Thursday, October 26, 2006

Mark Twain's War Prayer

Thanks to Dr. Orin Hollander for reminding me of Mark Twain's powerful statement, dictated during the war in the Philippines 100 years ago, which his publisher refused to print. An excerpt:

"...When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory-- must follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"'O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it -- for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.

"(After a pause.) 'Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits!'

"It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said."

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

War Poetry II

One of the better satires, from one Norman Ball, who certainly seems to have a good ear:

The Oz Man II

(In the Shameful Shadow of Shelley's 'Ozymandias')

I met a Baathist from a ravaged land
Who said: Two short, blue-trousered legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half-dazed by shock and awe, a visage frowns,
with wrinkled lip, and smirk of chimp-command.
No doubt Dick Cheney well those passions read,
Which squawk on yet, as do most lame-duck things,
Like mice that roared, while at the trough they fed,
And on one trouser-cuff these words appear:
"My name is W, unelected King:
Look on my Evil Axis and despair!"
No liberty remains. Round the decay
Of neo-cons and hegemonic air,
Fallujah's level sands stretch far away.

War Poetry

Many readers have their own thoughts about Kipling and about war poetry appropriate to Iraq. Some have sent in their own compositions. But this is a classic:

Here's something from LT. S. L. Sassoon known in WW I as the " Trench Poet"

Base Details

If I were fierce, and bald, and short of breath,
I'd live with Scarlet Majors at the base,
And speed glum heros up the line to death,
You'd see me with my puffy petulent face,
guzzling and gulping in the best hotel,
Reading the roll of honor, " poor young chap,"
I'd say - " I used to know his father well,
Yes, we've lost heavily in this last scrap."
And when the war is done and youth stone dead,
I'd toddle safely home and die - in bed.

Things never seem to change, do they? As Woody Guthrie sang... " the worst of men must fight and the best of men must die..."

Thanks for listening.

Ray Brown
U.S. Army Infantry
Viet Nam 68-69

Timelines: Iraq and WWII

In response to the latest Shadowland column, about Kevin Tillman's scream of rage at the administration and its war, a reader in California who still clings to "stay the course" rhetoric asks, "Would today's America have the fortitute[sic] to persevere in World War II?"

Of course the answer is yes. But consider this:

From the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 to final victory over Japan in August 1945, three years and eight months passed. The war was over.

From the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 to November 2006, three years and eight months will have passed. And there is no end to this war in sight. - C.D.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Follow-Up: Alberto's Retraction

So, Alberto Fernandez retracted his remarks about the arrogance and stupidity of American policy in Iraq -- sort of. This very brief response appeared overnight on the State Department's Web site from the Office of the Spokesman:

In response to questions about his recent interview with Al-Jazeera, the following is a comment attributable to Mr. Alberto Fernandez:

"Upon reading the transcript of my appearance on Al-Jazeera, I realized that I seriously misspoke by using the phrase 'there has been arrogance and stupidity' by the U.S. in Iraq. This represents neither my views nor those of the State Department. I apologize."


The irony, of course, is that this is the sanest admission the administration has made about Iraq in a long while -- if ever -- and perhaps even some Republicans were ready to applaud what had seemed to be, briefly, such candor and clarity coming out of Foggy Bottom. - C.D.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Iraq: A Rare Voice of Reason in D.C.

I hope Alberto Fernandez isn't in too much trouble. The director of public diplomacy for the State Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, Fernandez has been for several years now the only credible voice defending what is an almost entirely discredited policy in the Arab world. I think he always knew that one day someone in D.C. would pick up on the kinds of things he said in Arabic on Al-Jazeera. You know, like, the truth. And then he'd have the Bush administration's infamous loyalty test applied to him -- and most likely fail. We'll see. His description of U.S. policy in Iraq as "arrogant and stupid" is leading the AP wires.

In the meantime, you might want to take a look at Zvika Krieger's excellent little profile of Fernandez from a few weeks ago. - C.D.