Friday, 22 March 2013

Remembering the muddled motives for war

The Iraq war began 10 years ago this week. I wrote this poem 3 or 4 weeks before it started. I find it interesting to look at it now as a piece of personal and social history. I’d been living in America since Bush became president, so it’s written from an American perspective. It was my best attempt to articulate the mood of the time, so far as I could make sense of it.

February 2003

We will do this to unseat the evil doer.
Because he gassed the Kurds, his own people, as Hitler gassed his own people, the German  Jews,
and other people's people, while the hand-wringers wrung their hands.
Because we will bring down Saddam as we once brought down the Nazis,
launching our missiles against their Holocaust, as is recorded in the book we have written about ourselves.

We will do this because we are the backbone of the Security Council.
Because the UN is the League of Lesser Nations, cynically dealing for oil that is rightfully ours.
Because Saddam has the power to incinerate our cities, and his puny force can be crushed under foot.
Because the policy of containing the tyrant within his borders has a name and that name is appeasement.
Because if we must we will stand alone, as Churchill stood alone with America’s greatest generation
urging a first strike on the fledgling German war machine, as is recorded in the book about ourselves we are even now writing.

We will do this because we are a freedom-loving people, and those who oppose us must learn what it means to be free.
Because a population ravaged and desolate will reach for the ballot box as a hungry child reaches for bread,
their menfolk greeting our troops with broken-toothed smiles, their women wreathing the barrels of our tanks with flowers.
Because those who counsel peace are utopian dreamers.
Because we bleed from three thousand gashes.
Because we are mired in pain and fear and muddied with insoluble contingencies.
Because we ache to leap like swimmers into the cleanness of war.

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