The main Nuremberg war crimes trials began in November 1945 and continued until October 1946. Rebecca West, who reported on the painfully slow proceedings for The New Yorker, described the courtroom as a “citadel of boredom.” But there were moments of drama: Hermann Göring under cross-examination running rings around the chief US prosecutor Robert H. Jackson, for example. Jackson’s opening statement, however, provided the trial’s most famous words: We must never forget that the record on which we judge these defendants today is the record on which history will judge us tomorrow. To pass these defendants a poisoned chalice is to put it to our own lips as well. We must summon such detachment and intellectual integrity to our task that this Trial will commend itself to posterity as fulfilling humanity’s aspirations to do justice. How well humanity lived up to these words, after a good number of bloody conflicts involving some of the same powers that sat in judgment on the Nazi leaders, is the subject of The Memory of Justice, the four-and-a-half-hour documentary that has rarely been seen since 1976 but is considered by its director, Marcel Ophuls, to be his best—even better, perhaps, than his more famous The Sorrow and the Pity (1969), about the Nazi occupation of France, the Vichy government, and the French Resistance.
Tag Archives: War
“This is a war against normal life.” So said CNN correspondent Clarissa Ward, describing the situation at this moment in Syria, as well as in other parts of the Middle East. It was one of those remarks that should wake you up to the fact that the regions the United States has, since September 2001, played such a role in destabilizing are indeed in crisis, and that this process isn’t just taking place at the level of failing states and bombed-out cities, but in the most personal way imaginable. It’s devastating for countless individuals — mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, brothers, sisters, friends, lovers — and above all for children.
Ward’s words caught a reality that grows harsher by the week, and not just in Syria, but in parts of Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya, among other places in the Greater Middle East and Africa. Death and destruction stalk whole populations in Syria and other crumbling countries and failed or failing states across the region. In one of those statistics that should stagger the imagination, devastated Syria alone accounts for more than five million of the estimated 21 million refugees worldwide. And sadly, these numbers do not reflect an even harsher reality: you only become a “refugee” by crossing a border. According to the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR), in 2015 there were another 44 million people uprooted from their homes who were, in essence, exiles in their own lands. Add those numbers together and you have one out of every 113 people on the planet — and those figures, the worst since World War II, may only be growing.
The details were horrific. Outside the besieged city of Mosul, 13,000 wounded civilians are today waiting for reconstructive surgery – from just this one seven-month battle. Another 5,000 Iraqi police militiamen are waiting for the same surgery from recent military offensives, in their case to be cared for by the Iraqi ministry of interior. But the health infrastructure that exists in the whole of Iraq cannot look after these wounded. As a result, some are turning up in Damascus – amid the frightfulness of the Syrian war – for the surgery they cannot obtain at home. A new graft in Damascus costs $200.In the balmy early summer of Beirut this week came these detailed new horrors of Middle East war. For beside the state-of-the-art American University Medical Centre in the city, doctors from across the region, from Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Palestine – along with the International Red Cross and Medecins Sans Frontieres – came to discuss their fears for the wounded and the sick and their conviction that drug-resistant bacteria are growing in hospitals in the Middle East. Just how to deal with this may be within the knowledge of the military medical authorities – but not within the hands of civilian doctors.
Talk to Bashar al-Assad’s enemies, and they’ll tell you he’s to blame for every man, woman and child who has been killed in Syria. That’s 400,000. Or 450,000. Or 500,000. The figures, so carelessly put together by the media, the UN and the various opposition groups who naturally want the statistics to be as high as possible, now embrace 100,000 souls who may – or may not – be still alive. But death tolls have nothing to do with compassion. They are about blame, about culpability.
And the claim that Assad is responsible for every one of the dead rests on the notion that he ‘started the war’. In his case, this means that the arrest and torture – and in one case, reported killing – of a group of schoolchildren who had written anti-regime graffiti on a wall in the southern city of Dera’a, was the ignition switch for the mass opposition rallies and subsequent armed uprising which has devastated Syria. In the case of Dera’a, Assad realised the seriousness of the event – he fired the city governor and sent his deputy foreign minister, Faisal Mekdad to see the families. Too late.
By Amy Goodman and Denis MoynihanDemocracy NowThe world is facing the most serious humanitarian catastrophe since the end of World War II. Twenty million people are at risk of starving to death in Yemen, Somalia, Nigeria and South Sudan.
Almost all human beings have the capacity for empathy. Everyone has the potential to be at least troubled, or feel genuine anguish, about the suffering of other human beings. We recognise that, like us, other humans have insecurities and ambitions; we fall in love and have relationships that end in heartbreak; we worry about our children’s wellbeing; we say things we regret; we’re occasionally kept awake by fears or worries; and we try to impress people we look up to. We see things in others that we see in ourselves, and that binds us together. But what happens when we no longer see a specific group as human?Calais’s refugee children are sleeping rough because of Tory policyRead moreIn Men Against Fire – the penultimate episode in Charlie Brooker’s extraordinary new Black Mirror series – soldiers are sent to mow down fanged, shrieking zombie-like “roaches”. They relish slaughtering them – they even derive sexual kicks from doing it. But the victims are actually human beings. It emerges that the soldiers have had implants inserted that – as far as they can see – transform their desperate civilian targets into bloodcurdling monsters deserving of no compassion. As a military psychiatrist tells a soldier distraught at discovering the truth: “Humans are genuinely empathetic as a species. We don’t want to kill each other, which is a good thing, until your future depends on wiping out the enemy.”
A single day of fighting in June 1859, among the vineyards and villages near Lake Garda, left 40,000 Italian, French and Austrian soldiers dead or wounded. The Battle of Solferino might have been remembered simply for its carnage, but for the presence of Henry Dunant. Dunant, a Swiss traveller, spent days tending the wounded and wrote a memoir that led to the founding of the Red Cross and to the first Geneva convention, signed by Europe’s great powers in 1864.
Solferino inspired the principle that hospitals and army medical personnel are not a legitimate target in war. Today, with the bombing of hospitals by the Russians in Syria, the Saudis in Yemen and the Americans in Afghanistan, those who provide medical aid in war believe that principle is in ruins.
The era of the West’s enthusiasm for military intervention is over. Two reports on Iraq and Libya—written from the heart of the British establishment and published recently—have delivered its obituary. Each is damning; together, they dismember the case for intervention in both its neocon and liberal-hawk variants. Although their focus is almost exclusively on decision-making within Whitehall—the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), the Ministry of Defence, and, above all, No. 10 Downing Street—Americans will recognize many of the same ills afflicting their own government.
The 2003 Iraq invasion arose from the hubris of neoconservatives. Its ostensible targets: weapons of mass destruction and terrorism. Its ambition: to spread democracy and American-style corporate capitalism. It was long planned, but not, it seems, well planned. Many liberals opposed the Iraq intervention because they disliked its architect and suspected its motives. But they still believed that Western, and especially U.S., military power, used assertively, could make the world a better place.
Dr. Muhamed brought the baby girl into the world in the midst of a war zone in southern Syria. A few hours later, his hospital lay in ruins.The baby’s tiny head shimmered, she blinked her eyes and her first cry sounded light but strong. It was a difficult birth and the mother needed blood from the rare O-negative group. Dr. Muhamed issued a call for blood donors at his city’s mosque — and that was when the catastrophe began.Their rotors pounding loudly, helicopters approached the hospital that evening and the first barrel bombs struck the operating room, injuring dozens of patients. The call for blood donations had led the Syrian regime to believe that a large number of enemy rebels was being treated in Muhamed’s hospital.
Here, lying in a stained carton, are notes on a refugee camp in Tanzania, where surviving Tutsis and their Hutu enemies lived side by side in blue tarp tents. It is 1994. The notes record that there are people everywhere, milling and moving in short parades on the main path in the camp, hastily constructed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Women wear colorful cloths, khangas, and carry yellow plastic containers of water on their heads. Children and old men push up against one another, as if at a bargain sale. They hold portable radios to their ears. A man in a brown rain hat drags a reluctant goat by a rope. White smoke mixes with the smells of fresh earth and excrement. At an outdoor butcher shop, a cow’s bloodied horn lies beside the animal’s astonished head. I greet a group of young Hutus in French. “Did you participate in the killings?,” I ask. “We did nothing,” one says. “Did you see others do the killing?” He says, “We saw nothing.” I ask, “How many Tutsis are left in Rwanda, do you think?” A teenage boy wearing a green baseball cap grins, and slowly draws the side of his index finger across his throat.