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CSotD: Funny War Stories, such as they are

(Clay Jones)

(Patrick Chappatte)

I wasn’t sure what order to put this pair in, since they’re both ludicrous and neither of them made me laugh but they both got a grim chuckle, which isn’t the same thing.

Jones mocks Putin more directly, but it’s hard to say which cartoonist exaggerates the reality more, with Chappatte getting a little extra credit since photos appeared on Twitter showing the ridiculously rusted, outdated rifles being distributed to Russian conscripts as well as a video or two indicating that heavy military equipment is finding the mud hard to get through.

 

Too many cartoonists are suddenly doing mock-ups of the classic Kitchener/Uncle Sam recruiting poster, swapping in Putin.

Glen Le Lievre (Cartoon Movement) had struck first and with the most explicit captioning, but what was fresh in his hands  has quickly degenerated into cliche as others pile on.

However, the farcical “referendum” in Eastern Ukraine has proven to inspire a more diverse flood of mockery:

Guy Venables simply presents the ballot as it was surely seen by the people in the occupied territories.

 

While Cathy Wilcox offers the same range of choices, and adds the more specific sense of threat behind the absurd “vote.”

 

And Kevin Siers brands the move as the criminal extortion it represents.

 

Meanwhile, Pat Bagley puts into graphic format the derision and jeering that exploded on social media over the news that Putin has awarded Russian citizenship to Edward Snowden, just as born-there-Russian citizens are reportedly fleeing the press gangs rounding up warm bodies to be sent to the front.

To which I would parenthetically note that Snowden is also the name of the hapless rookie in Catch-22, killed on his first mission, whose slow, gruesome death finally breaks Yossarian’s ability to compartmentalize his fear, fury and despair.

And it may be that Moscow’s ability to encapsulate this war — excuse me, this “special military operation” — is also beginning to crumble.

Even Margarita Simonyan, staunchly loyal editor in chief at Russia’s propaganda outlet, RT, apparently found herself unable to comment on the war in a televised interview, saying

I guess, something needs to be said about the current state of war — whether it was or wasn’t declared against us by NATO, NATO troops and Ukraine; about the “special military operation,” as we call it. I won’t talk about it right now, because this is not the time for uplifting statements.

She then reportedly began singing an old patriotic song instead, in a push to increase enlistment.

But 10 days later, she posted a frank appraisal of the government’s push to fill the ranks with clearly unfit, incapable, inappropriate conscripts, which someone then ran through the Google translator:

It reminds me of a self-mocking story my father told of the time he “captured an entire enemy division” during the war.

My father didn’t tell a lot of war stories, having spent much of his time in Europe attempting to catch up with Patton’s galloping army rather than in actual combat, a distinction he was always clear to make, out of respect for those who had been in the front lines.

But, given that he finally rejoined his outfit at Dachau, where his grasp of German got him assigned to working with the displaced persons there, I have no doubt he saw and heard things he chose not to talk about, and my mother said wives were warned not to probe, to let the veterans tell what they wanted, and to keep what things silent that they could not talk about.

But one story he did tell was of going down a road in an armored car in the last days of the war, and stopping at a crossroads as a huge crowd of gray-clad soldiers passed in front of them, who he assumed were Russians, until, conscious of fuel shortages, he leaned down and signaled for his driver — a bilingual coal miner from Pennsylvania — to shut off the motor.

Once the driver, seated down by the engine, could hear the voices, he shouted, “Jesus Christ, Lieutenant! Them ain’t Russians! They’re &$%#* Hungarians!”

At which point the previous friendly waving turned into desperate surrender, which my dad jokingly claimed as his moment of military glory, but, in the telling of which, quickly turned from laughter to grim reflection.

The Hungarians, he said, had given up their weapons days ago and been ordered to start marching to the rear, and what they desperately wanted was food, which, of course, he and his driver couldn’t provide beyond a handful of whatever they had on them.

These poor “enemy soldiers,” he said, had been surrendering to everyone they encountered, and passed along yet again, yet again, yet again, to the rear, and what struck him most, he said, was that there was not a single man in this crushed, defeated crowd between the ages of 16 and 60.

It was an entire regiment made up entirely of green kids and of old men.

I don’t know whether this was before or after he arrived at Dachau and saw what awaited him there.

Perhaps it doesn’t matter.

But here we are again at that same damned crossroads, and these poor untrained, unequipped, unqualified, luckless bastards being sent off to Ukraine will come home — those who come home at all — with stories to tell.

And, like all funny war stories told for the past 3,000 years, not a single one of them will be at all funny.

 

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