To Whom It May Concern

28Jul10

It should come as no surprise to anyone who has been following the war in Afghanistan that’s being led by the United States, but the WikiLeaks release of 91,000 classified military documents related to the war has confirmed what should already be public knowledge — there has been a vastly higher number of civilian casualties than has previously been acknowledged, the Pakistani ISI has been secretly supporting the Taliban (but you already knew this if you read your Tariq Ali), the Taliban is much stronger than formerly acknowledged and the war is going much worse than anticipated for the occupying U.S.-led forces, and perhaps most disturbing of all are the revelations about C.I.A. paramilitary forces and Task Force 373.  Here’s a bit from The Guardian‘s coverage of Task Force 373:

The Nato coalition in Afghanistan has been using an undisclosed “black” unit of special forces, Task Force 373, to hunt down targets for death or detention without trial. Details of more than 2,000 senior figures from the Taliban and al-Qaida are held on a “kill or capture” list, known as Jpel, the joint prioritised effects list.

In many cases, the unit has set out to seize a target for internment, but in others it has simply killed them without attempting to capture. The logs reveal that TF 373 has also killed civilian men, women and children and even Afghan police officers who have strayed into its path.

In the 1980s when paramilitary groups terrorized civilian populations and conducted extrajudicial assassinations in Central and South America they were known as “death squads.”  The U.S. supported many of these paramilitaries by proxy, or through direct training at the School of the Americas.  The difference now, to maul Walt Kelley’s famous formulation, is that “We have met the death squad, and the death squad is us.”

But what the WikiLeaks release reveals, above all, is that nothing has changed since the Vietnam War in the way that the U.S. government systemically covers up its crimes and failures and hides the truth about conditions on the ground from the population in general.  In short, we are (still) being lied to.

In ‘honor’ of this groundbreaking release of classified documents, a release that has the Pentagon Papers as its nearest historical precedent, I’ve decided to post the video of Adrian Mitchell reading his great anti-war poem, “To Whom It May Concern.”

I was run over by the truth one day.
Ever since the accident I’ve walked this way
So stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam.

Heard the alarm clock screaming with pain,
Couldn’t find myself so I went back to sleep again
So fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam.

Every time I shut my eyes all I see is flames.
Made a marble phone book and I carved out all the names
So coat my eyes with butter
Fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam.

I smell something burning, hope it’s just my brains.
They’re only dropping peppermints and daisy-chains
So stuff my nose with garlic
Coat my eyes with butter
Fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam.

Where were you at the time of the crime?
Down by the Cenotaph drinking slime
So chain my tongue with whisky
Stuff my nose with garlic
Coat my eyes with butter
Fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam.

You put your bombers in, you put your conscience out,
You take the human being and you twist it all about
So scrub my skin with women
Chain my tongue with whisky
Stuff my nose with garlic
Coat my eyes with butter
Fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam.



2 Responses to “To Whom It May Concern”

  1. Hi Trane,

    Thanks for this post. The way the press has rolled over and accepted the terms on which the military’s allowed them access to this war is unconscionable, and maybe marks a difference from Viet Nam (tho’ I’m too young to really know). Sign of the times that this came to light on WikiLeaks, and not one of the major national dailies. Maybe the growing neglect of mainstream media (all tidily conglomeratized now) is a case of reaping what you sow.

    What’s are some of the attitudes in Japan to the Afghan fiasco?

    • 2 Trane DeVore

      Hi Rodney,

      Thanks, as always, for the timely and intelligent comments you always leave on my posts (and apologies, as always, for the amount of time it takes me to get back to you). I agree with you fully about the roll that the press has played in promoting (whether consciously or not) the continuation of the war in Afghanistan by limiting the scope of their reporting to those areas of the conflict that the military has given the press access to and information about. Investigative reporting in the classic sense, except among a few alternative sources, seems to have been a largely absent element in this conflict.

      The attitudes in Japan toward the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan tend to lean against military involvement in general, but it’s very difficult to extricate Japanese attitudes toward particular U.S. military ventures from Japanese attitudes toward the U.S. military as a whole and its complicated role as both 1) ally and military protector, and 2) unwanted military occupation force. The divided light in which the U.S. military is held in Japan (which mostly falls along conservative/left lines) is also reflected in the split between those in Japan who would like to continue the pacifist traditions expressed in Article 9 of the Japanese constitution (despite the fact that this constitution is one that was forced on Japan after WWII) and those who would like Japan to become more powerful militarily.

      One of the biggest issues in Japan regarding the question of Afghanistan has been the assistance that Japan was giving to the U.S. military mission there by refueling vessels in the Indian Ocean. The former LDP government supported this action, but the current DJP party (under Prime Minister Hatoyama — before his resignation) has ended the refueling mission:

      http://us.asiancorrespondent.com/breakingnews/japan-ends-afghanistan-naval-refuel.htm


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