One photo from a Donald Trump campaign caught my eye. Sometimes you need not look further.
One photo from a Donald Trump campaign caught my eye. Sometimes you need not look further.
To remember is an attempt to piece together what can never be one again. The time, the place, the scent of flesh once beating. Today marks the invasion of Iraq. It seems the rest of the world has forgotten.
The following poems appear in my book Alien to Any Skin (UST Publishing House, 2011). Should I thank GW Bush for writing them?
Just This One
Art. 33. No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she
has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures
of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.
The Fourth Geneva Convention
When someone says “Think about the bigger picture,”
I hide. My life has the legs of an ant. I find the resilience
of pebbles more inviting. They smooth themselves on riverbeds,
current rushing over their backs, pushing them to cling
with other pebbles or grains of sand pounded to near nothingness.
There are so many of them, too many to count. Each one
has something the others do not possess. Perhaps the thinnest streak
of brown, the sligthest indentation, the faintest crack.
Even when they are broken they are never the same. Caress
the jagged edge of this one with your index finger. Just this one.
The Day the Dead Tree Fell
years of fear
have come to this
longer than the arms of men
of foreign planes
a hollow in the ground
for a coffin
of loaded guns
all those fine veins
used to flow
November 2008 – August 2010
for the leader of invading forces
When you put your shoes on this morning,
do you remember which foot came first?
Does someone tell you when your collar gets stuck inside your shirt?
Do you let that person touch you?
What colours make your eyes stop searching?
Are those the ones you like or the ones you hate?
How many people have you met that had an extra finger
and wasn’t shy about it?
Have you ever held a firefly in your palms?
Was it warm? Were you alone?
When you close your eyes,
whose face lingers?
What was the first word you learned to write?
Did you use a pencil or a crayon or a borrowed pen?
If you had a dog, would you name it
after the person who blew up your house?
Is there something on my forehead
that only you can read?
Can you tell if someone is lying
or just scared?
Will my name be on a piece of paper?
Going Retro: The Victorious Army of Gobbledygooks Penetrates the City
“Why do they hate us? We’re setting them free!”
A foot soldier
They were expecting
sweaty hugs and kisses
from dark veiled women
and their adoring children.
Ears cocked, they anticipated the struggle
of the local band in playing
their beloved anthem,
as if it were not foreign.
But only hollow,
sporadic shouting of men
who gathered from nowhere
welcomed the forces.
The army was laden
with a quick,
craving for popular jubilation.
Instead, this caricature of a show
put on by these nowhere men.
Stick figures in the desert sun,
sure of only one thing:
Tear down the giant statue
by a previous generation
This show had been triangulated
for the world to see
moment by breathless moment
on their most trusted TV.
And then what? An awkward silence
as the statue grates to a stop,
refusing to crash down. A monologue broken
by coughing in the background, off camera.
Days later when the local population
finally came out with their voices raised,
the victorious gobbledygooks felt
strangely welcome, unable to decipher
Joy and ecstasy from utter hatred.
It is only now with proper translation
years later that we have
a clear understanding of gang rape.
One of my poems with a very long title that’s a dig and a stab after the initial tickle (or so I hope), has been published on the The Philippines Free Press website. I posted the news on my book blog for Alien to Any Skin.
I did a quick search on the event the poem tackles and found this:
Toppling the statue of Saddam Hussein was a staged event, by U.S. soldiers, for the media. A Reuters long-shot of Firdos Square where the statue was located (see below) shows that the Square was nearly empty when Saddam was torn down. The Square was sealed off by the U.S. military. The 200 people milling about were U.S. Marines, international press and Iraqis. However, the media portrayed it as an event of the Iraqi people.
An American military vehicle actually pulled down the statue. Marine Corporal Ed Chin, who temporarily placed a U.S. flag over Saddam’s face, became an instant media celebrity. His sister, Connie, appeared on the “Today” show and spoke with her brother via a video hook-up.
On Point, a US army report on lessons learned from the war, notes that it was a Marine colonel, not Iraqi civilians, who decided to topple the statue. “We moved our [tactical PSYOP team] TPT vehicle forward and started to run around seeing what they needed us to do to facilitate their mission,” states a U.S. military officer involved in the operation. “There was a large media circus at this location (I guess the Palestine Hotel was a media center at the time), almost as many reporters as there were Iraqis, as the hotel was right adjacent to the Al-Firdos Square. The Marine Corps colonel in the area saw the Saddam statue as a target of opportunity and decided that the statue must come down.” The pyschological team used loudspeakers to encourage Iraqi civilians to assist, packed the scene with Iraqi children, and stepped in to readjust the props when one of the soldiers draped an American flag over the statue. “God bless them, but we were thinking from PSYOP school that this was just bad news,” the officer reported. “We didn’t want to look like an occupation force, and some of the Iraqis were saying, ‘No, we want an Iraqi flag!’ So I said ‘No problem, somebody get me an Iraqi flag.’ “
“Going Retro: The Victorious Army of Gobbledygooks Penetrates the City” was written in December 2008.
I posted a poem some time ago, “Rounding Up the Dogs of the Children Who Died of Sadness,” but a recent article from John Pilger that appeared in The New Statesman made me remember it. Here’s the poem’s link – https://matangmanok.wordpress.com/2009/05/17/rounding-up-the-dogs-of-the-children-who-died-of-sadness/
And here is Pilger’s article link: http://www.newstatesman.com/global-issues/2012/01/pilger-obama-war-britain
Lisette Talate died the other day. I remember a wiry, fiercely intelligent woman who masked her grief with a determination that was a presence. She was the embodiment of people’s resistance to the war on democracy. I first glimpsed her in a 1950s Colonial Office film about the Chagos Islanders, a tiny creole nation living midway between Africa and Asia in the Indian Ocean. The camera panned across thriving villages, a church, a school, a hospital, set in phenomenal natural beauty and peace. Lisette remembers the producer saying to her and her teenage friends, “Keep smiling, girls!”
Sitting in her kitchen in Mauritius many years later, she said: “I didn’t have to be told to smile. I was a happy child, because my roots were deep in the islands, my paradise. My great-grandmother was born there; I made six children there. That’s why they couldn’t legally throw us out of our own homes; they had to terrify us into leaving or force us out. At first, they tried to starve us. The food ships stopped arriving, [then] they spread rumours we would be bombed, then they turned on our dogs.”
In the early 1960s, the Labour government of Harold Wilson secretly agreed to a demand from Washington that the Chagos archipelago, a British colony, be “swept” and “sanitised” of its 2,500 inhabitants so that a military base could be built on the principal island, Diego Garcia. “They knew we were inseparable from our pets,” said Lisette. “When the American soldiers arrived to build the base, they backed their big trucks against the brick shed where we prepared the coconuts; hundreds of our dogs had been rounded up and imprisoned there. Then they gassed them through tubes from the trucks’ exhausts. You could hear them crying.”
Lisette, her family and hundreds of the other islanders were forced on to a rusting steamer bound for Mauritius, a journey of a thousand miles. They were made to sleep in the hold on a cargo of fertiliser – bird shit. The weather was rough; everyone was ill; two of the women on board miscarried.
Dumped on the docks at Port Louis, Lisette’s youngest children, Jollice and Regis, died within a week of each other. “They died of sadness,” she said. “They had heard all the talk and seen the horror of what had happened to the dogs. They knew they were leaving their home for ever. The doctor in Mauritius said he could not treat sadness.”
This act of mass kidnapping was carried out in high secrecy. In one official file, under the heading “Maintaining the Fiction”, the Foreign Office legal adviser exhorts his colleagues to cover their actions by “reclassifying” the population as “floating” and to “make up the rules as we go along”. Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court says the “deportation or forcible transfer of population” is a crime against humanity. That Britain had committed such a crime – in exchange for a $14m discount off a US Polaris nuclear submarine – was not on the agenda of a group of British “defence” correspondents flown to the Chagos by the Ministry of Defence when the US base was completed. “There is nothing in our files,” said the MoD, “about inhabitants or an evacuation.”
Today, Diego Garcia is crucial to America’s and Britain’s war on democracy. The heaviest bombing of Iraq and Afghanistan was launched from its vast airstrips, beyond which the islanders’ abandoned cemetery and church stand like archaeological ruins. The terraced garden where Lisette laughed for the camera is now a fortress housing the “bunker-busting” bombs carried by bat-shaped B-2 aircraft to targets on two continents; an attack on Iran will start here. As if to complete the emblem of rampant, criminal power, the CIA added a Guantanamo-style prison for its “rendition” victims and called it Camp Justice.
This is from William Blum’s December 2011 post:
USrael and Iran
There’s no letup, is there? The preparation of the American mind, the world mind, for the next gala performance of D&D — Death and Destruction. The Bunker Buster bombs are now 30,000 pounds each one, six times as heavy as the previous delightful model..
But the Masters of War still want to be loved; they need for you to believe them when they say they have no choice, that Iran is the latest threat to life as we know it, no time to waste.
The preparation of minds was just as fervent before the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. And when it turned out that Iraq did not have any kind of arsenal of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) … well, our power elite found other justifications for the invasion, and didn’t look back. Some berated Iraq: “Why didn’t they tell us that? Did they want us to bomb them?”
In actuality, before the US invasion high Iraqi officials had stated clearly on repeated occasions that they had no such weapons. In August 2002, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz told American newscaster Dan Rather on CBS: “We do not possess any nuclear or biological or chemical weapons.”1
In December, Aziz stated to Ted Koppel on ABC: “The fact is that we don’t have weapons of mass destruction. We don’t have chemical, biological, or nuclear weaponry.”2
Hussein himself told Rather in February 2003: “These missiles have been destroyed. There are no missiles that are contrary to the prescription of the United Nations [as to range] in Iraq. They are no longer there.”3
Moreover, Gen. Hussein Kamel, former head of Iraq’s secret weapons program, and a son-in-law of Saddam Hussein, told the UN in 1995 that Iraq had destroyed its banned missiles and chemical and biological weapons soon after the Persian Gulf War of 1991.4
There are yet other examples of Iraqi officials telling the world that the WMD were non-existent.
And if there were still any uncertainty remaining, last year Hans Blix, former chief United Nations weapons inspector, who led a doomed hunt for WMD in Iraq, told a British inquiry into the 2003 invasion that those who were “100 percent certain there were weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq turned out to have “less than zero percent knowledge” of where the purported hidden caches might be. He testified that he had warned British Prime Minister Tony Blair in a February 2003 meeting — as well as US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in separate talks — that Hussein might have no weapons of mass destruction.5
Those of who you don’t already have serious doubts about the American mainstream media’s knowledge and understanding of US foreign policy, should consider this: Despite the two revelations on Dan Rather’s CBS programs, and the other revelations noted above, in January 2008 we find CBS reporter Scott Pelley interviewing FBI agent George Piro, who had interviewed Saddam Hussein before he was executed:
PELLEY: And what did he tell you about how his weapons of mass destruction had been destroyed?
PIRO: He told me that most of the WMD had been destroyed by the U.N. inspectors in the ’90s, and those that hadn’t been destroyed by the inspectors were unilaterally destroyed by Iraq.
PELLEY: He had ordered them destroyed?
PELLEY: So why keep the secret? Why put your nation at risk? Why put your own life at risk to maintain this charade?6
The United States and Israel are preparing to attack Iran because of their alleged development of nuclear weapons, which Iran has denied on many occasions. Of the Iraqis who warned the United States that it was mistaken about the WMD — Saddam Hussein was executed, Tariq Aziz is awaiting execution. Which Iranian officials is USrael going to hang after their country is laid to waste?
Would it have mattered if the Bush administration had fully believed Iraq when it said it had no WMD? Probably not. There is ample evidence that Bush knew this to be the case, or at a minimum should have seriously suspected it; the same applies to Tony Blair. Saddam Hussein did not sufficiently appreciate just how psychopathic his two adversaries were. Bush was determined to vanquish Iraq, for the sake of Israel, for control of oil, and for expanding the empire with new bases, though in the end most of this didn’t work out as the empire expected; for some odd reason, it seems that the Iraqi people resented being bombed, invaded, occupied, demolished, and tortured.
But if Iran is in fact building nuclear weapons, we have to ask: Is there some international law that says that the US, the UK, Russia, China, Israel, France, Pakistan, and India are entitled to nuclear weapons, but Iran is not? If the United States had known that the Japanese had deliverable atomic bombs, would Hiroshima and Nagasaki have been destroyed? Israeli military historian, Martin van Creveld, has written: “The world has witnessed how the United States attacked Iraq for, as it turned out, no reason at all. Had the Iranians not tried to build nuclear weapons, they would be crazy.”7
It can not be repeated too often: The secret to understanding US foreign policy is that there is no secret. Principally, one must come to the realization that the United States strives to dominate the world. Once one understands that, much of the apparent confusion, contradiction, and ambiguity surrounding Washington’s policies fades away. Examine a map: Iran sits directly between two of the United States’ great obsessions — Iraq and Afghanistan … directly between two of the world’s greatest oil regions — the Persian Gulf and Caspian Sea areas … it’s part of the encirclement of the two leading potential threats to American world domination — Russia and China … Tehran will never be a client state or obedient poodle to Washington. How could any good, self-respecting Washington imperialist resist such a target? Bombs Away!
A few months ago I was invited to be part of a small group of writers from different parts of the world who freely share valuable critiques on each other’s poetry online, in a private forum so our work could remain “unpublished.” Discussions are very stimulating – not just about poetry or creative writing but pretty much anything under the sun.
Every week or so a prompt is posted and each member gets to write a poem out of it. The prompt could be a photograph or a series of photographs, a word, a piece of music, etc. I’ve managed to come up with new work from this exercise and have become rather addicted to this practice. Recently a new prompt was posted that I continue to struggle with. It’s a beautiful photograph of a sunset against what looks to me as pine tree branches. Mostly red, yellow, orange and black.
Before this time I had told myself I would like to write something about the Maguindanao Massacre of 2009. I have tried to incorporate the photograph with the massacre, but so far nothing feels right. The other day I accidentally stumbled upon an old poem that needed to be revised. So for the meantime I dealt with that. Here is version 2.
Oh, before the poem… Hillary Clinton is visiting the Philippines to “strengthen ties.” I think she means “shackles” or something worse. There’s a mathematical explanation to the saying about keeping your friends and enemies – the distance and equivalent value. When I figure it out I’ll share it with the rest of the world.
Random Thoughts on the Haditha Massacre on Valentine’s Day
On Nov. 19, 2005, U.S. Marines allegedly killed 24 people in revenge for the death of one of their own, caused by an improvised exploding device (IED). The 24 individuals, six of whom were aged 10 and under, were shot at point blank range.
– United for Peace and Justice
Abdullah Walid, 4
Here is a photograph of a room, familiar
as an aunt’s house. How can I like
the colour red now after seeing this?
Those bursts are not flowers
or abstract art. They are echoes
forcing me to hear doors being broken,
cries, pleas, gunfire, explosions.
The weight of boots
over silence. An eye
for each bullet hole.
I know your name and age
from scraps of stories handed down
by sources who never knew you.
Do I add one more violation
by imagining you surviving?
How your index finger might have felt
the fine edges of each bullet hole,
an odd sensation rising
between horror and laughter.
Abdul Hamid Hassan Ali, 76 – grandfather, father and husband,
who used a wheelchair, due to a leg amputation
following complications with diabetes. Died with nine rounds
in the chest and abdomen.
Khamisa Tuma Ali, 66 – wife of Abdul Hamid Hassan Ali.
Wisdom does not go
freely with age.
Yet we know there is something
worth hearing from somone
older than us. They have seen
more lives, more deaths perhaps
than our eyes can bear.
Here is one of them.
And another. Together.
They once spoke
in a language
unfamiliar to us.
They once spoke
to each other
as they held hands
at the end of another day.
Facing a new day
again in each other’s arms.
For who knows how many years?
For who knows how many more years?
And then that suddden
void of an embrace.
This is the first Naomi Klein book I have read. I might look out for more.
Klein starts with a clever, very intimate portrait of a Canadian woman who was given shock therapy for many years. The attempt was to erase her memory, make it like a blank slate, so that a new self could be created to replace the broken one she had. Sounds very sci-fi, really, but what horror. This woman has resorted to a strange ritual of trying to recover her memories by writing on bits of paper memory fragments that come to her out of the blue. This is the tortured self trying to piece together what had been damaged by “treatment,” an experiment fully funded by the CIA.
With this personal narrative set, Klein moves from country to country, examining dictatorships, invasions, disasters, and other nasties that have been splashed on most TV screens. She throws in astounding yet little known facts, or facts that were omitted by the perpetrators in order to support the myth of free capitalism’s shoulder to shoulder march with democracy.
It’s an intriguing book and does not apologize for its stance. Perhaps not as well written as Arundhati Roy’s The Ordinary Person’s Guide to Empire, but the ocean of information that Klein has put together here makes it a worthy read.