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The views expressed here neither represent nor are affiliated with the US DOD, US Navy, FAO association, MGM Studios, Time Warner, Sony, RCA Recording or Hostess. Now, "relax and take notes . . . "


FAO Quotables

"But being right, even morally right, isn't everything. It is also important to be competent, to be consistent, and to be knowledgeable. It's important for your soldiers and diplomats to speak the language of the people you want to influence. It's important to understand the ethnic and tribal divisions of the place you hope to assist."
-Anne Applebaum

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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Madagascar's Service and Sacrifice during World War I

I had the distinct honor and privilege to attend the opening of a week-long exhibit showcasing the service of sacrifice of Madagascar in World War I.  The public exhibit opened at the city hall downtown on Independence Avenue.  Remarks were given by the Prime Minister, the chief archivist and some type of special delegate for Antananarivo (far right)--only the Minister of Defense did not give remarks.

Over 29, 000 Malagasy soldiers served in WWI and over 2400 ultimately gave their lives.  The exhibit also notes that some 2500 Somalis and Comorans served in WWI with 500 sacrificing their lives.


As you can see on one of the photos, there's a website that has some great historical photos and narratives on the campaigns of Malagasy soldiers abroad.

My biggest critique of the exhibit was that it only ran for a week--it would be nice if they put it all online so that the rest of the country could see it.

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Interested in learning more about the role of Africa during World War I?

You can start by following this account on twitter: https://twitter.com/WWIAfrica  The author has a great website on the same subject as well.

Other Links and books:
http://africasacountry.com/the-world-war-i-project/
http://www.okayafrica.com/news/world-war-i-in-africa-project/
http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/africa/features/storyofafrica/13chapter2.shtml

Sunday, November 23, 2014

On Love, Loss and Forgetting in Junger's "War" or What Pablo Neruda has to do with the US in Afghanistan

Sebastian Junger's eye for detail is equal to his hunger for authenticity in his writing.  Nowhere is this more evident than in his 2010 'memoir' WAR.  Admittedly I am late to the game in reviewing Junger's story of the time he spent embedded in the violent and dangerous Korengal valley but it's not like the US will ever leaving Afghanistan right?

More importantly, Junger's book is not about Afghanistan or the Taliban--these are merely the backdrop for his penetrating examination of the men who go to war (in fact, the larger geo-political questions go (thankfully) unaddressed).



In dividing WAR into three books--fear, killing and love--Junger lays out his hypothesis that these three emotions (or actions) encompass war for the young men of the United States--or more precisely address the ultimate question of why young men fight and die in war.

 

The goal of this post, however, is not to give a traditional review of a book but instead show you a twitterfied book review.  Below you will see screen captures of the comments that I posted on twitter throughout my reading of the story.  Enjoy!




You can read my review of Marlantes' Matterhorn here





















Perhaps there's no better praise of Junger's skill than that as I read through the War's final lines, I was immediately reminded two lines from Pablo Neruda's sorrowful ode to the pain and incomprehensibility of lost love.

I no longer love her, that's certain, but maybe I love her
Love is so short, forgetting is so long   

This tension (this war) between love, loss, self-deception and forgetting is ultimately what one walks away with reading Junger's masterful War.

Finally, it is worth noting that in considering Afghanistan and its bloody Korengal valley, another line from Neruda's poem rings equally true:

Another's. She will be another's. As she was before my kisses.





Here's Neruda's poem in its entirety.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
Write, for example, 'The night is starry
and the stars are blue and shiver in the distance.'
The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.
Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.
Through nights like this one I held her in my arms.
I kissed her again and again under the endless sky.
She loved me, sometimes I loved her too.
How could one not have loved her great still eyes.
Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.
To hear the immense night, still more immense without her.
And the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.
What does it matter that my love could not keep her.
The night is starry and she is not with me.
This is all. In the distance someone is singing. In the distance.
My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.
My sight tries to find her as though to bring her closer.
My heart looks for her, and she is not with me.
The same night whitening the same trees.
We, of that time, are no longer the same.
I no longer love her, that's certain, but how I loved her.
My voice tries to find the wind to touch her hearing.
Another's. She will be another's. As she was before my kisses.
Her voice, her bright body. Her infinite eyes.
I no longer love her, that's certain, but maybe I love her.
Love is so short, forgetting is so long.
Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms
my soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.
Though this be the last pain that she makes me suffer
and these the last verses that I write for her.