Archives for category: war

I’m not sure when I last wrote a poem – for a few years I wrote about one a week and have a bit of a trove. I started this one several weeks ago and came to the last few lines last night…

Poetry, I’m told, is a young person’s game.

I gave it up, as old men give up war and the battlefield of love,
I gave my pen to the deeper pursuits of failed novels, epics of
Unemployed suburban youth.

The anger between the wars, I could mould it in my hand,
Infidelity, injury, and muddy marching boots took command
Of my inkpot and pen.

My voice soft, as if speaking with neither guilt nor pride,
“This decade will surprise me if we get to the other side
Without a world war.”

Does shame lie, in the conflict of Sapphic stanzas,
Mining, as of old, those coffee house bonanzas,
Polite applause, and smoke?

Mars and the muse call me up as if indignation
were a ready schoolboy’s infatuation
This object first then that.

The horror expands as a fast receding ocean
Constructs of itself a wall fast in motion
Towards my hovels.

I don’t fear so much the wall of water,
But those who on great signposts totter
That read ‘New beachfront property.’

I was a teenager in the 80s and had a dreadful fear of Reagan getting us into some kind of heavy duty war. I was 22 when Bush Sr. succeeded in starting a serious war in Iraq to boost the credentials he’d earned invading Panama. As my 20s wore on, there were wars of varying scales in the Balkans, but nothing to really presage the continuous war the US has been engaged in since 2002. Which we’ve just expanded into Syria. I’ve been listening to Rachel Maddow’s reporting on our sickening new airstrikes from ships in the Red Sea and elsewhere nearby. We apparently have amazing CentCom-released footage of Tomahawk missiles going up, but we learned our lessons from 1993: Don’t show the footage of the missiles coming down. 200 missiles in one night against multiple targets including Khorosan, a group no one’s actually discussed until now.

The dread and the horror never lessen. When we invaded Iraq in 1991, my friends and I feared for end times. We didn’t know yet that Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia, and when Bush I refrained from taking Saddam Hussein down, we could breathe deeply again. Maybe we wouldn’t be at war again for a while. The focus just shifted.

I was relatively lucky, or the US governments of my youth were rather more circumspect: while there was mandatory draft registration in place from about 1983 (ETA: The draft registration was instated by Carter as a response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Reagan opposed the draft as governor and opposed the registration in the 1980 campaign but in 1982 indicated it would stay and subsequently pursued selective service prosecutions.[Ref]), there was never a call-up. I don’t recall what the upper age limit was, 30 maybe? I could hear my mother’s relief over the phone, however, when I was no longer eligible. Clinton and the Bushes, though they waged numerous wars, knew better too than to reinstate the draft. Many things brought Nixon down (his own hubris, mainly), but the executive branch learned that a draft to fight a war on foreign soil would need far more justification than any of the recent presidents could come up with. Another blog entry will look at the evaporation of opportunities for the poor such that signing on to the military sounds like a viable proposition.

So now we’re engaged in Syria. Our oil-wealthy allies in the region have lovely air forces that the US, UK, and French defence industries have sold them. And they say they’re prepared to use them to help us in the coming war. Except the ones that won’t. We haven’t armed Syria directly, at least not in a long time – that has been the job of Russia. The phrase ‘poking the bear’ comes to mind.

The rationale has been (until this new group was mentioned) that we’re hunting down and disarming ISIL. (I prefer the version of the name that refers to the Levant, given that one of the group’s rationales is to roll back the Western agreements that broke up the Levant into Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and so on.) Like the War on Terror (or Terra, as some prescient wags have put it), there’s no end to such wars. This is, of course, how the war-making industries would like to keep it. Again.

I think that the war, from the perspective of the United States’ adversaries, has already been won. As soon as we declared a Department of Homeland Security, they knew our security had been irretrievably breached. Once we sent troops to fight on their soil and started building installations to train people they could easily recruit (Mosul, anyone?), the war was won. The Western perspective is that it has only just been re-engaged. When we go in without an exit strategy (again), they’ve won. Orwell’s insight into the Stalinist victory was that once entrenched, the new -ism could take up with its old adversaries and make as though nothing had really changed, to the benefit of each. As long as the blood of the sons and daughters of those in power wasn’t shed.

And we’re there again. We look from man to pig and from pig to man and can’t tell which is which.