National borders are a military phenomenon, not a natural or a social or a cultural one — the product, and also the source, of conquest and war. The nations they circumscribe are political lies, and the fortified frontiers they impose are bloody scars cut across the face of the earth.
There’s nothing wrong with exploration, or with daring the unknown, or with intercultural exchange. Those are great, they’re inspiring, they’re one of the best, most exciting things that human beings do. It’s a wonderful tale, for those who survive to tell it.
But there is something wrong with wiping out entire cultures, enslaving and murdering millions of people. Which is what Christopher Columbus did, among other things, as governor of Hispaniola. He recorded in his own diaries how he enslaved indigenous people and sent them to early deaths in the mines; he sold young girls into sexual slavery for his men; when indigenous Caribbeans fought back against his aggression he massacred them and paraded the rebels’ dismembered corpses through the streets as a demonstration. He inaugurated the most amazing and important intercultural exchange in the history of the planet Earth on terms that perverted everything about it into a centuries-long march of domination, slavery, conquest, genocide and death.
It’s not that he was a man of his time. That’s not an excuse for anything. But even if it were, men of his time, both American and Spanish, denounced what he was doing. A Spanish Catholic friar wrote a few decades after Columbus’s regime began in the Caribbean that Yet into this sheepfold, into this land of meek outcasts there came some Spaniards who immediately behaved like ravening wild beasts, wolves, tigers, or lions that had been starved for many days. And Spaniards have behaved in no other way during the past forty years, down to the present time, for they are still acting like ravening beasts, killing, terrorizing, afflicting, torturing, and destroying the native peoples, doing all this with the strangest and most varied new methods of cruelty, never seen or heard of before, and to such a degree that this Island of Hispaniola once so populous (having a population that I estimated to be more than three million), has now a population of barely two hundred persons.
It is the shame of the human race that there exist countries where this man’s deeds are still promoted as an inspiring example to schoolchildren or celebrated as a national holiday. His name ought to be remembered in infamy alongside those of Heinrich Himmler, Josef Stalin, and Genghis Khan.
Pick a quote of one or more paragraphs from something you’ve read, in print, over the course of the past week. (It should be something you’ve actually read, and not something that you’ve read a page of just in order to be able to post your favorite quote.)
Avoid commentary above and beyond a couple sentences, more as context-setting or a sort of caption for the text than as a discussion.
Quoting a passage doesn’t entail endorsement of what’s said in it. You may agree or you may not. Whether you do isn’t really the point of the exercise anyway.
Here’s the quote. This is from my class readings, Herodotus (c. 449 BCE), The Histories (trans. G.C. Macaulay and Donald Lateiner); I read it during one of my study jags over at The Coffee Cat. It’s Herodotus’s version of the end of the life of Cyrus the Great, the first King of Kings of the Persian Empire. At this time in his life, Cyrus had gained supreme power over the Persians, taken power over the old Median Empire, and set out on decades of large-scale conquest, subjugating nearly all of the peoples in Asia Minor, the Levant, and Mesopotamia. He then went with his army to the river Aras, in the hopes of expanding his conquest onto the Central Asian plains.
201. When [Babylon] also had been subdued by Cyrus, he desired to bring the Massagetai into subjection to himself. This nation is reputed to be both great and warlike, and to dwell towards the East and the sunrise, beyond the river Araxes and over against the Issedonians. Some say that this nation is of the Scythian race.
205. Now the ruler of the Massagetai was a woman, who was queen after the death of her husband, and her name was Tomyris. To her Cyrus sent and wooed her, pretending that he desired to have her for his wife. Tomyris, understanding that he was wooing not herself but rather the kingdom of the Massagetai, rejected his approaches. Cyrus after this, as he made no progress by craft, marched to the Araxes and campaigned openly against the Massagetai, forming bridges of boats over the river for his army to cross, and building towers upon the vessels which gave them safe passage across the river.
[ The captive king Croesus advised Cyrus to leave behind part of his army, along with preparations for a feast with strong wine, as a snare for the Massagetai warriors, who had no experience with Persian drinks.]
211. After this when Cyrus and the sound part of the army of the Persians had marched back to the Araxes, and those unfit for fighting had been left behind, then one-third of the army of the Massagetai attacked and proceeded to kill, not without resistance, those whom the army of Cyrus had left behind. Seeing the feast that was set forth, when they had overcome their enemies they lay down and feasted, and being satiated with food and wine they went to sleep. Then the Persians came upon them and slew many of them, and took alive many more even than they slew, and among these the son of the queen Tomyris, who was leading the army of the Massagetai; and his name was Sparagapises.
212. She then, when she heard that which had come to pass with the army and also the things concerning her son, sent a herald to Cyrus and said: Cyrus, insatiable of blood, do not celebrate too much what has come to pass, namely because with that fruit of the vine, with which you fill yourselves and become so mad that as the wine descends into your bodies, wicked words float up upon its stream,—because setting a snare, I say, with such a drug as this you overcame my son and not by valor in fight. Now therefore hear this my word, giving you good advice:—Restore to me my son and depart from this land without penalty, triumphant over a third part of the army of the Massagetai. If you shall not do so, I swear to you by the Sun, who is lord of the Massagetai, that surely I will give you your fill of blood, blood-thirsty though you are.
213. These words were reported to him, but Cyrus disregarded them; and the son of the queen Tomyris, Sparagapises, when he sobered up and he realized his plight, entreated Cyrus that he might be loosed from his chains and gained his request. So soon as his hands were free, he put himself to death. 214. He then ended his life in this manner; but Tomyris, as Cyrus did not listen to her, gathered together all her power and joined battle with Cyrus. This battle I judge to have been the fiercest of all the battles fought by Barbarians, and I am informed that it happened thus:—first, it is said, they stood apart and shot at one another, and afterwards when their arrows were all shot away, they fell upon one another and engaged in close combat with their spears and daggers; and so they continued their fight with one another for a long time, and neither side would flee; but at last the Massagetai got the better in the fight. The greater part of the Persian army was destroyed there upon the spot, and Cyrus himself died there, after he had reigned twenty-nine years. Then Tomyris filled a skin with human blood and had search made among the Persian dead for the corpse of Cyrus. When she found it, she let his head down into the skin and doing outrage to the corpse she said this over it: Though I yet live and have overcome you in fight, nevertheless you have destroyed me by taking my son with craft. I nevertheless according to my threat will give you your fill of blood. There are many tales told about the end of Cyrus, but this one is to my mind the most worthy of belief.
— Herodotus (c. 449 BCE), The Histories, Book I §§ 212-213. (Trans. G.C. Macaulay and Donald Lateiner.)
 [Sic. By Barbarians, Herodotus simply means nations that do not speak Greek. —CJ] ↩
Donated by Kazuo Nikawa
1,600m from the hypocenter
Kengo Nikawa (then, 59) was exposed to the bomb crossing the Kan-on
Bridge by bike going from his home to his assigned building demolition site in
the center of the city. He suffered major burns on his right shoulder, back,
and head and took refuge in Kochi-mura Saiki-gun. He died on August 22.
Kengo was never without this precious watch given him by his son, Kazuo.
Sixty nine years ago today, on August 6, 1945, at 8:15 in the morning, the American B-29 bomber Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb over the center of the city of Hiroshima, Japan. Hiroshima was one of the last targets that the U.S. government attacked in a half year of unrelenting, devastating firebombing of over 60 Japanese cities. It was also the first target ever attacked with nuclear weapons in the history of the world.
The bomb exploded about 200 yards over the city, creating a 13 kiloton explosion, a fireball, a shock-wave, and a burst of radiation. On the day that the bomb was dropped, there were about 255,000-300,000 people living in Hiroshima.
On that bright morning in August, there was a sudden flash, brighter than the sun, and then sky went dark, buildings were thrown into the ground, and everything began to burn. People staggered through the ruins, with their eyes blinded, with their clothing burned off their bodies, with their own skin and faces burned off in the heat. Everyone was desperate for water, because they were burning, because everything was unbearably hot. They begged soldiers for water from their canteens; they drowned themselves in cisterns. Later, black rain began to fall from the darkened sky. The people thought it was a deliverance. They tried to catch the black rain on their tongues, or they caught it and drank it out of cups. But they didn’t know that the rain was fallout. They didn’t know that it was full of radiation and as they drank it it was burning them away from the inside. There was no refuge, no sanctuary; there was nobody to help.
The city was burning, the doctors and nurses were almost all downtown. The bomb exploded directly over one of the major clinics, and over 90% of the doctors, and over 90% of the nurses, were killed or injured in the bombing. Because of the targeting of the city center, about 85% of the people killed in Hiroshima were civilians — vaporized or carbonized by the heat, crushed to death in the shockwave, burned to death, killed quickly or slowly by radiation poisoning and infections and cancers eating their bodies alive. Others were killed by the force of the shock-wave or crushed under collapsing buildings.
The explosion completely incinerated everything within a one mile radius of the city center. The shock-wave and the fires ignited by the explosion damaged or completely destroyed about nine-tenths of the buildings in the city. Somewhere between 70,000 and 80,000 people—that is, about one quarter to one third of the entire population of the city—died immediately. The heat of the explosion vaporized or burned alive many of those closest to ground zero.
Thousands more died in the raging fires, from dehydration, from injuries, from cancers related to the radioactive burst or the fallout, and from radiation poisoning—their internal organs were burned away in the intense radiation from the blast, or from the fallout, and they died slow, lingering, painful and unavoidable deaths over the next several days or weeks. It is estimated that in all, the atomic bombing killed about 130,000-140,000 people, and left thousands more with permanent disabilities.
Almost all of the people who were maimed and killed in the obliteration of the city were civilians. Although there were some minor military bases near Hiroshima, the bomb was dropped on the city center, several miles away from the military bases on the edge of town. Hiroshima was chosen as a target, even though it had little military importance, because It is a good radar target and it is such a size that a large part of the city could be extensively damaged. There are adjacent hills which are likely to produce a focussing effect which would considerably increase the blast damage.1. Hiroshima was also one of the largest Japanese cities not yet damaged by the American firebombing campaign. Military planners believed it strategically important to demonstrate as much destruction as possible from the blast.
Thomas Ferebee, a bombadier for the United States Army, was the man who dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. His commanding officer was the pilot of the Enola Gay, Paul Tibbets. Tibbets and Ferebee were part of the XXI Bomber Command, directed by Curtis LeMay. LeMay planned and executed the atomic bombings at the behest of Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson and President Harry Truman.
Kengo Nikawa died on August 22nd, 1945 because of the bombing. This is his pocket watch.
We will never know the names of many of the 140,000 other residents of Hiroshima who were killed by the bombing. We have only estimates because the Japanese government was in a shambles by this point in the war, and countless records, of those that were successfully kept, were consumed by the flames, along with the people whose lives they recorded.
We won the race of discovery against the Germans….
In his radio address on August 9, Truman disingenuously described Hiroshima, a port city of a quarter million people, as a military base, and then he said, That was because we wished in this first attack to avoid, insofar as possible, the killing of civilians. The bomb was dropped on the city center, over a hospital, far away from military installations.
It is worth remembering that the atomic bombing of the Hiroshima city center — the first use of atomic weapons against human targets in the history of the world — a bombing in which the United States government’s forces deliberately targeted a civilian center — a bombing that the United States government carried out with the explicit intention of obliterating an entire city in seconds, in order to break enemy morale — an attack in which that government’s forces turned weapons on civilians that destroyed 90% of an industrial metropolis, and killed between a third and a half of all the people living in it — was, and remains, the deadliest act of terrorism in the history of the world.
Here’s the deal. When the fundraiser project started, thanks to occasional scanning when I had the time to volunteer, fair-use.org had ten years’ worth of The Liberator online: Volumes I.-IX. (1830-1839) and Volume XXI. (Jan.-Dec. 1851). In order to finish the remaining 25 years’ worth of issues this summer — instead of sometime around 2019 — we’re raising funds through our fiscal sponsor, the Molinari Institute — in order to get the scans online and begin to prepare an extensive, open, free and researcher-friendly archive and index for anyone who wants to learn more about radical abolitionism and the history of American social movements. The fundraiser will cover the labor costs for the scanning and the increased web hosting costs for what’s likely to become a very widely used web resource.
Thanks to generous donations from 8 donors, the Liberator Scanning Project has already raised over 10% of the goal — $246 out of the projected $2,000 budget. And thanks to those donations, I’ve already been able to add two new volumes — Volume X. and Volume XI. of The Liberator (1840-1841) — to the online archive at fair-use.org/the-liberator. The project is on track to add the next two volumes (XII. and XIII.) by the end of this week.
About the project:
The goal is to make every issue of The Liberator, from 1831-1865, available in full, online, for free, and to add free tools to aid students and researchers in searching through the archives of the paper.
Phase I. is to scan every issue from every year of The Liberator from microfilm sources and to make facsimile PDFs available online for free at fair-use.org/the-liberator. If the fundraiser is fully funded, we should be able to add about two new volumes’ worth of facsimile PDFs each week, and complete Phase I by August 2014.
Phase II. is to prepare a free, online hypertext index of The Liberator, similar to the Individuals and Titles and Periodicals sections of Wendy McElroy’s indispensable Comprehensive Index to LIBERTY. The index will provide an easily searchable, easily browseable and interlinked complete table of contents for every issue of The Liberator and an index of names, book titles and periodical titles appearing in its pages. If we reach our stretch goals for the fundraiser, then the fundraiser will cover most of the labor cost for Phase II as well as for the scanning project. After Phase I is complete, I should be able to work out a plausible timeline for completing Phase II, but my guess at this point is that it could possibly be completed by the end of the year.
Phase III. would be to begin to transcribe individual articles and columns from the PDF facsimiles into lightweight, standards-based, linkable searchable HTML. This will be an immense amount of work and systematic effort to complete it will be a bit down the road. We’ll do another round of fundraising to support the Phase III transcriptions once Phase I. is complete and Phase II. is in progress.
About The Liberator
Garrison’s Liberator, running from 1831–1865, was the most prominent periodical of radical Abolition in the united states. Proclaiming, in the first issue, that:
… I am aware, that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject, I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation. No! no! Tell a man whose house is on fire, to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hand of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; — but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest — I will not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will not retreat a single inch — AND I WILL BE HEARD.
Together with the circle of black and white radicals that his paper attracted, Garrison’s Liberator helped to organize, and offered a forum for, the Abolitionist movement that spent the next 35 years working for the immediate emancipation of all slaves, condemning racial prejudice and “American Colorphobia,” and insisting that emancipation could only truly come about by inspiring a radical moral and social transformation. It urged a politics of radicalizing conscience, and denied that electoral gamesmanship, partisan politics, or political compromise would ever bring about liberation on their own. In the age of the Fugitive Slave Acts, the Garrisonians denounced the united states Constitution as a weapon of the slavers, “A Compromise with Death and an Agreement with Hell.” Rejecting the use of either political or military power as a means of overcoming the slave system, they argued for Disunion (“No Union with Slaveholders, religiously or politically”), holding that the Northern free states should secede from the Union, thus peacefully withdrawing the Federal economic, political and military support that the Slave Power depended on, and (they argued) driving the slave system to collapse, by kicking out the Constitutional compromises that propped it up. Garrison and his circle, in the face of condemnation from more conservative anti-slavery activists, also constantly drew parallels and connections between the struggle against slavery and other struggles for social liberation, taking early and courageous stances in defense of women’s rights and international peace.
Please share this notice far and wide! We can finish this project on a small budget, but we need your help in getting the word out. A link here will work fine; or you can link directly to the GoFundMe.com fundraiser page at www.gofundme.com/8tb288
If you have access to microfilm and scanning equipment, you could also help the project immensely by contacting us at fair-use.org about hosting any alternative page-scans of some issues — as with any 19th century periodical, many of the issues that I’m scanning already had blemishes, tears or folds on the pages when they were preserved in microfilm, and if any parts of the text are illegible in our edition (the American Periodical Series microfilm collection, University Microfilms International, Ann Arbor, Mich., as found in the Auburn University Libraries in Auburn, Ala.) I’d love to have alternative page-scans of those issues from other sources.
 If you send us a BTC contribution, please contact Fair Use Repository to let them know who you are, what you donated and where they can reach you, so that we can send you a thank-you and, if you want, keep you up to date with the progress of the project! ↩