Saturday, 16 June 2007

American Sniper - Part Four

I can't stand
I can't crawl away
but I will fight
they crowd around me
all men, young and old
their faces sad, tired
one comes forward
the others respect him with space
he kneels down in front of me
I slash at him with the throat cutter
but he knocks my hand away
lets me keep hold of the knife
I look into the eyes
of my enemy
where's the demon?
he doesn't scare me
he doesn't look evil
or screaming with crazy rage
not like the movies they showed us
back in basic training
he's not ranting and yelling
about Israel and Allah
he's just a man
and his eyes hold terrible truth
like his heart has been broken
more times than I've lived years
I can see the history of horror
that has been his life
in his eyes
I can't speak his language
they didn't even tell me
how to say hello

In the Green Zone last month
mortars and homemade missiles
came pouring in
killing contract security guards
cooks and interpreters
every time something exploded
inside the Green Zone
I could hear the insurgents
chanting their joy
they chanted louder
when another ammo dump
went up
explosions so high they burnt through
the clouds
I remember now what the insurgents chanted
into that long night
howling like coyotes
in the Arizona scrub lands
where I went camping as a kid
when dad still took us on long drives
to see the America we never saw
on TV
I remember the words of those
who bombed us in the Green Zone
I find enough spit in my mouth to speak
the man waits for me
he quiets the crowd behind him
with a raised hand
they want to kill me
but he stops them without a word
"Aloha Ackbar" I say
He smiles, a faint grin
"Allah Ackbar?"
I nod quickly
"Allah Ackbar," he repeats and I know
he's correcting me, gently
I say it again
and the crowd whispers it
in rhythms
The man gently takes the knife
from my hand
it's like letting go of life
his men move into position
all around me
"Allah Ackbar," the man repeats
and I echo him
not scared not scared
but ready
I don't want to die
but I want it to be quick
"God is great," the man whispers
to me, with an American accent
he's one of them
but he's one of us
another one who went home to fight
for his land and his people
"Allah Ackbar, God is great"
he says, and I nod
I know
I know he is
"We both love the same God," he says
"God is great"
I know
"God loves you," the man whispers
as he slides my knife
into my throat


it's a falling dream
all the way to the ground
I tumble forever
I see the world turning
the alley and the people
the sky so blue I could swim it
then red
forgot for a moment that
my throat has been cut
my blood sprays out
as I fall
a crimson arc
it holds solid for a moment
like a red fan
then breaks into a million drops
I fall through it
my blood

I hit the ground as a child
falls down
not like a sack of wet wheat
the way adults fall
I flop and then bounce
onto my back
dull snaps and a whoosh as the last
of my air
shoots from my lungs
don't need it anymore


there's a wall in my hometown
with the names of all the brave soldiers
from my forgotten farming town
all the brave soldiers
who died in one hundred years of
American wars
so far away from their farms
my name will go up there, too
on that old wall
my father's name is up there
the names of six of my uncles
both of my grandfathers
both of my great grandfathers
my family bred to fill the uniforms
all the brave soldiers of my family
I don't feel brave
I feel scared
I feel alone
the war stories I heard as a kid
when grand dad whispered his heroics
with a shudder
of his time in the Pacific
never had this part in them
the part with the dying
I feel like I'm ten years old
playing soldiers in the woods
pretending to be dead
but I won't get up and dust off my jeans
and go home now for chocolate milk
I never imagined this could be so real
I want to turn off the game and
step out of this world
back into my world
my real world
of my hometown and my mother
and my friends down the street
walk out of here
back into my world
back into my bedroom
into my bed
where dreams seem so real
until you wake up
back into my world again
back into the American I knew
before I knew so much
about the world outside

I see the sand as the darkness falls
I see their feet, their sandals, their shoes
some are taking them off
I know what happens next
I'm the statue of Saddam today
I think of how I was trained
to put my boot on their faces
in their faces
to "break them"
it was always about humiliation
strip them naked
parade them before women
their pride and dignity was a weapon
we could use against them all
interrogation through humiliation
"it'll drive them nuts"
they told me
and it did
I put my dirty boot in the faces
of the very first people I met
when I came to this land
their land
we were trained to do that
they told us to do that
the boot on the face
before we even asked
the first question

I can feel them now
the warmth of their hands on me
I can't feel any pain
as I fade
the warmth of their hands
when everything else is so cold
the warmth comforts me
grandma rubbed my elbows
and my knees
when I fell over
playing soldier
it feels like that, her hands, her warmth
all over
their hands on me
now inside me
my blood touches the sand and I feel

something of me pass into this land
this ancient land
a trace of me left behind here
I only wanted them to be free
like us
my blood is now a part of two lands
my home and here
this ancient land
grains of sand
stars in the sky
how does that go?
I hope God really is great
I hope he's waiting for me
with my father and grandfather
all the soldiers of my family
waiting for me

Please be great

Please be there


Note : The Iraq War is the first war in history where videos games have been used as a recruiting tool. The American Army game was created by the US Department of Defence specifically to reach teenage American males, and to initiate them into a reality of fighting an urban war in Muslim/Arab countries like Iraq and Afghanistan.

American Army is claimed to have millions of young Americans playing online in any given week, and at least five million free copies of the game were distributed by recruiters in malls across the United States. Special rooms inside the malls were sometimes set up to allow ten or twenty teenagers at a time to try their hand at the urban combat war game, with recruiters on hand to encourage them to sign up for the Army.

I wrote a rough draft of this poem in late 2004, after the massive US assault on the Iraqi city of Fallujah. There were a number of horrific media stories detailing how some young American snipers were dropped on the roof tops of buildings in Fallujah and left there for days at a time, with radios that didn't work and no back-up, running out ammo, food, water and hope.

I found this poem again last week and finished it. The War in Iraq seems no closer to ending than it did in late 2004. 1900 more Americans have died there, and probably 100,000 more Iraqis are dead, nobody seems to know the true figure, or wants to admit it.

More than 300,000 young Americans have died in more than 100 years of America's international wars and interventions.

Compared to that total, 3500 dead Americans in Iraq seems almost insignificant, except to all those families left behind, most of whom no doubt believed, once, that the War in Iraq was the right war.

Many American military families still believe the Iraq War is worthwhile, but the rot has set in, the dissent is spreading. Most Americans want this war to be over. But they are always told, not yet. Not yet.

But this time, for this war, the public doesn't blame the soldiers for the war. They blame the government for beginning what they now cannot end.

Darryl Mason