"Any fool can make history, but it takes a genius to write it."
Oscar Wilde

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Elephants, Pigs and Bugs, Oh My!

Aristotle never handled a computer, and Plato never touched a microchip, but the learned Greeks still managed to use biological warfare. In the ancient world, bilological warfare began with the creative use of a wide array of animals, especially elephants, pigs and bugs.

Elephants were a huge part of biological warfare in ancient times. In fact, war elephants are known to have been used in India as early as 1100 B.C. However, they were not used in Europe until Alexander the Great stumbled across them while casually invading India. Despite some ethical problems, Alex was a great general, and he immediately incorporated these behemoths into his army. Ever since, the Greeks all demanded at least a few elephant soldiers to join their army, or else they would end up seriously disadvantaged. Frankly, the elephant was a terrifying, grey tank that destroyed everything in its path. Elephants crippled cavalry because most horses, (unless brought up about elephants), cannot stand the scent of them, and flee from the giants as quickly as possible. The Greeks became familiar with elephants long before their Roman neighbors.

When Greek General Pyrrhus invaded Italy during the aptly named Pyrrhic Wars, he brought with him several war elephants. The Romans quickly learned that they needed to come up with a solution to fight these horrid beasts, and this led to the creation the oiled pig... and perhaps, bacon! Herds of pigs would be drenched in oil, set on fire, and driven toward the elephants, causing the giants to run away in great fear. The feelings of the poor piggies may harm sensitive readers so I won't mention them here!  The burning pigs gave the Romans a surefire way to drive away the massive elephants, and eventually, Pyrrhus left, having lost too many men. As you can imagine panicking elephants fleeing don't mind trampling anyone in their path and Pyrrhus could not afford to keep losing his soldiers.

Although elephants may be a powerful and destructive war machine, and pigs may be delicious and horrifying foes, there was one animal that could top them all. This animal pulled off an amazing accomplishment; it drove invading Roman forces away from the walled city of Hatra in only twenty days. Now, at the time of this seige, Romans were argueably the best fighters in the world, and they were extremely skilled in seige warfare. If they couldn't storm a city, they would starve the defenders out, sometimes taking years to do so. Yet, one amazing, tiny, creature drove them away from Hatra in a mere twenty days. What was this fierce critter? The little-known assassin bug. Whenever the Romans would advance, the defenders of Hatra would dump jars of assassin bugs on their heads. If the Romans waited in camp, defenders would sneak into the camp and throw jars of assassin bugs onto them. These mini attackers would sting or bite the Romans, causing an extremely painful bite. These bugs also inject a venom which can cause deadly allergic reactions. As a result, the Romans fled from the town of Hatra, with little assassin bugs clinging to their armor and clothes. The Emperor Trajan himself was wounded by an assassin bug in this seige. So, if you find yourself needing to protect a walled city beseiged by Romans, look under some rocks and make friends with a few thousand assassin bugs; they'll rid you of your enemy in no time.

These three animals are just a few of the many examples of biological warfare in the ancient world. Snakes, scorpions and even oxen were used to maim, kill, or defeat enemies. If you ever need to make horses panic, grab some elephants, if you are on the other end of that attack, you can always set some pigs on fire, and if you need to lift a seige in twenty days, call up the assassin bugs, and you'll have no problems except a mighty case of animal cruelty!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Oh the Humanity!

Sorry that I haven't posted anything. I was officially chilling for the holidays. Anyway, I figured I would break my 'blog fast' and get back into blogging.

When I visited the Normandy beaches with my family, we visited the American and German cemeteries. At the time, I didn't think anything of it, but when we visited the German cemetery, I was sobered, but not overwhelmed with sorrow. When we visited the American cemetery, I cried. (And I'm not afraid to admit it!) Now that I think back on this, I realize how inhumane this is. Indeed, the Germans fought for an evil ruler, but they were humans too. Maybe they aren't even from our country, but they are still humans. Many of the Wehrmarcht or the common soldiers were forced into service by the SS. The SS were the evil units who carried out Hitler's dirty work, but most of the normal soldiers, the Wehrmarcht, were simply fighting to survive. Why was I not equally sorrowful at the loss of any human lives?

I realize that it isn't just me who generalizes whole groups of people. I see how many people in America seem to generalize Arabs as fanatics who scream 'death to the infidels' whenever they can. However, I have had many experiences with Arabs, and only one time did I meet with a hostile action. Of course, I lived in Abu Dhabi, an American-friendly area of the Middle East, but there were still many Arabs from most of the Middle East living and working there. It troubles me that many Americans simply put off Arabs as ignorant fanatics. However, I believe although some may behave in heinous ways towards non-Muslims, we should return that anger with tolerance and understanding; turning the other cheek would be the first step among many other key actions. This first step will help our nation to once again reach a high moral ground if we attempt to understand a group of people better. There are many experts in the military, but those 'experts' sometimes overlook the fact that when one group of Muslims is threatened or invaded, many other Muslims distrust those who invade or threaten their fellows. The other Muslims may do nothing to help their brothers in religion, but they will hate anyone who attacks a nearby Muslim country. Now, many Muslims throughout Europe, Asia, America, and the Middle East dislike America, and this huge population of people influences the politics of their respective countries. As a result, America begins to loose her moral high ground when we forget not to generalize. If we loose this moral high ground, we could loose our influence in the world, and become another powerful but corrupt nation in the minds of all of those on Earth. Tolerance is key!

              Here is a photo of my Dad and I at the American Cemetery in Normandy
Awful isn't it? All of those crosses....