Tuesday, December 03, 2013

At War With Asia by Noam Chomsky

Background Info
           This book is not exactly current. Originally published in 1970, this book is probably more “classic Chomsky”, (as compared to the much more recent writings of Chomsky).  The events it comments on are from more than 40 years ago, although the lessons it draws are still relevant today—lessons on the nature of power and imperialism, and the contrast between the benevolent self-image the United States has of itself, and the brutal violence it perpetrates around the world.
            This was Noam Chomsky’s second political book after American Power and the New Mandarins, 1969 (A), and along with that book it established his reputation as one of the prominent voices on the Left.
            The book is primarily a reprint of articles which appeared in The New York Review of Books between 1969 and 1970: After Pinkville, Cambodia, Laos, and North Vietnam.
            All 4 of these articles are currently available on-line:
            After Pinkville [HERE]
            Cambodia [HERE]
            Laos [HERE --the article version is entitled A Visit to Laos]
            and North Vietnam [HERE--the article version is entitled In North Vietnam]

            As the articles are expanded on and revised for the book, they appear in somewhat different form in the book than at the links above, but they’re similar enough that you can get the idea from reading the articles.

            The book also has an introductory chapter called Indochina and the American Crisis. and a reprint of Noam Chomsky’s forward for the Bertrand Russell War Crimes Tribunal [also online: LINK HERE].

            The name of the book comes from a quotation by John K. Fairbank, which he made (with astonishing perception) all the way back in 1947.  As Chomsky quotes Fairbank;

            “Our fear of Communism, partly as an expression of our general fear of the future, will continue to inspire us to aggressive anti-Communist policies in Asia and elsewhere, [and] the American people will be led to think and may honestly believe that the support of anti-Communist governments in Asia will somehow defend the American way of life. This line of American policy will lead to American aid to establish regimes which attempt to suppress the popular movements in Indonesia, Indochina, the Philippines, and China….Thus, after setting out to fight Communism in Asia, the American people will be obliged to fight the peoples of Asia” (Fairbank in Chomsky p. 1).

            The chapter After Pinkville refers to the My Lai Massacre (W).  Pinkville, so named because it was perceived to be sympathetic to the Communists, was the name the American army used to refer to the whole region in which the village of My Lai was located.  (Throughout the book, My Lai is often referred to as Song My, the Vietnamese name and which was apparently the more common name for the media to use back in 1969.  But I’ll use My Lai here because that is the more well-known name today.).
            The chapter on Cambodia was written just after the US invasion of Cambodia.
            The chapters on Laos and North Vietnam contain all of Chomsky’s usual meticulous research, but are also partly based on Chomsky’s personal experiences and observations after Chomsky’s trips to these regions.  Chomsky and others were invited to North Vietnam in March 1970 by the Committee for Solidarity with the American People of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, and his time in North Vietnam makes up much of the basis for that article.  Because of an unexpected plane delay, he also spent a week in Vientiane in Laos, and this forms the basis for the article on Laos.

Why I Read This Book
          Like a lot of people, these days I primarily read Noam Chomsky article’s on-line.  And since I read so much Noam Chomsky on-line, I don’t always feel the need to read his books.
            In fact, I had already read many of the articles that make up this book (and sometimes linked to them on this blog). 
            However, like a lot of the stuff I “read” on-line, I don’t always read it as carefully or as thoroughly as I should.  And so, when I saw this book, I decided it would be good for me to sit down with it and try and carefully read through it.  My interest was increased by the fact that I’m currently living and travelling in South East Asia, and so personally seeing some of the places Chomsky describes in the book like Cambodia and North Vietnam.

The Review
          Chomsky’s writings and speeches during the Vietnam War represent perhaps his greatest work.  I’m not sure any of his publications since have matched the eloquence of his early books.
            But that being said, over the years he’s maintained much the same writing style, and most of the things that can be said about Chomsky’s style generally also apply to this book.
            Like any of Chomsky’s political works, it is emotionally draining to read.  At least for me.  As Chomsky lists horrifying fact after horrifying fact, my blood races.  I feel twice outraged by everything he writes: first of all, I’m outraged by the fact that it happened in the first place, and secondly I’m outraged that I’d never been told this before.  My brain kicks into overdrive, and I think to myself how I need to devote the rest of my life to publicizing these facts.  People must know what really happened!  After about 10 pages, I have to put the book away because I can’t sit still and read it any longer.

            For example: “The Pentagon will gladly supply, on request, such information as the quantity of ordnance expended in Indochina. From 1965 through 1969 this amounts to about 4.5 million tons by aerial bombardment. This is nine times the tonnage of bombing in the entire Pacific theater in World War II, including Hiroshima and Nagasaki—“over 70 tons of bombs for every square mile of Vietnam, North and South…about 500 pounds of bombs for every man, woman and child in Vietnam.” The total of “ordnance expended” is more than doubled when ground and naval attacks are taken into account.  With no further information than this, a person who has not lost his senses must realize that the war is an overwhelming atrocity.” (p. 225)

            Or: “In Laos alone, today, the equivalent of several Hiroshima explosions a month, much of it on civilian targets” (p. 48)

            Or, another example:
            The methods of “urbanization” by which we have so advanced the modernization of Vietnam are described, for example, by Orville and Jonathon Schell.
            “We both spent several weeks in Quang Ngai some six months before the [Song My] incident. We flew daily with the F.A.C’s (Forward Air Control). What we saw was a province utterly destroyed. In August 1967, during Operation Benton, the “pacification” camps became so full that the Army units were ordered not to “generate” any more refugees.  The Army complied. But search-and-destroy operations continued.
            Only now peasants were not warned before an air-strike was called in on their village. They were killed in their villages because there was no room for them in the swamped pacification camps. The usual warning by helicopter loudspeaker or air dropped leaflets were stopped. Every civilian on the ground was assumed to be enemy by the pilots by nature of living in Quangngai, which was largely a free-fire-zone.
            Pilots, servicemen not unlike Calley and Mitchell, continued to carry out their orders. Village after village was destroyed from air as a matter of de facto policy. Air-strikes on civilians became a matter of routine. It was under these circumstances of official acquiescence to the destruction of the countryside and its people that the massacre of Song My occurred.
            Such atrocities were and are the logical consequences of a war directed against an enemy indistinguishable from the people.”  (Orville and Jonathon Schell in Chomsky 225-226).

            Or when writing about the American invasion of Cambodia:
            Peter Arnett reports that the American troops are facing a “political problem.” American foot soldiers are forced to operate in the midst of the civilian population in Cambodia. The Americans, who in Vietnam have difficulties separating ‘friend’ and ‘enemy’ among the civilian population, must now try to distinguish ‘good’ from ‘bad’ Cambodians.
             So, the Vietnamese story is being renewed. The tactic of scorched earth leads the Americans to set fire to houses because they may be used by the communists.  Cattle are killed for the same reason. Spirals of smoke rose on Sunday above the area. Groups of houses were transformed to reddening embers.
            Arnett quotes an American commander who says, “My orders are to burn everything,” and reports that air raids have partially destroyed the town of Memot, villages have been burned, and thousands of civilians have fled (p. 124).

            Or when writing about the American bombardment in Laos: The bombardment was said to include guided missiles that could dive into a cave, as well as high explosives and antipersonnel weapons. The people came out only at dusk and dawn to try to farm, but the planes attacked any visible target, even trails and cultivated fields (p. 178).

          Actually, if you read some of the quotes I’ve lifted above, a lot of them are not so much Chomsky originals as they are Chomsky quoting from someone else. 
            And much of the book is like that.  On re-reading these articles, I was surprised at how many of the most memorable quotations, that I had mis-remembered as Chomsky’s, were actually quotations from other people found in Chomsky’s writing.
            I suppose this shouldn’t surprise.  Chomsky is an academic, not a reporter on the ground.  Instead he is reading widely on the subject, and drawing quotations and facts from a variety of sources.  And there is of course value in a writer who can pull all these facts and quotations together to make a devastating argument.
            Still, lest some of us praise Chomsky too highly, it’s worth remembering that he doesn’t work in a vacuum.  He is borrowing heavily from other writers who wrote about the atrocities in Southeast Asia before him. 
            Now that Chomsky is into his 80s, this is an important reminder for people inclined tothink that he is irreplaceable.  He never was a one man machine, but his work is only possible because so many others are doing the first hand documentation work.


          Part of what makes Chomsky so emotionally exhausting to read is the dispassionate tone in which he recounts all these atrocities.  It’s not completely clinical—his writing is often dripping with sarcasm—but he never appears to give into rage, or outwardly emote sadness about the atrocities.  He just records everything and analyzes it.
            This has the effect of putting all the outrage and heartbreak squarely on the reader. 
            If the author lets his outrage show in his prose, I think this has a cathartic effect on the reader.  You no longer feel the need to be personally outraged, because you are comforted that someone else is feeling this anger for you.
            With Chomsky’s writing, there is no emotion, and consequently no catharsis.  All of the emotion for the atrocities must be absorbed by the reader.

            This is what makes a recent Salon.com article, so interesting: When Chomsky wept.
            I’ve linked to this article before, but it really should be read as a companion piece to At War With Asia since it gives the background for the Chomsky’s chapter on Laos.
            In the Salon.com article, Chomsky’s travelling companion reveals that Chomsky was human after all, and could allow himself to become overcome by emotion when confronted face-to-face with the stories of the Laotian refugees:

I was thus stunned when, as I was translating Noam’s questions and the refugees’ answers, I suddenly saw him break down and begin weeping. I was struck not only that most of the others I had taken out to the camps had been so defended against what was, after all, this most natural, human response. It was that Noam himself had seemed so intellectual to me, to so live in a world of ideas, words and concepts, had so rarely expressed any feelings about anything. I realized at that moment that I was seeing into his soul.

          Another one of Chomsky’s favorite techniques is to quote at length a government official, or someone from the mainstream media, and then show what these attitudes say about our society.  (This was a technique he also used quite extensively in his first book American Power and the New Mandarins.).

            In this book, Chomsky uses this technique on Professor Samuel Huntington (Chairman of the Department of Government of Harvard University) who has written in such clinical and dispassionate terms about the need to eliminate the peasants in South Vietnam.  Or Professor Ithiel Pool (Chairman of the Department of Political Science at MIT) who writes in clinical and dispassionate terms that large scale atrocities like the bombing of Hanoi can be accomplished without provoking dissension back home, but only if it is accomplished quickly.

            But perhaps the most striking example is Chomsky’s rebuttal of Townsend Hoopes.
            Hoopes, although he is somewhat forgotten nowadays, was a well-known figure during the Vietnam War (Wikipedia article HERE, New York Times Obituary HERE).  After having been in support of the war as Under-Secretary of the Air Force, Hoopes then became one of the most prominent critics of the Vietnam War, arguing that the cost in lives was not worth the effort.
            Although Chomsky and Hoopes are both critics of the same war, Chomsky is appalled by Hoopes attitudes, which Chomsky believes is indicative of how little distance actually separates the hawks from the doves in mainstream American commentary.

            Below is the section of Chomsky quoting Hoopes, and then responding to it.  (Quotations of Hoopes are in red, Chomsky’s responses are in black)

            Our early strategy, as Hoopes describes it, was to kill as many Viet Cong as possible with artillery and air strikes:

As late as the fall of 1966…a certain aura of optimism surrounded this strategy. Some were ready to believe that, in its unprecedented mobility and massive firepower, American forces had discovered the military answer to endless Asian manpower and Oriental indifference to death. For a few weeks there hung in the expectant Washington air the exhilarating possibility that the most modern, mobile, professional American field force in the nation’s history was going to lay to rest the time-honored superstition, the gnawing unease of military planners, that a major land war against Asian hordes is by definition a disastrous plunge into quicksand for any Western army

But this glorious hope was dashed. The endless manpower of Vietnam, the Asian hordes with their Oriental indifference to death, confounded our strategy. And our bombing of North Vietnam also availed us little, given the nature of the enemy. As Hoopes explains, quoting a senior United Army officer, “ Caucasians cannot really imagine what ant labor can do.” In short, our strategy was rational, but it presupposed civilized Western values:

We believe the enemy can be forced to be “reasonable,” i.e., to compromise or even capitulate, because we assume he wants to avoid pain, death, and material destruction. We assume that if these are inflicted on him with increasing severity, then at some point in the process he will want to stop the suffering. Ours is a plausible strategy—for those who are rich, who love life and fear pain. But happiness, wealth, and power are expectations that constitute a dimension far beyond the experience, and probably beyond the emotional comprehension, of the Asian poor.

Hoopes does not tell us how he knows that the Asian poor do not love life or fear pain, or that happiness is probably beyond their emotional comprehension. But he goes on to explain how “idealogues in Asia” make use of these characteristics of Asian hordes.  Their strategy is to convert  “Asia’s capacity for endurance in suffering into an instrument for exploiting a basic vulnerability of the Christian West.” They do this by inviting the West to “to carry its strategic logic to the final conclusion, which is genocide.” The Asians thus “defy us by a readiness to struggle, suffer and die on a scale that seems to us beyond the bounds of humanity….At that point we hesitate, for, remembering Hitler and Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we realize anew that genocide is a terrible burden to bear.”
            Thus, by their willingness to die, the Asian hordes, who do not love life, who fear no pain and cannot conceive of happiness, exploit our basic weakness—our Christian values which make us reluctant to bear the burden of genocide, the final conclusion of our strategic logic.  Is it really possible to read these passages without being stunned by their crudity and callousness?
(p. 229-230)

The Vietnam War: Then and Now
          I think a popular perception is that only with the passage of time can we clearly recognize the faults of history. For decades the nation was not able to get a clear moral perspective on the genocide of the Native Americans, slavery, and legal segregation.  However, with the passage of time, we can now obtain moral clarity on these issues, and repent our actions.
            It’s always somewhat surprising to me, then, to read Chomsky, or his contemporaries, from the Vietnam War era, and discover that people back in the 1960s and 1970s were actually more aware of the atrocities committed in Southeast Asia than my generation is.  Chomsky (and other contemporary writers) understood very clearly what was happening in Vietnam at the time.
            For those of us born after the Vietnam War, however, the version of the Vietnam War that we have been taught has been very sanitized.  It’s still regarded as a strategic error, but the benevolent intentions of the US government are never questioned, and the full scale of the atrocity of the war has been largely erased from history.

            Although this it is not taught in schools, the simple fact is the Vietnam War was an atrocity unparalleled in history.  Never before in history was any country so destroyed by bombing on such a massive scale.  Not even Japan and Germany combined was bombed as much as Vietnam.  One does not even have to be a polemicist to arrive at this conclusion—simply by the numbers, the fact is inarguable. 
            When one considers that all of these bombs were dropped on a third world country with a largely peasant population, you get an even greater sense of how brutal the War was.
            And this massive destruction of an entire country and peasant population by a bombing campaign unprecedented in history is now completely absent from our history books.

Personal Experiences
          Since I visited Hanoi two years ago myself, it was interesting to read Chomsky’s description of the city, and compare it with my own experiences.  Even though Chomsky and I were visiting the city 40 years apart, there were still some things that haven’t changed.
            Chomsky talks about how beautiful the city of Hanoi is, with its many lakes and parks.  (Or more precisely, he says: “Someday, if the war ends, Hanoi will be a beautiful city” (p.262)).  I too was struck by the beauty of the many lakes in Hanoi.
            And from page 205:
            The Vietnamese see their history as an unending series of struggles of resistance against aggression, by the Chinese, the Mongols, the Japanese, the French and now the Americans. Over and over this history was recounted to us. A dozen times we were told how the Chinese had been beaten back, how the Mongols, who conquered most of Asia and Europe, were unable to cross the Annam Mountains into Vietnam because of the fierce resistance of the Vietnamese peasants, unified, even in feudal times, in opposition to the aggressor. As the director of the Historical Museum led us through the exhibits, beginning with the Stone Age, the members of our entourage listened, with obvious fascination, to his account of the ancient culture and the details of each battle, each campaign. In the Military Museum, the same was true.
            This sounds very like the exhibits in the Museums I saw in Hanoi myself.

          I complained about the footnotes in a previous book review, so I suppose to be consistent I should complain about them here as well.
            Chomsky’s text is overloaded with footnotes (or more correctly, endnotes, since instead of being on the bottom of the page, you have to flip to the back of the chapter to follow the note.)
            The impulse of course is just to skip over the endnotes, rather than having to interrupt your reading every couple sentences to turn to the back of the book.
            Unfortunately, however, a lot of the key information, explanations and expansions of various points are hidden away in the endnotes, so you do miss a lot if you don’t follow them.
            Worse yet, several pages later Chomsky will then references in his main text information that he had hidden away in his endnotes, under the assumption that you had been following his endnotes all along. 
            Certainly Chomsky is not the only author guilty of this, but I really wish he had incorporated all his information into his main text, instead of hiding much of it in the endnotes.  Or, at the very least, used footnotes at the bottom of the page for any information he thought was important enough to reference later in the main text.

Quotes, Quotes, Quotes
         As I read this book I kept a pen handy and underlined any passages I thought were particularly important, shocking, or needed to be communicated to a wider audience.
            By the time I was done, I had just about underlined the whole book.
            I am tempted to reproduce here all of the passages that resonated with me, but that would be impossible.  Furthermore, it would be unnecessary, because all of these articles are available online, and so don’t particularly need to be reproduced on this blog to reach a wider audience.
            Nonetheless, for the sake of self-indulgence, I’ll still copy out a few of the passages that really struck me. even if I can’t quote everything that struck me.

            From page 230-231

            James Thomson, East Asian specialist at the Department of State and the White House between 1961 and 1966 has written
            an unprovable factor that relates to bureaucratic detachment: the ingredient of cryptoracism. I do not mean to imply any conscious contempt for Asian loss of life on the part of Washington officials. But I do mean to imply that bureaucratic detachment may well be compounded by a traditional Western sense that there are so many Asians after all; that Asians have a fatalism about life and a disregard for its loss; that they are cruel and barbaric to their own people, and that they are very different from us (and all look alike?). And I do mean to imply that the upshot of such subliminal views is a subliminal question whether Asians, and particularly Asian peasants, and most particularly Asian Communists, are really people—like you and me. To put the matter another way: would we have pursued quite such policies—and quite such military tactics—if the Vietnamese were white?”
            (James Thompson quoted in Chomsky, p. 230-231)


            From Page 61:
            [In response to an early antiwar demonstration in Boston, 1965]Richard Nixon wrote, in a letter to The New York Times, October 29 [1965] that “victory for the VietCong…would mean ultimately the destruction of speech for all men for all time not only in Asia but in the United States as well”—nothing less.

            This is typical of how every foreign war the United States ever fights is supposedly fought to protect freedom of speech.
            A few years back, during the Iraq War, a relative sent me a popular forwarded e-mail containing an apocryphal story in which an old lady puts a young anti-war woman in her place by telling the young woman that all the old lady’s relatives died in foreign wars so that the young woman could enjoy freedom of speech.  [The popular forwarded e-mail HERE on snopes.com]


            Speaking of the Iraq War, Chomsky’s description of Nixon’s failure to find the COSVN in Cambodia is reminiscent of George Bush’s failure to find WMDs in Iraq. (COSVN was the acronym for Central Office for South Vietnam—a mythical command center for the VietCong supposedly located in Cambodia, which was the raison d’etre  for the US invasion of Cambodia).

            From page 125:
            So far, the only failure [of the invasion of Cambodia] has been the inability to discover any of the main targets. The original goal of the American invasion, as President Nixon grandly announced at the outset, was to destroy the legendary COSVN, the Communist Pentagon, to which he pointed on the map as he spoke.  References to COSVN have now disappeared from briefings. “Despite periodic reports to the contrary, knowledgeable military sources say that no part of COSVN has been captured.” A writer for the Far Eastern Economic Review defines COSVN as a “hypothetical structure in the minds of frustrated American military planners in Saigon.”


From page 226:
            …Orville Schell quotes a Newsweek correspondent returning from Quang Ngai Province: “Having had experience in Europe during World War II, he said what he had seen was ‘much worse than what the Nazis had done to Europe.’” Schell adds, “Had he written about it in these terms? No.”


From page 33:
            The American War in Indochina has been based on two principles: physical destruction in areas that are beyond the reach of American troops, and the use of what are euphemistically called “population control measures” in areas that can be occupied by American forces or the forces that they train, supply, advise, and provide with air and artillery support. Since 1959 forced relocation has been undertaken to concentrate the population. Population removal through defoliation began in 1961, according to one Vietnamese witness. Long reports that “It proved easier to order fliers to spray crops from the air than to send in ground troops to force the people out by setting fire to their fields and houses.” Later, population removal was carried out largely by air and artillery bombardment, particularly after the establishment of vast free-fire zones. To put the matter in the simplest, most dispassionate terms, massacre and forced evacuation of the peasantry, combined with rigorous control over those forced under American rule, is the essence of American strategy in Vietnam.

            On page 72, Chomsky quotes from Japanese reporter Katsuichi Honda of the Asashi Shimbun (one of two major newspapers in Japan).

            He [Honda] describes for example the incessant attacks on undefended villages by [American] gunboats in the Mekong River and by helicopter gunships “firing away at random at farmhouses”:

            They seemed to fire whimsically and in passing even though they were not being shot at from the ground nor could they identify the people as NLF. They did it impulsively for fun, using the farmers for targets as if in a hunting mood. They are hunting Asians….This whimsical firing would explain the reason why the surgical wards in every hospital in the Mekong Delta were full of wounded

He is speaking, notice, of the Mekong Delta, where few North Vietnamese soldiers were identified until several months after the Tet offensive, where, according to American intelligence, there were 800 North Vietnamese before last summer; and, which contained some 40 percent of the population of South Vietnam prior to the American assault.


            When describing the desolation in South Vietnam:
            “In some cases the years of day-and-night bombing have changed the contours of the land and little streams form into lakes as they fill up mile after square mile of craters.  Above this desolation and along and just across the Cambodian frontier, the American helicopters and planes whirr continually, firing their guns and cannon, dropping their bombs.”
            (T.D. Allman, quoted in Chomsky, p. 96)


From page 69:
            American reporters have told us the same thing so often that is almost superfluous to quote. Tom Buckley—to mention only the most recent—describes the delta and the central lowlands:
            “…bomb craters beyond counting, the dead gray and black fields, forests that have been defoliated and scorched by napalm, land that has been plowed flat to destroy Vietcong hiding places. And everywhere can be seen the piles of ashes forming the outlines of huts and houses, to show where hamlets once stood.”

The truth about defoliants is only beginning to emerge, with the discovery that one of the two primary agents used is “potentially dangerous, but needing further study” while the other causes cancer and birth defects, and probably mental retardation. Both will continue to be used in Vietnam against enemy “training and regroupment centers”—i.e., anywhere we please, throughout the countryside.
            Of course it may be argued that the American government did not know, in 1961, that these agents were so dangerous. That is true. It was merely an experiment. Virtually nothing was known about what the effects might be. Perhaps there would be no ill effects, or perhaps—at the other extreme—Vietnam would become unfit for human life, or a race of mutants and mental retardates would be created. How could we know, without trying?


From page 93:
            The Cambodian Government White Paper of January 1970…covers events up until May 1969. Since then, there have been many further incidents. The American biologist Arthur Westing, who was investigating American defoliation in Cambodia…inspected the site of one such incident shortly after it occurred last November. He describes this as a “particularly vicious” case. A village was attacked, and houses, a school, livestock, a hospital marked with a giant red cross on its roof, and a well-marked ambulance trying to retrieve the wounded were all destroyed by bombs, rockets, and napalm. The ICC reported no evidence of the presence of Viet Cong, nor could the United States produce any photographic (or other) evidence, despite daily reconnaissance flights. The United States charge suggested that “our pilots must have lost their cool”—for about forty-eight hours.

From page 94:
            The American military does not recognize the right of others to defend their own territory from American attack or overflight, or to interfere with American plans by inhabiting areas that the United States government feels should be cratered or defoliated.  And when such people aggressively insist on these rights, the United States authorities feel free to react as they choose.  Where we have evidence, it appears that the American attacks on Cambodia were governed by such assumptions

            There’s a lot more in this book that I want to quote, but at some point I have to restrain myself.  So I’ll stop here.

Digression on My Lai
            This last point is a digression which is unrelated to Chomsky’s book, but on the subject of the My Lai Massacre.  (But since Chomsky writes in his book about the My Lai/Song My massacre, I’m justifying this digression).
             PBS American Experience did an excellent documentary on My Lai a couple years ago, which you can see on youtube HERE

            It’s a well done documentary, and well worth watching.
            One of the more haunting things I learned from that documentary is that the army had an official photographer who travelled along with them, so photos of the massacre were actually taken as it happened, including a photo of some old Vietnamese woman trying to shield their children, seconds before they were all massacred by US soldiers.
            See 34:20 on the video below for a description of how he took the photo.

            It’s a haunting photo.  I think the reason it haunts me is because it illustrates how only a few seconds can separate life from death.  You can see the faces of the children in the photo are terrified, but they are also clearly alive.  Only seconds later, everyone in this photo was massacred.

Link of the Day
Propaganda Terms in the Media and What They Mean
and Noam Chomsky: America hates its poor: Linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky on our country's brutal class warfare -- and why it's ultimately so one-sided

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