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Tony Grist

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Four Poems About The Afghan War [Nov. 14th, 2010|01:58 pm]
Tony Grist
Here- because it's Remembrance Sunday- are four poems I wrote in the first months of the Afghan War.  Jeez, it's over nine years since that first bombing raid, and we're still fighting.


Afghanistan is bigger than France
And what’s not mountain is mostly desert
And all those parts which used to be gardens-
Islamic gardens with piped in water
That leapt and hung in the air- are wrecked.
Once when I thought of Afghanistan-
If I ever did- I thought of the poems
That Kipling wrote about dead British soldiers.
Now I educate myself
By clicking my way through the RAWA website.
There I learn all sorts of things.
For instance that the Arab youths
Who are fighting there as volunteers
Are told that there’s a blessing for them
In killing the enemies of the Faith
And so they squabble among themselves
For the honour of joining the firing squad
Whenever their gang takes over a village.

Yesterday it was Molly’s birthday.
Her jolly mother had hung balloons
All along the hedge. It was good to be spending
An afternoon without TV-
And it wasn’t until we got home at night
That we learned that the Taliban had been bombed
As promised. Rumsfeld talked to the press
While an inset screen at the top right
Which was labelled “live from Afghanistan”
Displayed a field of blue fuzziness
With a single light that winked on and off.

Today we saw what the strike had achieved.
Some men were stood on a caved-in house
And one of them lowered himself to his haunches
And threw up a handful of silvery dust.



A ginger kid at the back of the bus,
Takes stock of Osama’s photograph-
“Oo, he’s got a Nokia...”
Then rolls the tabloid paper up
And smacks his older sister with it

“Inside-a Bin Liner, Inside-a Bin Liner.”

Well it kinda cheered me up-
As earlier the coffee did
The FREE expresso at Waterstones

Last night we bombed the Red Cross compound
And burned a warehouse (We? They?)

Inside-a Bin Liner. Inside-a Bin Liner.


All of this has happened before.
Here come the happy conquerors.
Most of the bullets go up in the air
But some get lodged in foreigners.
These are the guys they really hate-
The holy, freaking Arab boys.
They string them up from telegraph poles
And rake them with Kalashnikovs.

And music’s back. The hidden tapes
Come out and ancient pop songs bounce
Round buildings war has hollowed out .
Kabul is down and these have won-
Big oil- they’ll get their pipeline now
And barbers- they have customers
And women- they can shuck their robes
And feel the sunlight on their skin.


Is easy come
When you wire yourself up
As a walking bomb

Well, easier than when you’re numbed
By night after night of daisy cutters....

How sad to see at the end of the year
All those unnerved, unmartyred young men
With their big black eyes and their no longer scary,
Black beards being marched with cuffs and gibes
From the fortress no-one was meant to take,
Which Osama fled from and Allah abandoned.....

I fail. You fail. He fails.

And some were shot and some were stifled,
Most of them out of sight of the cameras,
And some will go now to die in prison,
No more valued than rangy, mangy,
Scavenger dogs. Guiliani wants
The American Taliban soldier, John Walker
Had up before a drum-head court
And shot for being so very confused
That he chose his religion above his country.

I fail. You fail. He fails.

[User Picture]From: endlessrarities
2010-11-14 04:33 pm (UTC)
Great poems, but... Depressing. Very depressing. Especially the last one.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-11-14 05:04 pm (UTC)

I was always dubious about the Afghan adventure.
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[User Picture]From: endlessrarities
2010-11-14 05:29 pm (UTC)
It's been tried before, and the end result tends to be the same. Whether it's the British in the nineteenth century, or the Soviets in the twentieth, the combination of the difficult terrain and the sheer bloody-mindedness of the locals tends to be insurmountable, particularly if you're trying to play by the rules (aka The Geneva Convention...).
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-11-14 05:44 pm (UTC)
I don't believe Tony Blair knew much history. If he had he might have paused for thought.

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[User Picture]From: endlessrarities
2010-11-14 05:54 pm (UTC)
What worries me is how little everyone (including the American military, who are supposedly West Point taught) know about their military history. If you want to win a war, win the hearts and minds and divide the opposition. Use the existing system as a framework for long-term change. Don't try and impose democracy and then scratch your head when the populace vote in a dictator or a militant religious zealot. For some folk in this world there's more to life than McDonalds, Mickey Mouse and getting a new car/phone/tv every year. And what's the point of having your new car/phone/tv if your infrastructure's screwed and you can't go out the door without getting blown up by disenchanted Angry Young Men?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-11-15 08:47 am (UTC)
I've always said that all they needed to do was read their Kipling. Or, if that was a liitle too demanding, watch a few newsreels about the Russian adventure in Afghanistan.
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From: (Anonymous)
2010-11-15 05:35 pm (UTC)
Yeah, well, the Russians really should've known better. I mean, Napoleon, Hitler, the Teutonic knights... They all got their cumuppence because of the lethal cocktail of dodgy climatic conditions and a bunch of desperate fanatics who would rather die than see Mother Russia conquered by invading forces...
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-11-15 08:10 pm (UTC)
Nobody ever seems to learn from history....
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[User Picture]From: michaleen
2010-11-15 10:51 am (UTC)
Your being dubious speaks well of you, were there any need.

The most excellent military adventures of W and Dick and Tony went almost exactly as I expected. The only benefit I see is that it is now easier to sort out the people around me, the serious from the silly and those of character from the craven and depraved.

Your poetry as excellent, as usual.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-11-15 11:54 am (UTC)
Thank you.

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[User Picture]From: ideealisme
2010-11-14 10:15 pm (UTC)

Inside a Bin Liner

My father once told me that the correct way to pronounce the last name of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was with the same emphasis as "I'm a dinner jacket".

J and I have referred to the Pres of Iran as Dinner Jacket ever since.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-11-15 08:40 am (UTC)

Re: Inside a Bin Liner

He's a frighteningly stupid man- but that goes for a lot of world leaders.
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[User Picture]From: michaleen
2010-11-15 10:41 am (UTC)

Re: Inside a Bin Liner

I am trying to think of an intelligent populist.

I seem to be drawing a blank.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-11-15 10:48 am (UTC)

Re: Inside a Bin Liner

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[User Picture]From: michaleen
2010-11-15 01:41 pm (UTC)

Re: Inside a Bin Liner

Churchill will do. Perhaps it depends upon the intelligence -- or at least the intellectual sophistication -- of the population?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-11-15 02:05 pm (UTC)

Re: Inside a Bin Liner

Churchill's huge success as a war leader masks the uncomfortable fact that for most of his career he was widely seen as a careerist, a chancer and a bit of a cad. He was our local MP in the early years of the last century and made himself unpopular by committing the town to huge debts that it has only recently paid off.
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[User Picture]From: ideealisme
2010-11-15 11:17 pm (UTC)

Re: Inside a Bin Liner

Johann Hari has a very damning article about him. Racist piece of work, apparently.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-11-16 08:13 am (UTC)

Re: Inside a Bin Liner

Well yes. He was a man of his times. An imperialist. He used bombers against Afghan or Sudanese rebels (I forget which)- just as we're doing today. I've never liked him much, but he was also a genius- and you don't get many of those going into politics.
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From: jorrocks_j
2010-11-15 02:18 am (UTC)

Yes. Yes you do.

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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-11-15 08:43 am (UTC)

Re: Yes. Yes you do.

I gather you disagree with the sentiments expressed. I thought you might.
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From: mamadar
2010-11-15 06:02 pm (UTC)
It keeps hitting me as ironic, or something, that Doyle's Dr. Watson had been in the Afghan wars, and now Stephen Moffat's Dr. Watson has also been in the Afghan wars... and so it goes.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-11-15 08:11 pm (UTC)
It's neat, isn't it!

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