As the endless war in Afghanistan drags on and on,
Slowly emerging are tales of war atrocities by Americans,
By men in combat whose job is to kill other human beings,
And when they do, they tend to celebrate being alive,
Celebrate the enemy they have just killed as now dead.
The Indians of America would take “scalps,”
In Vietnam, ears of the dead were cut off,
Stored in plastic bags, like curled, dried, brown potato chips.
Reminder souvenirs of America’s triumph; of our “winning!”
In Afghanistan other photos emerged of American snipers
Pissing on the bodies of the dead enemy of Al Qaeda,
Others posing with enemy dead beneath German SS flags,
The latest photos show Americans holding up body-parts
Of dead the newly dead Afghanistan suicide bombers,
Who were trying to kill them and dying in their effort.
And who can forget the American Sergeant Robert Bales
On his 4th tour of combat, despite suffering head wounds,
Who mercilessly went out in the middle of the night,
To gun down 17 Afghanistan women and children,
In the dead of night...as they slept....
Afghanistan is a guerrilla war; a civil war; and a religious war,
To Americans, Afghans are “towel-heads,”
Any one of them could easily be a suicide bomber, a “martyr,”
Whose lives are meaningless; inconsequential; of no value,
So indiscriminate killing of the “enemy,” becomes the norm,
An acceptable reaction to perceived dangers; a survival tool.
As long as American troops are forced into multiple tours,
Multiple atrocities will continue...unabated,
For they are also put into “survival” mode, which has no rules;
Which has no boundaries; no “codes of conduct.”
For Afghanistan is an “unconventional war,”
Things like the “Geneva Convention,” are merely concepts
Of another time and another place and of another era.
Which are given lip service by the Military Leaders,
But on the ground, these go out the window; are disregarded.
Just as in most wars, today are wars that Generals,
Ranking Officers and Commanders in Chief, Never Fight In!
Those who fight return from war weary, worn out, empty,
Tired, and drained from an endless year of being on the edge.
This takes its toll, as every minute of every day one is guarded;
Suspicious, tense, walking a very fine line, a balancing act,
Knowing you can easily die at any time, at any place,
And never, even, see it coming!
One comes back from war fearful of the night, of dark,
For the dark represents the “unknown,” the unseen,
As “unknowns” are dangerous; unknowns will kill you.
One is on the precipice; cautious, suspicious of everything,
Bringing home the costly survival skills they learned
In combat, skills, skills, which kept them alive.
Yet, sudden noises startle; one steers away from crowds,
Doesn’t want anyone too close or near them,
For they trust nobody; are very leery of strangers,
They have learned the hard way, “Not to believe Nothin!’’
One is never quite the same after a year at war...
One returns from war...isolated and totally alone.
In war, one loses their innocence, their beliefs,
The National myths and traditions, which sent them to war,
Have proved false and misleading, for war has no glory,
The people they were sent to help are trying to kill them,
And do, as suddenly friends and buddies die indiscriminately;
They are there one moment, the next, they are chunks of meat
Bloody and scattered across the earth in pieces...forever dead!
It is an event no one can train for; no one can prepare for,
As deep inside you realize it is luck; it may just as well been you
Who got caught, chewed up and spit out dead...forever dead,
You would have been the one who died for what, and why?
And therein is the problem, the crisis, the predicament.
Something nobody seems to understand or can comprehend
As to why there are such problems for returning veterans,
Why they have changed their mindset; have become strangers,
Are so hard and difficult to deal with, have changed drastically,
Are no longer who they used to be; whom they will never be!
Can never again be the person they were...it is impossible.
For those who initially go to war have been conditioned;
Carefully taught and embedded in their imagination,
Regarding the patriotic glory of war, the flags waving,
Marching bands, national anthems, patriotic ceremonies,
Celebrations with fireworks and football game "fly-overs"
Ingrained in the culture as a vital part of your great country,
You were “Fighting for Freedom; for Democracy; for Liberty!”
In a noble cause to protect the homeland; your patriotic duty!
All the things our songs sing about...are forever gone.
They are reduced down to a dead, bloody friend,
Lying so still, so motionless, sprawled awkwardly,
On the foreign soil in a land so far away from his home,
Who’s sightless eyes stare unblinking into its own eternity.
Whose sad death was not heroic; not patriotic, not glorious
Rather a brutal snapshot of the horrors of war and dying
And your predominant feeling is strangely one of gladness,
A feeling of sick, jumbled, overwhelming relief
It was he, not you, who was killed and lying alone in the gore.
And for that, you will forever deal with the guilt of being alive!
All who go to war return back home changed,
Come back different; will never be the same.
For they cannot be the same, nor will they ever return,
To those wistful perfect days of youth and imagination;
Those dreamy days in an ideal world which never was,
Except in one’s desperate imagination and fanciful dreams.
Dreams, which kept one going, to get through one more day,
Which helped them make it through, just one more night!
One cannot change the past; one can only acknowledge it,
Then move on and try to leave it behind, it cannot be changed,
It cannot be different; be ignored nor disregarded,
It can only be somehow put into perspective,
And one day, it will be accepted as having happened,
Knowing that it changed you, but you survived war;
You finally “Wake Up” from the worst hell in the world,
And slowly return once more back to the living, to safety,
To a new world, which is yours to do with
As you may, and... as you choose!
By Curtis D Bennett
First U.S.-led attack on Afghanistan, October 7, 2001