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May 14, 2004

Abu Ghraib

We like to bomb from 30,000 feet,
fly back to Whiteman, MO after the run,
then drive to the mall for something to eat,

Or wire funds to the guys who buy the guns
that jab into the backs of old women
who stagger away from burning homes.

We don't do firing squads, rape rooms, mass graves,
midnight arrests; we think we don't know how.
A GI is a big buzz-cut guy who saves

The cowering victims of a foreign war,
or despotism, or incompetence.
We can even oust regimes from afar.

Dick and Lynne, in the VP's residence,
once more shoulder the burden to maintain
security, order, and common sense.

They're grandparents with degrees, guardians
of churches, agencies, and industries:
they know just how to handle ruffians.

Saddam built his own Lubyanka, grim and dank.
Isaiah asked: "How hath the oppressor ceased?"
The new commandant of Abu Ghraib's a Yank.

And Babylon shall be as Sodom and
Gomorrah; by her shall we sit and weep.

May 14, 2004 8:48 AM | category: fine arts , verse and worse | Comments


I want to say it's beautiful, but beauty is the wrong thing to connect to the content of the poem.


May 14, 2004 2:30 PM | Comments (2) | posted by Eli

I can't resist some notes:

"Whiteman, MO": "MO" should be pronounced as a single syllable, to fit the rhythm. ("Mo" is a common slang abbreviation for Missouri). Stealth bombers have flown from Whiteman Air Force Base to bomb targets in the Balkans and the Middle East. Note the literal meaning of the name.

Lubyanka, in Moscow, was one of Stalin's hellish prisons. Saddam said that he admired Stalin above all others. The Cheneys believe that they helped to destroy Communist Russia by confronting the Soviets in Afghanistan, Southern Africa, and elsewhere; by defeating domestic opponents who were "soft" on communism; and by modernizing the U.S. military. They believe that this Cold War victory saved civilization, and they see the current war as a repeat.

"How hath the oppressor ceased?": Compare Isaiah 14:4, "That thou shalt take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say, How hath the oppressor ceased! the golden city ceased!" Ancient Babylon was not far from modern Baghdad and preceded it as capital of the region.

"Babylon shall be as Sodom and Gomorrah": Cf. Isaiah 13:19, "And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah."

"... shall we sit and weep": Cf. Psalm 137, with its exile theme: "By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion." (I intend a reference to America as the new Jerusalem--not to modern Israel.)

May 17, 2004 12:40 PM | Comments (2) | posted by Peter Levine

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