Something Old; Some Things New
The "something old" is trench warfare, at scale, on the European continent.
Putin started his war in February of 2022 with less than 200,000 troops committed to the effort. The Russians have lost about that many, killed and gravely wounded, since the "special military operation" began. And yet they now have some 300,000 soldiers on the territory of Ukraine, many of them in defensive positions -- largely simple slit trenches without the electrified dugouts and other amenities that we have seen, for the officers at least, in WWI films like "1917" and "All Quiet on the Western Front." It seems that the Russian officers are further back, in positions of relative safety.
But arrayed against the old-fashioned trench lines are two new things -- small quadcopter drones that are able to drop grenades or converted mortar shells into the slits with great precision, and sophisticated cameras on the drones that both reconnoiter for targets and record, in black and white, their deadly effect.
This should be as big a breakthrough in bringing the horrors of war into the American home as were the first photos of Antietam taken by Mathew Brady. Most people, however, still want their news of what's going on in the world filtered through their preferred sources, sources that whether left or right eschew the worst of the violence.
Twitter and Telegram channels fill the gap. One, called "The Dead District," focuses almost exclusively on short videos showing the physical destruction of Russians. So now, for the first time, we are able to see, again and again, young men in the last minute of their lives. We can see it even before they know that they are about to be slaughtered.
From the perspective of the drones and against a backdrop of dark dirt, we see very little blood. When a bomb hits, the victims often scurry quite like ants away from the blast for a few moments, running on adrenalin, then fall to the ground. Sometimes they get up again and try to limp to a position of safety. In such cases the Ukrainians show no mercy; they dispatch the wounded with a second or a third round if they are able. Medics seem nowhere to be found. Nor do the unscathed take it upon themselves somehow to carry their wounded comrades to safety. This is probably wise, because they would just be sacrificing themselves as well.
Now, just in the last 24 hours, we have drone videos of two very graphic suicides that have taken place within the trenches. In one, a wounded soldier tries at first to use his AK-47 as a crutch. When that fails, he lies on his side and fires a round through his head from under his chin. His body seems to give a little shiver, and then he is still. If this were not enough, in the second, the wounded man takes off his helmet and holds a grenade to his head; there is nothing left of his head at the close of the clip.
Both men will be praised at home for their valor. The Russians will say, en masse, «царство ему небенное» -- "May he be in the heavenly kingdom." The boys fought for the Motherland, and the stupider the war, the greater their heroism. That seems to be the logic that prevails within the great red fortress of Moscow.
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