Dear Julius, this is what it really means to fire a gun in a war

Julius Malema. Picture: EFF Twitter.

Julius Malema. Picture: EFF Twitter.

While we’re at it, let’s start with a small ballistics lesson…

Dear Julius, I have a little ballistics physics lesson for you. It’s about the phenomenon well-trained soldiers refer to as “crack and thump”.

So, when a rifle bullet is screaming towards you at anything between 750 metres per second and 1,000m/s (which is very fast, comrade, trust me) you will hear a sharp crack – like the sound of a whip – as the projectile goes past.

Depending on how far away the rifle is that fired the bullet, you will hear, a short while later, a thump.

That thump is actually the sound of the round leaving the barrel and the crack is the effect of the bullet breaking the sound barrier as it flies over your head.

Stay with me on this, Julius. I know it might not have been covered in woodwork, but this phenomenon is similar to that of thunder and lightning. In that case, you will see the flash of light a while before the bang arrives – all to do with distance and the way sound travels through the air.

Sometimes, in the heat of combat, you might hear the crack but not the thump. That is a good thing … because the time you do not hear the crack is the time you get what ghoulish humour calls a “third eye” – a neat 7.62mm round hole between your eyes.

The back of your head, however, would have, to all intents and purposes, ceased to exist. Google “exit wound” if you’d like to know more.

I am telling you this, Julius, not for your own safety because – despite your war-mongering rhetoric and the fact you think you are the Limpopo Rambo (for firing a semi-automatic rifle into the air) – you will never see the frontline of any real revolution or war.

No doubt you will be spirited away to a secure location by your well-trained white security men long before it becomes really dangerous.

I am sharing this with you in the hope that you and others who believe the solution to South Africa’s problems is some kind of war (race or otherwise), will tone down your glorification of battle.

You could ask most people who have actually been in combat and they will tell you: most wars are futile and they are awful.

Most wars see the poor of a country suffering far more than the rich.

The only people who like wars, apart from politicians – who use them as a convenient tool to whip people into a frenzy – are those whose factories bring us “crack and thump”.

I wouldn’t expect you, Julius – a man whose refined tastes include Blue Label, Breitling and Bentley – to understand.

You have not been there … and using your thugs to beat up opponents (as you did way back when you took over the ANC’s Youth League to set yourself on the road to glory) does not qualify as “combat”.

I have been there, across southern Africa, both as a soldier (carrying a MAG machinegun) and a reporter (armed with a Pentax K1000 camera and a notebook).

And once you have seen the havoc a steel-jacketed lead-cored bullet travelling at 800m/sec can wreak, it is difficult to sing the praises of conflict ever again.

It’s the bodies you never forget, Julius.

In a millisecond, their history, their hopes, their loves, just vanish. And they become sightless, floppy pieces of meat.

From a father, brother, lover to a mere statistic (if they’re lucky) on a sitrep (situation report).

I hope you will think on these things the next time your trigger finger (or your mouth) gets twitchy.

Regards, 113016 Corporal Seery, BJ

Brendan Seery.

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