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The Lord of the Drones by Heathcote Williams
The Lord of the Drones:
The President and the White House Fly
By HEATHCOTE WILLIAMS
“Events of great consequence often spring from trifling circumstances.”
(Ex parvis saepe magnarum momenta rerum pendent.)
Titus Livy, Annales, XXVII, 9
“At the beginning of his reign Emperor Domitian would spend hours alone every day catching flies and stabbing them with a needle-sharp pen.”
“In his first three years, Obama has unleashed 268 covert drone strikes, five times the total George W. Bush ordered during his eight years in office. All told, drones have been used to kill more than 3,000 people designated as terrorists, including at least four U.S. citizens. In the process, according to human rights groups, they have also claimed the lives of more than 800 civilians. Obama’s drone program, in fact, amounts to the largest unmanned aerial offensive ever conducted in military history; never have so few killed so many by remote control.”
Michael Hastings ‘Rise of the Killer Drones: How America Goes to War in Secret’ Rolling Stone, 16, April, 2012
“Everything that lives is holy.”
William Blake, America, A Prophecy, Lambeth: 1793, line 13
Out of nowhere, two magically exotic sounds, Barack Obama,
Would woo the world like spells, sizzling with expectation
Of hope and change; of wars ending, and of the earth transformed;
Of Peace and Goodwill to mankind and deliverance from hell.
Across the States the powerless and the impoverished seized on
A man whom they believed would alter their fate.
They’d flock to him in their millions to give him their money;
Voting repeatedly until he was wearing their crown.
80,000 supporters in Chicago would proclaim him ‘The One!’
As confetti fell from the air and fireworks exploded.
He’d accept their nomination from a huge Hollywood temple –
Its theatrical columns prefiguring the White House.
Six hundred million dollars was spent on his campaign
With lavish donations from Wall Street;
Both mass media and the grassroots ensured his election –
Declared to be a groundbreaking miracle.
After tributes to the President-Elect, staged at the Lincoln Memorial,
A screen actress, next to Obama’s podium, would say,
“It was like looking into the sun! You couldn’t look for too long!”
Laura Linney gushed, “It was just too overwhelming!”
Hard-bitten op-eds and TV pundits would preen themselves:
“Where else in the world but in the United States?”
And grown men wept openly in the streets, ‘What a great day!’
Overwhelmed by their candidate becoming President.
The historian, Simon Schama, trading objectivity for enrapture
Imagined the President channeling voices from the past:
“Head turned slightly aside, as if tuning into history’s promptings:
“’I hear you Abe, I hear you Martin; message coming in loud and clear’”.
Yet to Arundhati Roy, “the saddest thing is that we watched Obama
And felt moved, watching how happy people were,
But what has happened is that Barack Obama has come into office
And that he has now expanded the US’s wars.
“It was as though the tears of all the black people
Who’d watched him come into power
Were now cut and pasted onto the eyes of the world’s elite,
Crying with laughter as he excuses their wars.”
But the White House welcomed its new incumbent with fevered excitement
As it seethed with Secret Service special agents –
Each one weighed down by state-of-the-art weapons to fend off any invasion
Of the United States’ Holiest of Holies.
Every building near the White House bristled with concealed racks
Of ground-to-air Stinger missiles,
Designed to enforce a no-fly zone, as ordained by the Pentagon,
Together with saturation surveillance…
However, on a June day in the East Room of the White House,
During a keynote interview with the new President
Set up by his Press Office to “assess his current media standing”
A sprightly, renegade fly ignored all these measures.
It ascended and descended; skipped, zoomed and capered
As it defied the earth’s gravitational pull
Then, with its compound eye, deftly negotiated its way
Through knots of large figures and harsh lighting.
A glistening Harlequin, intricately miniaturized,
The anarchic Don Juan of the natural world;
It pirouettes on a sunbeam, and speed-dances in mid-air
Searching for sweetness to fuel its serenades.
“Hey! Get outta here!” America’s 44th President snaps fretfully
While addressing “the signature characteristic of our Admin…”
He’s forced to come to a stop in the midst of a complex sentence,
Being distracted by the signature buzz of this summer fly.
Anxiously aware of the new President’s impatient irritation,
And house-trained to turn trivia into ‘historic events’,
The earnest interviewer, John Harwood, declares momentously,
“That’s the most persistent fly I’ve ever seen.”
Interpreting this as a call to arms, the President of the US strikes:
The fly falls, then he kicks it across the carpet with his shoe –
Its only crime was to make use of the White House air for flying
Instead of for inhaling the US Administration’s platitudes.
“That was pretty impressive wasn’t it?” The President solicits approval,
Before exploding victoriously, “I got the sucker!”
At which the room swells with awed gasps:“Jesus!” and coos of “Nice!”
As everyone tries to outdo each other in admiration.
“You want to film that? It’s right there. There it is!” the President urges –
Pointing to his fallen victim, as he lets out a fastidious, “Yech!”
The crew swiftly focus on a trembling speck on the East Room’s carpet,
So the world at large may share in the Presidential achievement.
Pleased to exploit it, the President alerts his Press Secretary, “Did you see that Gibbs?”
Gibbs nods, and scuttles off to see the death’s presented to full advantage.
In a voice-over Gibbs name-checks the Karate Kid who caught flies with chopsticks
(Though Gibbs omits to tell CNBC’s viewers that the Kid let them go).
Upon Caesar’s giving his personal thumbs-down to the fly a film-clip goes viral
With the media’s Coliseum crowing – ‘Go for it, Mr. President!’
Commentators scorn all alternative ways to evict flies – ‘Come on, the President
Has a license to kill as Commander’ and bloggers agree, ‘Flies are evil!’
Yet Keats would delight in seeing flies in musk-roses, “the murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves”;
And Proust thought of them as the chamber music of summer, promising new summers of the soul;
Mad John Clare was comforted by seeing them as things of the mind “like fairies”;
Wordsworth loved their “tuneful hum” and Blake delighted in their antics, describing himself as a “happy fly”.
Kit Smart’s ‘Cat Jeoffrey’ chased and played with a fly till all three of them buzzed and hummed
With electric joy, cavorting with this seasoned acrobat dancing upside down on glass
– A chance stranger with honeycomb eyes and 2000 lenses with no need to be scape-goated
For flies flag up the life of a day, and deserve to be left alone.
Not only that, flies pollinate just as many plants as the more popular bee:
Without the fly the summer would be silent and fruitless
For it services edible crops: onions and carrots; cabbage and peppers;
Flies have star roles in the growth of tea, and of coffee;
Of sunflowers, and garlic; of catnip and cocoa; of lettuce and broccoli,
Of radish, and avocado – the fly escapes from its stereotype:
It spreads no more diseases than does man; and it breaks down waste
For topsoil; and without flies man would be buried in corpses.
Yet they’re despised, for man hates nothing more than those he wrongs
And, to the US President, the fly had a life unworthy of being lived:
It had cut in on a CNBC discussion of the media’s coverage of his power,
That Presidential superpower which sanctions killing with impunity.
“The snuff aspect of it, killing the fly, was psychologically useful for Obama.”
“He decided to take it out, and he did take it out.”
The President’s interviewer, John Harwood, would tell the New York Times,
He might have added, “for violence is our default position.”
And, of course, if a tiny fly has you gagging with schoolgirl disgust
Then why not just kill it? – though, like the ‘Brave Little Tailor’
In Grimm’s Fairy Tales who boasted he’d killed “Seven at one blow!”
Whoever does so risks the invitation, ‘Now why stop at flies?’
After blood’s drawn in the new White House, thanks to the fly’s execution,
The President’s quickly caught by the Pentagon’s cold grip –
And he’s ensnared in the vast web of war games that are America’s business
From which all Presidents have to learn how much they profit.
Suddenly this ‘peace candidate’ who had once claimed to admire Gandhi
Is sending over 30,000 troops to Afghanistan,
For a selection to urinate on victims, photograph themselves doing so
And then bring back severed hands as trophies.
‘And also’, the Pentagon whispers, ‘there’s a new toy we wish you to road-test:
Namely, the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, or the drone.’
This robot insect, it’s the Pentagon’s boast, means no Americans need die,
For its enemies can all be killed by remote control.
So, from January 23rd, 2009, the 44th President of the US gives orders
For hundreds of UAVs to hover above Afghan villages,
Where, with their artificial compound eyes, the drones spy on those below,
Aim Hellfire missiles at them, and burn them to death.
The Predator drone’s thermobaric weapons, with their fuel-air explosives,
Work by spreading an incendiary mist which then ignites.
A vacuum’s made by a firestorm tearing apart those in target buildings.
They can burst the internal organs of laborers in nearby fields.
On the President’s first directive 22 lives are destroyed, including 3 children;
In his first year the US President airily orders 600 drone attacks –
Over 90 are killed by one missile from a hovering drone above Farah province,
Signed off by the President, fresh from his triumph as a fly killer.
Shaky images of Pashtun children playing in colourful villages are relayed
Across eight-and-a-half thousand miles to Creech Air base in Nevada
Whereupon they’re misread as suspicious gatherings, inviting elimination
For being an unspecified threat to the US’s “full spectrum dominance”.
The Empire’s 44th attack-dog is now clear, “We must lead by building a 21st-century military,”
“We’ll have the strongest armed forces in the history of the world.”
Dr. Martin Luther King has been swept aside in favour of the US’s ‘core values’,
Namely the divine right to global resources and a license to kill.
Thanks to their ‘death chips’, or the Radio Frequency IDs, dished out by US Special Forces,
‘Got guys you don’t like? Bad guys? Put these near their huts. Here, money…’
President Obama’s drones can then triangulate these telltale homing beacons:
Feed their locations back to base, and trigger the drones’ cyber-murders.
A nineteen-year-old boy, Habibur Rehman, is given $122 to drop RFIDs in twists of paper
He flicks them into houses, “If I was successful, I was told I’d be given thousands of dollars;
So I started throwing the chips all over. I knew people were dying because of what I was doing. It was an easy job. I needed the money.”
His fellow-villagers find him and put him on trial, then shoot Habibur dead.
After the President’s first salvo, thousands of Pashtun turned out for the funerals;
One banner reads: “BOMBING TRIBES: OBAMA’S FIRST GIFT TO PAKISTAN”
A Waziri chief, Malik Taj Mohammed, asks, “Why doesn’t Obama understand poverty?
“Why doesn’t he spend his money trying to help us rather than kill us?”
The first President who might once have led the US out of a murderous mind-set,
Is inexplicably changing Dr King’s ploughshares into imperial swords;
The crown housing King’s revolutionary conscience is melted down for an Imperial diadem –
King’s keys to the Promised Land are traded for the drones of Obamageddon.
When eighty were killed at Makeen, Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Yousef Raza Gilani, implored Obama to stop
But the CIA’s Director, Leon Panetta, responded by saying his drones were “effective and the only game in town”
The Wall Street Journal parroted its government, “Drones make war-fighting more humane”
And, as war floats Wall Street’s boat, the Journal cheers, “Unmanned bombs away!”
“When I’m President,” Obama had swaggered, “we’ll wage the war that has to be won.”
“And on the right battlefield,” he’d promise, “in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”
Though a corporal, Rick Reyes of the Marine Corps, would tell Congress the following April
“Almost a hundred per cent of suspected terrorists turn out to be innocent civilians.”
Impassioned crowds appear in Islamabad holding up banners: “STOP DRACULEAN DRONE ATTACKS”
An anguished headline reads: “Resulting Bloodshed of Innocent Pakistanis.”
Witnesses described being buzzed by delta-shaped bats terrorizing communities:
With mechanical fangs that spit projectiles, tearing flesh and ending lives.
From his distant base a Predator pilot, with his ‘sensor operator’, sits in a screen-filled office
From where they can both peep at an Afghan procession moving from the bride’s house to the groom’s
And can hear people singing the Pashto wedding song, Ahesta boro, Mah-e-man, ‘Go slowly, my lovely moon.’
But groups at dusk with strange instruments signal ‘Red Alert’ in their Reconnaissance Manuals.
While it’s traditional for Afghans to fire volleys with old rifles at wedding feasts,
When seen by digital snoops in Nevada, such displays are classed as threats.
Two drone operators exchange nods, then launch a fireball to engulf the wedding party
And the President’s favored weapon fries Pashtun flesh with 3000 degree flames.
The wedding song’s drowned out by explosions; the wedding’s future offspring are killed by keystrokes.
Then, their shift over, the drone operators use the drive home to Vegas to “decompress” –
There’s a brisk ritual in which the battle-hardened reassure novices: ‘Rag heads incubate terror.
‘You can save lives if you zap ‘em. It’s a neat plus, dude.’
Colonel Chris Chambliss of the 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing at the Creech Springs base
Plays tapes of his Predator drones to display his company’s skill-sets:
He boasts to defense journalists there’s an “insatiable appetite” for the system’s “capabilities”
And he adds, “We’re the victims of our own success.”
Remote controlled assassination is a “game changer” he proudly explains
To the National Defense magazine and to the military press
Whom he’s invited to watch his unit’s Hellfire missiles destroying vehicles.
He smiles with satisfaction, “This really is the weapon of choice.”
“Our sensor operators use their laser instruments after our pilots fire a missile,” “Eighteen-year-olds,” he elaborates, “guide them to its target.”
“Sometimes,” he admits, “sensor operators have sought out a chaplain after an attack.”
A staffer chips in, protectively, “No one walks into it blind.”
Protesters placard the Creech base: “Ground the Drones lest we Reap the Whirlwind”
But the President views his robot flies as being so smart blowback’s impossible
So he dispenses Predators and Reapers with impunity, like a radiant TV housewife
Whose sparkling smiles sell a brutal Empire by sprinkling it with magic dust.
In ‘All Falls Down’ Kanye West would sing “The prettiest people
Do the ugliest things on the road to riches” –
When it’s known that drone missiles are tipped with Depleted Uranium,
The President’s radiant smile looks radioactive.
A pro-Obama journalist writes, “Reaper aerial killbot harvests its first fleshies”
Gleefully adding, “Hapless meatsacks slaughtered by flying mechanoid”
But worlds away, Dr Munir Ahmad, a Miranshah psychiatrist, notes, “The women are so afraid of the drone’s noise
That even a door-slam scares them into uncontrollable tears.”
Mohammed Yaqoob, a Miranshah teacher, says, “The children are so frightened of drones
They can’t concentrate on their lessons. They just sit in the classroom
Looking up at the drones in the sky that continuously hover over the town.
They don’t sleep at night. They’re afraid of being bombed in their beds.”
An Afghan child may come to learn of the American Way of Life by being killed by it
Or by burying his family: his mother, father, grandparents, and siblings –
The last links in a chain of bodies from the White House to a bleak base in the desert
Where ‘pilots’ kill those ‘threatening democracy’ by their just being alive.
The air aces who once “slipped the surly bonds of Earth to touch the face of God”
Are now downsized by the Pentagon’s techno-Taliban
To fantasy flyboys whose ‘situational awareness’ derives from hours spent gaming
In arcades rather than, more courageously, in the ‘wild blue yonder’.
A US Air Force pilot now only needs to be someone trained to sit upright, and who has played Game Boy 2.
Flight-Sim avionics will ensure the UAV vehicle’s takeoff and landing is fully automated.
Commanders-in-Chief – the drones’ warlords – who direct these squadrons of couch potato killers
Are turning their Air Force into a Chair Force, that can wipe out Afghans by flicking a joystick.
Air Force operators elatedly yell out “crispy critters” on turning screen figures to ashes –
Gloating over those they’re programmed to think inferior, a people they cannot know,
Yet Predator pilots pretend to be their own comic book heroes, vaporizing ‘alien forces of doom’,
Their technology can persuade them it’s brave to control a control-panel.
After more White House attacks, Afghan tribal chiefs record fallen villagers on slips for NGOs
Calculating Obama’s drone killings to be over a thousand in his first year,
Yet the Afghan ambassador who tells Obama he’s killing forty-eight civilians to each insurgent is dismissed
So the operatives of Creech Springs may continue their cyber-killing.
The 44th President has developed an appetite for these drones,
Ordering up hundreds more than his predecessor, Bush;
The President even jokes about them, by his threatening to use them
To keep the latest pop group away from his daughters.
At a White House Correspondents Association Dinner, on May 1st, 2010
The President announces excitedly, “The Jonas Brothers are here”.
He declares that his daughters are “huge fans” of the current pop icons,
Then says sternly with mock reproof, “But, boys, don’t get any ideas.”
He warns the Jonas Brothers, “I have two words for you – Predator drones!
Then he adds theatrically, “You will never see it coming!”
The joke proves so popular that the President milks it, “You think I’m joking?”
Loyal laughter signals a reluctance to search out his meaning,
Unless it’s thought a joke that one in three killed by drones are civilians;
Or considered funny for Afghan children who “never see it coming”
There’s a crass sadism in a President’s boasting about the power to kill
While his operators dispose of the unknown and cry “bug splat.”
A mind-set echoed by Admiral William Fallon,
The head of U.S. Central Command,
“These guys are ants,” he’s in the habit of saying,
“When the time comes, you crush them.”
The next day Obama ordered another air attack against the Pashtun in Helmand
Resulting in an “errant rocket strike” killing four children in Marja,
Yet that day his priority was the death of a former staffer, of whom he noted,
“She insisted she’s going to be buried in an Obama t-shirt.”
The President kills a harmless fly, then he’s trapped a sick cycle
Of death and narcissism, where his own psyche’s ensnared
By a huge armed tarantula, his Empire, with its thousand bases worldwide –
Each pestering him to supply it with bullets and bombs.
In November 2008, Pakistani children outside the Peshawar Press Club:
Showed their Eid savings of $261 they were sending to Obama;
They said it was for “Uncle Obama’s election campaign” and implored him
“Not to rain missiles on our country”. They were ignored.
Ignored by a candidate who’d blithely proclaim, “A light will shine down from somewhere.
It will light upon you. You’ll experience an epiphany. You’ll say to yourself,
I have to vote for Barack. I have to do it.”
All Presidents bathe in spotlights from which they gain a brief Faustian glow,
Before ending up as war criminals, with arrest warrants outstanding.
By contrast, the Americas’ last black leader, Toussaint Louverture,
Defeated three empires and abolished slavery in Haiti;
Whereas two centuries later, the US Empire’s honey-voiced President
Would be Lord of the Drones, technology’s Lord of the Flies.
“When the Americans were not here, things were so calm.
There was the same earth and the same sky,”
Said Abdullah Khan, a refugee from Helmand River Province,
And he asks, “What benefit did America bring us?”
The answer’s thirty million pounds of bombs since the United Stares arrived
A high point being Obama’s own operation, his ‘Strike of the Sword’.
And a refugee explains how this July 2009 bombing would scatter body parts
Reducing graves to chaos through “the theft of our arms and legs”.
In August 2009 five farmers were loading up cucumbers in Zhari to take to Kandahar
When Obama’s video-pilots thought them insurgents putting explosives in a van.
So strains of DNA from a people known to Alexander the Great were incinerated
By skill-sets acquired in teenagers’ dens and then honed by Attention Deficit.
Some Pashtun are Graeco-Bactrians with a language imbued with pre-Islamic Greek myth:
Shpane is ‘shepherd’, a word concealing Pan – the protector of flocks who plays the pipes;
Seshtan is the All Mighty in Pashto – Zeus-tan – signifying somewhere devoted to Zeus;
And Oris, is ‘cloud’, or Iris in Greek, a transformative goddess with a magical rainbow.
Mordozmai is the Minotaur haunting Hadira, the Pashtun for graveyard and the Greek Hades;
Hazhdahar is Hydra, the many-headed dragon, and there’s a Pashtun curse mentioning Tartarus –
The same word as their Greek forbears used for the nethermost region of hell –
And then Hora is wedding, like ‘Hera’, the wedding-Goddess, and Persely is Persephone, or Spring.
Pashtun boys are sent to a hojrah, to gain strength – the brotherhood barracks of Sparta –
The jirga derives from Greek democracy; tribal law has trial by jury
Yet after 23 centuries the Afghan Greeks are required to have their history ransacked, just like Iraq,
By an ignorant US Congress and its Godfather, their celebrity President.
The Pashtun wedding dance, the Attan, once Athenian and before that Zoroastrian,
Has Pashtun men and women spinning round a fire, attaining communion;
But at another wedding, this time in Farah, it would be a dance of death, finished off by swivel-seated killers
Swigging sodas and chomping burgers as they send in their gate-crashing missiles.
When tribesmen ask their invaders, Sta Kandi –‘What have you done?’ – They’re handed a few dollars for their dead with an ignorant shrug;
Should they ask themselves what they’re doing they know they’re defending their territory
And they wonder why the tahdedawal, the badmash (foreign philistine thugs)
Can’t understand two Pashtun words, Lere larsha – ‘Go away.’
“I don’t want the foreigners here when I clean blood from my home,”
Said a Helmand shopkeeper, Haji Dawood Khan;
“The more foreign troops there are, the more people will hate them.”
Echoed Mohammad Karigar, from Kandahar.
But Washington’s palazzo, its White House, which comes complete with feudal servants,
Still houses the same Petri dish that spawned its robber baron society:
The same zealots of profiteering still hide in the same enclaves of privilege
Still wage the same predatory wars against those they pretend are a threat.
And, using a strident Doomsday rhetoric to make her superfluous job significant,
The US Secretary of State calls Pakistan a “mortal danger” to the world:
Repeatedly claiming “global security” is endangered by dustbowl herdsmen
She’s maddened by a faith that so tryingly renders them fearless.
For the spirit of Badshah Khan, the nonviolent soldier of Islam, still guides many Pashtun:
He founded history’s first pacifist army to free Pashtun from the British;
He raised 100,000 Red Shirts gaining freedom from “the foreigners who disgraced us”
Through his “gentle and brave” Khudai Khidmatgars whose tactics were simply “patience”.
By contrast with this ‘frontier Gandhi’, the US Proconsul, its ‘Special Envoy’
Richard Holbrooke, would expose himself through coarse metaphors:
“The US victory”, Holbrooke said, “will be like pornography. We’ll know it when we see it.”
As if anticipating some undisclosed but obscene excitement.
But their so-called “good war” has already been filed under ‘Apocalypse porn’
For when President Clinton was being hounded by the mass media
To deflect scandal he’d launch seventy Cruise missiles which, in Khost,
Became known as ‘Lewinskys’ and it was these which provoked 9/11.
A stray girl in Balkh, the birthplace of Rumi, performs a song
About tying an angel’s wing to a donkey’s tail
So that the donkey will fly and it’ll be “like a beam of God” –
A kind thought implying the stupid can be saved.
But to Ata Noor, Balkh’s governor, this appears unlikely
Since “US troops fail to respect Afghan culture.
“They taunt Pashtun fighters, burn their bodies, point them west;
Then say they’re ‘lady boys’ for not retrieving them.”
“As a trick they offer food or medicine, then they kidnap those who appear,
Then they force them to tell them where their relatives are.
For the US to torture Pashtun into betraying their brothers is unwise
But they prefer bullets in our brains to lines from Rumi.”
“Rumi would promise us that beyond all ideas of wrong-doing,
Or even of right doing, there lies a beautiful meadow
Where Rumi said ‘I will meet you’. But who’ll get to it now?
For the way is blocked by those without any remorse.”
Tall Afghan turbans echo the layered peaks of Helmand mountains
Where, as with Pamir province, lie rich sources of uranium –
To extend their power the invaders plan to smash the very landscape:
To break heads to break into mountains so as to steal poison.
Three and a half million refugees would flee Obama’s drones in the North-West Frontier
And the media demonizes the insurgents into a Muslim Khmer Rouge.
As Pashtun villages are saved from the Taliban by being bombed by Obama’s drones
A servile media proclaims, “No flies on this ninja President!”
A survivor of a Granai drone points to patches of stained earth,
“My sister, my nephew and my nieces were killed in this place.
I found my nephew’s body here; yesterday a farmer found another body
Lying over there. There was a woman here;
“A head was there; some legs were here. All burned.
You wouldn’t be able to know who was who.
We knew them by their clothes or some other sign.”
Then he described an aircraft with no pilot
“That had made a ‘zzzz zzzz’ sound “like a fly”
And he added: “The bomb’s left people sick.
Their mouths bleed when they eat their food.” He asked,
“The bomb the Americans used in this place;
“Maybe it’s not been used anywhere in the world before?”
But it has and each thermobaric missile is tipped
With Depleted Uranium to penetrate Afghan buildings,
Causing even more damage to those yet unborn.
Mohammed Wali, a farmer in Mirali, said Obama’s attacks cause some to join the militants:
“My neighbour was so furious when a drone killed his mother, his two sisters and seven-year-old brother
That he filled his car with explosives and rammed it towards an army convoy,”
Wali explained. “He had to avenge the death of his loved ones. He killed twelve people.”
Dariya Khan, a Pashtun fighter from the Waziri mountains
Makes it clear why his fight is with Washington:
“Taliban means nothing in Waziristan. Talib is just a name.
We want to save our dignity and our houses.”
“But America told Pakistan ‘we need the oil
So we need to build this pipeline’.
But we won’t allow a pipeline on Pashtun land
And we don’t want Americans on it.”
“This is the reason why America told Pakistan
To kill Waziri Pashtuns;
This is why they bomb us, because we do not agree
With the terms set out by America.”
“There are 40 million Pashtun people
But no Pashtunistan.
Without a separate state for the Pashtuns
We will all be lost and disunited.”
“They murder us so they can build their oil pipe.”
And this is what America wants.
Pashtunkhwa Tarana, Pashtunkhwa Tarana,
Long Live Pashtunistan.”
Obama claims the US to be “the greatest force for progress in the history of the world”
Though such ‘progress’ means having 2000 nuclear missiles on hair-trigger alert;
“We must have the strongest military on the planet and sustain our technological edge”
Though that ‘edge’ dices children into carrion and fries them with flame-throwers.
Nicknamed ‘termites with thermite’ by their developers and funded by the White House,
Micro-drones, like napalm bats, can now enter buildings and spatter the inhabitants – They’re programmed to find flesh and to burn it with inextinguishable, chemical flames.
Next to those who devise such techno-trolls surely any housefly has soul.
To turn war into an electronic tournament detaches it from all human emotion;
Yet recruiting ads for the military now claim “the frontlines are unmanned”
For, thanks to PlayStation warfare, spilling blood is only an enemy’s problem
War’s murders can be packaged as ‘cool’– a technophiliac’s eye candy.
At Army Recruitment Centers war is now presented as war-gaming
Where teenagers are handed out model M-16s
To target CGI Muslims or round up Mexican migrants at the border
And to simulate shooting each of them in the head.
Such games condition a child’s eyes, hands and nervous system
To shoot fast without leaving a moment for reflective thought –
So when their electronic fidgeting has erased enough computer graphics
They can be signed up to cause real deaths on US army screens.
Drone operators are unmanned by such cerebral software being installed
For their mind’s then rewired to lower resistance to slaughter –
Forgetting thoughtless killing equates the Drone Age with the Stone Age,
With man’s primitive instincts rewired by techno-zombies.
At the outset of the US experiment its luminary, Tom Paine, announced
“We have it in our power to begin the world over again.
“An army of principles penetrates where an army of soldiers does not”
Contrast this with a recent progress report from the Empire:
An Urdu paper, the Jang, accuses the President of “shutting his ears
To the screams of untold thousands of women
Whom your drones have turned to dust, Mister Obama.”
His strikes had killed eighty-six at a Makeen funeral.
Writing in the radical Black Agenda Report in April 2012
Glen Ford records drones multiplying under Obama,
Saying of the Administration’s unscrupulous strategies:
The radical journalist I.F. Stone who spent a lifetime studying
The politics of the United States
In the end concluded that, “All governments are run by liars
And nothing they say should be believed.”
“I will promise you this, that if we have not gotten our troops out
By the time I am president, it is the first thing I’ll do.
I will get our troops home. We will bring an end to this war.
You can take that to the bank.” That was Obama in 2007.
Normally “You can take that to the bank,” means ‘trust me’
Although if it’s been said by the ethically cleansed
Then it only means that I’m against war until I’m in power –
Where blood money trumps all political promises.
“Now all my lies are proved untrue”, Kipling wrote,
“And I must face the men I slew.
“What tale”, he asked, “shall serve me here among
“Mine angry and defrauded young?”
But “In Obama’s war policies in Afghanistan and Pakistan”,
Says Tom Engelhardt, in ‘The American Way of War’,
“His imperial avatar is already plunging into the dark –
Into the distinctly opaque valley of death.”
Thanks to karma the US, given its lack of care for global health,
Comes inevitably to be regarded in an identical light
As the President’s first victim: Powerless. To be killed with contempt.
Now the United States itself arouses a similar disgust.
The fly the President crushed at the height of a Messianic reputation
Has morphed by a magic realism into denatured insects
Which incinerate children and swoop down and slaughter tribesmen,
And a fragile fly’s corpse leads to a President’s being seen as evil.
“What dost thou strike at, Marcus, with thy knife?”
Asks Titus Andronicus in Shakespeare’s play.
“At that that I have kill’d, my lord”; replies Marcus,
“A fly.” At which his brother Titus explodes.
“Out on thee, murderer! thou kill’st my heart;
Mine eyes are cloy’d with view of tyranny:
A deed of death done on the innocent
Becomes not Titus’ brother: get thee gone:
I see thou art not for my company.”
Confused by his brother the General, Marcus protests,
“Alas, my lord, I have but kill’d a fly.”
“But how”, Titus responds, “if that fly had a father and mother?
How would he hang his slender gilded wings,
And buzz lamenting doings in the air!
Poor harmless fly,
That, with his pretty buzzing melody,
Came here to make us merry! and thou hast kill’d him.”
‘Kill not the moth nor butterfly’, said William Blake,
‘For the Last Judgment draweth nigh’.
Yet Presidents can be persuaded they’re as great as gods
For they’re dishing out last judgments daily.
* * *
A Navaho youth entering adulthood will isolate himself
In the desert, where he is always visited by a fly:
‘Big Fly’, who answers questions about the natural order
On which the youth will be examined on his return.
Yet despite a fellow fly’s complex circuitry sustaining bio-diversity
And despite its being of such intricacy as to beggar Silicon Valley,
This fly was judged to have no place in the life of a colonial President
So he crushed it, blew its fuses, and sought applause for doing so.
Though “If all the insects,” as Jonas Salk said, “disappeared from the earth
Within fifty years life would end.
If all human beings disappeared from the earth, within fifty years
All forms of life would flourish.”
Unlike the fly, the White House is unable to change direction –
Its carbon boot-print firmly indents the planet’s neck
As if some “god-given” exceptionalism can guarantee the US
A privileged exemption from the end of civilization.
“It is a mistake of arrogance to mistake size for significance,”
The ‘Hellstrom Chronicles’ once declared;
But according to successive Emperors of the United States
What’s small can’t be beautiful, just in the way.
Yet “We should judge every scrap of biodiversity
As priceless,” E.O. Wilson has insisted,
For “If insects were to vanish, the environment
Would quickly collapse into chaos.”
A chaos presided over by a superman who triumphs over a fly;
A man changed by the forces released as he falls from grace;
Changed from being a global hero to becoming a mere criminal,
A mere fly making himself a prisoner of an Imperial web.
Pity that nation that welcomes its new ruler with trumpeting, farewells him with hooting, only to welcome another with trumpeting again.
– Kahlil Gibran, The Garden of the Prophet, 1934
“Imagine that you are creating a fabric of human destiny with the object of making men happy in the end, giving them peace and rest at last, but that it was essential and inevitable to torture to death only one tiny creature [...] and to found that edifice on its unavenged tears, would you consent to be the architect on those conditions? Tell me, and tell the truth!”
– Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, book V
There is no creature He does not hold by the forelock.
– Qur’an, 11: 56
…the Fly, whose health is the honey of the air
– Christopher Smart, Jubilate Agno, c 1763, MS page 1V, line 10
The Lord of the Drones, written by Heathcote Williams; narration and visual montage by Alan Cox. Handsome Dog Productions, London/New York/Moscow: