MESS OF POTAMIA
Christopher Dickey comments on Kevin Tillman's expression of rage at the Iraq war, its perpetrators, and his brother Pat's death:
Kevin Tillman’s poem is reminiscent of one that Kipling wrote at the height of his powers, and of his anger.
After a gruesome military disaster in 1917, Kipling wanted to know why the men who sent the soldiers to their deaths day after day, week after week, month after month in a futile exercise of arrogance and stupidity still managed to escape punishment:
They shall not return to us, the resolute, the young,
The eager and whole-hearted whom we gave:
But the men who left them thriftily to die in their own dung,
Shall they come with years and honour to the grave?
Kipling wrote such poems because he wanted action. He wanted punishment, vengeance, or at the very least some public holding to account. “Shall we only threaten and be angry for an hour?” he demanded. “When the storm has ended” would the politicians and bureaucrats have “sidled back to power” by the “favor and contrivance of their kind?”
Kevin Tillman is asking the same question, with the same well-sharpened edge of indignation. He is making this statement now in hopes that voters will listen. No, he does not offer solutions. No he does not have all the answers. But he does have one: the people who got us into this war should pay for it with their careers, their fortunes and what little pretense they can have to honor.
And, oh yes, there is one more thing you should know about the poem that Kipling wrote in 1917. The World War I debacle he described was in a place that gave his work its title, "Mesopotamia": the word the British used for the country before they called it Iraq. The officials responsible for the disaster there were never sanctioned. We'll see if that part of history repeats itself as well.
Tags: Iraq war, Pat Tillman, Kipling