers with it to the bus. He gets home. He eats breakfast for supper. He has a conversation about white privilege. He changes the battery in the dark. It takes a long time but finally he manages. Then he starts the car. It does not start. He turns the key again. Nothing happens except for a breathless whisper of a car not starting. The car has bigger problems. He does not know what they are. He leaves it for tomorrow as there is nothing more he can do. He watches the television. He reads about modern day slavery. He goes to sleep.
He wakes up. He is energized. He reads about the relationship between India and China. He missed his window for having a shower because his housemate wakes up unusually early and takes a shower so he has to leave the house without having taken a shower. This doesn’t bode well. Then he sees that his car is about to be towed. He realises that this is entirely his fault but now the battery of the car is dead and he has to get a new battery but he does not know how to install the battery in fact he knows very little about cars but he is hoping that he can jump start the car later on tonight move it somewhere secret and then get temporary tags the next day and then attach the tags and then forget about fixing the problem until the very last minute again and go through this whole cycle of irresponsibility again. He eats some brown bananas. He has a coffee. He meets a new work colleague. He collects some images. He listens to a man trying to argue that yachting is not a rich man’s sport. The man does not succeed. He reads about Corporate Social Responsibility. It seems like an oxymoron. He is probably just being cynical. He gives a tour of the tiny little studio. Then he eats some fish and some broccoli and then he reads Paradise Made in Hell by Rebecca Solnitt which is marvellous and uplifting and the he goes to hire a violin and gets to the store just before it closes and it is dark and public transport is not his friend because he leaves Paradise Made in Hell by Rebecca Solnitt on the train and he is sad that he has done this and he manages to stave off the impounding of his car which is a good thing and he delivers the violin which is a good thing and he will get very little sleep which is not a good thing but the day has not been a total failure and that is a good thing. He goes to sleep.
War makes monsters of us all and there were, no doubt, many instances where the Allies committed what would today be defined as war crimes. However, it seems to me that, given the horror that the Nazis perpetrated, we tend, in the West to overlook any evidence of our own terrible butchery.
Having just completed a reading of World War II by Martin Gilbert, a generally well written and factual account of the conflict, I have only managed to find one instance of allied action that could be counted as a war crime. Here is the very short passage in a very large book:
On the day of the Deptford rocket bomb, a British submarine, HMS Sturdy, on its way from Australia to Indonesian waters, stopped a Japanese cargo ship by surface shellfire. The Japanese crew having abandoned their ship, the only people left on board were fifty women and children, all of them Indonesians. In order to deny the Japanese any use of the ship’s cargo, the submarine commander ordered the ship to be sunk, despite a protest from the officer who had to lay the explosive charges. ‘Get on with it’, was the commander’s response. The cargo ship and its passengers were then blown up, together with the ship’s war supplies.
The Second World War – A Complete History, Martin Gilbert. p. 614
So a ship full of unarmed women and children were blown up. It is interesting to note how the author furnishes the commander with suitable justification for, what seems to be a heinous act. It was entirely okay for him to murder women and children because there were war supplies on the ship.
The date of this war crime, for war crime it surely appears, was November 25 1944.
There are few other examples in the book but given the size and scope of the war it seems unlikely that this is the only war crime on the allies side that went unpunished. In a fair and just world those who commit crimes would be prosecuted regardless on what side of the battle line there found themselves.
If the world was a just one then the author of this book might assign the same revulsion to this awful murder as he does, rightfully so, to the awful things that the Nazis did in the name of their Reich.
I think that these civilians were dismissed, by the commander and by the author, because they were Indonesian. I find it almost impossible to believe that had these civilians been upstanding members of the British Empire who understood the rules of cricket, had their tea at 4pm every day and had pale anglo-saxon skin that they would have suffered the same fate.
Maybe I am being terribly cynical though and I am unaware of many important facts concerning the fifth column nature of these Indonesian woman and children.
One day we will live in a world where we can acknowledge our own war crimes. That day does not seem to be today.
addendum: in my stupidity I overlooked the firebombing of Dresden, firebombing of Tokyo, the two nuclear bombs and any number of other “revenge” killings of German soldiers. However my aim with the small quote above was to highlight what seems like the slaughter of innocent women and children without the “luxury” of dropping bombs from a great height. The soldiers who committed this atrocity were actually on the boat laying the explosives. Whether they looked into the eyes of their victims or forced them, at gunpoint to stay on the boat, is not mentioned in the book.
Does anyone have any thoughts on this?
UPDATE: I found this link here – which says that apparently we won’t know for sure what happened until 2019 when the UK documents are unsealed. I can only assume that Mr. Gilbert had special access when he wrote his book.