Saturday, 7 June 2014

The Mythology of D Day

If you’re at all interested in the history of the Second World War, answer this question: which battle was the single, most important turning point of the war?

If you answered “D-Day”, or “the Normandy Landing”, congratulations: you’ve learned your pseudohistory well.

Why do I say pseudohistory?

I assume that most people reading this will already know something about the Normandy invasion of 6th June 1944, the greatest amphibious assault in history up to that point. And, as Hollywood proved repeatedly by making films like The Longest Day and Saving Private Ryan, the world would be still under the Nazi jackboot if that colossal effort had failed. Only after D Day did the tide turn, the Wehrmacht fall apart, and the Allies roll on Berlin.

As certified by Nobel Peace Prizident and Supreme Warmonger-in-Chief Barack Obama, that was where the “tide was turned in that common struggle for freedom”.[1]

Isn’t that what happened?

Of course not.

The D-Day landings had one significance, and one only: they shortened the war. Even if they hadn’t happened, the Germans would still have been beaten. Why do I say this?

The tide in the war against Nazi Germany had turned long before Normandy. It had broken before Moscow in the hell of the winter of 1941; it had been decisively turned in the alleys of Stalingrad in 1942-3, when General Chuikov and Marshal Rokossovskii, between them, wiped out Field Marshal Paulus’ Sixth Army along with its Italian, Hungarian and Romanian allies. The last vestiges of the Nazi tide had been turned at Kursk in 1943, when the vaunted Waffen SS Panzer divisions had been annihilated by Marshal Zhukov’s T 34 regiments. By 1944, the final German defeat was only a matter of time.

Let me say this once and for all: it was the Red Army which beat Hitler. Not the British, though they played a part, as did Tito’s Yugoslav partisans. Not the “Free French”, and not the US Army or Marine Corps. For all their sacrifices (quite undoubted sacrifices too), they were ancillaries. I repeat: it was the Red Army which beat Hitler.  

Throughout the 1941-5 period, the Soviet Union was Nazi Germany’s primary enemy, and the war on the Eastern Front the overwhelming concern. As Alan Clark noted[2], to the Germans, the war always meant the war in the East. Even after D-Day, the German High Command committed the overwhelming majority of its forces in the East[3]. Till the very end, it was attempting to negotiate an armistice in the West while continuing fighting in the East.

The D-Day landings, huge as they were, involved landing five divisions (130000-156000) of troops against defenders who could be, it has been said, “most charitably described as second-line”[4]. While these troops, and subsequent reinforcements, were fighting their way through the hedgerows of Normandy, something far more important happened on the other side of the continent.

Second question: how many of the readers of this article, who claim to be knowledgeable about the Second World War, have heard of Operation Bagration?

I’m not surprised if you haven’t. Launched on 22nd June 1944 – three years to the day that three million German soldiers had poured across the border to invade the USSR - it was the single most significant military action of 1944, far outstripping D Day, the Ardennes Offensive and the Burma Campaign put together, and it brought the Red Army to the gates of Warsaw. Operation Bagration[5] was the first mass offensive (rather than counteroffensive, as at Moscow, Stalingrad and Kursk) that the Red Army had launched in the war, and it marked a permanent shift in the balance of power in the East. But to the average Western history book, it might as well never have happened.

If Operation Bagration was the largest offensive of 1944, D Day was one that might well have happened earlier. There are excellent reasons to believe that, as Stalin himself thought, the “Second Front” (Normandy) had been delayed until it could be put off no longer[6]. If the Western Allies (or, as the Supreme War Criminal Barack Obama implicitly pretends these days[7], the only Allies) had procrastinated much longer, the USSR would have beaten Germany by itself, and likely laid claim to a much larger share of influence in post-war Europe.

There is some substance to this claim. That the troops required to invade France were available well before D Day is not in dispute; they were available, in fact, over a year earlier. Instead of being used to invade France, though, they were utilised in Operation Torch, the Allied landings in North Africa. Though they did end the war in the Sahara by May 1943, that was always a sideshow in the war. Even if the Germans and their Italian allies had (never a real possibility, given the balance of forces) prevailed in Africa, that would have had no effect on the war as a whole. The Red Army would still have rolled over the Wehrmacht, and Berlin still would have fallen.  

But why would the (Western) Allies want to postpone the Second Front as long as possible? The answer to that lies in the fact, as Alan Clark said[2], the Western Allies would have preferred to see a stalemate in the East, with the Germans and Russians beating each other to pieces. As a matter of fact, the Western Allies had expected a swift collapse of the Soviet Union in 1941; William Shirer claims that Pentagon officials had “confidentially informed reporters” in September 1941 that “the collapse of the USSR was a matter of weeks.”[8] And even as late as 1945, both US General Patton[9] and British Prime Minister/ Supreme War Criminal Winston Churchill[10,11] were plotting a war against the USSR as soon as the German war was concluded – in alliance with the defeated Germans, if need be.

There is another reason why D Day is celebrated in Western historical mythology, of course – the pernicious American tendency to rewrite history to put the US in the driver’s seat, each time, every time. It’s just part of the charming thing called American Exceptionalism.

It doesn’t change the real history, though. And it doesn’t change the fact that the descendants of the men who fought the Nazis are fighting the Nazis again, in Ukraine[12].

Only, this time, the erstwhile Western Allies are openly on the Nazi side.


[2] Alan Clark, Suicide Of The Empires


[8] William Shirer, The Rise And Fall Of The Third Reich

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Badlands IV: The Beginning

He felt the pain before anything else.

It began somewhere in his midsection, and from there radiated in waves across his body, reaching below his knees and up to his mouth and nose. It was almost tolerable at first, but grew with shocking rapidity, until it was like a fire burning within him.

He tried to call out for help, but his torn throat could only let out a gasp. He tried to move his limbs, to get up, but all he managed was to roll himself over partly to one side – a move which would have made him scream with agony if he had been capable of it. Wearily, he let himself flop over on his back again.

For a long time, he lay unmoving, waiting for the pain to recede. Eventually it ebbed a little, enough so that he could draw shallow breaths without flinching, and could start to think again. And when he did, he faced a new terror.

He could remember nothing. He couldn’t remember who he was, his name, or anything else. He could not even remember how he came to be lying here on his back, his body a mass of suffering. There must have been a time before this – he could imagine that much – but of it he could recall nothing at all.

He moaned with the hopeless fear that washed over him. He felt the moan as much as heard it, beginning inside him and oozing over the back of his tongue. The terror washed over him, greater now than the pain or the helplessness, so extreme that it made him raise his head and cry out with the intensity of it. And this brought on the pain again, so severely that he blacked out.

“Man,” a voice was saying, very close by his ear. He couldn’t tell if it were a man or a woman, young or old. He felt someone shake his shoulder, first gently, and then harder. “Man. I heard you crying out. Are you alive?”

He must have made some noise, because the voice came closer. He could hear the words from very close to his ear now. “Yes, you’re alive. You’re very badly hurt though. Can you talk?”

He felt his battered lips open a little of their own accord. “Yes,” he whispered. “I think I can.”

“Good.” The voice receded slightly, as though the speaker was sitting back on his or her heels. “Now, before we go any further, I’ll ask you a question. Think about it very carefully before you answer.”

“What?” What was left of his strength was ebbing. He found it hard even to articulate the single word.

“You’re very badly hurt. In fact, you’re dying.” The voice paused. “But you have a choice.”

Despite the pain, he felt an urge to laugh. “A...choice?”

“Yes. You’re dying, but you’re not so far gone that you can’t be saved.” The voice paused. “Think about it very carefully, and tell me; do you want to live?”

His lips moved, but no sound emerged. He couldn’t be sure, even to himself, that he’d said anything at all.

“Here’s the choice I’m offering you,” the voice said. “I know you’re suffering terribly. If you’d rather not go on, I’ll understand fully. I’ll put an end to your pain quickly and mercifully. If you want to live, though...” The voice paused for a long moment. “If you want to live, I can only promise this: you will never see the end of suffering again.

“Blood, sweat, and tears, that is all I can offer you,” the voice continued after another pause. “Your life will no longer be yours – it will belong to a wider goal, an endless quest which can never be fulfilled. You will endure torments which will make you wish over and over you’d chosen to have me extinguish you in this moment. But this, too, I can promise.” The voice came close again, as though the unseen speaker was bending over his face. “Your life will never be empty again.” He felt a light touch on his cheek, like a cool finger. “Well, Man – what is it to be?”

His lips had opened to speak before his mind knew what to say. “Live,” he whispered, fiercely. “I want to live.” And then he stopped, appalled at what he’d just said.

“I knew it,” the voice said with a deep satisfaction. “You’re a survivor, Man. That’s why you’re still”

“Here?” he repeated. The pain in his body had flared up again with the effort of talking, but  he made the effort. “”

“Wait. Lie back for a bit. I’ve got to heal you as much as I can.” The voice receded. He felt something touching his midsection, the centre of the pain. “This may,” the voice said with cool irony, “hurt a little.”

It hurt more than a little. It hurt so much that it made the former pain seem nothing at all, a minor ache in comparison. It hurt so much that he tried to push himself up, to get up and stumble away if he could. But his arms would not obey him at all.

And then it was over. At first he did not realise that it was over. But the pulling and prodding at his belly had stopped, and suddenly the pain was much less. He could still feel it, but at one remove, as though separated from it by a thick sheet of armour.

Armour, the thought came to him. There was something about armour...

“You should be feeling a little better,” the voice said. “I’m sorry I had to hurt you, but there really wasn’t a way otherwise. Open your eyes now.”

He hadn’t realised that he’d had his eyes closed. When he tried to open them, he found he couldn’t. The lashes were stuck together.

“Let me get the dried blood off them for you,” the voice said. He felt fingers on his eyelids, rubbing. “Try now.”

Warily, he opened his eyes. He was looking up into darkness, but it was not the night sky. Nor was it a room. Far, far above was a curved vault of rock, which reflected a faint greenish glow. Slowly, still flinching in anticipation of pain, he turned his head.

Something squatted by his side. He could not see it clearly. In the darkness, he only had an impression of long talon-tipped fingers, blazing amber eyes and a head full of tumbling red hair.

“Don’t be alarmed, Man,” she – it was quite definitely a she – said. “If I were going to harm you, I wouldn’t have saved you.” She held out a muscular arm for him to hold. “Can you get up now?”

Holding her by the arm, he pulled himself up. Now he could see more of her, of the heavy horns on her head, her naked golden skin and the tail whipping behind her.

“What are you?” he whispered.

She cocked her head to one side, studying him. “I’m a demon,” she said. “What else but a demon would you expect to find here?”

“Here? Where’s here? Where am I?” He looked around. He was sitting on a rough plain of rock. Far away, on all horizons, a pale greenish-blue glow flickered. “What is this place?”

“It’s...not the battlefield you were on. You can probably figure that out for yourself.”

“The battlefield? What battlefield?” But a faint memory came to him, of a head in a helmet covering the entire face, swinging a spiked ball on a chain. He heard yells, curses, screaming. Swords and maces rose and fell.

“You don’t remember, do you? It’s probably better that you don’t. It doesn’t matter anyway, who won or who lost, or who died. You’re alive. It’s all that matters.” Her arm, round his shoulders, lifted him easily to his feet. “Can you walk?”

“And I am...?” Cautiously, he took a couple of steps. His shoulders were weighed down, he discovered, by chain mail. When he touched his face his fingers felt the metal of his nosepiece, and the skin of his cheek felt the leather and iron of his gauntlet. “Who am I?”

“Does it matter, really, who you were?” she asked. “That life is over, Man. You can never go back again.” She stepped close to him, her arm round his back, careful lest he fall. “It’s a whole new beginning that lies ahead for you.”

“You said you were a demon,” he told her. “You said only a demon would be here. But you don’t look like a demon to me.”

She laughed. “I could look quite different if I wanted, Man. If I’d wanted, I could look like...” For an instant, she vanished, and something rock-skinned and spiky stood by his side, looking at him through faceted eyes. “...this,” she finished, reappearing. “I’m a demon, all right.”

The spiky monster had appeared and vanished so quickly that he’d not had time to react. He hadn’t even been able to get a good enough look at it to be afraid. “And what is this place? Hell?”

She snorted. “Hell? That isn’t a place, Man. There’s no such thing as hell or heaven. In any case, if there was a hell, you wouldn’t get there alive. In fact, nobody has, before, which is why I said you were a survivor.”

“How did I get here, then? I don’t remember coming here.”

“I found you.” The demon hesitated. “I was hoping someone like you would come. I’ve been waiting a long time.”

He thought about that a while. “So where are we?”

“This is just...a different place. Different from the one you know. And,” she added casually, “the first thing you have to do is find your way out of here. This isn’t a place for a man.”

“How do I get out of here?” Now that he had got his footing, the strangeness of the place had begun seeping into him, filling him with increasing uneasiness. “Which way do I go?”

“It’s not which way, Man,” the demon said. “It’s how.” She walked a few paces away and swung back towards him. “You do remember that you agreed to something in return for my saving you?”

He nodded. “An endless quest, filled with blood and suffering.” Somehow, now that the pain was fading, it seemed sharply more real, like something with claws hiding in the darkness, half-seen. “I remember.”

“It starts now,” she said. “Getting out of here won’t be easy, though, Man. I can guide you, but I can’t help you. You’ll have to do it yourself.”

He nodded. “I don’t want to linger here a moment longer than necessary. But how do I get out of here?”

She touched him on the arm, surprisingly delicately for her talon-tipped fingers. “Follow me.”

For a long time he followed her across the rocky plain. The green glow on the horizon still flickered, coming no closer. Here and there, too far away to be seen clearly, bizarre humps and angular extrusions rose from the rock, shapes so strange that he was glad they didn’t pass anywhere near one of them.

At length, though, it became clear that they were heading for one of the shapes. It was still far away, but clearly huge, its spiky towers and turrets silhouetted against the glow.

And it was cold. The closer they got to it, the colder it got, as if it were radiating coldness out into the air. The rock underfoot grew slippery with frost.

“What is it?” He had not spoken for a long time, and his voice sounded strange, as though the words froze as they left his mouth and fell out of the air. “What is that place?”

She glanced at him over her shoulder. “If it had a name,” she said softly, “it’s long forgotten. Just as nobody knows where it came from. But if you want to find a way out, it’s through there.”

He shivered, and it was not from the cold. They were now close enough for him to see that the structure more resembled the skeleton of some gigantic creature than a building, though it was clearly not natural. Through spaces in the walls, the green glow shone through like malevolent eyes.

There were stone steps leading up to an entrance that looked like a mouth studded with jagged teeth. The demon turned to face him at  the foot of the steps.

“Before we go in, Man,” she said, “listen carefully. Once we’re inside there, I can’t help you directly in any way. I can’t fight at your side, I can’t heal your wounds, I can’t even pull you back out here if you’re badly hurt. All I can do is offer advice, which may or may not be helpful – but you can be assured that I’ll be giving it with complete sincerity. Are you ready?”

“Fight at my side?” he repeated. “You mean I will have to fight? But I don’t even have weapons.”

“There are different kinds of fighting you’ll have to do,” the demon replied. “Some fights are the sort where you may need weapons. The others are – maybe, different, where the weapons are in your mind. But remember this: nothing inside there will be as it seems. Remember that always. It’s vital.”

He thought about that, and nodded. “I’ll be as ready as I’ll ever be,” he said. “I can’t stand here much longer anyway. I’d freeze.”

She grinned. “That’s one advantage of being a demon. Heat and cold don’t bother us. Come along.”

He followed her up the steps, his breath turning to ice crystals in the air before him.


In here.”

In the deep shadows of the corridor, he couldn’t at first see where she was. Then she reached out and pulled at his arm. “There’s a passage here, and steps going down. Be careful, it’s pretty dark.”

That, he discovered, was an understatement. The stairs were steep and narrow, and so dark that if it hadn’t been for the amber glow of her skin he would have been descending in the pitch blackness. The stairs descended in a tight spiral, and he had a sudden mental image of a fort somewhere, with a staircase like this and slit windows in the wall. He had known the fort well, and there were things there that he...

His foot slipped on a stair, and he might have fallen had he not had his hands on the wall on either side. Angrily, he pushed the half-formed memory away. This was no time to be wool-gathering.

A moment later, something stepped out on the stairs below.

It was gigantic. It was at least twice as tall as a normal man, and broad to match, and when it moved he heard the chink of chain mail. He glimpsed it a moment in the glow of the demon’s skin before she was thrust aside – armour black as night, dark as the gulf between the stars, surmounted by a helmet from whose vision slit two red eyes glowered furiously.

It spoke words. What the words meant, the man had no idea, but the intent was clear enough. It advanced, its metal shod feet clanking on the stairs, and raised a hand. In the hand was a sword big enough to cleave the man to the chest, helmet and all.

For a long, perilously long moment, the man stood frozen. His mind was filled with the image of another iron-clad head, another upraised arm, and he remembered, suddenly and awfully, freezing in fear – long enough for a spiked ball on a chain to begin a crushing descent. He remembered, and he was frozen again. Not even the breath moved in his lungs.

“Man!” the demon screamed. “Man, watch out!”

The man ducked. He began ducking even before the sword rose to its full height, and before it had come halfway down he was throwing himself as far to the side as he could, against the wall.

The armoured figure was fast, much faster than its bulk suggested. The heavy shoulders pivoted, and the sword changed course in mid-fall, and it still would have caught the man against the wall and cut him in two.

But the man was no longer there. He’d hardly touched the wall before he threw himself the other way, and at the instant the sword bit into the stone, he was already scrambling back up the stairs to a higher level. A second swipe of the sword across the stairs missed – he was already too high up.

With a roar, the armoured giant began climbing the staircase in pursuit.

It did not climb far.

The man jumped. He jumped with all his might, bracing his hands against the wall on either side to propel himself. He hurtled through the air like a missile, his boots smashing into the gigantic helmet, all his weight behind it.

Like a great tree cut away at the roots, the giant fell.

It fell in a crash of armour so deafening that the man cried out. His momentum had carried him over the toppling head of the thing, so that he hit the stairs too far away to have it descend on top of him. He fell, already rolling, and twisted in his fall to brake himself against the wall. He’d hardly stopped before he was up already, turning, to meet what the giant would do.

But the giant would not do anything. There was no giant on the stairs, just a jumble of immensely heavy armour, piled and scattered. The helmet he’d kicked rolled down the stairs to his feet, and stopped. It was empty.

“Where -?” he asked, foolishly.

“It’s gone,” the demon said. He could feel her, close by in the darkness; and then he saw her, a reddish-amber glow, slowly strengthening. “It was never something that had a physical body. Just the armour.” She picked up the giant’s sword and held it to him. “Take this.”

“This?” He looked at the weapon dubiously. It was far bigger than anything he’d ever handled before.

“You need a weapon, and you won it in fair combat. Besides, Man, this isn’t the kind of sword you’re used to. You’ll see.”

Gingerly, he took it from her. For an instant, it was so heavy that it almost made him stagger. But then it seemed to grow on his arm, and became almost weightless as he held it high.

“Amazing,” he said.

“It will bring you victories,” the demon said drily. “You will need those victories.” She hesitated. “Man?”


“I have never seen anyone do what you just did. I couldn’t believe that anyone could beat one that.”

He laughed, bitterly. “If I’d been thinking, I’d have been rooted to the spot with terror. I’m just a natural coward.”

“You think so?” the demon asked. “Really?”

“I did freeze, a moment. If you hadn’t shouted I’d have been lying in pieces here, not that thing.”

“You’ll find there are all kinds of courage, Man,” the demon said. “You’ll discover a lot of things, if you give yourself a chance.”

They continued down the stairs.


They stood side by side, looking out on a vast and grassy plain.

It was not a normal plain. The grass was dust-grey and strange, hard and spiky, and it crunched under the man’s boots, instead of bending to straighten up again. And the sky was so strange that the man had taken one look at it and had no desire to look up again. It was grey, and flecked with black dots, as though it were the obverse image of the night sky and the stars.

They had emerged on to the plain shortly after leaving the remnants of the armour on the steps.  It had happened quite suddenly, the stairs ending at a door which hung loose on its hinges, grey light leaking past it. When the man had pushed on it, it had fragmented, falling to pieces as though rateful of the opportunity for rest.

“Where do we go?” the man asked. His voice fell like a whisper into the grey immensity.

“There,” the demon said, pointing. He saw a low hut in the distance, which he’d been certain hadn’t existed only a moment earlier. “That’s where we’re going.”

He studied the hut as they walked towards it. It was made of wood, and built on stilts so that it was held off the ground. It also leaned to one side, as though weary and as eager to fall down as the door they’d passed through. “How did that come here?”

The demon looked over her shoulder at him and smiled. “The way everything else did – the way you did. In other words, I don’t know. I never said I know everything.”

“What do I have to do in there?” he asked. “Fight another of those...things?”

 The demon shook her head, her hair flickering like fire, the only spot of colour in the grey. “No, Man. You just have to go in...and go out of the door on the far side. That’s all.”

He frowned. “That’s all? There must be something else you haven’t told me.”

She shook her head. “I’ve told you all I know, Man. All I know. Maybe you’ll find something to do inside...but if you do, remember what I told you.”

“Yes, that you can’t help. I know.” From close up, the house seemed even more decrepit, a swaybacked set of wooden steps leading up to the unpainted door. “Couldn’t we just, you know, walk around it to the other side?”

“Man,” the demon sighed. “I thought you understood. The object is not to get to the other side of this house. The object is to get to the other side.”

“What? Oh. I understand.” He looked at her and at the hut. “Well, no point wasting time, I suppose.”

The door opened easily to his hand. It surprised him how easily it opened. Inside, there was just a bare room, with another door on the far side.

He was halfway across the room when he heard a voice behind him. It was a woman’s voice. “Oh God,” it said. “It’s you.”

Slowly, he turned. She sat on the wooden floor, to the left of the door by which he’d entered, her back to the far corner. Her bare hands and feet looked startlingly white against the grey of the rough cloak she wore.

“Who -?” he asked.

She raised her head, the skin fine as porcelain and drawn tight across her features. She might have been a great beauty, if only her face hadn’t been marked with suffering. “Don’t you know me?”

He glanced quickly at the demon, who waited passively on the other side of the room, watching. A faint echo of a memory stirred, too far away to grasp. He lunged after it, chasing. “Lady –“

“Please,” the woman said, “don’t tell me you don’t know me. I couldn’t bear that.”

“But...” Suddenly the memory was his, for a moment, and he snatched at it. “You.”

“Yes. And you swore to love me for always. But where did you leave me and go?”

“I’m sorry,” he said, bending to take her hands in his and helping her to her feet. “I would have come back, but things happened. You don’t need to know what they were, just that I’m lucky to be alive. Very lucky.”

“I searched for you through all the world, and at last I found you – here.”

“I’m looking for a way to get out,” he told her. “I’m looking for a way to come back, and then I can find you–“

“There’s no need for all that,” she said impatiently. “Come with me now, home to me and our son.”

“Home?” The word hadn’t fully left his mouth when she gestured with her hand, and he saw, behind her, the wall had dissolved away. And there lay the old familiar hall, the chair in which he’d loved to spend his evenings, the heavy brocade curtains over the window which would look out on to the river, and –


The boy was halfway down the long hall, standing beside the table on which he kept his books, and was staring across at him, eyes opened wide with surprise. “Father!”

He felt her hands on his, pulling gently. “Come home, my love. Come to us, away from this cold. Come home.”

He’d raised his foot for the first step across the threshold when a cold voice sounded in his head. “Nothing will be as it seems,” it said. “Nothing.”

He held back, paused. “No.”

The woman frowned. “What do you mean, no?”

“I mean I’m not going in there. I’m not sure this is real.”

“But of course this is real.” She pulled his hand and held it to her breast. A tear trembled in her eye. “I’m real. Your home is real. Our son is real.”

“If that’s so,” he asked, carefully and brutally, “what’s my name?”

“Your name?”

“And yours, and the boy’s. You keep saying ‘our son’. You haven’t taken my name once, either, or told me your own. Is it because I don’t know them?”

The woman’s mouth opened and closed.

“You aren’t real, are you?” he continued. “You – and the rest of this – it’s all from what I have in my memory. But I’ve forgotten my own name, let alone yours, and the boy’s – so you don’t know them either. Isn’t that so?”

There was a long moment of silence, and then she changed. At one instant she stood before him, his hand still at her breast, her tear-filled eyes gazing into his own; then, she crumbled suddenly, the delicate features changing to dust before his eyes, disappearing in a puff of air. Another moment, and he was standing in an empty room.

He stood there for a long time before he walked to the other door and opened it.

His hand, in the heavy gauntlet, shook hardly at all.


Do you want to talk about it, Man?”

 “Talk about what?”

“What happened back in the room. I could see you, but nobody else.”

“No,” he said, shaking his head. “Not really. Let’s just look towards what’s to come, not what’s done with.” He gestured at the broad stone steps at their feet, which led down to a great hall. The plain had vanished. “Now what?”

The demon shook her head. “I don’t know,” she said. “I’ve never been here, but I suppose we have to make our way out of this place, whatever it is.” She walked down a few of the steps and looked back at him over her shoulder. “Are you coming?”

With one last glance over his shoulder at the empty wooden room, he went.

The hall was enormous, with immense pillars scattered at random intervals. The further corners were draped in shadow, but there was a dull light, like diluted sunshine, falling from high above. The ceiling soared so high that it was hard to see, but it was perceptibly warmer. The deathly chill was fading.

For a long time they walked through the hall, past the pillars. Sometimes, in the far distance, things seemed to move, but too far away to see or hear. Once in a while, shadows flickered overhead.

The pillars began to change. At first they had all been smooth stone, but now carvings appeared on them. At first these were little more than faint lines and scratches, but as they went further the carvings deepened, took form, and turned into things so strange and bizarre the man could not put a name to them. The pillars were more frequent, too, so that looking away from one only meant looking at another, so after a while he kept his eyes fixed on the demon’s back, ahead of him.

“Man?” she said, so suddenly that he started. “Something’s following us.”

“What?” He looked over his shoulder but al he could see were pillars.

“I don’t know what it is, but I’m becoming more and more certain. It’s been getting closer for a while.” She raised a hand. “Listen.”

He listened. At first the silence was complete and total, silence so pure that it seemed that there could be nothing else anywhere in the universe. Then, so faintly that he could not be certain that he’d heard it, came a noise like scratching and clicking. When he turned his head to listen better, it seemed to come from another direction.

“There’s more than one of them,” he said.

She nodded. “They’re stalking us. They aren’t very bold yet, not nearly bold enough to attack. But they’re getting bolder the further we go.”

“Like wolves,” he said. “Coming closer, from the rear and from the flanks. When they attack, it’s going to be from several directions.”

“Are you afraid, Man?”

He grinned without humour. “I doubt if fear will do me any good now.”   He looked at the sword. It was a mighty weapon, but in the confined space between the pillars he didn’t know what good it might be. “Demon?”


“There’s something standing up there between those two pillars watching us.”

“Yes.” The beast stood calmly staring back at them. The huge horned head was mounted on the muscular torso of a man, but from the waist down it had merged into the body of a bull. It raised and brought down one of its hoof-tipped legs.

“Do you think it’s one of those who’re following us?” the man asked.

“No. And they’re getting closer. Watch out!”

The things came rushing from between the pillars on either side. They ran low to the ground, armoured snouts almost touching the floor, thick stiff tails held out behind. The nearest one sidestepped the man’s first thrust, slipped under the sword, and came on. It hooked its huge curved fangs upward, fangs which might disembowel a man, or lay his thigh open to the bone.

The man jumped, turning already as he was jumping, and came down just clear of the hunter, but it was already turning, and the second was preparing to spring, its body braced against its bent legs. He could possibly run it through in mid-leap, but by then the first one would be on him, and then it would be all over. And there were more – he could see them, running. They were still quite far away, but they were fast and would be here in no time at all.

Something hurtled past him then, something which knocked him aside at a touch of its shoulder. A huge horned head bent and straightened, and the second hunter was caught in mid-leap and sent flying. The first turned, growling, to meet this new threat, but already too late. The beast rose on its back legs, shrieking, and brought down both front hooves. There was a sound of splintering bone.

The other hunters were coming.

“Man,” the demon screamed. She leaned at him from the beast’s back, reaching. “Man. Get up here. Now!”

The third hunter was already hooking its fangs at his calf when he swung himself on the beast. It kicked out, its hooves smashing on the rock, screaming, and then turned and rushed off through the hall at a heavy, lumbering gallop, the hunters hard on its heels. But they feared the heavy horns and flying hooves, and kept to a safe distance. One by one, they fell back and away.

The beast’s gallop fell off to a clumsy trot. The man felt suddenly immensely weary. He leaned his head on the back of the heavy muscular shoulders.

“Sleep, Man,” the demon said, over his shoulder. “Sleep.”

He slept.


Look, Man.” The demon was shaking his shoulder. “Wake up.”

He blinked awake. The beast was walking up a long, rocky passage. At the far end was an opening, and through it he saw something which made him rub his eyes in astonishment.

It was daylight. Quite genuine, natural daylight. He saw grey cloud, and a patch of blue sky.

“We’re out?” he asked, unbelievingly.

“Yes, Man.” She touched his face, her glowing skin warm as though from an inner fire. “We are.”

“Demon?” he asked. “Can I ask you something?”

“Of course you can. What?”

“Why do you say we? Why did you come along with me?”

The demon chuckled. “Man, just because I’m a demon doesn’t mean I don’t have dreams. I told you I was waiting for someone like you for a long time. Well, there are things to do, and I can’t do them alone.”

“The quest you talked about?”

“Yes. There’s an endless amount of work to do, Man. It never ends, and it never will.”

They emerged from the opening, onto a hillside. It had rained, and the grass was wet. The sky was still heavy with cloud, but the sun was out, over the crest of the hill, behind their backs.

“Do you see that, Man?” the demon asked, softly.

In the middle distance, where the hill met the forested plain, a rainbow hung in the air, beckoning, beckoning.

Copyright B Purkayastha 2014


Wednesday, 4 June 2014

The Myth Of The Tiananmen Square "Massacre"

Note to readers: This is a repost of an article I wrote back in January 2010. It first appeared on Multiply (which no longer exists, unfortunately), and was later reposted on Subversify, on Piazza Della Carina, and on my archive blog. However, since this is the anniversary of the alleged "Tiananmen Square Massacre", which is being sprayed all over the internet, I believe it needs reposting, just to make a point.

Remember this: the same people who want you to believe that the Tiananmen Square Massacre happened, or that, for instance, North Korea is a starving, impoverished dystopia, are the same people who peddled the myth of Saddam Hussein's WMDs, the myth of Bashar Assad's "chemical weapons attacks", the myth of
"peaceful Ukrainian protests", and so on. If you choose to believe them, I can really not help you.

(Before I begin: I suspect I may be about to upset a great many applecarts with this article; if I do so, you may not agree with my conclusions, but at least I will have made you think. And for that I do not apologise. All sources have been cited at the end of the article and are available on the internet.)
I belong to a school of thought – probably there aren’t very many of us – which holds that so-called “iconic” individuals and occurrences in history, things that are so taken for granted that to question them is tantamount to sacrilege, need revisionist historical analysis. If, after that revisionist historical analysis, the original version, or some semblance thereof, holds up, fine. But if one finds that the revered original version is critically flawed, one usually has clear indications from the flaws of just why it’s allowed to survive at the expense of the truth.
I intend, therefore, to submit to critical examination one of the “defining” occurrences of our time, the so-called Tiananmen Square “massacre” that is said to have occurred on the night of 4 June 1989, just twenty years and six months ago. I intend to prove my hypothesis that the actual course of events was deliberately misreported and propagandised in the Western media. I intend to attempt to prove my hypothesis that the Chinese government of the time acted correctly and in the best interests of the Chinese people and the Chinese nation by cracking down, in whatever form, on the demonstrations. And I intend to try and prove my contention that destroying the protests was of immense positive significance to the world at large, today, almost a generation later.
(In order to be strictly fair, I should lay on record that I’m not an unbiased commentator. I’m a Sinophile in many respects. While my ideology isn’t equivalent to any “-ism”, it most closely parallels Marxism. I admire the Chinese Revolution, the Long March, and Mao Zedong. I view with deep suspicion any and all Western media pronouncements about the non-Western world; and I believe that after the invasion of Afghanistan on false pretences and of Iraq on pretences that weren’t just false but deliberately and cynically cooked up, my suspicions are more than justified.)
We all know, or we have been reminded in great detail over the years, of the occurrences of 1989 that culminated in the (alleged) “Tiananmen Square Massacre”. In brief, they were these: that 1989 was the year when so-called “peoples’ revolutions” were clearing away (never very enthusiastic) Communist regimes across Europe. It was the year when the world seemed suddenly about to become free for the triumph of Western style capitalism. The Eastern European regimes were crashing. The Soviet Union, where Mikhail Gorbachev had begun a programme of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring), was, mostly as a consequence, tottering on the verge of implosion. Only the great monolith of China still held out, refusing to be blown away by the winds of change.
The Background.
Actually, at the time, China was already into its twelfth year of its own version of perestroika; the then leader, Deng Xiaoping, had begun a programme of economic reform since 1978. China wasn’t the equivalent of the state-driven economies of Eastern Europe. It was already moving towards a mix of socialism (for most American readers: to the non-American world, believe it or not, socialism is not a dirty word) and market-driven capitalism. This kind of transit has characteristic features, including a sharp rise in prices, a widening rich-poor divide, and rising levels of corruption and social unrest. It’s been seen so often worldwide that it should be included as one of the defining characteristics of a privatising society.
I mentioned that there was social unrest. There were those who hoped and expected that the Communist Party would evaporate like the artificial parties of Eastern Europe and usher in unbridled capitalism. There were those old Maoists who felt the Communist Party was betraying the Revolution. There was opposition, too, from quite ordinary people from a non-ideological viewpoint; people against the negative aspects of the privatisation, against the price rise and the corruption; people who were, in effect, opposed to the first, free-marketeer, lot. All these diverse protesting groups were themselves divided in just what they wanted and were united in just one thing – opposition to the Chinese government. They had absolutely nothing else in common, and it’s important to remember that.
The so-called Tiananmen Square protests began in this atmosphere. They began on a relatively small scale on 15 April 1989 after the death of deposed and “pro-reform” Communist party General Secretary Hu Yaobang; they comprised mourning for Hu on college campuses across China and calls for reform. At this stage the protestors comprised almost entirely students who wanted change. They weren’t sure what kind of change they wanted, reform of the system or its overthrow. All they wanted was change.
By 17 April, groups of students had begun holding protests outside the Great Hall of the People in Tiananmen Square, issuing a list of demands, and the next day they had begun blocking access to and affecting the functioning of the seat of the Chinese government at the Zhongnanhai Building. Police with linked arms formed a human cordon that prevented these students from physically forcing their way into the Zhongnanhai complex. It was only on 20 April that the police finally broke up the student demonstrations outside Zhongnanhai, using force – said force being the limited use of batons. Not even tear gas was employed at this stage.
The next day, some 100,000 students occupied Tiananmen Square while others boycotted classes. On 27 April, after the government had made an official pronouncement accusing small groups of plotters of fomenting unrest (more on that later) 50,000 students gathered in Beijing’s streets. By now other demonstrations were taking place in many other Chinese cities, including Shanghai, Urumqi and Chongqing. It’s important to remember that these protests occurred, and it will be important to see how they turned out.
In the first days of May, there were renewed student protests, including marches on Beijing’s streets and by 13 May there was a hunger strike by students in Tiananmen Square, with the demand that the government negotiate. However, the government only agreed to talk to the approved student’s organisations, which these students had abandoned in favour of their own, unrecognised organisations. The hunger strike went on, drawing increasing national concern, and early on the morning of 19 May Zhao Ziyang, General Secretary of the Communist party, and Li Peng, Prime Minister of China, went personally to the hunger strikers on Tiananmen Square to persuade them to abandon their hunger strike. It had no effect, but it’s important to remember that they did go.
At this time – to all appearances – the Communist party hierarchy was itself divided about its attitude to the students. It is clear that at least a good section were sympathetic to the students’ concerns about corruption, and so far the government had refrained from violence despite the virtual paralysis of the capital for weeks. Parts of the government, including Zhao Ziyang, were willing to negotiate – but negotiate with whom? The protestors had many and often mutually exclusive agendas. With whom should the government have negotiated? On 20 May, faced with an apparently insoluble dilemma, the government declared martial law.
Martial Law and Thereafter
The army tried to enter Beijing, but the streets were blocked with throngs of protestors. The army made no attempt to force its way through them, but withdrew on 24 May. The students made no attempt to meet the government halfway – the hunger strike was approaching its fourth week and with public discontent rising, the government either had to cave in completely to a disunited and disorganised mass of conflicting interest groups – an invitation to utter chaos – or take action. It decided to take action. Zhao Ziyang, who had consistently supported the students, was ousted. The “hardliners” took over. The students had sown the wind, and they were about to reap the whirlwind.
Not that this seems to have occurred to the students in the square. By 30 May, they had set up a plaster statue of the “Goddess of Democracy” in the square. The next day, the government sent in soldiers again; reportedly the 27th and either the 28th or 38th Armies of the People’s Liberation Army (accounts differ). They were supposed to take control of the city and restore normalcy.
It is at this point that the accounts from the “sources” which are usually quoted by the Western media and the other sources begin to differ. According to the Western media’s “sources” (I have deep and abiding suspicion of any “source” whose account is accepted uncritically by Western media – remember the Iraq “sources”? – hence the quotes) the two armies sent in were armed and ready to shoot. According to the Chinese government, and, crucially, according to the US embassy in Beijing, the soldiers were sent in unarmed (see link below for documentation on this point).
As rumours spread of thousands of troops converging on the square, a large part of the people of Beijing came out on the streets, burned buses – government property – and set up barricades. The unarmed troops could not penetrate through these barricades. Soldiers were attacked with stones and Molotov cocktails; some were beaten or burned to death and their bodies strung up. Finally, armed troops were sent in, and they were met with the same reception. Officers were pulled from tanks and killed. After an armoured personnel carrier was incinerated and its crew killed, the soldiers fired at the people throwing Molotov cocktails. That there were barricades and people throwing firebombs isn’t something that any Western media “source” has even attempted to refute. This was not a massacre; it was somewhere between a riot and an insurrection.
I wonder what the reaction would have been if American occupation troops in Kabul or Baghdad were similarly barricaded and attacked with petrol bombs? Actually, I don’t need to wonder; the actions of the occupation forces in Iraq and Afghanistan speak for themselves in such situations.
To get back…
The Tiananmen Square “Massacre”
Finally, at 1am on 4 June, the army cleared the streets and reached Tiananmen Square. What did the soldiers do then? Go in shooting? No – according to even the “sources” which are quoted by the Western media, they waited for governmental orders. By then – again, this is not doubted – a large majority of the students had left the square. Only a few thousand remained. The army offered these students amnesty to leave. At 4 am, the students put the matter to vote – whether to go or to remain and face the consequences. Again, this is a matter that is not at dispute. The army did not go in, shooting blindly, and killing everyone in the square. First, according to everyone, they gave the students a chance to save themselves.
Now things get rather interesting. According to the standard Western media account of this episode, the tanks went in about 4 or 5am, shooting and crushing the students. This is the famous “massacre”, which is so inscribed in the modern consciousness. The bloodthirsty Chinese government had let loose a reign of terror on the poor peace-loving democracy-craving people of their own capital city. You know the stuff.
However, Spain’s ambassador to Beijing at the time, Eugenio Bregolat, notes that Spain’s TVE channel had a television crew in the square at the time, and if there had been a massacre, they would have been the first to see it and record it. Did they? No. If they had, wouldn’t there have been videos all over the internet, not to mention TV, of the massacre itself? But there are none. Bregolat also claims that most of the journalists who filed “eyewitness” accounts of the massacre were – at the time when they were allegedly witnessing the massacre – away from the Square, in the Beijing Hotel.
Similarly, Graham Earnshaw, a journalist in the square who was interviewing student leaders and was present during the night of June 3-4, claims (link below) that all the few hundred remaining students were persuaded to leave by the army, and when the tanks entered from one side of the Square, the last remaining students were withdrawing peacefully from the other side. Earnshaw agrees that the students’ “tent city” was crushed under the tanks’ treads as they came in, but he says there was nobody sleeping in the tents at the time to be crushed by the armour. Anyone who has ever been anywhere near a tank with its engine running will agree with his contention that nobody (except, I assume, the profoundly deaf) could have remained sleeping through the episode to be crushed, even without the earlier drama of the amnesty offer and the vote.
Then again, Xiaoping Li, a former China dissident, now resident in Canada, writing in the Asia Sentinel and quoting Taiwan-born Hou Dejian who had been on a hunger strike on the square to show solidarity with the students, said: “Some people said 200 died in the square and others claimed that as many as 2,000 died. There were also stories of tanks running over students who were trying to leave. I have to say I did not see any of that. I was in the square until 6:30 in the morning.”
And these are the words of a dissident, and more, of a dissident who now lives abroad and presumably has nothing to fear.
Then there is the circumstantial evidence. Most of the “Tiananmen Square Massacre” crowd repeat, ad nauseam, lists of student leaders arrested in the aftermath of the “massacre”. Many of these student “eyewitnesses” also claim to have seen tanks shooting and crushing people in the Square. Well, in that case, there’s an obvious question: how come all these leaders and/or eyewitnesses who were present in the Square all survived the “massacre” unscathed? How come not one of them can state the name of anyone who was killed in the Square itself, given that they had all been protesting together there for weeks? Wasn’t a single person of those hundreds or thousands killed a friend or comrade or classmate of these students? Why isn’t there one single, miserable photo showing the massacre in the Square itself?
I’m not saying there weren’t killings in Beijing that night. I’m saying that said killings were restricted to the fighting in the streets leading to the square, essentially between barricaders and soldiers trying to get through the barricades. I cannot find one single bit of incontrovertible proof that there was a single killing in the Square itself, let alone a massacre.
If you – therefore – try and maintain an impartial attitude to the sources, there is at least reasonable grounds for doubt about whether there was a single episode of firing, a single death, in Tiananmen Square on the night of 3/4 June 1989; let alone the famous “massacre”.
Deconstructing a famous photograph.

It’s called one of the “100 most famous photographs of all time”; actually, there are several versions of the photo, and there’s a video of the episode as well, which has its own peculiar significance. Taken on the morning of 5th June 1989, it shows a lone man, in white shirt and dark trousers, with what seems to be shopping bags in his hands. He stands in front of a line of tanks. In the most well-known version, that taken by Jeff Widener of the Associated Press, there are four tanks. In other photos, taken from further away, there are more tanks behind those four. They are Chinese Type 59 tanks, with the crew “buttoned up” inside; i.e. the hatches shut.
As seen in the video, the man gestures angrily to the tank with his bags. The tank swerves to one side in order to drive around him. The man steps again in front of the tank, and the heavy vehicle again tries to steer around him. Finally, it stops, and the man clambers on it, has a brief exchange with the crew, and descends. As the tank tries to drive on, he again steps in front of it and again it stops. People from the crowd then pull the man to safety and the tanks drive on (this last bit is typically excised from videos of this episode posted on such sites as YouTube).
According to the standard mythology of the event, one so standard that it’s practically sacrilege not to believe it, the man displayed almost unbelievable courage in the face of overwhelming Chinese military aggression. This “lone hero” became an instant icon, known as the “Tank man” and a symbol of courage worldwide.
Now let’s take a close look at the photograph, one from a strictly neutral viewpoint, and there are several extremely interesting features, which go well beyond the particular episode itself and reveal a lot about the entire Tiananmen Square affair.
First, and most obviously, the crew of the tanks have sealed themselves inside. This is extremely significant because as far as possible tank crews avoid doing this. Even in combat, whenever they can get away with it, they try to keep the hatches open. There are several reasons for this; one is that vision from inside a “buttoned down” tank is very limited and it’s almost impossible to hear sounds from outside; for a fairly primitive tank like the Type 59 (of which surviving examples are now relegated to training and second-line duties), this is even truer. All the driver can see when his hatch is shut, through two “vision blocks,” is to the front and slightly to the right. The commander in the turret can do little better (for details on the capabilities of the Type 59 tank, see link below). And a sealed up tank, especially an early model one like the Type 59, is extremely hot and cramped and difficult for the crew to operate in for prolonged periods.
So why did the crew seal themselves inside? There can be only one reason: to protect themselves against Molotov cocktails and attacks from mobs.
Secondly: take a close look at the photo. The first, third and fourth tanks can clearly be seen to have caps covering the muzzles of their main guns. The second may have a black muzzle cap or the muzzle may be open, but the rest certainly have capped muzzles. Muzzle caps, which are meant to protect the interiors of the guns from dirt and dust, are never taken into a situation where the main guns may need to be fired. This is proof positive that the tanks were sent in without any intention of firing the main guns, come what may.
Similarly, the tanks being sealed up means the crews cannot use the machine guns on the turret roofs (the blocky objects on the right of each tank turret, sticking out to the side). The Type 59, admittedly, has two other machine guns; of them more anon.
Then, there are the shopping bags carried by the “tank man” himself. Obviously, if you go shopping – and nobody has ever suggested the shopping bags meant anything else – there must be shops open. Take it from one who has been in riot situations: shops never open when there is a possibility of serious violence. The shop owners have too much to lose from riots and looting. If there are shops open, the quantum of violence must be much lower than usually thought.
Now, if we look at the video, we see the tank shifting to the right and back again in an effort to avoid the man. If the Chinese troops had already shot and crushed down hundreds to thousands of unarmed civilians, and according to standard mythology they were, even on this 5th of June, shooting students trying to re-enter the Square, why would the tank have gone to such trouble to save the life of one miserable counter-revolutionary? There can be no reasonable explanation but the fact that the tankers were exercising the maximum restraint in the face of provocation. (Again, suppose an Iraqi or an Afghan were to do this to an American armoured column, or a Palestinian to an “Israeli” [Zionistani] Merkava, as many in fact have done; what do you think would he have been called even as he was being blown away? A terrorist!)
Incidentally, this is the photo that first made me doubt the entire story of the massacre. The action of the crew of those tanks was so completely opposed to the conventional tale of the “massacre” that it merited a closer look. So, in all, I am thankful to the photographer and the “tank man” – for reasons directly contrary to the usual Western media accounts.
Also, Widener’s own account of the prelude to the photo is interesting. He was confined to his hotel – he says – because he had flu and was injured by a protestor who threw a brick at him, smashing one of his other cameras and giving him a concussion. Nice nonviolent protestors, eh?
Deconstructing an ancillary photo.

Before we reach a final conclusion on the Tank Man, though, let’s take a look at another photo, taken from ground level and published only in June 2009. Taken shortly before the “iconic” images, it shows the distant tanks coming towards the camera, and, in the middle left distance, what is alleged (there is no direct proof of this) to be the “tank man” himself, waiting beside a bulldozer, all ready to step in the way of the armoured column, shopping bags and all. In the right distance a bicyclist pedals unhurriedly on, and in the left foreground a man (also carrying a shopping bag) seems about to flash a thumbs-up sign at the camera. In the right foreground is the only sign of hurry or panic; a young man who appears to be sprinting or trying to duck.
Terrill Jones of the Associated Press, who took this photo, claims that – in order to avoid firing – he and others took shelter and could no longer see what happened afterwards. This is one of those stories that need to be examined carefully. First: If there indeed was firing, why is the cyclist so unconcernedly pedalling on? Even if it is true that the man in the left distance is the “tank man” himself, and even if he is willing to sacrifice his life in order to stop the tanks and so is unconcerned, why is the shopping bag man in the foreground obviously not in any panic or fear? Why is he apparently about to break into a huge grin? Why is the only man in a hurry the one in the right front, dashing towards the photographer?
Then, if there was indeed firing, where was it coming from? Certainly not from the tanks; as I said, the main guns were capped and the anti-aircraft machine guns unattended by the buttoned-up crew. The Type 59 has two other machine guns, both of 7.62 mm calibre. One is a coaxial gun, which fires along the line of the main gun, in whichever direction the main gun is pointing. In this case all the tanks had their main guns elevated at normal position, so the firing wasn’t coming from the coaxial guns – the bullets would have gone into the sky. The third gun is one fixed in the front of the tank and firing straight ahead through a very small aperture in the glacis plate (the tank’s front armour) and operated by the driver. It’s a nearly useless weapon, since it can only be aimed by turning the entire tank to point it directly at the target. If the hull gun was firing, only the lead tank could have been firing it, as the fire from others in the line would have struck the tanks in front of them. And in that case, what was the hull gun firing at? And again – why on earth did the tank save “tank man’s” life? It doesn’t make any sense.
Similarly, if “tank man” was spirited away by the crowd to safety, then there was enough of a crowd to take him away to safety, and that in turn means that there wasn’t any firing. Whoever the man was, there’s no evidence as to what happened to him; accounts of his execution are balanced by accounts that he is living in Taiwan (link below). If he’s dead, why aren’t any acquaintances coming forward to say who he was? If he is alive, why isn’t he coming out of the shadows, if necessary after smuggling himself out of China? Absolutely nobody seems to be sure who he is. Or is he, as some have suggested, mentally ill? A madman wouldn’t be the best expression of defiance of a tyrannical regime, would he?
All in all, the conclusion is clear: far from being a symbol of courage, “tank man” was in no real danger from military units exercising restraint in the face of provocation. In fact, what the photos and video clearly demonstrate is the reverse of what the official iconography, if I can put it that way, of this episode claims.
The Death Toll
How many people died in the entire Tiananmen Square affair? The Chinese Red Cross was alleged to have said 2600 died, but denied having ever given any such figure. “Unbiased” Western media alleges that the Red Cross backed down after pressure from the Chinese government, but fails to either provide any evidence of either this pressure or just who were these 2600 who died. At least some hundreds of their relatives could have been cited? The official Chinese government figure is 241 dead, including the soldiers who were burned and battered to death when they tried to make an unarmed approach to the Square. There are various other estimates. And, according to the Tiananmen Mothers, only 186 names of the alleged thousands dead have been confirmed as of June 2006, and that includes people whose deaths weren’t necessarily due to army action, including one who committed suicide.
Does it matter how many died? Yes, it does; it marks the difference between a unilateral massacre and fighting on both sides. For such an allegedly enormous death toll, the evidence seems to be scanty indeed.
The Significance
It was – I think – Zhou Enlai who, when asked about the significance of the French Revolution, said “It’s too early to tell.” At the time, the Chinese government was probably not looking to the long term; in a year when fellow Communist governments were being toppled by mass street protests and governmental paralysis, it was looking to its own survival when it decided to use force, in whatever form, against the students. However, in deciding to use force, it put a permanent full stop to a chain of events which – going by what happened in other nations at the time – would have led to unravelling of Central governmental authority, collapse of the state, disintegration of the economy and more than likely of the nation, and anarchy leading to mass impoverishment and mafia rule.
For comparison, we should look to the Soviet Union and the so-called putsch of 19 August 1991, which temporarily overthrew Mikhail Gorbachev and tried to maintain the unity of the nation, something the Soviet people had themselves largely approved of in a referendum. The coup collapsed in three days almost entirely because the new junta refused to use overwhelming force against the protestors, led by Boris Yeltsin, later to preside, marinated in alcohol, over the descent of Russia into a corrupt oligarchy with the collapse of social services, skyrocketing corruption, and plummeting life expectancy. Almost exactly the same thing would likely have happened to China if the Tiananmen Square protestors hadn’t been neutralised.
In fact, it’s likely that the entire crackdown could have been avoided if the Beijing authorities had acted early and severely, incarcerating ringleaders and shutting down their media outlets, as Jiang Zemin, then the mayor of Shanghai, had done. This had nipped in the bud developing disturbances in China’s second city. Allowing the students weeks of a free hand was in itself an error, and China has taken care not to repeat that error in later years.
One look at China today, with its roaring economy and its people – who are far more prosperous than they were two decades ago – and a comparison with where Russia is even now, when it’s finally beginning to get to its feet again, and it should be clear that the Chinese government acted in the best long-term interests of its own people when it ended the protests.
But – what about freedom? Aren’t the Chinese people deprived of freedom? That is an oft-heard argument, a rich argument indeed when one thinks of the status of the “freed” citizens of such nations as Iraq or Afghanistan; or indeed of Russia, whose starving and impoverished people were called “free” but now that they are, at last, slightly better off are no longer called “free”. Strange are the definitions of freedom, and bizarre are the uses of the word.
For the record, I believe democracy, as practiced today, is an eyewash and does not equal freedom. I believe that the right to live with dignity is more important than the right to vote, and I believe that a nation which provides the necessities for the maximum number of its people is freer than one which allows them to vote but takes no steps to ensure they have a roof over their heads and clothes on their backs.
There is also the question of the significance of the crackdown to the world at large, two decades later. As we all know (or should know), China is one of the most significant nations in the world today, and certainly the fastest-rising one. It’s also the only country which serves as a counterweight to the global hegemon and self-declared world policeman, the United States of America. The US is a power in decline, but is still the only nation which believes in war as a policy of first resort and seeks to impose its will – by force – on the rest of the world. But even the US has to tread warily on Chinese economic might.
Can one imagine how much more arrogant and lethal the USA’s war against the world would have been without China providing some kind of balance?
The Media Lies
As should be obvious by now, I believe the mass of the Western media lied, cynically and repeatedly, and continues to lie about the Tiananmen Square incident. Much of the lying is due to a phenomenon called “pack journalism” (see link below) where media fall in line, quite unthinkingly, and without checking facts, on a particular “plausible” story. One only has to remember the tales of Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Distraction, sorry, Destruction, for a recent example.
Also, the Western media have never hidden their anti-China bias, even in these days when they have to treat China with respect. So the 2001 incident when an American spy plane collided with a Chinese fighter and was compelled to land in China was an “intolerable act of aggression”, without regard to the facts. Actually, the facts never really mattered, as we saw in 2008 when the Lhasa rioting was deliberately and cynically misreported with propaganda from Tibetan exile groups (speedily exposed through the Chinese blogosphere) of how the PLA soldiers were responsible for dressing up as monks and rioting, and so on.
But media sources have to take their inspiration from somewhere. That inspiration is almost always from the people who actually control these media, people who have the most to gain from the lies the media disseminate. In Iraq, we know who benefitted the most from the invasion, which firms saw their stock prices jump through the ceiling. Similarly, a collapsed and disintegrating China would have freed a lot of space for certain business interests and allowed certain nations a free hand in East Asia. So it was entirely predictable that they would react violently to firm action that made it less likely that any such collapse would occur, besides painting all Communists with the same genocidal brush.
The conventional truth about Tiananmen Square – in summary – is not the truth. But the truth is out there for those who care to know, the evidence visible for those who wish to see.
Statutory Disclaimer: The opinions stated herein are mine. I am in no way responsible for any fights, quarrels, or breaks in relations caused by the contents of this article. Be warned.
Further reading:
If the links below don’t work, please copy and paste to your browser
(I wish to express my gratitude to blogger “Bobby Fletcher” – – for bringing some of the links below to my attention) (The wikipedia entry on the Tiananmen Square protests) (US Embassy note stating that the Chinese troops had initially been unarmed.) (Graham Earnshaw’s account of Tiananmen Square, where he states unambiguously that “most of the deaths did not happen on or near the Square.”) (About the Tank Man, with a description of the original video) (All about the Type 59 tank) (Jeff Widener’s account of how he was hit in the face by a rock and also claims how the photographers of the “iconic” image saw armoured personnel carriers firing at the crowds. Where are the photos of that episode?) (Terrill Jones’ account claiming the tanks were firing at the time of the “tank man” incident) (A Time Magazine article on the “tank man,” typical of Western media reportage of the incident. Note the unattributed and unsubstantiated allegations that the Chinese shot “hundreds of workers and students and doctors and children, many later found shot in the back.”) (Chinese language article claiming “tank man” still lives. I don’t speak Chinese so have to take it at its word) (An article by the former Canadian ambassador to Japan, Gregory Clark, examining the myth of the “massacre”) (By the same author; an examination of the phenomenon of pack journalism) (A discussion of other anti-Chinese western media propaganda)

Edit (5 June 2014):

New information from these links, which will be of interest:

[This link also has photos of armoured personnel carriers burned by "peaceful protestors", one of which I am displaying below, and which cites US diplomatic cables outed by Wikilleaks.]


2. I consider  a fairly typical piece of gatekeeper propaganda, for the simple reason that it repeats the fictional casualty figures without mentioning either the "protestor" violence or giving any actual names of those "thousands" killed. However, even it admits that no student in Tiananmen Square was killed.

3. makes the point that the tanks were moving away from the Square on 5 June when Tank Man pulled his stunt.

More links:

I doubt that all the evidence will convince any of the shambling mental zombies who insist on believing the lies, though.