I was watching a DVD about the British composer, Ralph Vaughan Williams whose music has recently been re-evaluated. The comments about it expressing rural scenes like “cows looking over gates” is clearly far removed from the Third (“Pastoral”) symphony as possible. First of all the landscape isn’t English, but that of France in the middle of the First World War where VW had volunteered for ambulance duty. In the film use is made of that utterly horrific picture of a naked child ablaze after the use of napalm in Vietnam. I don’t quite know why it was felt necessary to use this to point out what was in the composer’s mind in his violent outburst in the Fourth symphony but we know he was a humanitarian with socialist ideals. Whether he did or he didn’t clearly the lessons of Vietnam were not heeded. Not by the US in Iraq. Not by the Israeli government in Gaza. Some early eyewitnesses spoke of the horrible injuries civilians, including women and children were sustaining – even animals on farms and in the zoo! These are all war crimes and the Hague awaits the perpetrators in time.
Lincoln Shlensky writes in Jewish Peace News:
Eliot Weinberger, the American translator and political critic, turns a sardonic eye on the use of white phosphorus by US forces in his widely disseminated anti-war essay ‘What I Heard about Iraq in 2005,’ published in The London Review of Books (an excellent article by Scott Saul on Weinberger’s three decades-long role as a cultural critic appears in the September 30 issue of The Nation ):
‘I heard that, in Fallujah and elsewhere, the US had employed white phosphorus munitions, an incendiary device, known among soldiers as ‘Willie Pete’ or ‘shake and bake’, which is banned as a weapon by the Convention on Conventional Weapons. Similar to napalm, it leaves the victim horribly burned, often right through to the bone. I heard a State Department spokesman say: ‘US forces have used them very sparingly in Fallujah, for illumination purposes. They were fired into the air to illuminate enemy positions at night, not at enemy fighters.’ Then I heard him say that ‘US forces used white phosphorus rounds to flush out enemy fighters so that they could then be killed with high explosive rounds.’ Then I heard a Pentagon spokesman say that the previous statements were based on ‘poor information’, and that ‘it was used as an incendiary weapon against enemy combatants.’ Then I heard the Pentagon say that white phosphorus was not an illegal weapon, because the US
had never signed that provision of the Convention on Conventional Weapons.’
As Weinberger’s commentary on the US-led war in Iraq emphasizes, Israel is not the only country recently to have used white phosphorus in violation of international humanitarian law — signed or, as in this case, unconscionably unsigned.”