AuthorTopic: Never Stop Running, Napalm Girl  (Read 49061 times)

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Never Stop Running, Napalm Girl
« on: September 18, 2013, 02:10:46 AM »

Off the keyboard of Ray Jason


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Published on The Sea Gypsy Philosopher on September 9, 2013


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The Sea was mild and soothing as I sailed alone in the western reaches of the Caribbean.  It had been four days since my last human contact.  Such exile does not disturb me – it comforts me.  The wind was light, and the waves were small and melodious – like the cello phrase in a string quartet.


          Although quite relaxed, I was also vigilant, because my position was near the busy shipping lanes between the Panama Canal and the Yucatan Channel.  Suddenly, I sensed a nearby hazard.  My first scan of the horizon revealed nothing.  On my second, more careful sweep, I saw her – a gray smudge of a ship, still half below the undulating cusp of the Earth.  I took my binoculars from their rack and focused them.  What I saw slammed me backwards – both physically and emotionally.   She was one of them – a gray, military transport vessel that was all too familiar to me.  I had served aboard one – a U.S. Navy ammunition ship in Vietnam.


                                    *******

I had not willingly done so.  I had been drafted just after receiving my bachelor’s degree.  My first decision was whether to flee to Canada, as my courageous college roommate had done, or to let them take me.  My next choice was between a two year Army enlistment or the four-year Navy sentence.  Wishing to neither kill nor be killed because of anyone’s insipid “domino theory,” I chose the USN.  As someone who survived higher education with my capacity for critical thinking still intact, I already knew that war was horrible and this particular one was senseless and despicable.  I was not an ideal recruit.

          The toughest part of my service was being a closet pacifist aboard a ship full of gung-ho, pseudo-warriors.  And these were the worst kind – the swaggering, macho types, who had the luxury of never facing any real combat.  I kept my secret to myself, just as I kept my self to myself.  In fact, I do not have a single friend from that chapter of my life.  When I would go ashore and meet actual soldiers, they were not gung-ho at all.  They were beaten down and regretful and frightened – and wanted only to be away from there…to be home…to be far from all that madness.

          I never talk about this with my friends.  And it rarely enters my consciousness.  But that dark ship on the horizon, transporting munitions and mutilation to who knows which target this time, just staggered me.  To ease my anguish, I tried the comfort of my favorite classical music.  It didn’t work, and neither did dousing myself with buckets of sea water.  Although I resisted, I knew that the only way out of my agony was to burrow deeper into it.


                                   *******

So I brought out her picture.  I keep it protected in an envelope hidden in one of my favorite books.  I unfolded it tenderly, and gazed one more time at all the evil, meaningless terror of war captured in a single frozen instant from 40 years ago.  I spoke to her once more as I had done many other times down the decades, when I needed solace:

“Hello again, Napalm Girl.  Keep on running!  There must be some place, somewhere, free from this horror and insanity.  You must find that place.  You deserve that place.  Never stop running!!!”

          She is crying out, “Too hot!  Too hot!” as she flees.  Grotesque flaming jelly from the sky has burned most of the little dress from her nine year old body.  The rest she ripped off herself as she kept running and screaming “I’m dying!  I’m dying!”

When the heroic photographer got to her, she was whimpering, “Water, water.”  He emptied his canteen on her.  With ferocious determination, through insane traffic, he managed to get her to a hospital in Saigon.  They said she was so badly burned that she would never live and they would not accept her.  He flashed his Associated Press photo credentials and said, “Don’t let this child die or everyone will hear about it!”  They took her in.  And they saved her.

That Vietnamese photographer, Nick Ut, deeply understood the ravages of war.  His older brother, who was his personal hero, had already died photographing the misery of combat.  When Nick answered the call of basic human decency, and rescued that terrified little girl, he had no idea that on the film in his camera was one of the most profound and powerful photographs of all time.  He was only 19 years old.

Even though the immortal Napalm Girl picture touches me in my core being, it is the one with her mother sitting beside her in the hospital that truly haunts me.  The woman’s quiet dignity as she comforts her innocent frightened child overwhelms me.  In her noble, image, I can see what an almost unbearable burden but blessing it is to be a Woman, and to be a Mother, in this world of torment.  And it sickens me to realize that it is almost always men that cause this needless anguish.

Decades later, I can still imagine their likely conversation as the child asks the mother, “What was that horrible fire that fell from the sky?”

And the mom might reply, “It was some terrible new weapon – like a bomb, but different.”

“But why did they drop it on us?” asks the little girl.  “We were just children and old people hiding in the temple from the planes.  We didn’t hurt anybody!”

My guess is that the heroic mother, overwhelmed with grief by the sight of her incinerated child, might have said something like this.  “I do not know the answer, my beautiful daughter.  But I do know that you survived this horrible thing, and your pain will go away and you will heal.  And someday, life will be sweet and sensible again.  Now, try to go to sleep, and when you awake, I will be right here beside you.”


                               *******












 
Kim with one of her children.

The dark gray death ship passed a few miles ahead of me, and has now disappeared beyond the horizon.  But even though it is no longer visible, its malignancy still torments me.  I stare again at little Kim’s photo in my hands, and ask myself, “How can I best honor her suffering?”  And then I realize that what makes her pain-wracked image so universal and so immortal is that it lays bare the true nature of war.  And that the best way to repay my gratitude, is to use my power as a writer, to further expose this loathsome evil.




                              *******

Tragically, as I type these words, the war drums are beating again.  The Deceiver-in-Chief has scheduled a national address in which he will knowingly lie about the need for this latest “regrettable but necessary action.”  Then the commentators will babble on about “sufficient justification” and “reprisals” and “surgical strikes.  But they will never discuss what war actually is.  And that is because, at its core, it is sick and perverted and senseless.

If someone invades your home and threatens your family, it is your right and your responsibility to protect them, even if it necessitates violence.  This type of personal duty is decent, courageous and just.  But war is the killing of human beings with whom we have no personal grievance.  War is Mass Psychotic Hypnosis.  But it is never initiated by ordinary people.  One morning at breakfast, a million Norwegians do not spontaneously decide that it would be a good idea to invade Ireland that afternoon.

No, this type of insanity can only be seeded and nurtured by certifiable sociopaths.  Unfortunately, we don’t call them lunatics, and banish them to asylums.  Instead we anoint them as political and religious leaders.  These diseased power addicts use cold-blooded manipulation to convince enormous groups of people that other groups of people are their enemies…and so they must go forth…and annihilate them.













 
Nick and Kim at the Vietnam Vets Memorial.

Here is another truth about war that the self-righteous, talking heads deliberately avoid.  Those who make the wars never have to fight the wars.  The Great Deciders will never be in a night ambush, where the fear is so overpowering that their bodily control abandons them, and they shit themselves.  And the defense contractors, engorged on obscene profits, will never have to kick open a mud hut door after strafing it with automatic weapons fire, and discover a heap of dead children beneath a wounded mother, who is so traumatized that she cannot even scream.  And the media tycoons cheerleading for more carnage, will never rush to the flag-draped coffin of a dead son or daughter and wrap themselves around it in fury as the military band tries to sound heroic.



And here is yet another profound truth that the acceptable, credentialed pundits never state:  War doesn’t work!  It never makes the world a better place.  For thousands of years, humanity has waged hundreds of wars, but they never achieve their supposedly noble ideals.  They never “end all wars” or “bring everlasting peace” or “insure self-determination” or any of the dozen other excuses that are used to incite people to massacre one another.  What it does succeed at doing is bringing misery, murder, mutilation and madness to ordinary, decent people.

So listen carefully as the highly paid military and political analysts parade across your television screens, proclaiming the need for this latest “kinetic action.”  Observe how these shrewd distorters evade the three paramount characteristics of war that I have just discussed.  None of them will address what war really is.  Nor will they mention that those who benefit from war do not suffer its horrors.  And finally, they will not admit that war never brings good into the world and is actually a plague that sickens the human project.


                              *******


Recognizing that war is Mass Psychotic Hypnosis, how do we overcome those who mesmerize us?   How do we break free from their spell?  Certainly our liberation will not come from those at the top.  War rewards them too handsomely.

We must rely on our numbers.  We are many, they are few.  When the chant from the anti-Vietnam protests, “Hell, no…we won’t go!” became a reality and not just a slogan, the war machine sputtered and died.  Refusal is our best strategy.  We must refuse to serve in their militaries or in their terror cells.  We must refuse to resolve disputes through violence.  And if they incarcerate us for our resistance, that is a better fate than killing someone who is not an enemy.  And when enough of us refuse, their prisons are not large enough to hold us.


I am perfectly mindful that such thinking is idealistic and foolhardy, but perhaps it will inspire others to come forth with better options for ending war.  Yet, even if such ideals are useless, we must try – if for no other reason than to honor Kim Phuc, the Napalm Girl.


We must sculpt a world where an innocent little girl does not have to race down a road with the flesh peeling off her body, trying to outrun her own death!


*****


I urge you to visit www.kimfoundation.com.  Dedicated to helping other children who are victims of war. Almost every day something utterly insipid “goes viral” on the World Wide Web.  Perhaps we can help spread this little essay at this critical time when the war drums are again thundering Inside the Beltway.  By doing so, we can all honor the Napalm Girl.




Offline Karpatok

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Re: Never Stop Running, Napalm Girl
« Reply #1 on: September 18, 2013, 03:27:17 AM »
Ray you have written an extremely moving and beautiful story about the horrors and exploitation of war. It is wonderful to see that at least Kim survived to become that beautiful women with a child of her own. What a fine looking couple, Nick and Kim. I remember well the Vietnam war and how I declined the march at the Pentagon because it was in August and my first child was due in September. I had seen the police club pregnant women in previous demonstrations so I was not about to let let them club me in the belly though just the week before I had been sorely tempted to pound McGeorge Bundy with my fist at American University in DC where a friend had him by the collar. Now they say that public demonstrations helped to end that war. I don't know if that is true, but I do know that other engagements soon took its place. And that is why I believe that there has to be some other answer than demonstrations. You explained quite well the types of people making war and making big bucks from war.  I say there has to be some kind of neurological evolution before it might stop, and that I will never live to see. You, sensitive as you are, may as well know that people around here believe in the biological imperative, and that of course involves males killing males for territory and the sheer thrill of flaunting their well muscled antlers. Any women or children in the way of course are mere collateral damage. Ditto the environment, the planet and anything else expendable. I must tell you that I don't have much hope anymore. I really don't see the human species or any other species surviving this lust for death and extinction. But here's to you anyway, a beautiful man in a beautiful boat with the right ideas. Karpatok

Offline RE

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Re: Never Stop Running, Napalm Girl
« Reply #2 on: September 18, 2013, 04:06:55 AM »
WAR WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR,


RE
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Offline Surly1

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Re: Never Stop Running, Napalm Girl
« Reply #3 on: September 18, 2013, 10:05:49 AM »
Ray, this is one of the most extraordinary pieces of writing ever to be found here. Deeply moving and truly affecting.

I am glad you are here.
"...reprehensible lying communist..."

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Re: Never Stop Running, Napalm Girl
« Reply #4 on: September 18, 2013, 04:37:19 PM »
Wars never succeed?

They never succeed because they never end.  The wanton destruction of life in one generation doesn't prevent it in the next one.  There is no "War to End All Wars".  When Hitler disappears from the scene killing Jewish children, Obama reappears later killing Syrian children.

As the WOPR said in "War Games"

"The Only Way to Win is Not to Play"


That scene from War Games


RE

Note: I am having the same embedding problem now others mentioned with the You Tube vids.
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Offline jdwheeler42

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Re: Never Stop Running, Napalm Girl
« Reply #5 on: September 18, 2013, 05:23:24 PM »
Look up the definition of what armies are supposed to do. Break it down. Think about it. Military force is designed for only 2 things, to kill people and break things. Nothing more. If you hate humans because we fight wars, feel free to rant and rave against it all you'd like. But anyone want to bet those silly enough to rant and rave against it also won't disband their own, throw open their borders, melt down their arms, and invite the rest of peace loving humanity to come join them in a good round of kum-bye-yah? Good luck with that, strikes me that such ignorance of the human condition might actually require a new name to properly characterize this brand of psychological dysfunction.
This is one I think the libertarians got right.  They are opposed to the initiation of force.   If one country is invaded, not only can they defend themselves, but other countries can help them.  That is the only kind of war that is justified, and only for the one side.
Making pigs fly is easy... that is, of course, after you have built the catapult....

Offline Sea Gypsy

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Re: Never Stop Running, Napalm Girl
« Reply #6 on: September 18, 2013, 05:26:56 PM »
Greetings MKing,

Since you are having difficulty figuring out "where to begin" allow me to suggest you read my three main points about war and address them, since you did not in your rambling reply.

1) War is Mass Psychotic Hypnosis.  Did you somehow miss the newsreels of the huge Hitler  military parades with tens of thousands goosestepping along under the spell of a maniac who mesmerized them with a myth of "exceptionalism."  (Does that term  sound familiar these days?)  You seem fixated on glorious wars and the good they have brought to the world.  How can you not follow the trail one step further back and realize that if humanity (MALE humanity!!!) just refused to do the bidding of these psychotic hypnotists there would be no need for "good wars."

2) Those who make the wars don't fight them.  I note you did not address this point. Possibly  because my position is correct and indisputable.

3) War does not work.  It has not fostered happiness and justice across the planet.  Resolving conflicts through violence has only led to more violence.  And the level of it has only become more vicious and deadly - particularly for non-combatants.  Your only response to this is to mention some "it could have been worse" examples.  Again, that thinking is myopic.  There should have never been atrocities to MINIMIZE in the first place.  Had people REFUSED to serve there would have been no Rape of Nanking or Ovens in Germany.

Besides being in the Vietnam War, I also made a point of traveling to Ground Zero at Hiroshima and to the camp at Auschwitz.  You might want to consider that as a way of dampening your enthusiasm.

Ray Jason 

Offline Sea Gypsy

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Re: Never Stop Running, Napalm Girl
« Reply #7 on: September 18, 2013, 05:42:18 PM »
Hello Karpatok,

Thank you so much for your encouraging comment.  Unfortunately I share your pessimism about the male of our species and sense that down is the only way out.  Followed by a retooling whereby we retain the best of civilization and mate it with the best of tribalism.  My term is Mozart without the Mushroom Cloud.  I discuss this thoroughly in my "Sea Gypsy Tribe" essay here at the Diner.  That one should be read first and if it intrigues you there are also 2 follow-ups here as well as a couple of podcasts.

As a slight cause for hope let me also suggest you check out Charles Eisenstein's new essay on war at www.carolynbaker.net.  He and I (although I don't know him personally) did two back to back anti-war articles there.  His premise is that we are perhaps reaching a tipping point where enough people globally realize that the Evil Other myth is a device used by rulers to separate us.

Thanks for your compassion.

Ray Jason

Offline RE

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Re: Never Stop Running, Napalm Girl
« Reply #8 on: September 18, 2013, 07:09:17 PM »
I also made a point of traveling to Ground Zero at Hiroshima

Just to let you know Ray, in the opinion of Socrates (MKing), the Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a good thing because IHHO it SAVED lives.  A trip to Hiroshima for him would be as an Homage to the Brave Pilot, Navigator and Bombadeer of the Enola Gay who Guided the Plane and dropped Fat Boy out the Bomb Bay Doors.

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Offline WHD

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Re: Never Stop Running, Napalm Girl
« Reply #9 on: September 18, 2013, 10:39:16 PM »
Quote
A point I did notice, the article does not mention how many children are SAVED by some military intervention or another?....

Look up the definition of what armies are supposed to do. Break it down. Think about it. Military force is designed for only 2 things, to kill people and break things. Nothing more. If you hate humans because we fight wars, feel free to rant and rave against it all you'd like. But anyone want to bet those silly enough to rant and rave against it also won't disband their own, throw open their borders, melt down their arms, and invite the rest of peace loving humanity to come join them in a good round of kum-bye-yah? Good luck with that, strikes me that such ignorance of the human condition might actually require a new name to properly characterize this brand of psychological dysfunction.

MKing,

Right, see, 'cause all the good Military powers open up the world for corporations! For INDUSTRY! That we might turn this planet into a radiation desert like Mars! And ALL THE CHILDREN WILL DIE!

WHD

Offline RE

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Re: Never Stop Running, Napalm Girl
« Reply #10 on: September 19, 2013, 01:20:22 AM »
This is one I think the libertarians got right.  They are opposed to the initiation of force.   If one country is invaded, not only can they defend themselves, but other countries can help them.  That is the only kind of war that is justified, and only for the one side.

What about the case of Civil War though where the fight is between factions within a given country?  What about when one or both factions are being supported by arms merchants from without who have a specific agenda to destabilize Da Goobermint of a country in order to get a Regime Change that will be amenable to their interests?

If you say it is "Justifiable War" if you oppose the Initiation of Force, what about the situation where one side is systematically deprived of basic resources (aka FOOD) an finally strikes out Violently to oppose this?  Who initiated the Violence here, the side that controlled economic resources or the side that started shooting the people controlling the resources?

Obama tries to Justify the Syrian War he is pushing for as a "Humanitarian" effort to restore "Democracy".  War Mongers just about always Propagandize the war they are undertaking as one that will Save People, Hitler's Campaign on the Propaganda level was he was trying to Save Aryans, not Kill Jews.

Self Defense in theory is justifiable, but often Self Defense has an aggressive component to it.  Very hard to sort out who is the Righteous one, especially in Civil Wars.

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Offline g

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Re: Never Stop Running, Napalm Girl
« Reply #11 on: September 19, 2013, 03:01:06 AM »
This is one I think the libertarians got right.  They are opposed to the initiation of force.   If one country is invaded, not only can they defend themselves, but other countries can help them.  That is the only kind of war that is justified, and only for the one side.

What about the case of Civil War though where the fight is between factions within a given country?  What about when one or both factions are being supported by arms merchants from without who have a specific agenda to destabilize Da Goobermint of a country in order to get a Regime Change that will be amenable to their interests?

If you say it is "Justifiable War" if you oppose the Initiation of Force, what about the situation where one side is systematically deprived of basic resources (aka FOOD) an finally strikes out Violently to oppose this?  Who initiated the Violence here, the side that controlled economic resources or the side that started shooting the people controlling the resources?

Obama tries to Justify the Syrian War he is pushing for as a "Humanitarian" effort to restore "Democracy".  War Mongers just about always Propagandize the war they are undertaking as one that will Save People, Hitler's Campaign on the Propaganda level was he was trying to Save Aryans, not Kill Jews.

Self Defense in theory is justifiable, but often Self Defense has an aggressive component to it.  Very hard to sort out who is the Righteous one, especially in Civil Wars.

RE

Of course war is war be it civil or otherwise.

There is a different distinction between a civil war and a country to country war in my opinion. It is just plain obvious.

My problem with the libertarian view is genocide. How do you stand by and watch hundreds of thousands of innocent people slaughtered by evil thugs. This is where I always felt the UN should play a role, not individual countries, and send troops to stabilize the mayhem.

Of course this is easier said than done, but I feel the concept is valid. Syria is not a genocide situation yet, such as Rwanda, but genocide is something the civilized world should come together on and intervene in with an international military force, not civil unrest within countries.

Even as writing this and playing devil's advocate with myself there are probably exceptions to my broad generalization.

How about Israel, who has a next door neighbor building a nuke that promises to blow them off the face of the earth.?

The wait until you are attacked meme doesn't work too well in that situation. War is just too complicated I guess to make general statements about, except that it should definitely be avoided if at all possible.

Offline RE

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Re: Never Stop Running, Napalm Girl
« Reply #12 on: September 19, 2013, 04:10:21 AM »

How about Israel, who has a next door neighbor building a nuke that promises to blow them off the face of the earth.?


Except Israel itself already HAS the Bomb!  Only fair the neighbors have one too. Why should Israel have the means to Glaze over Iran while Iran does not have the means to Glaze over Israel?

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Offline g

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Re: Never Stop Running, Napalm Girl
« Reply #13 on: September 19, 2013, 04:17:28 AM »

How about Israel, who has a next door neighbor building a nuke that promises to blow them off the face of the earth.?


Except Israel itself already HAS the Bomb!  Only fair the neighbors have one too. Why should Israel have the means to Glaze over Iran while Iran does not have the means to Glaze over Israel?

RE

Like I said it is tough to generalize about wars.

Israel to my knowledge has never promised to annihilate Iran, that ass hole that was running Iran was clearly a loose cannon looney tune imho.

Offline RE

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Re: Never Stop Running, Napalm Girl
« Reply #14 on: September 19, 2013, 04:30:26 AM »

Israel to my knowledge has never promised to annihilate Iran, that ass hole that was running Iran was clearly a loose cannon looney tune imho.

Judge by ACTIONS not WORDS.  What are the ACTIONS of Israel WRT the Palestinians?

When Israel hands over all their Nukes for destruction, they hold a moral high ground.  Long as they have them, they are on the Moral Low Ground and everyone around them should be free to make their own Bombs.

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