Thursday, December 08, 2005

A means to what end??

This isn't a political blog, but, while there's a lot of controversy over a poet's role in politics, if our poems are one more way to let others see the world through different eyes, this issue is certainly one to deal with.

This LINK leads to a page of some of the disturbing torture photographs released in various news sources as early as 2004. I emphasize that they are disturbing, so please be forewarned before you look. Almost as disturbing are the smiling male and female 'interrogators' giving thumbs up signs in the midst of this mayhem.

Can we really expect to have crossed the Geneva Convention guidelines on torture and still retain our humanity??


Michael Parker said...

No, there is no humanity in our torture. And the neo-cons will say that there is no humanity in our enemies terrorist antics. But many of these men, women, and children in our prisons, especially in Abu Graib, were not terrorists. This is a sickening time in American History and we will be remembered for it. Good post, Pris.

Pris said...

Hi Michael
I know there are many who say the ends justify the means and that this torture is 'necessary' to extract information from the terrorists, but, as you say, who is it we're torturing there?? And is what this turns us into as human beings worth it? I've read accounts of men who've been tortured who say anything to end it and that 'anything' has often been gibberish.

It's still those smiling faces in those photos that get to me. I'd hate to meet one of those folks a few years down the road. You can't do this without either becoming warped or destroyed later.

inlow said...

Culture being the cusp of politics I think most poetry is political. Sentiment fettered to persuade. Many may disagree, but poetry at it’s best is the heart’s propaganda. Each poem starts with a cause, ends with acceptance or rejection, and in the middle there’s a public policy discussion about private personal values.

To over simplify; I love you is a policy, how I act toward and articulate that love is a value. “No child left behind,” is a value. How that is implemented is a policy. Defending America is a value. War in Iraq, a policy.

My feelings about the Iraq war remain as they began. “Right Policy, Wrong Players”. While I felt a sizable U.S presence in the middle east necessary, I sympathized greatly with those who opossed this war. Yet I couldn’t help but wonder why so many poets who were in sincere opposition failed to understand their method of protest was akin to “old generals fighting the last war”. I wrote away a keyboard begging that marchers and managers storm the United Nations and Nato. Demand thousands of WMD inspectors, tens of thousands. Go over the head of the American administration. Instead of signs and placards yelling Bush is a war monger, they need to scream at the UN to do it’s job and Nato it’s duty. I think it would have made a difference.

Now we are in some political netherworld debating the validity of torture and the imprisonment of U.S. citizens without due process.

That’s what I was afraid of, and why I wrote this ...days after 9-11

a phone found me
a friend rang
run to the news she said
it’s raining people

thank God no camera
was close up
yet my imagination
had Hubble-like zoom

with tower two my heart
with tower one
the constitution

thousands of people
ten thousand lives
jump cut
and my instant prayer
went not to a soul
just departed

my missive to
begged for our children’s

damn politics

but if you do that
politics will
damn you

with tower two my heart
with tower one
the constitution

Pris said...

A very insightful comments. Yes, yelling warmonger or torturer at Bush has done no good. And yes, every poem is about some cause, be it love or war.

Your poem brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for posting it.

Geoff Sanderson said...

There is no doubt in my mind that the Iraq War was illegal, not being sanctioned by the United Nations. President Bush wanted to be seen to 'give someone a bloody nose' following the terrible attacks on the US on 9/11, but there seems to be good grounds for believing that evidence was falsified in order to justify attacking Iraq. Our Prime Minister Blair blindly took Britain into the war on equally feeble grounds.

We usually stand together with the USA - as they stood with us during WWII; but our government made the wrong decision this time, ignoring the UN.
And now both our nations are mired in an appalling 'peacekeeping' mission, with insufficient troops to do the job. I can't see any just end to this occupation, as I firmly believe that once foreign troops are withdrawn from Iraq, that country will be plunged into another blood-bath, as factions fight to the death for supremacy.

People in that area have no real notion of what 'Democracy' means. Is there any wonder, when they see what happens when a democratic nation invades and occupies their country? So-called 'disciplined' soldiers, from the wealthiest nation on earth, can inflict torture and humiliation of the worst kind - and smile while they have their photographs taken doing it - on prisoners in their 'care'.
I'm ashamed to say that there was also a case in Southern Iraq involving some British troops.

Having served for 34 years in the RAF,22 of them as an officer, I know that this or any lesser forms of vicious behaviour can only take place with the implicit knowledge and consent of the NCOs who supervise troops. Commissioned Officers who don't know what goes on around them lack the confidence of their NCOs, and should be charged with incompetence; officers who know what is going on, but turn a blind eye, are as guilty as the men / women committing these crimes, and should be tried as such.

We should all feel ashamed that our two countries have allowed this kind of illegal and uncivilised behaviour to prisoners to go for so long unpunished; and who knows what is still happening at Guantanamo Bay detention centre - another illegal act justified on spurious grounds.

I have many good friends in the USA, and have always liked all the American citizens I have met around the world; I like to think that these are the 'real' Americans, who I know will condemn people guilty of any kind of cruel act against prisoners - whatever their crimes - who are completely in their power.

Pris said...

The whole situation makes me sick to my stomach, G.

tom said...

and most military folks will tell you it doesn't really work even with the guilty ones-

such a waste of lives
just like collateral damage

well, we got the militants
sorry about the families


different kind of christianity than i was brought up with -


Pris said...

Hi Tom
I know...

Lyle Daggett said...

I saw many of the photos when they were first being released in the news media during the past year or so. I feel deeply sad saying it, but the fact is I'm not the least bit surprised that U.S. soldiers carried out such acts of abuse and torture. History -- recent and further back -- suggests that things like this were likely to happen.

We don't need to wonder how the experience of the Iraq war, and of treating other human beings as shown in the photos, will affect the soldiers in Iraq or Guantanamon or elsewhere. We have a generation's worth of such experience from the Vietnam war as an indication. For every Vietnam war vet who has settled into a comfortable or manageable life in the years since, there are others who remains haunted and shellshocked by what they did and saw there.

Statistics can have the effect of distancing us from the close-up reality, but one statistic has for years stood out for me: the number of American Vietnam war veterans who have committed suicide since returning from the war is larger than the number of American soldiers killed in Vietnam during the war itself.

The stories go back at least as far as the U.S. government's war of genocide against Native American people -- indiscriminate killing, willful acts of cruelty, mutilation of bodies of dead people, dismembering and keeping body parts as "souvenirs." Many similar reports came back from war in Vietnam as well.

In no way whatsoever was there any justification for the United States to commit war against Iraq. (I was and remain opposed to the U.S. war on Afghanistan as well.)

Regardless of the real and profound and unspeakable grief we might feel at the loss of lives in the attacks on the World Trade Center and in the other hijackings that day, the U.S. government has merely exploited those real feelings of the U.S. and world population, as one pretext for carrying out wars in support of the U.S. corporate oil economy and other corporate interests.

The notion that the war was carried out to remove dictatorial governments from power doesn't wash either, in light of the fact that those same governments (the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Hussein government in Iraq) were installed and maintained for years with economic and military support from the U.S. government.

U.S. foreign policy has had a long ugly history of setting up and propping up dictatorial governments all over the world, in an effort to make the world safer for U.S. corporate interests. Patriotism is beside the point (this apart from questions about the validity of patriotism as such). To oppose such corporate-friendly, dictator-friendly values and policies, and the government and economic powers that promote such values and carry out such policies, is a morally good and politically intelligent and humanly essential act.

Sorry for going off on such a long-winded rant in your comment box here. Like most of us, I feel strongly about these things...

Thanks for the time and space.

Pris said...

Well said and yes, my 'wondering' was really rhetorical. I do know the suicide history of the Vietnam Vets. I also worked in a V.A. hospital when I lived in Boston and saw the profound effects of that war on the Vets there. To this day, Vietnam Vets still are high among the homeless or remain sequested from the mainstream of society.

I don't know if you saw Coming Home, but of all the Vietnam movies, that one dealt most effectively with the aftermath of war. The only irony was that Jane Fonda was in it.

We don't learn from our mistakes, it seems.

Brian Campbell said...

"Instead of signs and placards yelling Bush is a war monger, they need to scream at the UN to do it’s job and Nato it’s duty." Imagine, though if no one protested against the Bush government for this. Hate to remind you, but this is what your tax dollars are going toward. You have every right to feel violated to the very core of your beings, and direct your protests at your government.

inlow said...


My argument is the Janus face of the cliche...”if war is too important to be left to the generals,” then protest is too important to be left to the protesters. The right, with its Bush cult-of-personality call and response concerning WMDs, and the left’s cult of simplicity “no blood for oil.” Think of the confusion of the political middle during the run up to the war. Without the middle, you would have had no war. The left didn’t speak to the middle’s need for facts. Hangings in effigy is not information, it’s entropy. Name calling is but another way to remain anonymous. The left took it to the street when they needed to take it to an institution. Demonstrators in mass numbers circling world capitols chanting “5000 U.N. inspectors now,” would have empowered international diplomacy, put heat on Saddam, made Hans Blix a household name, and may even have gotten that lazy-ass press corp to check the veracity of Bush administration claims concerning WMDs....

I’m not suggesting a complacent citizenry, taxpaying or not; and, for the little I contribute, I admit they may be shekels of sin. As for the left, whose camp is where I pitch my political tent, they should stop banking the spoils of victories past to invest in today’s political currency.