Monday, September 19, 2022


Orwell Would Insist

He would insist that this most awful evidence of cruelty not be hidden or suppressed.  Let every man and woman choose to see it or not, with fair warning, but if to see it, never to see it with prurient interest, because that itself would be a disgrace.

"Cargo 200" is Russian military slang for the bodies of the military dead that must be transported, not necessarily home in the case of the Russians because the very existence of the bodies is within Russia a politically inconvenient truth.

"Telegram" is a knock-off of Twitter, popular in Russia and Eastern Europe, but with more liberal boundaries, in terms of both length of posts and tolerance for controversial content, than Twitter.

And so the Telegram channel called "Cargo 200" brings us news of Russian casualties, but also news about the Ukrainian War in general, from a pro-Ukrainian point of view.

Yesterday there were posts about the newly-discovered graves of hundreds of slaughtered Ukrainians, most of them civilians, outside Izyum.  One was a photo of the exhumed body of a man, already badly decomposed.  The caption said that his scrotum had been cut off, and once having been told that, one can only say that the photo seems incontrovertible.  And the castration was by no means "surgical," if that implies care to do a limited amount of damage; rather, it appears that it was done with a hunting knife or a bayonet and with a maximum amount of violence, whether the poor man was dead or alive when it happened.

For those who have followed this war closely, expert commentary has acquainted us with new turns of phrase, turns of phrase often drawn from the schools of the military arts.  One is "the point of culmination."  One might think that this is the point of ultimate victory for the winning side, but it is not.  It is the point at which one's resources to prosecute an attack or an entire campaign have reached exhaustion, or near enough to exhaustion that further progress is impossible, at least in the near term.

The Russians have reached their point of culmination.  Their army is broken.  In the absence of a negotiated withdrawal, they will be forced to slink back to their vast homeland.  The recriminations there will be ugly.  The Russian Federation itself may splinter to such an extent that Russia as a political entity is left with a scale, in terms of GDP and conventional military might, equivalent to that of Italy or Spain.  And the path from here to there may be very fraught, because the Russians do not seem able to accept their reduced weight in the world with equanimity.

This war that no one predicted, taken together with the pandemic that was predicted merely as an abstraction, not as a real thing, and also looming "cosmic" developments to which we have been conditioned to turn a blind eye, seem to me to signal a culmination of sorts on a grand scale.  The paradigm has been exhausted.  It's not the End of History per se, but rather the end of history as a reliable pointer towards the future.  It's not that "les jeux sont faits," but that all bets are off.

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