Of iron, of fire, of steel, of blood

“Barbara/ What bullshit the war/ What have you become now/ Under this rain of iron/ Of fire of steel of blood…”

In the photo, it is not Barbara, but a distraught woman, distraught at the scars left by the bombs that fell on her building in kyiv. She too, like Jacques Prévert’s Barbara, has a beautiful story, a man she loves and who loves her, children, parents, a profession, passions… She went out into the street, her hair dishevelled, with his fur coat on his back; she hides her face to hide her distress. This is war, ruins and tears. A rain of fire, steel, blood.

On France Info, Friday morning, a column paid tribute to the blog of an officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Michelin, who on the social network Twitter speaks differently of the army, of the military thing, of life quite simply. He has also published a book with Gallimard, Daffodil, from his meetings during a deployment in Afghanistan in 2012. The radio journalist quoted one of his last contributions: the soldier explained that he felt that some of the Internet users of Twitter “offered the thrill of a proxy war”, in front of shocking images, from the comfort of a country at peace: it made him think of onlookers who gather to observe a car accident. War, he insisted on recalling, is about women, men, children, soldiers and civilians, shocked, injured, killed, devastated cities, not just charred tanks, complex strategies, victories, defeats and sophisticated weapons. A rain of fire, steel, blood…

The criticism is perhaps severe: most of us follow the events of the war, without fascination, with infinite compassion. Many even prefer not to look at the continuous stream of terrible images, the painful testimonies, the battle maps, the tragic balance sheets. However, in the twists and turns of this news, in the mobilization of the international community, do we not feel the same impression of “war by proxy”?

The European countries, Great Britain, the United States, NATO, which cannot fight on Ukrainian ground, seized with a feeling of helplessness in the face of Vladimir Putin’s aggression and anxious to protect their immediate neighbors from Russia, have decided to help the Ukrainian people, by sanctioning the Russian economy, but also by supplying Ukraine with weapons, lots of weapons. The Ukrainian president asks them, moreover. Pope Francis, on March 24, while condemning Putin’s war, denounces “like madness” commitments to significantly increase military spending. Will these weapons help the Ukrainians repel the Russian army? Will they bend the determination of the master of the Kremlin? Will they shorten the tragedy, will they prolong it? Cruel dilemma, because it is Ukrainians, civilians or soldiers, and Russian soldiers who are dying at the moment under the rain of fire, steel, blood…

And we will wonder for a long time what has become of the woman in the photo, under this “terrible and desolate rain of mourning”?


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