Thursday, November 03, 2005

The Invasion of Grenada

From Stewart O'Nan's anthology The Vietnam Reader: the Definitive Collection of American Fiction and Nonfiction on the War (which is a very good collection, although "definitive" is probably overstating it; it collects basically fiction/nonfiction/poetry from after the war by Americans, which is very good in the range which it covers, but which of course leaves a lot of gaps for (say) teaching purposes -- no Vietnamese viewpoints (frustratingly hard to find in anthologies generally), few contemporary documents, whether government documents, journalism, etc.) comes the following poem (from p. 679):

The Invasion of Grenada

I didn't want a monument,
not even one as sober as that
vast black wall of broken lives.
I didn't want a postage stamp.
I didn't want a road beside the Delaware
River with a sign proclaiming:
"Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway."

What I wanted was a simple recognition
of the limits of our power as a nation
to inflict our will on others.
What I wanted was an understanding
that the world is neither black-and-white
nor ours.

What I wanted
was an end to monuments.

-- W. D. Ehrhart, 1984

What struck me most (should I add, "of course"?) was the second stanza: such a wonderful indictment of the currently reigning rationale for the war in Iraq. (I stress "currently reigning rationale" since I think it's crucial to remember that when we went to war the reason that was overwhelmingly stressed by the government (as opposed to the occasional pundit) was the dire threat from Iraq's WMDs; and that it is only after this became utterly unsupportable that the 'bring democracy and freedom' rationale, which until then had been distinctly tertiary, was brought forward as the reason for the war.) Even more apt against Iraq, I have to say, then against our Great Glorious War against Grenada.

So I thought it would share it with you.

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