Shadow Warriors - Pt 4
Thursday, May 5, 2005, 08:00 AM - Memory, Myth, and Imagination

Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan, Jr.


McClellan's Peninsula Campaign, showing operations from April 4 through June 1, 1862

And, once more, let me tell you, it is indispensable to you that you strike a blow. I am powerless to help in this. You will do me the justice to remember I always insisted, that going down the [Chesapeake] Bay in search of a field, instead of fighting at or near Manassas [in northern Virginia], was only shifting, and not surmounting, a difficulty--that we would find the same enemy, and the same, or equal intrenchments, at either place. The country will not fail to note--is now noting--that the present hesitation to move upon an intrenched enemy, is but the story of Manassas repeated.

I beg to assure you that I have never written you, or spoken to you, in greater kindness of feeling than now, nor with a fuller purpose to sustain you, so far as in my anxious judgment, I consistently can. But you must act.

-- Abraham Lincoln to McClellan, April 9, 1862

Fearing the pain involved, almost all of us, to a greater or lesser degree, attempt to avoid problems. We procrastinate, hoping that they will go away. We ignore them, forget them, pretend they do not exist. We even take drugs to assist us in ignoring them, so that by deadening ourselves to the pain we can forget the problems that cause the pain. We attempt to skirt around problems rather than meet them head on. We attempt to get out of them rather than suffer through them.

The tendency to avoid problems and the emotional suffering inherent in them is the primary basis of all human mental illness. Since most of us have this tendency to a greater or lesser degree, most of us are mentally ill to a greater or lesser degree, lacking complete mental health. Some of us will go to quite extraordinary lengths to avoid our problems and the suffering they cause, proceeding far afield from all that is clearly good and sensible in order to find an easy way out, building the most elaborate fantasies in which to live, sometimes to the total exclusion of reality. In the succinctly elegant words of Carl Jung, "Neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering."

-- M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values, and Spiritual Growth (1978)

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7 - Part 8 - Part 9 - Part 10

Rules, Even in War - Pt 6
Wednesday, May 4, 2005, 09:16 AM - An Antiwar Military History?
A month after his code was published as General Orders, No. 100, Lieber wrote Halleck with satisfaction, "I think the No. 100 will do honor to the country. It will be adopted as a basis for similar works by the English, French, and Germans. It is a contribution by the U.S. to the stock of common civilization." Subsequent events proved him correct. The Prussians adopted it lock, stock and barrel to guide their armies' conduct of the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871) and its language greatly influenced subsequent efforts, such as the Hague and Geneva Conventions, to create restraints on war.

But for my purposes--to repeat a point made in Part 1, my job is to write an entry on the code for the Encyclopedia of War and American Society--I'm interested in the code's influence on subsequent American practice. The original version of "General Orders, No. 100" governed the U.S. Army during the Spanish American and Philippine Wars. A new field manual adopted in 1914 incorporated everything from the original code that remained relevant after the passage of a half-century, while Richard Shelly Hartigan detected echoes of the code even in the 1940 field manual on the laws of war--FM 27-10--that set forth official U.S. policy during World War II. (The current edition of FM 27-10, which essentially dates from 1956 with a few emendations in 1976, may be found here.)

Historian Sir Michael Howard notes that during the mid-nineteenth century, "a consensus was growing that, although war might still be a necessary element in international politics . . . it should be waged, so far as possible, with humanity." He immediately goes on to say that this was the generation that produced "the first comprehensive codification of the regulations for the conduct of war on land," and of course he means Lieber's Code. That's the image we have of the code, and Americans who have never heard of Francis Lieber assume that the United States honors the rules of war, fights according to those rules, and would be very little surprised to learn that, through Lieber's Code, their nation played a significant role in shaping them.

It therefore comes as something of a shock to find that when, during the Philippine War, U.S. commanders had trouble dealing with Filipino guerrillas (insurrectos) and wanted to crack down harder, their solution was not to dispense with Lieber's Code but rather to invoke adherence to the letter of it, for when it came to guerrilla warfare the code was very strict:

Men, or squads of men, who commit hostilities . . . without being part and portion of the organized hostile army, and without sharing continuously in the war, but who do so with intermitting returns to their homes and avocations, or with the occasional assumption of the semblance of peaceful pursuits, divesting themselves of the character or appearance of soldiers--such men, or squads of men, are not public enemies, and therefore, if captured, are not entitled to the privileges of prisoners of war, but shall be treated summarily as highway robbers or pirates. . . . Armed prowlers, by whatever names they may be called, or persons of the enemy's territory, who steal within the lines of the hostile army for the purpose of robbing, killing, or of destroying bridges, roads, or canals, or of robbing or destroying the mail, or of cutting the telegraph wires, are not entitled to the privileges of the prisoner of war. . . . War-rebels are persons within an occupied territory who rise in arms against the occupying or conquering army. If captured, they may suffer death. . . . They are not prisoners of war.


My point is not that these rules were inappropriate or immoral. My point is that, coupled with Lieber's expansive definition of "military necessity," they opened to door to a very harsh program. Brig. Gen. J. Franklin Bell, for example, issued an order which stipulated that if US or friendly native prisoners or unarmed persons were murdered, a prisoner of war would be executed under Sections 59 and 148 of Lieber's Code. “This prisoner of war will be selected by lot from among the officers or prominent citizens held as prisoners of war, and will be chosen when practicable from those who belong to the town where the murder or assassination occurred.” Historian Glenn Anthony May could find no evidence that this provision was actually implemented, but other draconian policies were. Noncombatants were concentrated into zones where they could be kept under surveillance. Food found outside the zones was to be captured or confiscated, and people found outside the zones were to be captured or killed. The number of Filipino civilians who died as a result of such policies is conservatively estimated at 200,000. An [i[Encyclopaedia Britannica article I consulted places the number at between one and three million. The Philippine War remains a notoriously politicized topic and I have never read anything on it I really trust. But it seems plain enough that the Filipino people have no reason to feel grateful to Francis Lieber or his code.

Ultimately the thing that troubles me about Lieber's Code--and perhaps most attempts to create rules of war--is the implicit attempt to stack the deck toward certain kinds of armed violence and away from others. That seems laudable. But I have always believed that if you expect rules in war to be followed, your prescriptions have to be practical. You have to establish rules that the belligerents can follow and have a shot at winning the conflict. The Bush administration today seems to be playing fast and loose with the rules of war because it considers those rules ill adapted to the War on Terrorism. But the terrorists and insurgents employ the tactics they do for precisely the same reason: under the recognized rules of war, the deck is stacked so that they have no chance of winning at all. The Filipino resistance, to revert to the Philippine War, actually began as a conventional conflict by which the Filipinos attempted to defeat the U.S. Army in open battle. It didn't work. The American forces were better led, trained, and equipped--which is pretty much what you'd expect in the circumstances. Having lost the conventional war, the Filipinos were supposed to quit altogether. But their will to fight remained unbroken and they chose instead to continue their resistance by unconventional means. If Lieber's Code ruled that out of bounds, so much the worse for Lieber's Code.

What's the solution? How do you avoid stacking the deck when not stacking the deck effectively means that it is okay for the enemy to use Improvised Explosive Devices, car bombs, hostage-taking, and the like? I suspect that in terms of the laws of war you cannot do so. You have to alter the laws of politics instead. You have to create conditions wherein all the parties believe they have a fair chance of prevailing within the realm of normal politics. Otherwise they will step outside it.

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6

Rules, Even in War - Pt 5
Tuesday, May 3, 2005, 09:08 PM - An Antiwar Military History?
For all its subsequent fame, Lieber's Code attracted surprisingly little attention at the time of its issuance. My first book, The Hard Hand of War: Union Military Policy Toward Southern Civilians, 1861-1865 (1995), spends several pages on the code and as I did my research I was constantly on the lookout for references to it by Union commanders, but I found almost none. Generals like Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan based their actions on the same laws and customs of war from which Lieber distilled the code, but they pretty much ignored the code itself. Richard Shelly Hartigan, who in Lieber's Code and the Law of War (1983) tried to assemble all significant contemporary comment on the code, could find nothing by any major field commander.

Abraham Lincoln also seems to have paid it little heed, despite occasional offhand statements to the contrary. (For instance, one online source quotes a legal review article claiming that the code was "drafted by Francis Lieber and issued by President Lincoln in 1863." Another calls it "Lincoln’s own military code.") But neither the index to the standard collection of Lincoln's papers nor the index to James G. Randall's four-volume study of Lincoln's presidency have listings for "General Orders No. 100", "Lieber's Code," or even "Lieber, Francis."

The documents that Hartigan did locate that bear upon Lieber's Code do so almost entirely in connection with fairly specific legal matters, primarily the thorny issue of parole and exchange of prisoners (which ultimately broke down over the Confederacy's refusal to consider captured African American soldiers to be prisoners of war), and the use of POWs as forced laborers.

Hartigan's finds also include a rather acid letter concerning Lieber's code, written by the Confederate agent for the exchange of prisoners to his Union counterpart. "Do you recognize the rules of General Orders, No. 100, to be as binding against you as for you?" the agent inquired. Then, calling attention to recent "flagrant outrages" that had occurred during a recent Union raid into tidewater Virginia:

Are they a fair interpretation of your celebrated general order? I am aware that it gives a license for a man to be either a fiend or a gentleman. He can find abundant authority for either role in the order.

I wrote about the raid in question in The Hard Hand of War; it amounted to a series of small expeditions that burned tanneries, destroyed grain, and seized livestock--all pretty standard stuff by that time, in the war's western theater, and done in a controlled manner accentuated by the fact that civilians received receipts for all property taken or destroyed, so that after the war they could receive compensation upon furnishing proof that they had remained loyal to the Union. Nobody needed Lieber's Code to authorize such acts. The War Department had already published a general order encouraging the use or destruction of rebel property in August 1862 (and unlike Lieber's Code, we know Lincoln was both aware of and in favor of the order). In any case, it lay within the recognized limits of the laws and customs of war, as the Swiss jurist Emmerich de Vattel had made clear in his Law of Nations (1758):

Since the object of a just war is to repress injustice and violence, and forcibly to compel him who is deaf to the voice of justice, we have a right to put in practice, against the enemy, every measure that is necessary in order to weaken him, and disable him from resisting us and supporting his injustice; and we may choose such methods as are the most efficacious and best calculated to attain the end in view, provided they be not of an odious kind, nor unjustifiable in themselves, and prohibited by the law of nature.

Comparison of Vattel's chapters dealing with war with Lieber's Code, however, reveals a striking difference in tone. Vattel tended to demarcate the limits of what a commander might legitimately do and then offer reasons why an enlightened commander would do less. Lieber--who once termed Vattel "Father Namby Pamby"--typically established similar limits but his rhetoric invited commanders to be as tough as possible within those limits. "The more vigorously wars are pursued the better it is for humanity," he argued. "Sharp wars are brief." Applied to a later conflict, Lieber's Code produced results quite different from those imagined by those who today admire it from afar.

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6

Rules, Even in War - Pt 4
Tuesday, May 3, 2005, 09:03 AM - An Antiwar Military History?
A treatise to help justify a policy of retaliation toward secessionist guerrillas was all that Halleck asked of Lieber. But Lieber wanted to go much further. In November 1862 he wrote Halleck urging the U.S. War Department to adopt "a set of rules and definitions providing for the most urgent issues occurring under the Law and usages of war, and on which our Articles of War are silent. . . . For instance: The Spy--Who is a spy? How is the spy to be punished? Paroling [of prisoners of war] - What is it? Who paroles? What punishment for breaking the parole? Who shall be treated as a prisoner of war? etc., etc., etc."

Why did Lieber seek such a thing? It was partly to impose restraint--he rather ponderously noted that "in all other countries the Law of War is much more reduced to naked Force or Might, than we are willing to do it, perhaps now, in this Civil War--but mainly he thought the federal government should regularize procedure in a conflict that sprawled over half a continent: "single wars [do not] extend there [in Europe] over such distances as here." He recommended that a committee be formed to draft the rules and that Halleck--as both general in chief and as a prominent authority on the Law of Nations (Halleck had written a significant book on international law)--should chair it. Halleck demurred--"I have no time at present to consider the subject"--but Lieber persisted, and barely a month after his initial proposal the War Department formed a committee "to propose amendments or changes in the Rules and Articles of War, and a code of regulations for the government of armies in the field." The committee consisted of Lieber and four generals. The generals, as far as I can tell, then sat back and let Lieber do all the work.

The parole issue was perhaps in most urgent need of attention. Even before the committee was created, Lieber had sent Halleck a draft chapter on the subject, and in February 1863 a revised a codified version was issued as General Orders, No. 49. General Orders, No. 100, came out two months later, on April 24, 1863.

You can find a copy of them here. The orders--henceforth known as Lieber's Code or simply the code--are divided into ten sections. Six of them deal pretty directly with guerrilla activity, flags of truce, surrender, prisoner exchange, and the like. Another condemns "assassination;" i.e., proclaiming a combatant or individual to be an "outlaw" and authorizing their death without due process. (This section was pretty obviously inspired by the Confederate government's branding of certain Union officers, especially Maj. Gen. Benjamin F. "Beast" Butler, as outlaws.) The rest cover such broad issues as military necessity, protection of noncombatants, war crimes, and the definition of insurrection, civil war, and rebellion.

The highlights re military necessity: "Military necessity . . . consists in the necessity of those measures which are indispensable for securing the ends of the war, and which are lawful according to the modern law and usages of war. . . . Military necessity admits of all direct destruction of life or limb of armed enemies, and of other persons whose destruction is incidentally unavoidable in the armed contests of the war; it allows of the capturing of every armed enemy, and every enemy of importance to the hostile government, or of peculiar danger to the captor; it allows of all destruction of property . . . and of all withholding of sustenance or means of life from the enemy; of the appropriation of whatever an enemy's country affords necessary for the subsistence and safety of the Army. . . . Military necessity does not admit of cruelty--that is, the infliction of suffering for the sake of suffering or for revenge, nor of maiming or wounding except in fight, nor of torture to extort confessions. It does not admit of the use of poison in any way, nor of the wanton devastation of a district. It admits of deception, but disclaims acts of perfidy; and, in general, military necessity does not include any act of hostility which makes the return to peace unnecessarily difficult. . . . . The citizen or native of a hostile country is . . . an enemy, as one of the constituents of the hostile state or nation, and as such is subjected to the hardships of the war."

Re protection of noncombatants: "The United States acknowledge and protect . . . strictly private property; the persons of the inhabitants, especially those of women; and the sacredness of domestic relations. Offenses to the contrary shall be rigorously punished. . . . This rule does not interfere with the right of the victorious invader to tax the people or their property, to levy forced loans, to billet soldiers, or to appropriate property, especially houses, lands, boats or ships, and the churches, for temporary and military uses. . . . Private property, unless forfeited by crimes or by offenses of the owner, can be seized only by way of military necessity."

Re definitions of insurrection, civil war, and rebellion: " Insurrection is the rising of people in arms against their government, or portion of it, or against one or more of its laws, or against an officer or officers of the government. . . . Civil war is war between two or more portions of a country or state, each contending for the mastery of the whole, and each claiming to be the legitimate government. . . . The term rebellion is applied to an insurrection of large extent, and is usually a war between the legitimate government of a country and portions of provinces of the same who seek to throw off their allegiance to it and set up a government of their own. [Mark G: Which, incidentally, is why the American Civil War is officially known as the War of the Rebellion.] The military commander of the legitimate government, in a war of rebellion, distinguishes between the loyal citizen in the revolted portion of the country and the disloyal citizen. The disloyal citizens may further be classified into those citizens known to sympathize with the rebellion without positively aiding it, and those who, without taking up arms, give positive aid and comfort to the rebellious enemy without being bodily forced thereto. . . . The commander will throw the burden of the war, as much as lies within his power, on the disloyal citizens. . . . [H]e may expel, transfer, imprison, or fine the revolted citizens who refuse to pledge themselves anew as citizens obedient to the law and loyal to the government."

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6
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Shadow Warriors - Pt 3
Tuesday, May 3, 2005, 01:21 AM - Memory, Myth, and Imagination


"The fierce soldiers with their faces blackened with the smoke of battle, the wounded crawling with feeble limbs from the fury of the devouring flames, all seemed possessed with a common impulse. One long, unbroken cheer, in which the feeble cry of those who lay helpless on the earth blended with the strong voices of those who still fought, rose high above the roar of battle, and hailed the presence of the victorious chief. He sat in the full realization of all that soldiers dream of--triumph; and as I looked upon him, in the complete fruition of the success which his genius, courage, and confidence in the army had won, I thought that it must have been from such a scene that men in ancient times rose to the dignity of gods." -- Charles Marshall, Lee's Aide de Camp (1927, rpt. 2000), 173.

(Print by Mort Kunstler)

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7 - Part 8 - Part 9 - Part 10

Shadow Warriors - Pt 2
Monday, May 2, 2005, 01:28 PM - Memory, Myth, and Imagination



King


Warrior


Magician


Lover

See also Robert L. Moore's web site.

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7 - Part 8 - Part 9 - Part 10
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Shadow Warriors - Pt 1
Sunday, May 1, 2005, 09:56 PM - Memory, Myth, and Imagination
For some years now, I have increasingly suspected that military history functions as one of the ways--perhaps a very important way--by which males in our society learn how to be men. It is not necessarily a good way (though I would not leap to the assumption that it is a bad one), nor do I think males necessarily realize that they use it for such a purpose. Indeed, if my hunch is correct, the reaction to my hypothesis by males whose hobby is military history would be neither recognition nor curiosity but hostility and resistance. Nevertheless, one of the prerogatives of my position as a professor in a research university is that I get paid to think up and explore just these sorts of ideas. And I suspect I can rather quickly make the case that this hypothesis is plausible and that it will not take much longer to give it the heft of a theory.

A number of "straws in the wind" led me to this hypothesis, among them:

My own interest in military history, which dates from an early age--but also the realization that many males report the same early fascination with the subject;

The fact that the "hobbyist" interest in military history focuses heavily on certain themes--Great Captains, battles, weapons and technology--and resolutely ignores many others, e.g., the relationship between war and the state, the impact of war on civilians, the prevalence of military regimes in developing countries--that from an intellectual standpoint are just as relevant. (If you're a Civil War historian, for example, when was the last time a Civil War Round Table invited you to talk about the U.S. Sanitary Commission?)

Prof. John A. Lynn's offhand remark that men read books on military history the way women read Harlequin romances, as escapist entertainment;

John Keegan's observation, in The Face of Battle, that the study of generals and generalship, besides being in some quarters almost synonymous with military history, "too often dissolves into syncophancy or hero-worship, culminating in the odd case in a bizarre sort of identification by the author with his subject--an outcome," he continues, "common and understandable enough in literary or artistic biography but tasteless and even mildly alarming when the Ego is a man of blood and iron, his Alter someone of scholarly meekness and suburban physique" (pp. 25-26);

The pointed exclusion of women from most military history as irrelevant, coupled with an illogical hostility to the idea of using gender as an analytical category by which to understand this artificially constructed but nonetheless exclusively male world.

I could multiply examples, but by now you get the point. Or you don't, in which case I doubt any amount of argument could persuade you.

If this sounds as if I'm about to launch into an exercise in male-bashing, believe me, I'm not. For one thing, there's quite enough of that. The Ohio State University Library, for example, has fifty-three entries under Men—United States—Psychology, which happens to be the heading under which the Library of Congress classifies Iron John: A Book About Men, by poet Robert Bly. Iron John was a founding document in the men's movement which flourished briefly in the early 1990s but which, as far as I can see, has almost dropped off the face of the earth. For your convenience, I have exported the entries and placed them on this page. See for yourself how little company Bly has, and see if you can detect a theme that runs through most of the titles.

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - [Part 7 - Part 8 - Part 9 - Part 10
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Virtual Drums, Virtual Trumpets
Sunday, May 1, 2005, 03:21 AM - Memory, Myth, and Imagination


Shown above is a screen shot from The Battle of Bull Run, 1861: Take Command, marketed by The History Channel and Activision but designed and produced by MadMinute Games, Inc.. The game came out late last year and has gotten very good reviews:

GameZone Review
Metacritic.com User Reviews
WarGamer.com Review
StrategyPage.com Review
DIY Games Review

I bought a copy this evening. (It cost only twenty bucks--normally the sign of an inferior game, but apparently not in this case.) Following up on Zu's suggestion, I thought I'd use it to explore how one might go about using computer games in a military history course.

My general idea is to examine the game through the lens of four books: a recent study of the First Bull Run campaign by an outstanding young Civil War military historian, Ethan S. Rafuse, entitled A Single Grand Victory: The First Campaign and Battle of Manassas (2002); and three studies of Civil War tactics: Paddy Griffith, Battle Tactics of the Civil War (1989), Grady McWhiney and Perry D. Jamieson, Attack and Die: Civil War Military Tactics and the Southern Heritage (1984), and Brent Nosworthy, The Bloody Crucible of Courage: Fighting Methods and Combat Experience of the Civil War (2003).

Memory, Myth, and Imagination
Saturday, April 30, 2005, 05:48 PM - Memory, Myth, and Imagination
This post inaugurates a new category in the blog. For a clue as to its direction, click the postcard image of "As I Opened Fire," by artist Roy Lichtenstein:


(I got the postcard years ago at the Tate Gallery in London.)

Emotional Realities
Saturday, April 30, 2005, 03:20 PM - Counterfactuals and Contingency


The distinguished psychiatrist and author Anthony Storr once hypothesized that Winston Churchill's well-documented struggle with depression was a key element of his greatness as a leader:

In 1940, when all the odds were against Britain, a leader of sober judgment might well have concluded that we were finished. Political leaders are accustomed to dissimulation. Even when defeat at the polls is imminent, or the policies which they support have been shown to be futile, they will, until the eleventh hour, continue to issue messages of hope to their supporters. In 1940, any political leader might have tried to rally Britain with brave words, although his heart was full of despair. But only a man who had known and faced despair within himself could carry conviction at such a moment. Only a man who knew what it was to discern a gleam of hope in a hopeless situation, whose courage was beyond reason, and whose aggressive spirit burned at its fiercest when he was hemmed in and surrounded by enemies, could have given emotional reality to the words of defiance which rallied and sustained us in the menacing summer of 1940. Churchill was such a man: and it was because, all his life, he had conducted a battle with his own despair that he could convey to others that despair can be overcome. [Storr, "Churchill: The Man," in Churchill's Black Dog, Kafka's Mice, and Other Phenomena of the Human Mind (1988), p. 5]

Notwithstanding Churchill's example and that of many others known to have had mental illnesses of various sorts--to say nothing of "normal" individuals--when it comes to explaining the views and behavior of historical actors, historians still tend to avoid psychology as an analytical tool. This is partly because early attempts at psychohistory were often deeply flawed. Partly it is because of the unexamined assumptions redolent in such throwaway lines as "You cannot psychoanalyze the dead." But much of it, I think, comes from a different sort of assumption: namely that highly functional people cannot, by definition, have significant mental or emotional disorders. Or to frame it in the reverse, that people with such disorders reveal crippling weaknesses that unfit them for significant historical agency.

The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill conducted a survey at an American shopping mall in which respondents were asked to select causes of mental illness from a list. Only ten percent of respondents believed that mental illness had a biological basis involving the brain. A whopping seventy-one percent thought that it was caused by "emotional weakness." Sixty-five percent blamed "bad parenting." Thirty-five percent thought it was "sinful behavior," while forty-five percent thought that people "bring on their own illnesses." [Anne Sheffield, How Can You Survive When They're Depressed: Living and Coping With Depression Fallout (1998), pp. 270-71.]

Across the Atlantic, Rethink has been trying to counter a similar stigmatization of mental illness in Great Britain. It has an annual Rethink Week in which it ramps up its efforts in this regard. The focus of last year's Rethink Week was a statue of Churchill in a straitjacket which it sought to erect, temporarily, in Trafalgar Square. Denied permission to do so by the Greater London Authority, Rethink took the statue--festooned with a sash labeled "Prejudice, Ignorance, and Fear"--on a sort of guerrilla-theater tour of London's streets in defiance of the ban. Personallly I'm not wild about the statue or its heavy-handed symbolism--"a bit over the top" is the expression that comes to mind--but it does at least underscore the basic point.




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