Plasma, fluid full of cells,
Red, white, medical anatomy
Of iron that carries oxygen,
Drumlike, through the body,
In a wave of beats,
Flaps like a hummingbird,
Continuous, life is oxygen that moves through phases in a being,
Red, maroon, purple, blue.
Iron, salt, preservation is necessary
For life, circulation of platelets,
Or broken pain, which after all
Is nothing more than a blow to the nerves,
Bruising until it becomes a plush plum
Cloud under the skin,
Marble disfiguration, pollution.
Blood is rushing pleasure or
Settling fear, a feeling,
A metaphor for something that
Spills and spreads too easily, but
Nonetheless can stop dancing through your
Nerves in a beat, one moment,
Final, that defines a conclusion.
Blood is a line,
A genetic history, belonging,
Love between two people,
A child, a muse, or traces
Of a caravan that traveled
From Baghdad to Jerusalem,
The descendants of which might now
Live in the Jordan Valley, a link.
Legacy, a story told and retold
From one generation to another,
A call in the wind, an echo,
The reincarnation of a soul,
Ethnic relevance, like the
Boshnak who once came from
Bosnia and now call themselves Palestinian.
Blood is sumac that flavors
A national dish, tomatoes
Grown in Jenin, Gaza
Star gazing, sleeping on a rooftop,
A shower of bullets, glittering,
That puncture people trying to live.
Blood is a walk in the grove, or
A tradition, it colors skin,
A bride blushing pink, or
A young man from Yaffa
Who is gold, his mother
Brown, withered like leather,
Lasting and authentic.
Here blood is loyalty,
It is brotherhood, it
Blood is a Palestinian child running,
For fear of spilling, of slipping
For loosing an irreplaceable amount
Of platelets, because she took
A walk in the grove or because
She refused to show the soldier
By the wadi her breasts.
Blood is humiliation
That she cannot be human,
Unpleasant like a scar from
A stray bullet.
Blood is inhumane, unpure,
A differing translation due to context,
Blood is the flow of resistance,
The sound of footsteps, a whisper,
it is the coping method of a mother
Who insists that her sons
Blood smells of lavender
Laced with the pure sweetness
Of being a martyr.
Blood is the reason for too much salt
In this earth rich with minerals
Because of the abundance of death.
Collective guilt is a funny thing and is often wielded as a weapon of privilege. Israelis, for instance, use collective punishment as a way to infer collective guilt upon communities they attack. Americans, too, have conferred collective guilt onto the populations of Afghanistan and Iraq due to support of “terrorist regimes”. I write about collective guilt today because of the current movement in the United States to force collective guilt down the throats of the Muslim-Americans. Muslims have been a legitimate part of American society since the era of slavery, when the first Muslims were shipped over in slave ships to work plantations in the south. Since then, their presence has been known mainly through the African-American community and more recently through Arab-American and Asian-American communities. Muslims are doctors, lawyers, home makers, teachers, and lawmakers. Recent immigrants from Muslim-oriented countries have been assimilated into American society far better than say, Muslim immigrants in Europe.
Despite this, Muslim-Americans have come under attack in because of 9/11. After 9/11, thousands of Muslim-Americans were imprisoned, attacked, and discriminated against by virtue of their being Muslim. A fatwah issued after 9/11 even suggested that Muslim women in America wearing the veil should remove it lest they be singled out for violence or discrimination. Now, nearly 10 years after the attacks, Muslim-Americans are still accused of failing to feel sufficiently guilty for these attacks that they had little to nothing to do with. After all, the Muslims who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks were not American. Yet, with stories hitting the news about a mosque being built near “Ground Zero” and Muslims holding celebratory days at theme parks on 9/12 (which coincides with the end of Ramadan), the pressure is still there and it is still an emotional issue for Americans to cling to. Even the Anti-Defamation League, a group dedicated to fighting racism against Jews – and as they state, all people in general – has come out against the building of a mosque near “Ground Zero”.
The hypocrisy here is astounding. After all, there are too many Americans who would refuse to pay reparations or even apologize for hundreds of years of slavery, the genocide of indigenous Americans, the atomic attacks on Japan, the Vietnam War, and yes, the generations of Muslims abroad who have been annihilated by American aggression. The ADL will come out in support of the firebombing of Gaza and continued oppression of Palestinians at Israeli hands. To admit collective guilt as a community is to accept your place in the food chain of privilege. Who can blame Muslim-Americans for refusing to apologize for the attacks of 9/11? They have simply picked up an American trait during their process of assimilation. Despite many being absorbed as full members in American bourgeois society, Muslim-Americans have their patriotism questioned. Yet, there is nothing more American than a mosque built near “Ground Zero”. Perhaps a more American gesture might be to build a mosque on the ruins themselves à la the American embassy being built in Baghdad.
Either way, there is nothing new about fear-mongering near election season. What remains disgusting is the hypocrisy inherent in such a discussion, as Americans will still steadfastly refuse to accept any responsibility for anything, including the events that could have inspired 9/11 in the first place.
During the World Wars, all major players shared the same kinds of basic weaponry. It wasn’t until the creation of the atomic bomb that the scales tipped greatly in favor of one power over another with regards to military technology. As a result, the world’s great powers have been at a quiet military standstill since 1945. Any aggression from a great power against another great power could result in nuclear war. This has kept any major conflict from occurring since.
However, the great powers still fight in smaller deadly wars against non-nuclear powers. I say smaller because their geographical area is lessened. However, the amount of ordinance used in these conflicts greatly outnumbers the amounts of ordinance used during these great World Wars. Despite the fact that the victims of this overwhelming aggression are in no way equal in strength to the great powers, nor do they have access to weapons beyond rifles and RPGs, the great powers have never won a war in this way. Disproportionate distance warfare in this modern age results more often in a crippling and embarrassing loss for the great power than it does for the weaker, less equipped nation. It’s less effective at eradicating targets and threats and far more costly in the long run.
A video has been released recently that shows US forces in Iraq killing 15 innocent people. They joke over the radio with each other as they shoot at the people on the ground from over a mile away in their helicopters. This video was released through a site called “Wikileaks”, and it wasn’t until outrage grew online that major news networks decided to pick up the story. Even then, the video was censored “out of respect” for the families of those killed. What a joke! The video would have remained censored if the Army had its way, just like the photos of Abu Ghraib would have remained censored. Even caskets of dead soldiers are censored in the media, why would snuff videos be allowed? Released in this way, this long after the incident took place and was “cleared” by the Army, will fuel anger in Iraq and all over the world, not only because of the content, but because of the continued denial of the US government and population that their occupation creates such crimes against humanity.
The world powers learned a lesson after Vietnam. Instead of being able to practice their trade legitimately, journalists are now embedded with US soldiers. During the aftermath of the massacre in Baghdad, a Washington Post journalist was on the scene. The first time the paper mentions the possible misconduct by US soldiers, however, was after the Wikileaks release of the video, whereby they mentioned it in passing to promote the journalist’s book about Iraq.
This incident and its response indicates to me that the United States has become too far removed from its own warfare. Pilots in Nevada finish flying drones in Iraq and then drive home to kiss their wives and children. Helicopter gunmen fire thousands of rounds on unarmed civilians from over a mile away. Ask any man on the street in the US and chances are good that he will have forgotten that hundreds of thousands of US soldiers are occupying Iraq. However, ask any man in Iraq and he will remember this fact very clearly unless he is severely mentally ill or incapacitated. It is a reality he lives with every day. An American will see this footage, and they will begin to make excuses for the soldiers firing rounds from over a mile away, themselves as far removed from the violence as the soldier has become through his distance weapons. Most of the rest of the world’s population will see this video and, due to their daily proximity to violence and poverty, will become incensed. Both sides are fighting each other, but only one side lives with reality.
Perhaps the powers that be found it easier to make their populations ignore the war than convince the populations to support it. Since the Iraq war began in 2003, US citizens have responded tepidly at best both in support or in opposition to the war. There are few American citizens who would be willing to make great sacrifices for their cause. Removed from the violence, miles away in our helicopters, Americans have lost the capacity to understand their bloody actions against the rest of the world. Al-Jazeera runs photos of the bodies and shows uncensored video footage. Wolf Blitzer simply tells you about it before breaking news about Tiger Woods.
Like Willard complaining in “Apocolypse Now”, we are becoming soft in our hotel rooms while “Charlie” crouches in the jungle and gets harder. Our technology has evolved, but our resolve has become weaker. When soldiers become so far removed from the conflict that they lose the humanity of themselves in regard to their targets, they lose the war. It happened in Vietnam, and it will happen in Iraq and Afghanistan. By putting distance between us and our targets, we also lose the moral high ground. In an effort to “save American lives” – while lining the pockets of military contractors who create such technologies – we have made the Other more expendable. After all, our technology has grown to make some soldiers safer, but it has become more deadly and careless towards the target. Like the adoption of carpet bombing Europe in World War 2, the result is mass, needless civilian causalities. The only difference was that the various European countries had the means to adequately defend themselves. The Global South has resorted to suicide bombing.
While US soldiers grow fat on video games and Halliburton all-you-can-eat buffets, “Haji” crouches in the desert and gets harder. Only this is no longer a tactical issue, as it is to some old-guard grunts and generals. This has become a moral issue because our continued callousness results in the death and suffering of millions worldwide without a single pinch of moral consequence, which creates the cyclical environment wherein more lives will be ruined by our ignorance. However, instead of erradicating threats, distance warfare will multiply them, as more hearts and minds are repelled internationally by our standards.