Sunday, May 19, 2024

They Make the Time: Or The Masters of War


As a US citizen I have been at odds with a US foreign policy that, for my entire lifetime, has consistently chosen military solutions over absolutely anything else.




After 9/11, the US conducted a vengeful series of wars, directly or by proxy, in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, the Philippines, and other parts of the world where suspected terrorists resided, that resulted in hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians killed and millions more displaced, destabilizing several regions, and spreading the pain and chaos of inter-generational trauma for decades to come.



The U.S. broke international law, committed countless war crimes. More information can be found here about the costs of the 20-year war on terror: Costs of 20 Year War on Terror: $8 Trillion and 900,000 Deaths.

Then the U.S. retreated and pretended as if the continued chaos in those regions were the sole fault of the people living there. Just like we did in Vietnam. A 1975 US Senate subcommittee estimated 1.4 million South Vietnamese civilian casualties during the war, including 415,000 deaths (Turse, Nick; Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam). 



The Vietnamese government estimates that there are over 4,000,000 victims of dioxin poisoning in Vietnam, due to Agent Orange. In some areas of southern Vietnam, dioxin levels remain at over 100 times the accepted international standard (Washington Post Foreign Service).


Vietnam (spraying Agent Orange)

A 1995 demographic study in Population and Development Review calculated 791,000–1,141,000 war-related Vietnamese deaths, both soldiers and civilians, for all of Vietnam from 1965–75.

In all the wars that the US has been involved in or started since WWII, very little was accomplished other than unfathomable infrastructure destruction and masses of civilian deaths. 

And some folks made a lot of money. 


Sadly, the Biden Administration is still dedicated to the same policy: Bomb, strafe, maim, kill, while money pours into the coffers of arms manufacturers. As many of us are aware, the US is now supplying the weapons and support for the killing of countless Palestinians (35,000) in Gaza, with the ongoing violence and embargo by Israel resulting in famine.



Another well-known, and, at this point, almost banal observation: money influences how most decisions are made in Washington. If you want to understand what’s going on, usually it’s a good policy to follow the money. And money in this case, means weapons manufacturers.


Here is a list of all those weapons companies, the masters of war, currently p­r­o­f­i­tin­g f­r­o­m I­s­r­a­e­l­’­s 2­0­2­3­-­2­0­2­4 A­t­t­a­c­k­s o­n G­a­z­a:

Companies Profiting from the Gaza Genocide

Meanwhile...Student Encampments!

Right now, there are students at University of Oregon, on the other side of Eugene, Oregon, the town where I live, who have set up an encampment on the campus, primarily calling for a cease-fire, along with calling for the university to separate themselves from any companies that are advancing Israel’s military efforts in Gaza and divestment from military weapons manufacturers in general.

University of Oregon


From USA Today, about a week ago:

“Encampment liaison and UO senior Teagen Holmquist said the rally went well and is proud to see the encampment continue to grow at UO. "It's really good to see the community coming together in this way to support Palestine and reject U.S. imperialism," Holmquist said. "We obviously welcome any students who want to come camp with us. Faculty support is greatly appreciated. One of our demands from the university is to issue a statement affirming the safety of Muslim students, Palestinian students, Arab students, Jewish students, faculty, just all students and everyone involved here. We really hope that we'll be able to protect each other."


University of Oregon


As of this weekend, the students are still encamped, and you can find more information about them from their student news source here.

Like these students, and like many people I know (Around two-thirds of voters (67%) — including majorities of Democrats (77%), Independents (69%), and Republicans (56%) — support the U.S. calling for a permanent ceasefire and a de-escalation of violence in Gaza: Data for Progress), I’ve been in turmoil over what is occurring in Gaza: Sorrow, pain, grief, anger. 



And so I am deeply appreciative that these students have put themselves, their bodies, on the line, speaking out against genocide, against the insidious and ubiquitous role weapons manufacturing plays in the US economy and US foreign policy. 


University of Oregon

Although I’ve written poems about this subject before (many times, including a poem about the image of a boy on a cot in Gaza, from 2009, in the book All the Beautiful Dead referencing US weapons manufacturers), because US policy never changes, I’ve been at it again. 

 I’ve been writing a series of poems over the last seven months in order to channel all this fear, frustration, horror, and sorrow. I include one below, based on what I've previously said about how the military industrial complex and weapons manufacturers are so intricately woven into the US economy, into American daily life. It is a good poem? I don't know. Probably not.


They Make the Time


They have the time to do their work, time to invest in working all day,

throughout the night, while the ants sleep, the manatees sleep, while I


sleep; they make the time to maintain a robust and innovative defense

industrial base, time to make sure the product is being properly shipped,


orders fulfilled, all night, throughout the night, make the time to edit

speeches about a desire for peace, all day and night, with busy hands,


busy thoughts, busy feet. And I never seem to have the time; I keep turn-

ing, looking into the rearview mirror, wondering where it went, this time,


so little time to find the right questions to ask. Have they taken it all for

themselves, hoarding it, keeping all the time in the world for their work,


this industrious day and night work, leaving behind only scattered scraps

of time for everyone else? How do they make the time? Alchemists 


splicing the genetic material of money and brain tissue, money and 

severed fingers, money and unbearable sorrow? They are troubled, 


so troubled, by the work, but they know that sacrifices have to be 

made when you’re creating time, stretching time on the rack, to do 


the work, to keep the machinery turning, fitting the numbers into

shifting columns, wiping the counters clean, re-writing reasons for 


the means of production, as time – for so many – dwindles to almost 

nothing, is a hand reaching through broken concrete, a breath filled 


with dust, and finally runs out. 




I also include a poem by Hayden Carruth, written during the US war in Vietnam that takes a harsh, but realistic, look at what all these poems really accomplish (other than helping to process and counter our sense of helplessness in the face of blind, brutal power).  And yet, we still need to keep writing them. 

On Being Asked To Write A Poem Against The War In Vietnam

Well I have and in fact
more than one and I’ll
tell you this too

I wrote one against
Algeria that nightmare
and another against

Korea and another
against the one
I was in

and I don’t remember
how many against
the three

when I was a boy
Abyssinia Spain and
Harlan County

and not one
breath was restored
to one

shattered throat
mans womans or childs
not one not

but death went on and on
never looking aside

except now and then
with a furtive half-smile
to make sure I was noticing.




Amnesty: Demand Ceasefire by All Parties

 Oxfam: Ceasefire Now

 Codepink: Divestment Petition; BDS Toolkit

RootsAction: Divest from the War Industry 


10 Largest Arms manufacturers in the world (top five are US)



Here's one more, from Lew Welch:



Every 30 years or so, Elders arm Children
with expensive weapons and send them away
to kill other children similarly armed.

Some do not return. Some return
maimed or terrified into madness.
Many come back brutal.

Nothing else changes.

Mr. Krupp* got the whole works back
by producing a single document

from his briefcase.


*The Krupps were an industrialist family in Germany before, during and after WWII that supplied the Nazi war machine with arms. In this poem Welch is referring to the fact that after the war, after a stint in prison, one of the Krupps was allowed to resume as head of the company.



Update May 24, 2024 on Student Encampment (Ceasefire/Divestiture Protest) at University of Oregon:

Student negotiators and university officials reached an agreement to end the pro-Palestine encampment on the University of Oregon campus after 24 days.

UO has agreed to:

  • “Full participation” for students in a task force on ethical investment, purchasing and contracting, which was announced earlier today in a 3 p.m. University Senate meeting.

  • “No adverse action” for “member[s] or groups (official or unofficial) of the University of Oregon” regarding “protected speech,” and the end of the encampment as a “favorable mitigating factor” in the resolution of any potential student conduct code violations.

  • Create a “Palestinian studies program” and invite interested students and faculty to work with the UO Senate’s study abroad program to ensure all study abroad programs are “inclusive.” 

  • Develop a new inter-institutional exchange partnership with Birzeit University in the West Bank. 

  • Develop plans to host scholars or students directly impacted by the Palestine-Israel conflict. 

  • Provide scholarships for displaced students in Gaza “transitioning to our university.”

  • Develop a “cluster” of experts on the study of Israel/Palestine.