Polemical Poetry IV: Who Lost Iraq?

More guns, more men, more fighting, more death in Iraq

More guns, more men, more fighting, more death in Iraq

By Michael Murry.  Introduction by William Astore.

In 2007 I wrote an article for TomDispatch entitled, “If We Lose Iraq, You’re to Blame.”  Its premise was the notion that those most responsible for losing Iraq (Bush/Cheney and Crew) would succeed in deflecting blame from themselves and shifting it onto anyone who opposed the war.  Turns out I wasn’t that prescient.  A year earlier in 2006, The CP’s very own Mike Murry had already done in poetry what I’d done in prose.  Mike composed his poem, “Who Lost Iraq?” with the Bob Dylan song, “Who Killed Davey Moore?” in mind.

Of course, this week’s media frenzy to the contrary, Iraq was never ours to lose because we never possessed it to begin with. You can’t lose what you never had.  Iraq was never ours to shape like so much clay in our hands.  All we could do was meddle.  And our meddling complicated the lives of most Iraqis, producing two million Iraqi refugees and more than 100,000 deaths (and the Iraqi death toll may be five times higher).  By toppling Saddam Hussein and being essentially clueless to what would result, we brought instability and civil war to Iraq, papered it over with a “surge,” and then got out.  Now Iraq appears to be devolving into a revived civil war between Shia and Sunni factions, with Iran intervening as a bulwark to radical Sunni forces.

Sadly, the one predictable result at this point is more suffering for ordinary Iraqis.  But will Americans recognize this?  Or will we be either uninterested or too distracted playing the Washington blame game to notice?  On this question Mike Murry’s lyrics from 2006 have much to say.  W.J. Astore

Who Lost Iraq?

By Michael Murry

Who Lost Iraq?
Where did it go, and how to get it back?

“It wasn’t me,” said the President,
With his hard head stuck in its hard cement.
“I just start fires in the minds of men;
Pour gas on the flames every now and then.
I accomplished my mission when I robbed the store,
Then to cover up the crime I went and started a war.
In a few more years someone else will want the fun;
I’ll give the mess to them; then I’ll say that I won!
They’ll lose Iraq
Who couldn’t see me handing them the sack.”

Who lost Iraq?
Where did it go and how to get it back?

“It wasn’t us,” cried the military brass.
“We just saluted Rumsfeld and kissed his senile ass.
We long ago swore not to think too hard or much;
Just do as we’re told and to use that as a crutch;
So when the hopes go wrong and the shit hits the fan,
We can always just say: ‘We took our orders from the man.’
With our medals and our pensions and our private jumbo jets
’It’s the only war we’ve got’ and that’s as good as it gets.
They lost Iraq:
The suits who tied our hands behind our back.”

Who lost Iraq?
Where did it go and how to get it back?

“It wasn’t me,” said the rapping Secretary
Talking too dense and sounding real scary.
“We know we don’t know what we don’t know we know
But we do know how to stage a little dog-and-pony show.
The Senators and Congressmen whose districts get the pork
Think the meat’s well done, so they stick in a fork.
The army’s not the one we want, but let me tell you what:
We have to go to war with it or see our funding cut.
They lost Iraq
Who wouldn’t cut me some semantic slack.”

Who lost Iraq?
Where did it go and how to get it back?

“Who the hell cares,” shrugs the televangelist
Preaching at his pulpit and pounding with his fist
“I tell folks: ‘vote Republican if you don’t want to die’
(Watching cable television; lapping up the lie).
I feed the rubes on fantasies of Armageddon Day,
When Jesus in his spaceship comes to take them all away.
I scare ‘em and they love it and they come back for more
To vote for someone else’s kid to fight in their war.
They lost Iraq
Who wouldn’t stop me selling Crusade crack.”

Who lost Iraq?
Where did it go and how to get it back?

“We had to hit someone,” said the jaded journalist
Thumbing through his Rolodex and making up a list
Of contacts in the government who leak the names of spies
Whose husbands tell the truth sometimes, instead of packaged lies.
“My name is Tom Friedman and ‘the world is flat;’
That shit about a globe you heard just isn’t where it’s at.
I cheered for Dubya’s war just like the chicken hawk I am
And then when things went south I blamed a Lebanese imam.
They lost Iraq:
Who wouldn’t buy my books from off the rack.”

Who lost Iraq?
Where did it go and how to get it back?

“I’ve explained it all,” said the White House mouthpiece man
Mumbling in mantras with shameless élan.
“Our zigzag course takes us straight through the plots
If you just fit the curve to the scatter of dots.
In the sovereign state of the occupied town
We could “stand ’em all up” if they’d quit falling down.
But no matter what the carnage or the number who grieve
Just remember “Stay the Course” means we’ll never leave.”
They lost Iraq
Who hired as spokesman some tired FOX NEWS flack.

Who Lost Iraq?
Where did it go, and how to get it back?

“It wasn’t us,” cried the frightened Democrats,
As much an opposition as a dozen gnats.
“We voted for King George’s war and never blushed.
With just a hint of nastiness, he left us hushed.
We bought into the syndrome of the sycophant
Who’d gladly ditch the donkey for the elephant.
But now that all our compromise has come to nought,
We’re too ashamed to do the things we truly ought.
We love Iraq
And only wished to help Chalabi’s claque.”

Who Lost Iraq?
Where did it go, and how to get it back?

“Don’t look at us,” moaned the undecided block.
Reliable consumers of a total crock.
We love it when the government makes up those lies
And sells them to us like McDonald’s greasy fries.
Just show us a commercial made by Thomas Hobbes
About our nasty, brutish lives with few good jobs.
Then scare us half to death with tales of married queers.
We’ll swallow anything just like our lousy beers.
What is Iraq?
Is it a toothpaste that gets rid of plaque?”

Who Lost Iraq?
Where did it go, and how to get it back?

“It wasn’t me,” said Saddam Hussein,
Sitting in his court cage, shouting his refrain:
“I ran things better and we had a state;
Now we only have Maliki, an invertebrate
Who does the step-and-fetch-it as his daily toil
For Dubya and his crony friends who steal our oil.
But Mad Dog and his Englishman have come undone,
Parading ’round in circles in the noonday sun.
Bush lost Iraq
When he and Blair launched their unwise attack.”

Who Lost Iraq?
Where did it go, and how to get it back?

“Who the hell do you think?” said Ehud Olmert.
“You mean you didn’t know Israelis just don’t care?
A busted, broken Arab land fits in quite nice
With Zionist delusions of a Paradise
Where Arab refugees profess to love the Jews
And swear to every statement made by Karen Hughes.
The goyim in America will foot the bill
Providing all the weaponry we need to kill.
Forget Iraq;
And take your marching orders from AIPAC.”

Who Lost Iraq?
Where did it go, and how to get it back?

“Who talks of loss at all?” ask the Mullahs in Iran.
As far as we’re concerned George Bush is just The Man.
He stumbles and he bumbles then he gives away
For nothing everything for which we’d gladly pay.
Dick Cheney writes the crap for him to catapult
Who never met a thought that he could not insult
The Shiites in Iraq will get our help, indeed,
To end the occupation that they do not need.
We won Iraq
Who let Bush do the work while we sat back.”

Who lost Iraq?
Where did it go and how to get it back?

“Who said you ever owned us?” cried the people of Iraq.
“Who asked you for your bloody war and unprovoked attack?
You seemed to think that killing us and wrecking all we had
Could win elections for George Bush and make him look less bad.
Our oil we’ll sell to whom we please. Why don’t you find your own?
And get yourselves a president at least a little grown.
In case you haven’t noticed, he’s the one that you should fear
Whose words smell like the noisome gas escaping from his rear.
Please leave Iraq
Then see if you can win your own souls back.”

Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright 2006.  Murry, a Vietnam Veteran, gargoyle sculptor and poet, occupies the Asian Desk for The Contrary Perspective.

4 thoughts on “Polemical Poetry IV: Who Lost Iraq?

  1. “Iraq was never ours to shape like so much clay in our hands.” I think you should have pointed out in your intro, Mr. Astore, that the Official Story from Cheney/Bush and the Iraq Study Group (or whatever it was called) guiding them was that the US had a perfect plan worked out prior to the first bomb or cruise missile falling in March 2003. The “New Iraq” of this fantasy world would even have postage stamps designed in advance by the always benevolent Americans! Yes, every last detail was in place. What could possibly go wrong?? If there weren’t so many graves, marked or unmarked on Iraqi soil and so many amputees back home here, the whole affair would be absolutely belly-quaking hilarious!! Could a Hollywood screenwriter concoct something so nonsensical? (WAG THE DOG was a good try, of course.) Who knows how otherworldly-absurd things will get in the days and weeks ahead, what with talk of the US finding a new “friend” in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard??? Stay tuned.

    • I think Mike put it well the other day: So much spying, so little vision. Yes, you’re right, Greg. Lots of plans, lots of excited Young Things who thought this was going to be their “Lawrence in Arabia” moment. And all those dreams and schemes met the harsh desert reality of Iraq and its tortured history. So many dreams dashed, so many lives lost. And for what?

  2. Superb post. As if we didn’t already know, Rachel Maddow’s documentary “Why We Did It” – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sbey4hPlrX0 – concluded that the neocon decision to invade Iraq was made even before Bush took office, and that its intent (in part) was to exert downward pressure on world oil prices. This general strategy resulted in the aftermath of the oil crises of 1973-75 and 1979 which triggered economic recession in the West, and caused high inflation – the financial bane of entrenched wealth. The documentary is worth seeing even though it really didn’t teach us anything new.

  3. “I am conscious of the hazards of venturing into the realm of America’s China policy, a subject that, following the defeat of Chiang Kai-Shek by the Communists and the waste of an immense American effort, aroused one of the angriest and most damaging campaigns of vilification in recent public life. Nevertheless, since China is the ultimate reason for our involvement in Southeast Asia, the subject is worth the venture even though the ground is hot. It is only fair to add that this book, which ends in 1946, is concerned with origins that reach back beyond yesterday. ‘You will hear a lot of talk,’ General Stilwell wrote for the graduating class of West Point in 1945, ‘about how this or that generation messed things up and got us into war. What nonsense. All living generations are responsible for what we do and all dead ones as well.'” — Barbara Tuchman, Stilwell and the American Experience in China, 1911-1945 (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1970)

    I read Professor Tuchman’s book in 1972, when as a foreign exchange student in Taiwan I used it as a principle source for a paper I had to write for a course in Sino-American Relations. My professor knew of my status as a Vietnam veteran and so he asked me to do a comparison between the American attempt to militarily intervene in the Chinese Civil War of 1945-49 and the American attempt to intervene in the Vietnamese struggles for independence, otherwise known internationally as the First (against the French) and Second (against the Americans) Indochina Wars of 1945-1975. As a summary of my conclusions, I quoted the last line from Professor Tuchman’s book:

    In the end, China went her own way, as if the Americans had never come.” To which I added, “And history will say the same of Vietnam.” History will say the same of Iraq and Afghanistan, too, for the simple reason that you can’t do a wrong thing the right way: namely, militarily invade and occupy a foreign country and expect anything other than the unceremonious boot in the butt on your ignominious way out the door. (No photographers allowed).

    So, having grown up in the 1950s amid the toxic political fallout from the “Who Lost China?” jihad otherwise known as Nixon/McCarthyism, and then watching as the revisionist cheerleaders for America’s follow-on debacle in Southeast Asia tried to do a “Who Lost Vietnam?” thing on everyone who correctly opposed the predictable disaster, it took no great deal of insight to see how yet another military crusade — this time in the Middle East — would turn out. The Republicans Bush and Cheney insisted upon doing a wrong thing, and their Democrat enablers Kerry and Clinton (You-Know-Them) insisted that they could do it the right way. Guaranteed bipartisan disaster. But since the inevitable looming loss appeared to practically all sentient carbon-based life forms by 2004 — about the time that Deputy Dubya’s venal Viceroy, L. Paul Bremer high-tailed it out of Baghdad after a furtive five-minute “transfer of sovereignty” ceremony — the “Who Lost Iraq?” scapegoating actually began right then and there. It took me two years, though, to find the most appropriate verse format in which to best tell the tawdry, tendentious tale.

    “Who Lost America?” There lies the real question. And we will know the answer to it when we see which architects and enablers of the disaster the ruling oligarchs supply for us to “choose” between every two years in November.

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