Submit to poetry in wartime

Published in the Daily Hampshire Gazette April 21, 2022

Old saying: “Russia without Ukraine is a country; Russia with Ukraine is an empire.”

I follow the news. That Putin is a “killer” is no revelation as we recall the 2020 poisoning of his political foe Alexei Navalny, Navalny recovered in Germany before returning to Russia. He was then imprisoned on trumped-up charges, where he remains.

Putin’s latest outrage is the rape of Ukraine. To have loser president Trump pour “genius” praise on this KGB/SOB confirms any and all doubts as to whose side he and his Foxy traitors are on.

Yehor, 7, stands holding a wooden toy rifle next to destroyed Russian military vehicles near Chernihiv, Ukraine, Sunday, April 17, 2022. Witnesses said multiple explosions believed to be caused by missiles struck the western Ukrainian city of Lviv early Monday as the country was bracing for an all-out Russian assault in the east. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

The truly blind are those who won’t see. I have no illusions that brave Ukraine, despite early victories, will be able to resist a military that’s eight times larger. Russia is willing to expend its endless source of recruits as mere, “cannon meat.”

Any war’s outcome is uncertain. WWI English poet Wilfred Owen’s “Strange Meeting” described a scene in no man’s land:

Lifting distressful hands, as if to bless.

And by his smile, I knew that sullen hall,-

By his dead smile I knew we stood in Hell.

America’s president, Joe Biden, upset his enemies when he spoke truth in Poland. Biden was on his late March mission to buck up the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Russia’s dictator deems NATO a continuing threat to Russia. Joe Biden pegged Putin a “butcher. Mariupol’s mayor estimates 21,000 dead; that’s not a typo, and it’s likely far worse.

Putin created an excuse to invade. WWII buffs know that Hitler put men in Polish uniforms to fake a border attack. Germany’s blitzkrieg began September 1, 1939, starting a world war that killed millions.

When battle begins — for land, body, or soul — the first casualty is truth. Empires go as far back as you can look. Putin demands Ukraine surrender to his pipe dream of restoring the failed Soviet Union.

In between are millions of suffering people that look like us, or near enough. Lincoln’s Civil War general, William Tecumseh Sherman, scourge of a rebellious South, brother warring against brother, said “War is hell!”

Hear grave cries for lives lost minutes before a cease-fire or armistice!

Poet Doug Anderson was a medic in Vietnam, an experience that became his book, “Bamboo Bridge.” A wondering lives in his words when, from above, he espied, like King David, a young woman bathing:

If I can live another month it’s over,

And so we think a single thought…

And then she turns and sees us there,

sinks in the water, eyes full of hate;

the trance broken.

In Ukraine, from the outset, Russian tankers are dying in growing numbers as the outgunned Ukrainian forces take the fight to invaders. American-made Javelin anti-tank weapons are shredding enemy armor, evaporating soldiers within.

Russian soldiers disgrace their patrimony by murdering and raping innocent civilians in the town of Bucha, near Kyiv. In their bloody wake came Ukrainian warriors — reporters and photographers in tow — to show the world. Their horrors are sanitized with soft-focus lens and TV anchor’s warnings: “What you’re about to see may be disturbing?”

If merciless murder of men, women and children isn’t unnerving, then what the hell is? Russia destroyed Syria with scorched-earth tactics.

Many patriots, soldiers and diplomats, testified at Trump’s first impeachment trial. Who can forget White House presidential adviser Fiona Hill, Ukrainian-born Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, and unfairly recalled Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch? Don’t Google Rudy Giuliani.

Each of these heroes risked their careers in speaking truth to power. Lt. Col. Vindman’s book, “Here, Right Matters,” tells an American story of determination. In 1979, Alexander and his twin brother, Eugene, were brought to America as children by their widowed father.

Alexander applied himself, rising through the U.S. Army to a post as the White House’s director for European Affairs for the National Security Council. Vindman was on the call when Trump tried to blackmail the Ukrainian president. Trump asked President Zelensky the political favor of sliming our former vice president, Joe Biden. Trump, illegally, held on to $400 million in military aid authorized by Congress.

Vindman realized that President Trump’s demand was beyond improper. Bravely, he dutifully reported it up the chain of command.

I, Alexander S. Vindman, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic“

Lt. Col. Vindman’s adherence to his oath made him a key witness during President Trump’s first impeachment. In no time, Vindman was fired from his White House position.

“Outside Baghdad, April 3rd, 2003” My found war poem’s title feels ironic this April. Today, democracies castigate Russia for invading Ukraine. Nineteen years ago, America was the “Shock and Awe” bully invading Iraq. President George W. Bush and his henchmen sold the United Nations, and the American public, a costly bill of goods. I wrote this stanza for a friend in tears over a young soldier:

It is, I know from the news

A time for dying. Good men,

Brave women, innocents young,

Innocents old leave us behind

To strive without their love.

Sing along: “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”

April is National Poetry Month.

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