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Sunday, June 04, 2006

aftermath

I just finished watching the very excellent documentary, Aftermath. Covering four wars that occurred in the twentieth century, the movie takes no sides and merely documents some of the horrible costs of war, some occurring many decades after the conflict is over.

The most amazing aftermath is the one first up, World War I. I had no idea that approximately 140 Frenchmen labor every year to find and dispose of unexploded ordinance from "The War to End all Wars". People die every year from these "blasts from the past" and as recently as the early nineties, dozens of farmers were killed in a single year from running over these remnants with their farm equipment. The sheer tonnage collected and destroyed every year is all the more astonishing when one realizes that at the current rate, it will take 700 years to clean up "The Great War" in just one country.

The second segment is on World War I and centers around a man in modern day Russia who has taken it upon himself to dig up old battlefields from the struggle to take Stalingrad. It's gruesome to watch him pull skulls out of the ground from a seemingly innocent field. On the other hand, it's heartening to see him interact with some old veterans of the German army, who are providing some funding to him in the hopes of locating the remains of lost friends.

Next up is Vietnam and the weakest of the segments in my opinion. It focuses exclusively on the effects of Agent Orange, a defoliant used for ten years during the Vietnam War. The footage of severely deformed children is gut-wrenching, but I'm skeptical that a single compound, dioxin, could cause such a wide variety of problems. I really don't know enough to judge, but the tendency of environmentalists to exagerate the dangers of every single artificial chemical has left me wary of such claims.

Last up is Bosnia. This is basically a repeat of the World War I segment, again showing the dangers that can linger decades after the shelling has stopped.

Over all, I give it a big thumbs up.

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