War

‘They say war is coming, that they want it so it’ll happen . . .  Just like that! It doesn’t matter if you are the son of the mayor or of the dustbin man, it doesn’t matter what you think or what you feel.  As soon as you join up, they’ll ship you out.  Give you a rifle, a round, help you point it and let you start shooting.  It doesn’t matter that you are scared or do not want to kill, it doesn’t matter if you miss the birthdays of your nearest and dearest.  This is war!  War does not stop for the dead, and it doesn’t stop for the living!  It will continue regardless of what you think, so they say.  Join up and get in the fight, prove yourself, prove that you are a man!’

Here, at this junction, he takes a rest and leans against the pillow before starting again.

‘I’ve heard it before and I’ll hear it again.  Our lives are not so short that we won’t live through war, a war, any war.  Just think about it boy, there must be a hundred wars going on right now – all across the globe people are fighting for this or that, spilling blood for the power of belief.  Killing is justified, they say, it is justified because it helps to prove that what you say, what you believe, is right, is the only way.  We must fight to take back our land!  We must fight to stop them!  We must fight to prove ourselves!  We must fight because this fat bastard insulted me!’

Another rest before he carries on more lucidly.

‘Wars are funny things my son, they are odd things . . .  They are both natural and unnatural.  Nature telling us that we are too numerous and too many, that we need to thin the population somewhat, create a bottleneck so we can survive.  Wars are the outcome of the idle rich, of those that seek power and revenge.  War ain’t nothing good, but we’re used to it.  Society accepts the causes and the outcomes, realizes that there is always a price to pay.’

War is war, the living are the living, and the dead are the dead, I wanted to add.

‘There is nothing to see here son but history, the ashes of a thousand dreams . . .’

‘Dad?  Can you hear me dad, I’m right here . . .  Just give me your hand dad, you’ll be okay.  I love you.  I’ll be back soon, okay?’

I shepherd the son out, who is caught briefly off-guard by the single tear running down the older man’s left cheek.

This speech wasn’t anything knew, but I knew that the son had to try and talk to his father, to try and establish reality once more.

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A Letter From Your Friend

Dear John,

Forgive the state of this paper that I write on to you now.

There is no sleep in this house now, there is only the ongoing pain at the long and drawn out suicide of humanity, that final desperate cry that is falling on deaf ears the world over.  Our cities, our towns, and our villages are burning in this fever, we are being choked as the very oxygen of life itself is sucked into this unremitting chaos, this rack and ruin of our modern world.  I know you have felt true pain in your life John, as I have mine, but this is unlike anything that we have seen before.  There is no glory in death, no beauty in execution, no mercy in torture.

Man is at the mercy of fellow-man, and that well of mercy has reached its bitter and turgid end.  It is dry, bone dry, and we have resorted to barbarity to replace what we have lost.

Even as I write this letter to you now I can hear the engines of jeeps prowling the street, the siren call for retribution wailing into the night.  I can hear the distant thud of artillery threatening the very capital.  The sands of our land are choking on the blood of its people, spilt time and time again.  I have seen inhumane scenes, of neighbour killing neighbour, of families split by invisible sectarian lines, of death squads rampaging across the city executing those it hates on sight.  I have lost the beauty that I once found in life itself, and it has been replaced by those faces that I see day in and day out.  The faces that are willing to kill and to maim if you do not abide by their rules.

I cannot believe that these people have families that lovingly raised them to be citizens of the world, that were ensconced in the beauty of our religion from birth.

It would be a lie, a certain and death-defying lie, to tell you that I did not fear for my immediate future.  There is no hope in munitions, helped either in its aim by the barrel of a gun or of a bomb held securely in the bay of distant plane.  In that sense, they both share the same problem in that they only kill and main and alienate – they do not heal, they do not bring together the families of those that are at war with each other.

The news is the same the world over, each country fighting its own personal war against the populace.  I pray for you my brother, as I shall pray for your family as you pray for mine.  May we find each other again in a garden of peace.

Yours sincerely,

Abdulrahman M.

Disparate Reactions to the Loss of Life

Following the tragic recent mass murder of school kids and teaching staff in America, there has been a small flurry of essays and articles detailing the media reaction to mass murder in comparison to the on-going war on terror, particularly mentioning drone strikes and their impacts on Muslim countries.  For me personally this is a conflicting emotion, as these subjects are so often split into a dichotomy between left and right, republican and democrat, right and wrong etc.  Often the vitriol that spits up on both sides from arguments demeans the complex and thoughtful points made by both sides.

However, there are articles that are worth reading as they often highlight the nuances in how different cultures and societies react to death, both near and far away.  In particular there is a strong and emotive essay on differences in cultural/societal perceptions on the deaths of children in different countries, wrote by Glenn Greenwald in a  recent article for the Guardian newspaper.  Equally eloquent is George Monboit’s article in the same paper, entitled ‘In the US, mass child killings are tragedies.  In Pakistan, mere bugsplats‘, the bug splats being the nickname of the victims of drone victims.  Of course it could be argued that the very title of Monboit’s article incites liberal froth, but the details do make for disturbing reading regarding the actions, and outcomes, of US drone attacks in countries such as Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan and elsewhere.  It often seems they enter into a very grey are legally.  As he goes on to say “Obama’s administration neither documents nor acknowledges the civilian casualties of the CIA’s drone strikes in north-west Pakistan. But a report by the law schools at Stanford and New York universities suggests that during the first three years of his time in office, the 259 strikes for which he is ultimately responsible killed between 297 and 569 civilians, of whom at least 64 were children”.

As Greenwald concludes he states that “As Monbiot observed: “there can scarcely be a person on earth with access to the media who is untouched by the grief of the people” in Newtown. The exact opposite is true for the children and their families continuously killed in the Muslim world by the US government: huge numbers of people, particularly in the countries responsible, remain completely untouched by the grief that is caused in those places. That is by design – to ensure that opposition is muted – and it is brutally effective”.  We must state here that this in no way belittles the families and friends affected by the Newtown tragedy, it is a clearly heart wrenching and heinous act, and one that hopefully may never happen again.

The tragedy is not seeing the people on screens in the drone control centres as humans, as much as part of humanity as each and every child is throughout the world.  Dehumanisation is an essential part of war, and in the effort to kill the opponent and to view those oppressors of the state as less then human in mass media helps to sanction untold drone attacks on victims up and down the Muslim world, and never to mention the victims, to never put a name to those that have died or to why they have died.  Unfortunately governments across the world will engage in amoral and stupefying actions, designed not just to silence an enemy, but to  make them disappear as if they never existed.