Todd in Baghdad with the North Dakota National Guard during the Iraq War

Explicit.
Todd served at Camp Slayer in Baghdad with the 164th Engineer Battalion, Headquarters Company, of the North Dakota Army National Guard in 2007 and 2008.
Recorded in 2011 in Todd’s home in North Dakota while looking at Baghdad on Google Maps and at his photos, with the television in the background.
Todd’s recollections are filled with charm and dark humor, wonder and sudden horror.
-The Voice before the Void

Todd in Baghdad with the North Dakota National Guard during the Iraq War

Sections:
1. Stray Bullet
2. We Didn’t Have a Bunker, We Didn’t Have Shit
3. Victory Over America Palace
4. One Night with the Wrecker
5. Work Area
6. All Demolished
7. Patriot Missile Launcher
8. They Were Trying to Hit That but They Could Never Hit It
9. What Kind of a Damn Tree Is This?
10. Quick Response Force
11. Weird Bunch of Boys
12. Our Flags
13. Blimp
14. Orange Sandstorms
15. Crammed in There
16. Little Fox
17. Towers and a Firefight
18. Destroyed Vehicles
19. Up-armored Humvees
20. Totally Destroyed the Shit but What Are You Going to Do?
21. Civilian Peterbilt
22. Convoys
23. Trouble
24. They’d Get Nailed
25. They Had It Rough but They Had It Made
26. Firing Range in Kuwait
27. Camels
28. Flying in a Tanker
29. Loaded to the Max

2004 January unfinished Victory Over America Palace Camp Slayer Baghdad Iraq War Saddam Hussein Al Radwaniyah Presidential Complex photo by Khartoba

“A highly successful raid” by R.L. Johnson and The Voice before the Void

The spectacle of that woman’s grief being exploited in the U.S. Capitol embarrassed me and disgusted me; commentators and newsreaders describing it as “moving” amplified my revulsion. The commonplace exaltation of murdered military personnel paired with the commonplace disregard of militarily murdered people remains perpetually disappointing… and embarrassing, and disgusting.
-The Voice before the Void

“A highly successful raid”

R.L. Johnson and The Voice before the Void

Children and Ryan Owens fall dying,
the dust turning to soft mud in their eyes;
amid gunshots and wailing and crying,
the Devil alone can claim any prize.
The sounds of the battle are but distant,
the flashes of light dim and far away;
young lives pass into death nonexistent:
I read it all in the fake news today.

“America First” is clearly the motto
as bold leaders call Owens a hero
and make a spectacle of his widow,
so Americans snack and play the lotto
as their soldiers die for ol’ PepsiCo
and Yemeni children die for nothing.

“You and the Atom Bomb” by George Orwell

Orwell logically and accurately predicted the Cold War – and creeping tyranny.
-The Voice before the Void

“You and the Atom Bomb”

George Orwell

Considering how likely we all are to be blown to pieces by it within the next five years, the atomic bomb has not roused so much discussion as might have been expected. The newspapers have published numerous diagrams, not very helpful to the average man, of protons and neutrons doing their stuff, and there has been much reiteration of the useless statement that the bomb ‘ought to be put under international control.’ But curiously little has been said, at any rate in print, about the question that is of most urgent interest to all of us, namely: ‘How difficult are these things to manufacture?’ Continue reading

Money for the Machinery of Human Slaughter by Charles Edward Jefferson

U.S. Inauguration Day:
The portentousness can be petrifying.
As the First World War was obliterating millions of lives in Europe, before the United States entered that war, military “preparedness” was a key political topic in the U.S.: Should a nation presently at peace prepare for potential future war?
Clergyman Jefferson argues here that to refuse to arm yourself against your fellow humans is an act of pure strength; to arm yourself, an act of pure fear; and, Clergyman Jefferson writes, “Christians” ought have nobler emotions than fear to motivate their actions.
Genuine “Christian” morality of uncompromising pacifism and self-sacrificing charity – pacifism even when your enemies murder you; charity even when you starve – is as powerful and as impressive and as deserving of veneration as it is rare to find publicly expressed, either eloquently or vulgarly; and, where expressed, it can be expected to be popularly ignored if not outright derided.
Clergyman Jefferson also writes that if you “create a war machine,” you cannot know who will use it, nor whether the next U.S. president will be a “megalomaniac… who, when he wants a thing, takes it.”
-The Voice before the Void

Money for the Machinery of Human Slaughter

from “Military Preparedness a Danger to Democracy”

Charles Edward Jefferson

published in The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 1916 July

edited by William Dudley and The Voice before the Void

“Why We Do Not Behave Like Human Beings” by Ralph Adams Cram, with Discussion

U.S. Inauguration Day:
“All the multiple manifestations of a free and democratic society fail of their predicted issue, and we find ourselves lapped in confusion and numb with disappointment and chagrin.”

“Why We Do Not Behave Like Human Beings”

Ralph Adams Cram

The Ancient doctrine of progressive evolution which became dominant during the last half of the nineteenth century, was, I suggest, next to the religious and philosophical dogmas of Dr. Calvin and the political and social doctrines of M. Rousseau, the most calamitous happening of the last millennium. In union with Protestantism and democracy, and apparently justified in its works by the amazing technological civilization fostered by coal, iron, steam and electricity, it is responsible for the present estate of society, from which there is no escape, it would seem, except through comprehensive calamity. Continue reading

“Charlie Brown and Franz Stigler incident” from Wikipedia

Charlie Brown and Franz Stigler Incident Anniversary:
War is a crime and war stories are horrific, but any story of mercy is a great story; any story that humanizes an enemy is a great story; and any story of friendship is a great story. This story is triply great.
-The Voice before the Void

“Charlie Brown and Franz Stigler incident”

Wikipedia

The Charlie Brown and Franz Stigler incident occurred on the 20th of December, 1943, when, after a successful bomb run on Bremen, 2nd Lt. Charles “Charlie” Brown’s B-17 Flying Fortress (named “Ye Olde Pub”) was severely damaged by German fighters. Luftwaffe ace Franz Stigler had the opportunity to shoot down the crippled bomber, but for humane reasons, he decided to allow the crew to fly back to England. After an extensive search by Brown, the two pilots met each other over 40 years later and developed a friendship that lasted until Stigler’s death in March 2008.

1. Pilots

2nd Lt. Charles L. “Charlie” Brown (“a farm boy from Weston, West Virginia,” in his own words) was a B-17F pilot with the 379th Bombardment Group of the United States Army Air Forces’ 8th Air Force, stationed at RAF Kimbolton in England. Franz Stigler, a former airline pilot from Bavaria, was a veteran Luftwaffe fighter pilot attached to Jagdgeschwader 27; at the time, he had 22 aerial victories to his name and would be eligible for the coveted Knight’s Cross with one more downed enemy bomber. Continue reading

“Train of thoughts (Tren de pensamientos)” by Alsazzi Terrato

“Obligaciones que no se quieren cumplir…”

http://www.poemas-del-alma.com/blog/mostrar-poema-1211

“Train of thoughts”

Alsazzi Terrato

translated from the Spanish by the author and The Voice before the Void

Houseplants, “well trimmed nails.”
street and documents… a little Dr. Pepper over sterile soil…
blind men and federales…
red Mustang, torn bills and blood… dried blood on leather seats… Continue reading

“Lament” by Wilfrid Wilson Gibson

Armistice Day:
Survivor’s guilt – and we are all survivors, and are all guilty for all of war.
-The Voice before the Void

“Lament”

Wilfrid Wilson Gibson

We who are left, how shall we look again
Happily on the sun, or feel the rain, Continue reading

“Ronald Skirth” from Wikipedia

Armistice Day:
The only type of war hero worthy of veneration.
-The Voice before the Void

“Ronald Skirth”

Wikipedia

John Ronald Skirth (11 December 1897 – 1977) served in the Royal Garrison Artillery during the First World War. His experiences during the Battle of Messines and the Battle of Passchendaele led him to resolve not to take human life, and for the rest of his army service he made deliberate errors in targeting calculations to try to ensure the guns of his battery missed their aiming point on the first attempt, giving the enemy a chance to evacuate. Many years later, after retiring from a career as a teacher, he wrote a memoir of his years in the army, describing his disillusionment with the conduct of the war and his conversion to pacifism. In 2010 the memoir was published as The Reluctant Tommy, edited by Duncan Barrett.

1. Early life and war service

Skirth was born in Chelmsford and grew up in Bexhill-on-Sea. In the First World War, having volunteered for the British Army under the Derby Scheme, and having requested that the process be expedited, he was called up in October 1916, two months before his 19th birthday. Continue reading

“A Good War” by Lord Dunsany

Armistice Day:
Such is every war.
-The Voice before the Void

“A Good War”

from Unhappy Far-off Things

Lord Dunsany

Nietzsche said, “You have heard that a good cause justifies any war, but I say unto you that a good war justifies any cause.”

A man was walking alone over a plain so desolate that, if you have never seen it, the mere word desolation could never convey to you the melancholy surroundings that mourned about this man on his lonely walk. Far off a vista of trees followed a cheerless road all dead as mourners suddenly stricken dead in some funereal procession. By this road he had come; but when he had reached a certain point he turned from the road at once, branching away to the left, led by a line of bushes that may once have been a lane. For some while his feet had rustled through long neglected grass; sometimes he lifted them up to step over a telephone wire that lolled over old entanglements and bushes; often he came to rusty strands of barbed wire and walked through them where they had been cut, perhaps years ago, by huge shells; Continue reading

“Patterns” by Amy Lowell

Armistice Day:
A celebrated poem about the Flanders Campaign of the British army during the War of the First Coalition, written and published during the First World War as the British army was fighting in Flanders.
-The Voice before the Void

“Patterns”

Amy Lowell

I walk down the garden paths,
And all the daffodils
Are blowing, and the bright blue squills.
I walk down the patterned garden-paths
In my stiff, brocaded gown.
With my powdered hair and jewelled fan,
I too am a rare
Pattern. As I wander down Continue reading

“The March” by J.C. Squire

Armistice Day
World War I poetry, in commemoration of all wars

“The March”

J.C. Squire

I heard a voice that cried, “Make way for those who died!”
And all the coloured crowd like ghosts at morning fled;
And down the waiting road, rank after rank there strode,
In mute and measured march a hundred thousand dead. Continue reading

“The Dancers” by Wilfrid Wilson Gibson

Armistice Day:
Beauty drawn from the murder of millions, and I cannot handle this beauty, I cannot handle this beauty.
-The Voice before the Void

“The Dancers”

Wilfrid Wilson Gibson

All day beneath the hurtling shells
Before my burning eyes
Hover the dainty demoiselles–
The peacock dragon-flies.

Unceasingly they dart and glance
Above the stagnant stream–
And I am fighting here in France
As in a senseless dream– Continue reading

“Paris is Full of Russians” by Ernest Hemingway

October Revolution Anniversary
and
U.S. Election Day:
Ever is there political turmoil; ever are there displaced people.
-The Voice before the Void

“Paris is Full of Russians”

Ernest Hemingway

Toronto Star, 1922 February 25

Paris.

Paris is full of Russians at present. The Russian ex-aristocracy are scattered all over Europe, running restaurants in Rome, tearooms on Capri, working as hotel porters in Nice and Marseilles and as laborers along the Mediterranean shipping centers. But those Russians who managed to bring some money or possessions with them seem to have flocked to Paris.

They are drifting along in Paris in a childish sort of hopefulness that things will somehow be all right, Continue reading

“Darkness” by Lord Byron

Halloween:
Ineluctably, the world shall end.
-The Voice before the Void

ca-1825-jmw-turner-barnard-castle-watercolor
“Darkness”

Lord Byron

I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguished, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy Earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;
Morn came and went—and came, and brought no day,
And men forgot their passions in the dread
Of this their desolation; and all hearts
Were chilled into a selfish prayer for light:
And they did live by watchfires—and the thrones,
The palaces of crownéd kings—the huts,
The habitations of all things which dwell,
Were burnt for beacons; cities were consumed,
And men were gathered round their blazing homes
To look once more into each other’s face; Continue reading

“Born in the U.S.A.” by Bruce Springsteen

U.S. Independence Day:
A popular poet subverts patriotism.
-The Voice before the Void

“Born in the U.S.A.”

Bruce Springsteen

Born down in a dead man’s town
The first kick I took was when I hit the ground
You end up like a dog that’s been beat too much
Till you spend half your life just covering up

Born in the U.S.A.
I was born in the U.S.A.

Got in a little hometown jam
So they put a rifle in my hands
Sent me off to a foreign land
To go and kill the yellow man Continue reading

3 Lakota Heroes: Red Cloud, Gall, and Crazy Horse by Charles Eastman

Battle of the Little Bighorn Anniversary:
June 25 is the anniversary of the great victory. As of 2016, it’s been only 140 years.
From one of his popular books, here presented are dramatic biographies of three men by the Dakota writer Ohiyesa, more widely known as Charles Eastman.
-The Voice before the Void

3 Lakota Heroes: Red Cloud, Gall, and Crazy Horse

from Indian Heroes and Great Chieftains

Charles Eastman

“Red Cloud”

The Sioux were now entering upon the most stormy period of their history. The old things were fast giving place to new. The young men, for the first time engaging in serious and destructive warfare with the neighboring tribes, armed with the deadly weapons furnished by the white man, began to realize that they must soon enter upon a desperate struggle for their ancestral hunting grounds. The old men had been innocently cultivating the friendship of the stranger, saying among themselves, “Surely there is land enough for all!”

1865-1880 - Sioux - Red Bear, Young Man Afraid of his Horses, Good Voice, Ring Thunder, Iron Crow, White Tail, Spotted Tail, Yellow Bear, Red Cloud, Big Road, Little Wound, Black CrowRed Cloud was a modest and little-known man of about twenty-eight years when General [William S.] Harney called all the western bands of Sioux together at Fort Laramie, Wyoming, for the purpose of securing an agreement and right of way through their territory. The Ogallalas held aloof from this proposal, but Bear Bull, an Ogallala chief, after having been plied with whisky, undertook to dictate submission to the rest of the clan. Enraged by failure, he fired upon a group of his own tribesmen, and Red Cloud’s father and brother fell dead. According to Indian custom, it fell to him to avenge the deed. Calmly, without uttering a word, he faced old Bear Bull and his son, who attempted to defend his father, and shot them both. Continue reading

“The Rainbow” by Leslie Coulson

World War I:
Soldier’s war poetry. Crushing, wrenching, unmatchable poetry.
-The Voice before the Void

“The Rainbow”

Leslie Coulson

Watch the white dawn gleam,
To the thunder of hidden guns.
I hear the hot shells scream
Through skies as sweet as a dream
Where the silver dawn-break runs.
And stabbing of light
Scorches the virginal white.
But I feel in my being the old, high, sanctified thrill,
And I thank the gods that the dawn is beautiful still.

From death that hurtles by
I crouch in the trench day-long,
But up to a cloudless sky
From the ground where our dead men lie
A brown lark soars in song.
Through the tortured air,
Rent by the shrapnel’s flare,
Over the troubleless dead he carols his fill,
And I thank the gods that the birds are beautiful still.

Where the parapet is low
And level with the eye
Poppies and cornflowers glow
And the corn sways to and fro
In a pattern against the sky.
The gold stalks hide
Bodies of men who died
Charging at dawn through the dew to be killed or to kill.
I thank the gods that the flowers are beautiful still.

When night falls dark we creep
In silence to our dead.
We dig a few feet deep
And leave them there to sleep —
But blood at night is red,
Yea, even at night,
And a dead man’s face is white.
And I dry my hands, that are also trained to kill,
And I look at the stars — for the stars are beautiful still.

“Under Fire (Breakfast)” by Wilfrid Wilson Gibson

World War I:
Influential early poetry of the war.
-The Voice before the Void

“Under Fire”

(later retitled “Breakfast”)

Wilfrid Wilson Gibson

We eat our breakfast lying on our backs,
Because the shells were screeching overhead.
I bet a rasher to a loaf of bread
That Hull United would beat Halifax
When Jimmy Stainthorpe played full-back instead Continue reading

“The Wind in the Trees” by S. Donald Cox

World War I:
Soldier’s war poetry.

“The Wind in the Trees”

S. Donald Cox

Wind! Wind! what do you bring?
With the whirling flake and the flying cloud?
A victor’s bays and a song to sing?
—Nay, but a hero’s shroud!

Wild wind! what do you bear—
A song of the men who fought and fell,
A tale of the strong to do and dare?
—Aye, and a tolling bell!

Wind! wind! what do you see—
The flying flags and the soldiers brave,
The marching men, the bold and free?
—Nay, but a new-dug grave! Continue reading

First chapter of A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

World War I:
A work unto itself, the first chapter of A Farewell to Arms is a great war story.
Like other works of devastating power, it can serve as a denunciation of the societal institution of war.
Like other of Hemingway’s works, it is constructed with a punchline.
The immensity of war’s tragedy arrives with the realization that the incident referenced is but one of many incidents, of many wars.
-The Voice before the Void

First chapter of A Farewell to Arms

Ernest Hemingway

Fair use of the text is claimed under U.S. copyright law for the purposes of education and commentary.

“Song of the Zeppelin” by Violet D. Chapman

World War I:
During the First World War, Zeppelins bombed cities in France, Britain, Belgium, Russia, Greece, Romania, and Italy.
-The Voice before the Void

“Song of the Zeppelin”

Violet D. Chapman

The night-wind is humming,
My engines are thrumming,
Swift as a spark
Through the night and the dark
I am silently speeding;
Hovering grim and gray
Over my human prey,
Sowing the seeds of dearth
Over the stricken earth,
Where nations lie bleeding. Continue reading

“A Balloon Attack” by James Norman Hall

World War I:
American volunteer pilots in the Lafayette Escadrille of the French air service target German observation balloons behind enemy lines in Hall’s wry – and, at times, beautiful – first-hand account of flying in the First World War.
-The Voice before the Void

“A Balloon Attack”

from High Adventure: A Narrative of Air Fighting in France

James Norman Hall

“I’m looking for two balloonatics,” said Talbott, as he came into the messroom; “and I think I’ve found them.”

Percy, Talbott’s orderly, Tiffin the steward, Drew, and I were the only occupants of the room. Percy is an old légionnaire, crippled with rheumatism. His active service days are over. Tiffin’s working hours are filled with numberless duties. He makes the beds, and serves food from three to five times daily to members of the Escadrille Lafayette. These two being eliminated, the identity of the balloonatics was plain.

“The orders have just come,” Talbott added, “and I decided that the first men I met after leaving the bureau would be balloonatics. Virtue has gone into both of you. Now, if you can make fire come out of a Boche sausage, you will have done all that is required. Listen. This is interesting. The orders are in French, but I will translate as I read:—

On the umteenth day of June, the escadrilles of Groupe de Combat Blank [that’s ours] will cooperate in an attack on the German observation balloons Continue reading

“Who Made the Law?” by Leslie Coulson

World War I:
Soldier’s war poetry.

“Who Made the Law?”

Leslie Coulson

Who made the Law that men should die in meadows?
Who spake the word that blood should splash in lanes?
Who gave it forth that gardens should be bone-yards?
Who spread the hills with flesh, and blood, and brains?
Who made the Law?

Who made the Law that Death should stalk the village?
Who spake the word to kill among the sheaves,
Who gave it forth that death should lurk in hedgerows,
Who flung the dead among the fallen leaves?
Who made the Law?

Those who return shall find that peace endures,
Find old things old, and know the things they knew,
Walk in the garden, slumber by the fireside,
Share the peace of dawn, and dream amid the dew —
Those who return.

Those who return shall till the ancient pastures,
Clean-hearted men shall guide the plough-horse reins,
Some shall grow apples and flowers in the valleys,
Some shall go courting in summer down the lanes —
THOSE WHO RETURN.

But who made the Law? the Trees shall whisper to him:
“See, see the blood — the splashes on our bark!”
Walking the meadows, he shall hear bones crackle,
And fleshless mouths shall gibber in silent lanes at dark.
Who made the Law?

Who made the Law? At noon upon the hillside
His ears shall hear a moan, his cheeks shall feel a breath,
And all along the valleys, past gardens, crofts, and homesteads,
HE who made the Law,
He who made the Law,
He who made the Law shall walk along with Death.

“Dulce et Decorum Est” by Wilfred Owen

World War I
“Sweet and fitting it is
To die for one’s country.”
Poem emblematic of the First World War, and of all war.
-The Voice before the Void

“Dulce et Decorum Est”

Wilfred Owen

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! –  An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning. Continue reading