August 19th, 2019

They Shall Not Grow Old Now Playing at the Savoy Theater

What is the biggest threat to our national security? What is the one existential threat to all mammalian life on this planet?

It’s nuclear war. Of course it’s nuclear war. It has been for 70 straight years.

When the Eastern Hemisphere is a pile of ashes and radioactive clouds are slowly drifting over to snuff out the Americas, it won’t matter whether earth’s median temperature is 14.4 or 14.9C.

It’s mind-blowing that people don’t take the threat seriously. The maniacs who run our foreign policy are arming Ukraine seemingly just to push Russia toward nuclear war with us.

H-bombs use nuclear fusion—like the sun—to produce an explosion that is thousands of times more powerful than the relatively puny fission A-bombs that we dropped on Japan. I fear that powerful people in Washington don’t understand that. 

If I were President, I would push for peace with Russia under any conditions. I would eagerly agree to let Russia conquer Kiev and force the Ukrainians to work in Vodka distilleries if Moscow would also agree to bilateral nuclear disarmament with us.

Are you thinking that no one will use an H-Bomb because it is too destructive? That is not how history works. In real life, humans invent new ways to kill people and then the weapons get used. No matter how horrible and ghastly, the weapons get used.

In case you doubt the willingness of armies to use any weapon at their disposal to inflict any level of suffering, “They Shall Not Grow Old” is a vivid reminder.

We learn that WWI’s Western Front was never “all quiet.” For four straight years, artillery guns boomed relentlessly. What I didn’t know is that artillery shells were made to explode in mid-air, raining seething chunks of hot shrapnel into the trenches.

World War I also introduced poison gas into warfare on a mass scale. The soldiers say that gas masks were helpful against burning lungs but not so great at preventing temporary blindness. For those who didn’t have a gas mask, a urine-soaked rag was your best bet.

For those who survived long enough to take part in a good old-fashioned advance on German positions, most were killed by the newly invented machine gun within five minutes of leaving the trenches.

Some of the horrors of the 14-18 War were not technological in nature. Rats love feeding on corpses evidently and lice were a constant nuisance. Boot Rot doesn’t sound so bad; but Boot Rot is just a catchy nickname for gangrene and it crippled more soldiers than land mines.

Peter Jackson (“The Lord of the Rings”) has made a unique documentary. Almost all of the visuals are brilliantly restored contemporary footage. Jackson makes the interesting artistic choice of muting the drama rather than enhancing it.

The veteran narrators speak with a stiff upper lip and never ask you to feel sorry for them or their many dead colleagues. Apparently, after the war, returning soldiers were treated like lepers so they got used to pretending that the Great War was no big deal.

The profound indifference to the suffering of men was demonstrated plainly enough when Britain and Germany set up an exciting WWI rematch not long after. They just waited long enough for the babies of 1918 to grow old enough to fight.

As many civilians as soldiers were killed in WWII, however, and civilized countries don’t have nearly as much stomach for that. Western Europe, to its credit, has decided to entirely give up fighting wars against each other.

And, hey, I’m confident that after a few dozen H-bombs are dropped in WWIII, people will decide that they are too destructive, too. You know, if there are any people left. 

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