Battlefield Etiquette

battlefield etiquette

In the midst of the battle of Kurukhshetra, Karna has a flat tyre and guess what he does. He tells the enemy (Arjun and his charioteer – the Hindu God, Krishna, the guy with the halo on the right side of his head), “Gimme a hand, Bud”.

Guess what happened then? Well, you gotta read this piece ta find out…

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When Saddam Hussein was finally caught cowering inside an underground bunker in 2003 and later sentenced to die, many nations in the EU opposed the decision to execute him. India too suggested that there were other non-violent ways to mete out justice and that violent vengeance was immoral, specially since the invasion of Iraq had itself been  based upon a lie.

But India’s stance was ironic, since it has an opposing ethical precedent…..

In the great epic, Mahabharata, when a defenceless Karna’s chariot wheel get’s mired in the mud in the middle of the battle of Kurukhshetra, he tried desperately to extricate it, but failed. Noting that the Pandava hero, Arjuna, was gaining on him and getting ready to slay him, Karna asked him to hold his fire and give him a hand.

Coming to an adversary’s assistance in those days was a component of what was known as battlefield etiquette, which required that when a fighter had been placed unwittingly in a position of disadvantage, his antagonist had to hold further fire until he had recovered and the playing field had been leveled. Something similar plays out in boxing today, I understand – punching a fallen opponent is against the rules.

Back in 5561BC (the date that vedic scholars think the Battle of Kurukshetra happened), battlefield etiquette was a very important component of the chivalry that the Indian ethos believed in.

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In fact it was common all over the ancient world. In Homer’s epic, The Iliad, the Athenian fighter, Ajax the Greater, chucked a huge stone at the Trojan hero, Hector, with such force that it dislodged Hector’s helmet and crushed his horse. Since he was still mounted on his own steed and had his helmet on, Ajax deemed it unfair to continue. He dismounted and paused to let Hector gather himself together, a decision that would prove fatal. Hector recovered his balance and strength in the brief interlude and they fought fiercely hand to hand, until Ajax was killed by a glancing blow from the haft of Hector’s sword.

In today’s world, Ajax would derided as a stupid sucker. But not in 850BC Troy, Ajax was elevated posthumously to the pinnacle of chivalry and spoken of with adulation and awe by both, the Spartans and the Trojans.

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But I digress… Getting back to the Mahabharata, on hearing Karna’s plea for help, Arjuna immediately paused and got off his chariot to go give Karna a hand – when all of a sudden Arjun’s charioteer – the blue guy, revered Lord Krishna, who was at once Arjun’s master and servant, stopped him.

Instead of commending Arjun’s sense of chivalry, Lord Krishna reminded him that Karna was on the side of the bad guys and that it is not against battlefield etiquette to kill a man who has supported evil all his life. Arjuna lamely turned back, took aim and killed Karna.

What do y’know. Under his beatific smile, Krishna was a calculating, Machiavellian God.

And no thanks to Krishna, battlefield etiquette still makes its presence felt – albeit sporadically – in the unlikeliest of places…….

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Spring, 2009

A hamlet, 20 miles south of Spin Boldak

Afghanistan

The night had been so brilliantly moonlit, it was almost like day. The hamlet they had surrounded was bathed in a diffused glow. They would have waited for the next new moon but there was no time.

Abu Salam was leading a TTP (Tehrik-e-Taliban) squad that had bivouacked for the night in the bushes surrounding the cluster of adobe huts, just north of the border with Pakistan. The hamlet was nestled inside a cleared circle on a vast terrain covered by a dense thicket of waist-high shrubs that seemed ideal for concealment from a ground-based adversary, but completely exposed to an aerial attack by fixed-wing ground attack aircraft like the AC-130 gunships and A-10 Warthogs or even choppers like the Apache or Black Hawk.

There was big game tonight and the Emir, Baitullah Mehsud himself, was by his side, toting a Stinger missile launcher to deter aerial support interference. The Stinger’s dull black mat finish hadn’t been scratched yet. Although it was an older version that Raytheon had stopped making a long time back, it was still brand new. It had been stowed away unused, in an Islamabad warehouse operated by the Satan’s own rep on earth, Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI.

The Stinger was a remnant of American largesse of the 80s and today it would be used to kill Americans. Salam smiled grimly at the irony. Raytheon didn’t know. Raytheon didn’t care.

Inside the hamlet were two dwellings – one a large adobe home with a courtyard in the middle and the other a small outhouse which had three Delta Force operatives from the US Special Operations Command and an Afghan interpreter in it.

The group lay there, forming a neat circle round the hamlet, a battle-hardened TTP fighter every five yards or so. The fight with the Russians and the training from the ISI had taught them discipline. The Americans inside that outhouse might have drawn some consolation from the fact that they were about to be annihilated by a fighting force that paralleled their own professionalism. What this bunch didn’t have, in terms of equipment and technology, they made up for – in commitment to a cause.

The owner of the compound, a grizzled Pashtun warlord who had fought the Soviets with Salam, had been a notoriously fickle-minded guy who had first decided to side with the Americans on receipt of a bagful of $100 bills and then, after taking the money, he had changed his mind. The Delta Force team had been dispatched along with an interpreter with orders to either get him back on their side or finish him off.

As Abu Salam felt the discomfort of the ground – still hard and cold from the winter, two of the Americans came out of the outhouse and started walking toward the bushes, possibly to take a leak. That’s when all hell broke loose. The landscape around the unsuspecting Americans got peppered by 7.62mm rounds from the fanatics’ AK47s. The two Americans crumpled to the ground.

What followed was the moment that Abu Salam recognized why the Emir deserved to be called – the Emir.

The two fallen Americans had momentarily stopped moving and a lull set in, followed by a sudden deafening silence and as Salam stared at the scene below, suddenly another American emerged from the outhouse. He walked resolutely toward his fallen comrades, his steps unhurried – as if he was on an evening stroll. He reached one of the prone Americans, the one closest to him. He calmly slung him over his shoulders, hefted him with a huge shrug and started back toward the lee side of the outhouse. He was a target that begged to be taken down.

For a moment, Abu Salam’s Talib colleagues, including the Emir, were dumbfounded by the bravado. By the time they could gather their wits, the American had disappeared behind the adobe wall of the outhouse.

The Talib weren’t even done releasing the breaths they had been holding, when the shape appeared once again.

This time, the American walked in an even more measured pace, covering ground the way only someone who believed completely in himself would. As he advanced toward his fallen comrade, the Talib gaped, their faces aghast and their mouths hanging open in astonishment.

One fighter – no one knows for sure who – let out a burst. The American stumbled and fell. He still had a few yards to cover, but that was when the Emir let out one single shout – wadrega! (stop!)

As the firing fell silent, the Talib gunmen watched astounded as the American, mortally wounded, started crawling toward his buddy. Their eyes unbelieving, they watched him reach his pal and come to rest right next, his one good arm now engulfing his friend in a hug.

Abu Salam raised his AK to finish the infidel off, but suddenly he felt the muzzle shoved aside. It was the Emir.

‘Enough,’ said Baitullah Mehsud, ‘Don’t ever forget. We are all fighters and this is a brave one. Let him choose his time to die.’

When the American hadn’t moved for a while, the Talib cautiously climbed down from their perch and approached the two fallen Delta Force men, lying there in that macabre embrace. The Emir reached down and held his finger under the American’s nose and felt his breath, coming out in short ragged bursts. Given the extent of his wounds, he estimated the soldier had only seconds.

“Leave them alone,” Mehsud called, “Give the infidels the chance to take him away. He has earned the right. We shall return, for another fight, another day…”

Then, as he turned to rise, the Emir’s eyes fell on the dog tag. He stared it a while and then stooped and removed it from the American’s neck. It said –

Giovanni F. Ricci

697-012-8326

RH Negative

Catholic

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Today that dog tag rests inside a beautifully hand crafted teak and glass jewelry box on top of a TV cabinet in a small town called Lawrence, mid-way between Topeka and Kansas City in the United States, the home of an elderly couple. Somehow it had found its way from a dusty Afghan hamlet, via an Islamabad army installation and then finally to America on a C130 Hercules transport aircraft that had taken off from Shamsi Air Force Base , in Baluchistan, 12 time zones to the east.

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My Soyúz Sovétskikh shelf

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“Whoever does not miss the Soviet Union has no heart. Whoever wants it back has no brain.”

– Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, in the first flush of his Presidency, early 2000

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I have arranged my library in genres. Rack-A has shelves on Crime, Classics and Indian authors. Rack-B : Islam, Israel, American current affairs, War(other than World War II) and Humor. Quite a motley mix, my Rack-B. Rack-C is history and predominantly Nazi Germany and WW2. Rack-D is a melange of bestsellers and Space.

Rack-E is going ta make me a millionaire. It has some painstakingly collected First Editions and antique books. I just found an O’Henry printed in 1905 in an ornate hard cover, it’s paper so fine that it crinkles when you touch it. I got that for 50¢. I’ll read it and when the time comes, I’ll sell it for five grand.

Of course, I have arranged security against any pilferage from Rack-E : my Peacemaker Colt, which can drill a hole into any thief and his twin brother. That is, if he indeed had a twin brother and they were standing in line, one after the other. I got the twin brother thing from the starting page of Alistair Maclean’s “When eight bells toll”. (I am anything but original).

Did I mention I have a porn collection too? I have an illustrated Kama Sutra, Nancy Friday, E.L.James, Legs McNeil and a hardcover Marquis de Sade. (You won’t believe what this de Sade guy was up to). That will be Rack-B, bottom shelf, safely obscured by my rocking armchair.

Then there is a smaller rack that has encyclopedias, Nat Geo issues and compilations. One shelf on that rack is reserved for my reading knick knacks – pencil, sharpees, stickies and page markers, highlighters, Iphone/Ipad charging outlets and of course, the case for the Peacemaker Colt.

And a bowl of peanuts, just in case I am having a beer or a glass of wine and it needs cumpunee. And a tiny pocket flashlight, in case a peanut falls on the carpet and rolls in underneath a rack.

I am an organized son of a bitch.

Oh, I forgot the one pictured above – my Soyúz Sovétskikh shelf, Rack-C. It has books on the Soviet Union. You have of course known the authors well – Le Carre : the genius of ‘understated, laid back’ spy fiction. Tom Clancy : the Republican wet dream gung-ho guy. Len Deighton, Brain Garfield and Fredrick Forsyth : ruthless evil. Solzenitsyn : fatigued suffering pooches. And Ian Fleming : the tongue-in-cheek – varying depictions of Сою́з Сове́тских Социалисти́ческих Респу́блик – Russian for USSR, a land that could have have attained genuine utopia, if basic human nature had not got in the way.

There are a couple of non-fiction reads too. “KGB Today”, an in-your-face piece of American Cold War propaganda by John Barron, who used to be a regular contributor to The Readers’ Digest, which was widely believed to be a propaganda publication of the US Government. If RT.com had been a print publication, it would be the Russian Federation’s Readers’ Digest. And there is “Autopsy of an Empire”, a blow-by-blow account of the fall of the Soviet Empire, by a former US ambassador to the Soviet Union.

Lumbering up menacingly over the ensemble, you discern an Illushyn IL-76 military transport aircraft. It looks as if it will be able to clear Deighton and Clancy by a hair’s breadth. Actually I’m not sure if that is an IL-76.

But then, DILLIGAS? (Do I Look Like I Give A Shit). I prefer DILLIGAF, though.

I have Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment” but since it was pre-revolution, it is in the Classics shelf on Rack-A. Didn’t I mention I was organized? And I have watched Dr Zhivago too many times to want to read the book, so Boris, I can’t waste shelf space here for ya. Go ебать yourself, dasvidaniya.

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I am one of the lucky ones. I grew up in the early 1960s at a time when the Soviet Union was at it’s zenith. We lived in a tiny industrial town in India where the government was building an engineering behemoth that would manufacture heavy machinery for mining coal. It was a joint Indo-Soviet venture – the Soviets had thrown in financing and technical know-how and Indians had contributed the labor and the corrupt bureaucrats.

The place was crawling with Soviet experts in those days and they lived together in this massive compound of apartment blocks, known as the “Soviet Experts’ Hostels”. The compound had volleyball courts and a swimming pool that my brothers and I frequented. Often some matronly Russian woman sitting on a deck chair by the pool would beckon to us, give us a hug and hand us Russian-made cookies, with a grin through teeth that could never pass even the most primitive metal detector.

Through the prism of my 11-year old eyes, the Soviets seemed very friendly, often urging us to sit and watch their newsreels and TV with them. I watched Alexei Leonov live, painstakingly clamber out of the Voskhod-2 and float around and wave at the camera, his visor reflecting the blue-white wisps of the earth’s upper atmosphere.

The Russians would welcome us into the movie theatre they had in the campus that was constantly running shoddily made Russian films made by SovExport, a propaganda arm of the Soviet Union. If you were a kid on his summer break and had run out of games to play, you went to a Soviet movie at the Experts’ Hostel.

A SovExport film was invariably excruciatingly boring, besides being very amateurish. One that I remember watching had an old man pushing a wooden sled with a sick old woman in it, from the left side of the screen to the right, with the accompaniment of a 200-piece orchestra and a baritone chorus. He started on the left when the movie credits came on and we were hoping something would happen – like maybe a German Stuka would suddenly dive in and bomb the shit outa them or something. (That was the only time I remember hoping for the arrival of the Nazis.

But the man on the screen just kept plodding on, until he disappeared with the sled, beyond the right-hand edge of the screen, just prior to the intermission. There were actual Soviet off-duty personnel and family watching, their eyes glued to the screen. When I quizzed my Dad about it, he said watching those films was mandatory for the Soviet personnel (unless they wished to have cabbage soup, morning noon and night, in a Siberian fookin gulag).

I watched a movie that had been based upon Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’. In the middle of a battle scene, all of a sudden a Lada drove by near the bottom right corner of the screen, right next to a van that was unloading klieg lights for the shooting. Not a single Russian eyelid batted at that. There were no groans, catcalls, derisive whistles, nothing. This was at a moment in our lives when we regularly went to watch finely crafted American blockbusters such as Sound of music, Battle of the Bulge and Von Ryan’s Express. Even my child’s brain could not help but laugh afterward at the Soviet movie making skills.

But heck, it was fun. It was a time when hegemony and building spheres of influence were paramount. The Soviet team of engineers and their families might have been ordered to ‘mingle with the natives’, but I did not see anything but spontaneity in their warmth. It was the Soviet Union’s “hearts and minds” exercise and as far as I was concerned, they were roaringly successful at it. While the Americans were busy mocking our politicians and laughing at our accent derisively, the Soviets were building bridges that are still standing today.

I don’t have any Soviet porn. I could spare some space for it in my porn shelf on Rack-B, in case you can lend me some. Maybe they did have a Thongus Kutyokokoff. I have to look into that.

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What’s wrong with expletives, eh?

 

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New Years eve and he is all alone, not a friend in the world, at least no one who wants ta waste the evening, bored to death by a narcissist jerk.

So there’s Donald Trump in his pyjamas, in the indoor putting green at the WH, his mood foul, savagely swinging the ruby encrusted putter that MBS has presented him with. You know what MBS stands for, don’t you? Yeah, that’s right – Murderous Barbaric Shitface. It says that in Arabic too.

So, there’s the Donald, swinging his putt and repeatedly missing, his incoherent rage spoiling his already mediocre aim. And every time he misses he screams,” Shit, fuckin’ missed!!%$#!”

As he keeps missing, Donald’s cussing gets louder and louder, until all of a sudden, the ceiling above cracks open with a ear splitting crrraaack and monstrous cumulo-nimbus clouds begin ta loom overhead (like that scene from Steven Spielberg’s ‘War of the Worlds’).

Trump, forever the unprepared dumbass, stammers, “What the fuck just happened?” as lightning streaks across the skies, bazaboom! kavoorabum! kirivishoom! barakadoom! You get the hang. The displaced ceiling has toppled the spire on top of the White House that had acted as a lightning conductor for centuries and now there’s no protection.

In seconds, another bolt of lightning streaks down and this time it screeches right into the putting green and instantly vaporizes the waiter who had just come in with a cheese burger and fries. The clouds part and a voice booms down from the heavens, “Shit, fuckin’ missed@#$%^&!!!!”.

It’s the same voice old Moe heard when he stood on Mount Sinai, looking stupid, hefting two stone tablets in his arms 3600 years back. Stupid, since most of those fookin commandments aren’t crimes at all these days. I mean, come on, everyone is coveting everone else’s wife and dying peacefully of old age, for fuck’s sakes.

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But this is not about Donald Trump, this is about the instantaneous release that comes with using expletives. I am sure God felt an immediate sense of exhilaration after cussing out when he missed the Donald.

Expletives can be demeaning and hurtful but the way I use them, they are sorta cathartic and healing in a sense. When I returned from the Christmas break and joined my buddies at work and heard Kenny say, “motherfuckin’ A, get a load of Sonya Braga’s tits”, it was sweet music to my ears.

Nothing can beat American swear words as forms of expression. They are America’s only true legacies to the world. Nothing makes a point quicker than an American expletive. The Brits are good too, but can’t hold a candle to the Yanks. The Brit word for ‘he’s a fuckin’ idiot’ is ‘he’s a blooming idiot’. Rather tame really, old chap. They say, ‘cock up’ for ‘shut the fuck up’, ‘crikey!’ for ‘Jesus Christ!’ …. and ‘duffer” for ‘dickhead’. See what I mean?

Toodle-oo, I have a 500-word limit and I just ran outa words. Besides it’s a fookin Sunday and I got ta go get myself a fookin beer.

Now getthefuckarahere.

See you soon.

(This is just so you’ll read this post)

Apologies, this site is being revamped with newly received Russian sponsorship from Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin and Maria Butina.

Henceforth we shall be taking sponsorships from all suck…ummm…readers in old, unmarked bills of $100 denominashuns and above.

There will be changes in the new avatar. Posts shall be short (under 500 words), biting and sharp. If you set your ears close to the screen, you’ll even hear the rattle of a rattlesnake’s tail.

(Just kidding, dummy. Don’t get too close to the screen, bad for yore health, all those gamma rays will render you impotent and you’ll never ever have an…. what’s that word which rhymes with election??).