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Animal farm

With apologies to Mr. Orwell

THE ENTIRE farm lay in ruins. Only minutes before, the human beings had broken through, all the way to the windmill, and shot the place up with their firearms. Even Napoleon, who had been directing the battle from the rear, was slightly wounded when a pellet clipped his tail. He would later receive the Animal Hero Medallion First Class (with Valor) to mark his bravery.

The humans were gone now, but everything was destroyed. They had made their way to the center of the farm, but none of the animals thought they could tear down the windmill. From the barn, the pigs scolded the two-legged creatures when they took out their tools. They couldn’t tear down the windmill in a week, Minimus assured the animals. Until Benjamin noticed that one of the men had a drill. “Blasting powder comes next!” Benjamin yelled.

Enraged, the animals charged the enemy. But not before the human beings lit the charge, and the explosion wounded several on both sides—four legs and two legs.

And now the farm lay smoldering.

The men had fled, but all the year’s work lay here, there and everywhere. Even parts of the windmill’s foundations had been ripped from the ground. Some of the stones used to anchor it to the ground would never be found again. The force of the explosion had flung them beyond even the reach of Boxer and Clover. It was as though the windmill had never been.

The animals had won, but many were wounded. They were weary. The sight of their dead comrades moved some of them to tears.

As they slowly began to understand just what had happened, Squealer, who had unaccountably been absent during the late fighting, came skipping toward them, beaming with satisfaction and patting other animals on the back. And the animals heard the booming of the celebration gun going off near the farmhouse.

“What is that gun firing for?” asked Boxer.

“To celebrate our victory!” cried Squealer.

“What victory?” asked Boxer. He was bleeding from the nose and knees, three of his four shoes were gone, his front hoof was split almost in two, and he could feel the pellets in his backside.

“What victory, comrade?” Squealer asked, puzzled. “Why, have we not driven the enemy off our soil? The sacred soil of Animal Farm!”

“But they have destroyed the windmill, and everything we’ve worked for,” Boxer countered.

“So what? We will build another one soon enough. You do not appreciate, comrade, the mighty thing that we have done. The enemy was in occupation of this very ground not 30 minutes ago. And now—thanks to the leadership of Comrade Napoleon—we have every inch of it back again!”

“Then we have won back what we had before, only now it s worse and more of us are dead.”

“That’s our great victory!” said Squealer.

When the animals saw the green flag flying again, and heard the gun sounding—and, most of all, heard the speech that Napoleon made, congratulating them on their conduct—it did seem to them, after all, that they had won a great victory in battle. And the animals slain in the war against the two-legs were given a solemn funeral. Boxer and Clover pulled the wagon that served as the hearse, and Napoleon himself walked at the head of the procession . . . .

THE HEADLINE in Sunday’s paper caught our attention, like a fishing lure. It read: “Syrian forces jubilant over recapture of crossing.” Syrian soldiers, singing the praises of President Bashar Assad, had taken control of an important border crossing with Jordan, and the regime was on its way to victory. In a separate development, rebels against the regime had negotiated an end to the violence in the southern part of Daraa. That is, they negotiated the end of violence with the Russians.

“We have ended their existence,” one Syrian officer boasted. Of the rebels: “They have no future anymore, God willing.”

The government’s army set up checkpoints at the Naseeb border with Jordan, along a largely deserted road full of potholes from shelling. Heavy smoke belched from a local factory. Glass littered the ground. Partially burned government buildings were pockmarked with shell and bullet holes. Looting was pervasive. And Russian troops were taking positions on both sides of the border.

And troops flashed victory signs and chanted pro-Assad slogans.

All of it reminded us of Chapter 8 of George Orwell’s brilliant Animal Farm. Which remains as relevant today as it was immediately after World War II. Unfortunately, grievously, tragically.

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