Category Archives: Zen at war

Farrer and Roberts discuss War Magic and the Sacrificial Devotion of Tamil Tigers

Q and A reprinted courtesy of Berghahn Press … at … post is the transcript of an electronic interview between D. S. Farrer and Michael Roberts. Farrer is the special issue editor for Social Analysis Volume 58, Issue 1, and Roberts is the author of the article Encompassing Empowerment in Ritual, War, and Assassination: Tantric Principles in Tamil Tiger Instrumentalities” appearing in that issue. Below, Roberts answers a series of questions related to her article in Social Analysis.

This is the seventh in a series of interviews with contributors to this volume. Find the previous contributions on our blog. 

WAR MAGIC doug in fight Doug Farrer in action Continue reading

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Collective Memorials, Anniversaries and Reflection … at Sites & Endings of Violence

Tissa Jayatilaka, courtesy of Groundviews, 14 August 2015, anniversary marking Japan’ surrender in World War Two … and thus its end. See Editorial Note at end. In GV the title reads “Sights of violence, sites of memory: Reframing the past.”

The subject of war, memory, memorials, memorialization and the violence of the state has been rekindled both domestically and internationally in recent weeks. Sri Lanka’s ongoing general election campaign has focused on our long and brutal internecine war and the need for reconciliation. Internationally  the 70th anniversary of the awful events in Hiroshima and Nagasaki has been observed. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial commonly called the Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima is part of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. It serves as a memorial to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on 6 August, 1945. Over 70, 000 is reported killed instantly and a similar number is said to have suffered fatal injuries from radiation. Bombs were dropped on Nagasaki on 9 August, 1945. Nagasaki’s Atomic Bomb Museum was  built in 2003 around the  only structure left standing near the bomb’s hypocenter. Some locals opposed the building of the Atomic Bomb Museum while some others were for it. It is now 70 years since the dropping of atomic bombs by the United States. Postwar Japan limited its military to self defence. Now Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’ plans to loosen the restrictions on what Japan’s military can do. Opinion is divided as most in Nagasaki and Hiroshima continue to be supportive of peace and disarmament. According to the Mayor of Nagasaki Tomihisha Taue , there is ‘widespread unease’ about Mr. Abe’ s legislation that will alter the constitutional requirement limiting Japan’s military to self defence.

Kanchanaburi_cemetery Kanchanaburi cemetery in Thailand

E-PASS MEMORIAL Dawn at SL Army Memorial Elephant Pass 

24Tamil maaveerar at Vadamaratchchi Tuyilam Illam, 2004

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The Will to War: Anzac, Mujahid, Kamikaze, Tiger

Michael Roberts

  • “It was an adventure,” said an old Australian soldier to the camera during a TV sequence retailing the tales of enlistment for war during the 20th century in the course of the massive media coverage leading up to Anzac day on 25th April 2015 one hundred years after the disastrous Australian participation in Allied operations against Turkey at Gallipoli.[1]
  • “Are you a terrorist?” asked the film-maker in the course of a relaxed interview with an Algerian migrant from Britain netted by the police in Frankfurt before he and his colleagues embarked on a bomb-planting operation at the Christkindelsmärik beside Strasbourg Cathedral in 2000. “No, I am a mujahid” said the young man quietly in firm denial.[2]

Enlistment for War: Australian Visions

One of the vignettes above highlights one thread in the mix of motives that prompted Australian males to enlist in the Australian forces committed to support Britain and its Allies in the First World War in 1914. In surmise one could say that some young teenagers who bumped up their age in order to join the brigades were particularly inspired by a spirit of reckless adventure in embarking on this deadly pursuit. Continue reading


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The Japanese Raid on Colombo in April 1942, Leonard Birchall and the Catalina Squadron at Koggala

Rob Stuart, courtesy of where the title is “Leonard Birchall and the Japanese Raid on Colombo”


Air Commodore Leonard Joseph Birchall, Member of the Order of Canada, Member of the Order of Ontario, Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, Distinguished Flying Cross, Canadian Forces Decoration, Officer of the United States Legion of Merit, passed away in September 2004 at the age of 89. His passing was reported in most Canadian newspapers, and all of them noted that he had been nicknamed ‘the Saviour of Ceylon’ for having spotted a Japanese fleet approaching Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) on 4 April 1942 while on patrol in a 413 (RCAF) Squadron Consolidated Catalina flying boat. Unfortunately, few accounts of Birchall’s actions that day paint a full picture of the combat operations in which his sighting report played an important factor. The aim of this article is to put Birchall’s discovery of the Japanese fleet into the full context of the operations conducted off and over Ceylon between 26 March and 9 April 1942. Stuart 1-BIRCHALL Leonard Joseph Birchall in the cockpit of his Catalina– CMJ Collection

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Encouraging Reflection on Martin van Crefeld’s Bold Predictions in 1991 within ON FUTURE WAR

ON FUTURE WAR, London: Brassey’s, 1991 ISBN 0 08 041796 5

ON FUTURE WARAn examination of the nature of war and its radical transformation in our own time. The author argues that the Clausewitzian assumption that war is rational is outdated, and that strategic, logical planning is unrelated to the current realities of guerrilla armies, terrorists and bandits. He sets out to demonstrate that our most basic ideas of who fights wars, and why, are inadequate – because man has a need to “play” at war. Van Creveld also wrote “Technology and War”, “Command and War” and “Supply and War”

  • Extract from Flap Abstract of the Book, 1991
  • Michael Howard: “Famous Last Screams,” a review of On Future War

This item is meant to set the stage for both blog comments and short essays in this site in the near future. Standing now in 2014 we are in a position to comment critically on the views of this famous historian who resides in Israel. It is not unconnected to the items (a) “Where In-fighting generates Fervour and Power: ISIS Today, LTTE yesterday” and (b) “The Psychology of Totalitarianism via Skya’s Treatise on Japan’s Holy War”. Standing now in 2014 we are in a position to comment critically on the views of this famous historian who resides in Israel. Apart from the advantages of hindsight, several visitors to this website will have one advantage over van Crefeld: their experiential compass will not be in the heartland of international power, the West (and its offshoot Israel). They will be located in the peripheries of international clout and be backed by knowledge of the four Eelam wars in Lanka. Continue reading

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The Psychology of Totalitarianism via Skya’s Treatise on Japan’s Holy War

Richard A. Koenigsberg, reviewing Walter A. Skya: Japan’s Holy War: The Ideology of Radical Shinto Ultranationalism, Duke University Press, 2009, 400pp, ISBN-10: 0822344238

What is totalitarianism? Why did the Axis powers stick together? What did Japan have in common with Germany? This essential book articulates the ideology and psychology underlying Japanese ultra-nationalism.

japans holy war Skya explicates the thinking of Japanese social theorist, Hozumi Yatsuka (1860-1912). According to Hozumi, the individual exists in society—and society within the individual. The clash between individualism and socialism is resolved through the concept of g­odo seizon (literally, fused or amalgamated existence), meaning the merging of the individual into society. Human beings fuse together to create “society.” Continue reading

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“When will we ever learn!” Lessons from the Horrors of War. Declassified plans for the WW II invasion of Japan

Buz on  the  Declassified plans for the WW II invasion of Japan: Operations “Downfall”, “Coronet”, et  cetera

For those interested in WWII, it’s a good short read. Now that the documents have been downgraded I’m sure there are going to be many new books both pro and con on this subject. Interesting!! The magnitude of the planning and operation is unbelievable!!

Deep in the recesses of the National Archives in Washington, D.C., hidden  for nearly four decades lie thousands of pages of yellowing and dusty documents stamped “Top Secret”. These documents, now declassified, are the plans for Operation Downfall, the invasion of Japan during World War II.

OKINAWA 33 American troops disembarking at Okinawa

Only a few Americans in 1945 were aware of the elaborate plans that had been prepared for the Allied Invasion of the Japanese home islands. Even fewer today are aware of the defenses the Japanese had prepared to counter the invasion had it been launched. Operation Downfall was finalized during the spring and summer of 1945. It called for two massive military undertakings
to be carried out in succession and aimed at the heart of the Japanese Empire. Continue reading

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