These are the poems I wrote in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
These are the antiwar poems I have written over the past two months.
I have just completed my book of antiwar poems. It is going in for publication today. This is the introduction.
Crying For Ukraine
I started writing this book at the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine back in March 2022. I have been steadily writing poems as the news started to emerge of the horrors of war and the atrocities committed by the Russian army.
War is obscene.
Not only does it permanently traumatise the victims of violence but it also has an effect on the perpetrators. The soldiers are dehumanised, purged of emotions, stewed in terror and hate, fermented in horror. They witness their comrades slaughtered and maimed. They expect the same will happen to them. I can only imagine the slippery spaghetti of emotions that poison their nightmares and waking moments.
Human minds are weak. Violence and trauma permanently damages them. The soldiers are as much victims as those they are shooting. War eats minds like acid.
They felt immune to the normal restrictions of civilisation and free to indulge themselves. Their fear bred hate. Their experiences of seeing their comrades slaughtered bred hate. The stream of propaganda justified them doing anything. They felt free to rape, loot, pillage, torture and kill without any thought of retribution.
Young men were turned into brutes. Kind, tolerant, compassionate young men transformed into barbaric rapists, torturers and executioners. It was as if all morality had been expunged by the brutality of their experience. They became monsters.
It was terrible to witness the wanton destruction of modern cities as they were reduced to rubble by missiles and shelling. Unbelievable. These were things that happened in faraway countries not in civilised Europe in 2022.
It raised my awareness of just what had been happening in places like Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Eritrea, Myanmar, Lebanon, Libya, Chechnya, Afghanistan, Iraq, and so many more. They too had modern civilised cities destroyed by this disease. Just because they were further away did not make it any less shocking.
Is there no hope for mankind? Are we forever trapped in this cycle of violence and destruction? Do we constantly elect greedy warmongering leaders who, for their own vanity, greed or paranoia, stoke up hatred, racism and fear to go to war? Is there a major flaw in our DNA that makes us cruel and violent? It looks like that to me. We are the most vicious, cruel species on the planet. We never learn.
War is always justified by the perpetrators.
As the days wore on the atrocities grew. I watched the trail of death as the wanton destruction, the targeting of hospitals, schools and civilian homes took place, as the mass graves were exposed, the executions and torture. As the list of war crimes grew.
I listened to the feeble justifications – the eradication of neo-Nazis for example. That seemed absurd. For fascists who control their own people with secret police, lock up or poison all opposition and pump out lies and propaganda to complain about neo-Nazis is ironically incredible. It felt like bubonic plague criticising smallpox. Putin is a neo-Nazi.
Then we have the justification that NATO is moving on to the Russian borders with their missiles and threatening the very existence of Russia. I would find that easier to believe if it wasn’t for the way that Russia has been planning this for so long. Putin has been orchestrating a campaign to weaken the West just so that he could take over his neighbouring countries and rebuild the Soviet Union.
How has he been attempting to weaken the West?
Putin obviously saw the USA, EU and UK as major threats and sought to undermine them. To this end he set up an army of computer hackers to interfere with our democracy. This plan has been executed over a decade or more.
It is my belief that in the USA he set about first entrapping Trump with bribes, backhanders, business deals and hookers. If he couldn’t hold him through his greed he could control him through blackmail.
By targeting specific voters with carefully selected propaganda he was able to influence their vote. Putin was eager for division, fear and hate. Using immigrants, racial stereotypes and Muslim terrorism he turned voters and split the country. In a close election the pro-Russian Trump was elected.
Putin had engineered the election of an incompetent, pro-Russian fool into a seat of great power and in the process severely split and weakened the USA. Stage 1 complete.
Using the same tactics to undermine the democratic process in Europe Putin funded Brexit and used the same internet targeted messages to both get Brexit done and the incompetent clown Boris Johnson elected.
The EU was wounded by the loss of Britain and Britain was wounded by breaking with the EU. Not only is Boris Johnson useless but the ERG are a greedy bunch of self-serving extremists. Putin was able to use his oligarchs to infiltrate Britain and gain influence. They even got oligarchs into the House of Lords.
Through donations to Tory funds and individual politicians, including Johnson, Russia sought to gain influence.
While this was going on he was selling cheap gas and oil to the EU to make them dependent. He did not want them making too much of a fuss as he first flattened Chechnya, then Syria before moving into Georgia and Crimea.
There was hardly a bleat from the distracted West. We were struggling with the wave of mass immigration and Islamic terrorism (both largely of our own making through wars in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Afghanistan) – wars, racism and terrorism that Putin was able to use against us to cause the divisions he craved.
I think Putin thought that while the West was weak he could incrementally start taking back the satellite countries lost from the Soviet Union. He thought we would bleat a little and turn a blind eye. He thought that he could smash into Ukraine, displace the government, put in a puppet regime like he’d done with Belarus and it would all be over in days. Then he could turn his attention on Estonia, Poland, Finland, and Moldova, picking them off one by one with little fuss from a weakened West.
How wrong he was. The Ukrainians are smashing his armies and embarrassing the hell out of the superpower Russia just like Vietnam, Cambodia, Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan had done with the USA.
War rarely goes to plan. The West was not so weak that it didn’t rally.
I watched day after day as the atrocities built up, the destruction took place before my eyes and the poor people of Ukraine were driven out of their homes with their lives in tatters. I watched at the death toll of Russian and Ukrainian soldiers rose and as the extent of innocent casualties was made public.
This was modern warfare. It was attrition. It was horrendous. Schools, theatres and hospitals were deliberately targeted. The war machine was brutal.
Most days I wrote a poem or two in an attempt to describe what I was seeing and feeling. I published those snapshots on my blog. Now, I have accumulated these anti-war poems into an anthology and I am putting them out as a book.
War is obscene. Can it ever be justified? Are we justified in arming Ukraine against Russia? Will this all escalate into a bigger confrontation – into World War 3?? Who knows?
As of now we are arming Ukraine with the latest weapons. We have stated that we wish to degrade Russia so that it will never be strong enough to wage this kind of war again. We are applying sanctions to permanently weaken Russia.
But the world is split. Russia has its allies in places such as China, India and Brazil. It appears that some of the world thinks that invading sovereign countries, reducing their cities to rubble, slaughtering civilians, torturing, looting and raping are OK.
Or is that all propaganda that we are lapping up?
Russia is now threatening to wipe us all out in a nuclear holocaust.
We are told that Putin is terrified of a coup, is suffering from cancer and Parkinson’s and exists in a paranoid state of dementia partially brought on by covid. He’s on his last legs, backed into a corner and is capable of anything.
I wonder how much of that is real?
All I really know is that war and violence are despicable and that we humans are the most terrible animals that evolution has thrown up.
Here’s to a world without war!!
Oh for a strong UN that could put an end to all these conflicts and bring these loathsome warmongering leaders to trial!
Here’s to an end to war and the start of real civilisation!
Here’s to the future!
Man fought man,
Face to face
With sword and spear.
Bravery and strength
Skill and tactics,
Were the things
Now, a young skinny wimp
A thousand miles away,
Guides a drone,
Presses a button
And you’ve had your day.
Opher – 3.4.2022
Once we had a need for strong, brave, macho men; now they’re an embarrassment, a threat and a nuisance.
Nowadays we need intelligence, not brawn, empathy and compassion not violence.
In a modern world there is no room for the violent. We don’t need them; they’re obsolete!
Bogged Down in Death
Bogged down in the mud –
Targets for the taking.
Mutinous and exhausted
Morale through the floor.
Souls aching. Innocents quaking.
They can’t take it anymore.
Blunted by terror,
By what their eyes have seen,
They are mindless
Bodies litter streets
Mass graves and executions,
Without hope, as in a dream, totally obscene.
Looting and pillaging,
Raping and killing,
Insane with propaganda.
No fear of prosecution,
No longer fighting for anything grander.
Empty vessels drawing breath.
Carnage beyond imagination.
Seeking fascism in the wrong place,
Driving democracy out
From an entire nation.
The dance of death’s own disgrace.
Opher – 2.5.2022
As with most wars, it starts with expectations of a swift conclusion but ends in the reality of long-drawn-out attrition.
Propaganda steals minds.
Soldiers witness the horrors of seeing friends maimed and blown to pieces beside them. There is no skill – only luck. Living in the shadow of constant terror the mind becomes numb.
When the opportunity presents itself they seek revenge, an outlet, an orgy of release. They execute, rape, torture and exert their power. It’s all they have. They have ceased to be human. They are immune to conscience.
All that exists is death.
There is no end in sight, no escape – just more of the same until the orders are given or the bullet strikes.
Who is to blame? It’s always the ones safe in the bunkers giving out the orders.
Without a Care for Tomorrow
They sit behind their desks
To the goons who
Put them into action.
Safe within their bunkers
They unleash destruction
To wreck the lives
Of those from other factions.
Aloof from death,
Apart from agony,
Unmoved by misery
They quaff their wine,
Eat their banquets,
Bask in luxury
While people quake in horror.
Selfishly they stash the cash,
Secure the power,
Spread the propaganda
Without a care for tomorrow.
Opher – 26.4.2022
The ones who unleash the horrors of war are not the ones who fight it or suffer from its consequences. They are safe, miles away, secure in underground bunkers, far from the action.
They do not get to see the results of their orders, to hear the screams or see the grief. They do not feel the terror. They are far away from the smell of cordite, the sound of explosions and the horror of exploding bodies.
They do not have to pick up the body parts of babies or bury the dead.
They live a life of opulence while their orders ruin lives far away.
They are evil personified.
It was a very saddening experience to visit the war museum in Saigon. Apart from the captured American equipment there were graphic photos of the effects of the war – children born with terrible deformities due to Agent Orange, horrendous burns from napalm. Then there were the iconic photographs, nearly all of which I remembered clearly. There were a whole series of antiwar posters.
It was well worth a visit to show the brutality and futility of war.
The mighty USA dropped over three times the tonnage of bombs on Vietnam than were dropped in the whole of World War Two. They defoliated millions of acres of jungle with poisonous Agent Orange. They poured in men and equipment against a poorly armed opposition. They lost.
There has to be better ways of dealing with differences.
It is remembrance day – the time we stop to remember all those who died or were injured and traumatised by war.
War is terrible.
There has to be better ways.
When I ran my school I used to hold a remembrance service for the whole school and I would read this poem to them. It has huge impact because it describes the reality. It is not sugar-coated.
War is horror. There is nothing gallant about it. It is death and agony.
The poem ends with the line – The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
Translated: The old lie – it is good and proper to die for your country.
Dulce et Decorum Est
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.
Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
Lest we forget the obscenity of war and the young men and women consumed by the war machine.
There has to be better ways.
The last track on the second album – an interesting antiwar poem on the end dedicated to Jack Kerouac.