Tag Archives: coalition of the willing

Burnt Bridge April 2011 Online Issue

Two poems from my book Alien to Any Skin got accepted by Burnt Bridge Online.  A new poem, “Imagining Crumbs,” was also accepted.  You get a free PDF download of the issue.


Mission Accomplished?

fear-woman

Do not let us go into that darkness with bare hands.
If you do, we shall claw our way out,
leave our nails on the back of the beast
that bears your face.

We know you and your caress
even as you pass
judgment upon our children
who are yet to know anger,

Grief with flailing arms,
solitude gone astray
among the ruined fabrics
of our homes.

When will you allow us
time and space to build
our own rooms of healing
that do not bear your name?

How can we, when every day you cast
the weight of your shadows on our lands,
bleed us of what lies beneath our feet,
speak to us with the language of corpses.

With eyes seared by your weapons
we stand
staring at all you have stolen
that can never be returned.

-o-


Remembering one of many invasions.


What We Always Suspected: Innocent Gitmo Prisoners

Taken for a ride: This award winning documentary needs to be seen again.

From a recent Associated Press report we find this:

Many detainees locked up at Guantanamo were innocent men swept up by U.S. forces unable to distinguish enemies from noncombatants, a former Bush administration official said Thursday. “There are still innocent people there,” Lawrence B. Wilkerson, a Republican who was chief of staff to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, told The Associated Press. “Some have been there six or seven years.”

Wilkerson, who first made the assertions in an Internet posting on Tuesday, told the AP he learned from briefings and by communicating with military commanders that the U.S. soon realized many Guantanamo detainees were innocent but nevertheless held them in hopes they could provide information for a “mosaic” of intelligence.

“It did not matter if a detainee were innocent. Indeed, because he lived in Afghanistan and was captured on or near the battle area, he must know something of importance,” Wilkerson wrote in the blog. He said intelligence analysts hoped to gather “sufficient information about a village, a region, or a group of individuals, that dots could be connected and terrorists or their plots could be identified.”

Wilkerson, a retired Army colonel, said vetting on the battlefield during the early stages of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan was incompetent with no meaningful attempt to determine “who we were transporting to Cuba for detention and interrogation.”

-o-


The Throwing of the Shoes


“This is a goodbye kiss from the Iraqi people, dog!
This is for the widows and orphans and all those killed in Iraq!”
Muntazer al-Zaidi

Your bravery has taken over
your sense of reportage.

What options do they have
as a futile response?

Arrest you on charges of
“Assault with a pair of shoes with the intent of expressing the truth.”

Force on you a one-way ticket
before they close Guantanamo.

Keep you in a windowless cell
without pen and paper.

What could be worse?
Make you eat Dubya’s shoes?

A better aim would have been good,
though unnecessary.
As it was you showed us
how expertly
he dodges.

For in two seconds and a pair of shoes
you have assured history
shall not be written
by those who bombard
with lies.

Unlike the 15 seconds fought for
by those overfed on the idiot box,
your simple, poetic gesture
shall be recorded, applauded,
revered.

-o-

This was written perhaps too hastily on 15 December 2008.  Recently Mr Al-Zaidi was sentenced to three years in prison by the Iraqi courts.  One wonders whose feet are being kissed by handing down this sentence.

If throwing a pair of shoes warrants such a punishment, what would be the just punishment for the mass murder of innocent people?

I am hoping to be able to write a follow-up piece one day.


TALON Robot Examines A Body

1
They are too backward, the dead.

They get in the way
of technological advances
such as this.
Imagine

The time it takes
to whir metal arms,
tank-like tracks,
gears, hydraulics

The patience it demands
to focus and refocus
hardened eyes,
in order to position

A single robot in place.
To poke and prod one body,
certify it is dead.
No longer considered

A threat by those who own
this piece of armory
worth more than a village
burnt whole.

2
Apart from special lenses,
heat and movement
sensors, other less known
devices built into these
roaming machines

There is a person
who has to monitor the scraps
of rendered facts,
someone who has to stare
at every shard of flesh.

This person remains on the verge
of conflict throughout the whole
operation, armed with clinical
precision, making certainties
of random targets.

No information gathered
in scenes like this
will reveal anything
useful to the surviving
family of the dead,

Even if there were any left.

3
This one body alone demands
to be examined in detail:
minute facts irrelevant
to strategic reports.

Who gave permission
to touch his remains
this way, with a mechanical
hand, distant?

But this body will not surrender.
It is beyond the reach
of the most powerful
tools of destruction.

When there were so many
faces of strangers emptying
the marketplace,
whose did he seek?

Of those who clothed
him as he emerged
from childhood, who did
he remember most, last?

Will anyone know how carefully
his young fingers treasured
the very first feather
in his hand?

-o-

TALON robot examines a body in Baghdad

TALON robot examines a body in Baghdad

This poem, written after a photograph from Wikileaks.com, was originally published on Marne Kilates’s Poet’s Picturebook Issue 8


Going Retro 1: 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,
calculated victory,
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
designed originally
by a previous generation
of gobbledygooks.

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.

-o-

This is largely a response to an amazing documentary called Control Room. I highly recommend everyone to watch it.

I owe a lot of my writing to this fantastic public figure.  He will be missed and his legacy will continue to haunt us for years to come.