[Cross-posted at Cliopatria.]

Watching this:

made me think of this:

and this:

and this:

Sulaimaniyah -- 520 lb Bomb burst

and, because I happen to be marking my students' essays about it, this:

Trang Bang, 8 June 1972

Sometimes it would be nice to be able to switch off and forget.

CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

4 thoughts on “Intertextuality

  1. Neil Datson

    Maybe you've looked into this question in earlier articles and threads Brett, maybe not. But:

    Is the immediacy of modern communications making us more, or less, humane?

    One likes to think that the widespread and rapid dissemination of film of atrocities makes people more sympathetic and aware. Against that however, war is being turned into something close to a video game by the use of drone technology. There is something deeply chilling about a 'combatant' who is at no personal risk whatsoever, and who even works a regular shift while living a regular home life, 'taking out enemies' on the other side of the globe.

    Any thoughts?

  2. Post author

    I think there's definitely something in that. On the one hand, modern technology allows precision targeting and the minimisation of collateral damage. On the other, the elimination of collateral damage entirely is a chimera, and even hitting exactly the specified target may not be ethical when the target is a city's power grid or water purification plant, let alone a hospital.

    But the trouble with asking a historian a question like that is that they'll say "oh, but there are precedents"! The distancing of the target from its attacker is inherent in airpower and was remarked upon certainly by the interwar period, if not before. The 9-to-5-ness of drone warfare is not unlike the air war over Europe: you could be bombing Hamburg one night and in the pub the next. ICBM crews luckily never had to fight, but if they had they would have incinerated millions from the other side of the planet. Robotic air warfare was discussed fairly widely in Britain from the late 1920s. And so on. I guess all these things are now coming together in drone warfare, and that's new.

  3. Black Dog.

    One insidious factor in all the Nintendo-ing of warfare is the slide into euphemism. Over recent years, with the war in the Gulf and Afghanistan, I've been perfectly horrified at the ‘casualising’ of the killing and destruction. There is a whole disturbing new lexicon to learn. Why must to destroy or kill, become ‘take-out’….? I suppose it’s easier if one comes from a gun-culture.

  4. Post author

    To be fair, this has been going on a long time. 'De-housing', for example, was in one sense quite an accurate term for what Bomber Command was doing to German cities, but it rather glossed over whether or not civilians were in the houses at the time of bombing. And that was in private -- in public everything was a valid 'military objective'.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *