Sunday, February 9
Poets' Basement: Handleman, Smith and Engel


in the dim & distant eighties
well before the last hurrah,
the wicked people of Iran
had ditched their saintly Shah.

with forty million fervent
Shia Muslims on the boil
the West preferred the Sunnis
to be managing the oil.

& Rumsfeld came to Baghdad
in nineteen-eighty-three:
"would you hing of standing up to
Ayatollah Khomeini;

"this letter from our President
tells all there is to say.
Ronnie & the Pentagon
will back you all the way.

"all the arms & money
that you could ever need,
& patriotic principle,
& where that fails, there's greed."

they cosseted, supplied him
they armed him to the teeth,
lauded & hero-worshipped him;
they stoked his self-belief.

the CIA approved him
a golden boy was Saddam;
they gave him a list of lefties
& straightaway he shot'em.

he wanted something nuclear -
"right here! inside the gate?"
(it stayed; UN inspectors found it,
nineteen ninety-eight.)

"we know you don't mean any harm,
- though if perchance you did
be sure we'd come & get you
& screw down your little lid.

"you'd like to use a chemical?
we wouldn't make a fuss -
this gink is fighting on our side
he's just like one of us!

"what's he doing that's out of place?
we'd really like to know -
didn't we use agent orange
not so very long ago?"

they didn't throw their hands up,
they didn't roll their eyes,
they didn't point a finger
at "evil undisguised."

they didn't turn their face away
they never mentioned guilt -
& they didn't just encourage him
they backed him to the hilt.

Sydney Bernard Smith lives in Dundalk, Ireland and can be reached through his website.
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