Now, this is just sad. Never mind that the poetry this soldier writes is hackneyed dribble. But his comment about why he writes is just plain silly. In his own words:
“I think it is important to remember why we are here,”
The implication here is that the war in Iraq is somehow to defend the nation. Here it is again, in the words of his poem, titled “Allegiance to the Same”:
Today we’ll stand and be counted (sic) We’re crossing the line in the sand (sic) Regardless that (our) days may be numbered, we’ll fight and defend our great land
I’ve got no problem with poetry that honors fallen soldiers. Fallen heroes have always been a subject of literature and I suspect they always will be. But a poem must at least be honest about what it stands for and it should communicate something meaningful about the experience. To refer to the Iraq War as a defense of “our great land” is nonsense. “Why we are here” has nothing to do with national defense; it has everything to do with ignorance, hubris, and fear peddling.
When I reviewed Brian Turner’s Here, Bullet, I was pretty critical. I am, I admit, a rather harsh critic. If so then it’s because I love great literature and when I find it I don’t mind jumping in the air, clicking my heels together and looking like an idiot. I challenge soldier-poets to make me do that. But even Turner’s poetry is somewhat poetic and well written, and he doesn’t sugarcoat the shit with ear-tickling party-line business.
Why Supporting The War In Iraq Is A Sin
As a soldier who served in Iraq myself, I realize that fellow soldiers deserve the respect and commitment of those with whom they served. Fallen soldiers should be given their credit and those who serve well, theirs. But the purpose, the raison d’etre, of the war itself is a different thing altogether. And from what is public knowledge concerning the events that lead up to it, the justifications given by the decision-makers who are responsible for putting us there, and the reasons why we are still there have nothing to do with honoring the fallen or injured soldiers who may or may not necessarily be “heroes” in the strict definition of the word. In other words, to refer to this war in any way as a “defense of our great land” is just plain nonsense.
To further elucidate the sinfulness of the position that this soldier has taken, as a Christian he should be standing up for the truth of something and not the popular myth, nor in participating in the national pride that has bandied about our flag in the name of the Lord (which I consider the greatest sin of our age). Rather, he should seek to understand the nature of justice and encourage the decision-makers who represent him in Washington to use his service in the military for that purpose and for no other.
The only justification for the War in Iraq that even comes close to that end is the argument that unseating Saddam Hussein in the manner that was done was an act of retributive justice for the acts of ethnic cleansing he perpetrated upon the Kurds, but even that argument falls in shallow water when you consider how many years went by that nothing was done about it. But that wasn’t even an asserted justification until after the fact when it became common knowledge that the stated justifications were all bogus.
My Hope As A Soldier-Poet
One of the reasons I have not submitted the manuscript of Rumsfeld’s Sandbox to any publishers to date is because I still have this nagging feeling that somehow it isn’t ready even though I’m emotionally ready to give it up. I have made the mistake of publishing too soon and I don’t want to make that mistake again.
In my mind, war poetry must first and foremost be poetic and not merely an emotional appeal to pride based on shallow sentiment. Poems like “War is Kind” with its ironic simplicity, “Dulce et Decorum Est” and its bold insistence that dying for one’s country is the greatest glory is an old, old lie, and “The Charge Of The Light Brigade” do that. These are poems that are first poems and if anything else then only secondarily. That’s the kind of poetry, as a poet who has served in combat, that I hope to write.