by Jim Aitken, with image by Martin Gollan
Yes, it is absolutely ghastly and gruesome.
Yes, Putin is responsible for war crimes
because war itself is a crime, a failure.
I started marching during the Vietnam War
and have opposed every war since then.
Those demonising Putin are the same people
who supported the war in Afghanistan, Iraq,
the very same people who bombed Libya.
Their outrage has their arms manufacturers
rubbing their hands with all the new orders
coming their way. NATO says come on in to
Finland and Sweden. More bases, more orders
for more arms – and far less for welfare –
though silence from the armaments industry.
Hegel once spoke of the slaughter bench of history
and that bench just gets longer and longer
each year that passes. Yesterday it was Syria,
Iraq and Afghanistan, today it is Ukraine
and who will it be tomorrow? It looks a bit like
Russia since sanctions are a form of warfare
just like benefit cuts are a war on the poor.
The same outraged faces and sanctimonious voices
want Russia on her knees. Ukraine is collateral damage
with Tigray and Yemen relegated from our screens.
Putin joins the elite club of Truman, Bush and Blair,
Nixon and Kissinger. Now it is Ukraine and who
will it be tomorrow? Where can the tensions get
stoked up next? What name next for Hegel’s bench?
And as we rightly condemn Putin’s barbarism,
we note BAE System’s share price risen by 24%.
The world has always been at war since war
not only pays but it distracts as well, and Putin
can be blamed for all the ravages back home.
Luther King said, ‘We have guided missiles and
misguided men.’ The misguided men still guide
their people away from their social conditions,
away from their inequalities. And now Ukraine’s
name can be added to Hegel’s slaughter bench and
I will march again for an end to war and for peace.
And for the humanity that binds us all, regardless
of our nation, our race or colour, our gender or faith,
for all people over all the earth to wage peace instead.
This poem is taken from a forthcoming book of poetry by Jim Aitken, 'Declarations of Love', illustrated by Martin Gollan, to be published this summer by Culture Matters.
Jim Aitken is a poet and dramatist living and working in Edinburgh. He is a tutor in Scottish Cultural Studies with Adult Education and he organises literary walks around the city.
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