zenpundit.com » Blog Archive » Splitting the second

Splitting the second

[ by Charles Cameron — on war, life and death, IEDs, Carl Prine, prayer ]

People in general — Americans, British, Israelis, Iranians, Japanese, people from all over — don’t much like the idea of having an atom split right in their faces. But the problem isn’t necessarily so much the splitting of the atom, a technical feat which can be accomplished safely in, say, the heart of the sun — it’s the splitting of life from body, the work of a split second.

Which can also be accomplished by IED.



I’ve split these two images, both drawn from the same video one second apart, to give myself the fraying edges of a visceral sense of what that separation of life from body might be about.

See how little the car, bottom left, has advanced between the first image and the second.

The video the two images come from is embedded in Michael Yon‘s tribute to Carl Prine. I’d have embedded the video here myself if I could, but it’s in Vimeo rather than YouTube, and either because I’m incompetent or because Vimeo isn’t set up that way, I couldn’t figure out how to do the embed.

The Marine who sent Yon the video wrote:

This is the type of explosion that our troops are dealing with, not the puny kind we see on television or in the movies. Pass this on… so Americans will now understand what an IED truly is… and what our war veterans are dealing with.

Click on the link in red above if you haven’t already seen the movie nor lived through the event, and get that edge of a visceral sense — like a second-cousin-once-removed of the real thing.

My thoughts and prayers are with Carl Prine and all those battle-scarred in body, mind and soul.


One second passes between the first screen-grab and the second: time enough to sneeze, but not time enough to respond, “God Bless you”.

Life and death: a snapshot, a split second.

4 Responses to “Splitting the second”

  1. zen Says:

    It more closely resembles a 500lb bomb blast than a landmine – in fact, that IED explosion looked somewhat bigger


  2. Michael G. Moore Says:

    I was yards away from the Bishopsgate bomb http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1993_Bishopsgate_bombing when it went off, having not long come out of mass at a nearby church. Two thoughts went through my mind, within microseconds: terror and outrage.

    Terror: I was utterly shaken to my core by the “thud” (words cannot describe the exact moment of explosion – it has to be experienced).
    Outrage: I wanted to kill every Irishman in sight. Intellectually, of course, I knew what many Irish had historically gone through at the hands of the English. There was even a kindred spirit that I felt, with them, having seen equivalent oppression in Burma. All of that evaporated with the “thud”.
    Now to broaden all this: powerful intellectual arguments (surgically targeted at our opposition) can also effect an equivalent, dramatic affect in “seconds”, especially in live debate. Of course, getting to that moment may take some preparation but, when the opening is there, the coup de grâce needs few words (sometimes only one) and not a deluge.
    The equivalent of the split-second separation of particles from each other (or of life from body), such a discursive moment can be described as the split-second separation of “a committed individual” from “his comfort zone”. Not surprisingly, terror and outrage can also be seen here; after all, previous certainties have been given a shattering “thud” and few of us would welcome having to re-think something so fundamental, especially if we’ve invested much time, energy and other resources to developing what we previously thought was right.
    If, by reading this, you agree with the above, you may find it a useful exercise to trawl through YouTube to try to find just such decisive moments. By looking at such before-and-after pictures, it should be possible to find out the intellectual semtex that was used and why it worked on the ‘victim in question’. Extracting any principles from such events, we can come away with some ideas on how to win both the jaw-jaw and the war-war. N’est-ce pas?

  3. The devastation of IED blasts Says:

    […] buildings, and chaos over a very wide area indeed. I had no idea IEDs could do so much damage. Zenpundit assembled the photos from a video made to honor Carl Prine, a combat veteran of Iraq and a military […]

  4. Michael G Moore Says:

    Many thanks for adding the carriage returns, Charles. My piece above reads much easier, now…

Switch to our mobile site