Picasso’s passion for peace
Symbol of war’s horrors
Screams of death and agony
Fallen man, fallen horse
Nazi Luftwaffe bombs falling
On small Basque village
It was market day, market day
The streets were jammed
Nazis bombed and strafed
Planes diving, machine guns firing
The young Luftwaffe pilots
Found the marketplace
Screaming villagers and peasants
Running for their lives
As death blurted from the sky that day
Seventeen hundred murdered and maimed
Picasso shared his human outrage
In his unforgettable Guernica
The Guernica of screams and death
Of fallen man, fallen horse
Cowardly diplomats and generals
Try to hide Guernica but they cannot;
Cover Guernica and it emerges
Starker, stronger, truer
Guernica was painted for you
Watch the ones who avert their eyes
As they slink by in shame
Planning new wars, new sorrow
Guernica is a small Basque village that was brutally attacked by the Nazi Luftwaffe on April 27, 1937, during the Spanish Civil War. The attack on the unarmed inhabitants of Guernica left 1,700 villagers and peasants dead or maimed. It was still unusual at that time for an air force to deliberately bomb a civilian population.
The tragedy and brutality that occurred at Guernica was immortalized by Pablo Picasso in his impassioned mural expressing his outrage at the murderous attack. It is one of Picasso’s masterpieces that is known throughout the world. It depicts the horrors of war, the silent screams of men and beasts.
Of late, Picasso’s Guernica has been in the news. The tapestry reproduction of the famous mural that hangs outside the entrance to the United Nations Security Council was covered with a blue curtain on the occasion of US Secretary of State Colin Powell presenting his evidence to the Council for war against Saddam Hussein. UN officials said that the blue curtain was to provide a better background for the television cameras. Certainly it is a more comfortable background, far easier on the eyes and minds of those who plead for war than the twisted, tormented figures portrayed in Picasso’s Guernica.
No leader should be protected from Picasso’s Guernica. The tapestry of Guernica hanging outside the Security Council is a reminder to leaders of the brutality of war. To cover such art is to hide from the truth, and is made all the worse when it is done to protect the sensibilities of leaders who would wage war.
Those leaders who would promote war for any reason should at a minimum have the courage to look straight at Picasso’s Guernica. War should never be sanitized or made to appear heroic. There is nothing heroic about middle aged war hawks sending young men and women off to kill and die. It was not heroic at Guernica, and it is no more so today.