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The Code of Conduct and International Sculpture Day

For today, a small mea culpa.  Last week I posted nothing because I simply could not find anything to say about the day’s events in history, nor could I find an national or international day worth my (limited) time.  Call it a lack of effort or call it over-scheduling, but I really had other things to do.

But today, we honor the Lieber Code, also known as General Orders No. 100, Instructions for the Government of Armies of the United States in the Field,  signed by President Lincoln on 24 April 1863.  It replaced the old Articles of War from 1806 in US service, and is often seen as a link in a long chain of laws, codes and regulatory nostrums that aim at controlling battle zone chaos.  While the content of the code is not strictly intended to control the heat of battle but the treatment of prisoners of war, deserters and escaped slaves, Lieber still wanted to shape the conduct of those doing the fighting.   The Lieber Code went on to international renown, and was adopted almost whole into the Hague Convention of 1907.  While Franz Lieber, the legal scholar/author, was no stranger to combat having fought at Waterloo, his (and other) efforts at legal regulation of warfare recall a more noble, less savage and polarized age, where artillery was discrete cannonballs that could politely mow down a file of infantry, not block-blasting explosive reapers. Politics, economics, technology, and the roots of ideology have changed the face of war since 1815 well beyond the means for mere courts and their well-meaning laws to regulate.  The best that can be said of any “laws of land warfare” is that the make for good arguments at post-war trials.  War makes its own laws, and success will always be justified, while the losing side is tried under whatever laws the winner chooses.

Which brings us to International Sculpture Day…not.  While Lieber is not known to have been immortalized in bronze or stone Lincoln was, and so was Erich Raeder (whose birthday was on this day in 1876).  Celebrated annually on 24 April since 2014, International Sculpture Day was intended to celebrate sculpture in all its various forms and formats, even those that look like various odd bits of junk welded together.  While I understand that “art” is often intended to be controversial, must it always shock? The featured illustration today is “The Calling” by Mark di Suero, and has been a conversation piece since its unveiling in 1981.  What it seems to be calling is a mystery, but it;s alternate name “Sunburst,” more captures its appearance.  What “conversation” it is supposed to start is unknown.  There are other examples, but you get the idea.

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