America is the mother of all bombers, and if Trump continues his reckless abuse of military power another generation of fatherless children will curse her name 

By Sebastian LaMontagne

The Mother Of All Bombs
On Thursday the 13th at 7pm local time, the U.S hit an ISIS tunnel complex in the district of Achin, part of the Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan. They used a bomb known as a massive ordinance air blast weapon, GBU-34B, or the “mother of all bombs.” It was the first time the U.S had ever used it’s largest non-nuclear bomb in combat. The GBU-34B unleashed 11 tons of explosives, making it 0.073% as powerful as a nuclear weapon. In translation, the explosion it caused shook the earth miles away but was a spark in comparison to the house fire of Hiroshima.

Asked about the use of the bomb Trump explained with his habitual eloquence that, “what I do is I authorize my military. … We have given them total authorization and that’s what they’re doing and frankly that’s why they’ve been so successful lately.” Unfortunately Trump’s metric for success is that anything and everything he does is inspired.

The online response was quick. The Atlantic reposted an article lazily entitled “Make the Anti-War Movement Great Again” which questioned the lack of reaction to Trump’s use of military power. Mark Cuban tweeted that “Mother of all bafoons dropped mother of all bombs to create DISTRACTION from mother of all betrayals.Dont get distracted #russiagate #moab”; Wikileaks tweeted a nytimes article, captioning it “Those tunnels the U.S is bombing in Afghanistan? They were built by the CIA” and The Onion published a bit headlined “New Bomb Capable Of Creating 1,500 New Terrorists In Single Blast”

Meanwhile on Fox and Friends Ainsley Earhardt, visibly flushed with arousal at the idea of dismembered Afghans, declared “that’s what freedom looks like. That’s the red, white and blue.” But did Trump’s explosive act of compensation for his masculine insuffencies actually just help ISIS to continue crowdfunding terrorism?

The propaganda of a previous extremist group may help us better understand how the dropping of #moab has been received in Afghanistan.

The Structure Of Taliban Poetry

Night Raid
August 8, 2008

Those who have ruined my life’s harvest
Make a night raid on my home again.
The Red armies came and returned defeated;
They left the destroyed Afghan valleys behind them.
In any direction that I look, I see the deserted gardens;
The unity of my home has been hit by separation.
Who made a night raid on my home again?

What complaint can you make of the Red, this is their rule;
The forest wolves will always eat meat,
What else should humans expect from wolves?
They have hit my mount and Hamun’s as well.
Who made a night raid on my home again?

Somebody extended the hand of the cruel onto my lap,
That’s why there is no respect for the country’s Ulemaa’.
The turbans fell from the heads of our elders today,
They have set our people on fire.
Who made a night raid on my home again?

The house of my history and culture was looted today,
Each slave is now riding me.
The teeth of the East and the West have become like pliers on my muscles.
I have stepped into his hall in his presence.
Who made a night raid on my home again?

Wise up, O Afghan!
This scene of grief is made for you.
Be zealous and grab him by his neck,
This seared on your heart from the history of yesterday.
Who made a night raid on my home again.


Compare the poetry of the Taliban with the propaganda of America’s right wing extremists, who write words weightless with nugatory shock. Instead of sinking to the internet’s floor beside the unread long form of solo bloggers the work of false polemicists such as Milo Yiannopoulos skims along the surface, schlock for the unsighted.

Similarly Afghan poetry presents a rhetorical argument that evokes an emotional reaction, but does it with high language and historical reference, using symbolism to create depth so far unattained by white nationalist propaganda outlets such as Breitbart.

Trenches

August 23, 2008.


Hot, hot trenches are full of joy;
Attacks on the enemy are full of joy.
Guns in our hands and magazine belts over my shoulders;
Grenades on my chest are full of joy.
The enemy can’t resist when he sees them;
Black hair and stiff mustaches are full of joy.
He who fights in the field is manly;
Houses full of black haired women are full of joy.
We become eager two times after hearing it:
The clang, clang and rockets are full of joy.
Leave the lips and spring, O poet!
Poems full of feeling are full of joy.
Jawad, I say, on the true path of jjhad,
All kinds of troubles are full of joy.
I tell this to Bush!: Ezatullah Zawab
Bush! Don’t get upset just listen to a few words.
Listen to my bittersweet words!
You are neither God nor can the light of God be discerned in your face.
My Shamshad looks like a small mount Sinai.
There is no Pharaoh now, but you made a Pharaoh of yourself.
Every human in this world now looks like an enemy to you.
With whose blood you relieved your thirst.
A red dagger appears in your hand again.
Bush! Don’t get upset, just listen to a few words.
You climbed to the roof again; who are you monitoring?
Which village are you going to bomb again with red bullets.
All those who you killed will grab your collar.
How can you deny their deaths?
Bush! Don’t get upset, just listen to a few words.
You kill the young so that their maidens will cry in Iraq again,
May you be killed so that your children will cry for you.
May your mother, sister and grandmother cry for you,
You devote your life to the killing of innocents.
You came here and gave our way to strangers,
Who knows why you gave it to the foreigners.
What kind of friendship have you started with us?
We are Afghans, but you gave our soil to the foreigners.
You struck the mountains and throw bombs at them,
You cut pines from them and gave the snow upon them to the foreigners.
Bush! Don’t get upset, just listen to a few words.
You have become crazy, you are looking for life in the graves.
You came out of the nice city of lights.
You are seeking your life in our black walls.
You are taking advantage of the poor.
You are seeking your life in their hearts for a few dollars.
Bush! Don’t get upset, just listen to a few words.


Emotion plays a major role in Pashtun poetry. This is ignored in the West’s framing of Afghans as stoic warriors. Pashtun poetry expresses romantic love, as well as love for family and country. Joy is taken in pastoralism and the beauty of nature plays a pervasive role.

Most Taliban poems are in Pashtun and make creative use of a standardized canon of symbolism. Taliban verse is rife with references to the Russians and other invading forces that have been defeated by the Afghans. None of the poems written by the Taliban could be said to be free verse. They all contain some sort of rhyme scheme, often ancient in origin. Because of the ease with which poems can be miscredited or their author’s names completely lost, poets often work their own names into the verse they write.

Taliban poetry is an oral tradition meant to be intoned, sometimes with the backing of daff or da’ira frame drums. The use of percussive instruments evokes feelings of warlike defiance against invaders.

The invaders are not specifically referred to as Americans. Instead they are a featureless, nameless mob stretching back into the mists of Afghanistan’s past. The invader is the eternal antagonist, and the poet stands seething and sorrowful before them. The Taliban are not referred to by name either. Instead they are called “mujahed”, “muslim”, “Afghan” “brother” or “trench friend.” The Taliban’s use of universal language was in line with their desire to be the primary leaders in the resistance against Afghanistan’s government and the U.S.

Most poems are blatantly meant for a variety of propaganda purposes: recruitment, morale boosting and the rhetorical advancement of an agenda based on armed resistance. A few poems fall outside the rhetorical framework in which the rest operate and call for young men to achieve an advanced education and fight against their oppressors using knowledge.

The main repository of Taliban poetry was their website where poems were uploaded in the form of MP3s. Anybody in the Taliban could submit their poetry to the site. MP3s were the foremost distribution format for Taliban poetry, which was often traded via phones.

Poems were also passed around as cassette tapes which could be played in Taliban vehicles.  Though most music was banned under the Taliban, not all music was. Music that celebrated the Taliban was allowed and often listened to by its leaders. These songs use traditional poetic structures such as ghazal, which employs rhymes at the end of every line except for the half-line.

Poems were sometimes used as ringtones on Taliban member’s phones. And Pashtun poets still gather on Thursday nights in many towns and cities to recite their work.

Poets of Guantanamo

Most people have Brooklyn or Greenwhich Village in mind when they think of prolific poetry communities. No one thinks of Guantanamo Bay.

And yet even in confinement poets must write. Or perhaps especially in confinement. These poems vary in their subject matter. Some present rhetorical arguments, such as the poem “They Fight For Peace”, which argues against Americans who claim the war on terror is a fight for peace and liberty:

“Peace, they say./ Peace of mind?/ Peace on earth? / Peace of what kind?”


This is a poem describing the anger and pain of Mozzam Begg, since released from Guantanamo:

Freedom is spent, time is up –

Tears have rent my sorrow’s cup;

Home is cage, and cage is steel,

Thus manifest reality’s unreal.

A short excerpt from Humiliated in the Shackles by al-Haj also denounces the war:

America, you ride on the backs of orphans,
And terrorize them daily.

Bush beware.

The world recognizes an arrogant liar.

All three of these were published in the essential Poems of Guantanamo, a collection of 22 poems by 17 inmates. The Pentagon made it impossible for it’s publisher, Marc Falkoff, a U.S professor of law with a literature doctorate, to publish them in any form but the English translations.

According to a 2007 article by Al Jazeera the poems were translated only by security cleared linguists. The article quotes Pentagon spokesman Commander JD Gordan, who claimed that detainees “have attempted to use this medium as merely another tool in their battle of ideas against Western democracies”

When the book was published in 2007, as many as 355 detainees had not been brought to trial. Among them was Sami Mohy El Din Muhammed Al Hajj. While traveling to do camera work for Al Jazeera in Afghanistan he was arrested by the Pakistani military and imprisoned for six years without trial at Guantanamo Bay.

Before they were given access to pens and paper detainees would use styrofoam cups, scratching poetry into the cups with pebbles or smearing it on with toothpaste, to be passed around and read until the day came to a close and the guards collected the cups and threw them away. The poems collected in Falkoff’s book humanize the men who have become liberal America’s guilty conscience.



Satire

Pashtun poetry can also be a weapon for humiliation, taking expectations and flipping them for the purposes of satire. There is nothing that delegitimizes the powerful so much as laughing at them. The following poem about a love affair between Karzai and Bush is an example of political humor that transcends culture and is easily grasped by the casual Western reader:

Condolences of Karzai and Bush
December 18, 2008

Karzai:

O hello, my lord Bush;

Now that you’ve gone, who did you leave me with?

Bush:

My slave, dear Karzai!

Don’t be upset; I am handing you over to Obama.

Karzai:

These words make me happy.

Tell me, how long will I be here.

Bush:

Karzai! Wait for a year;

Don’t come till I send someone else there.

Karzai:

Life is tough without you my darling;

I share in your grief; I am coming to you.

Bush:

As for death, we’ll both die.

Alas, we’ll be first and next.

Karzai:

Give me your hand as you go;

Turn your face as you disappear.

Bush:

Sorrow takes over and overwhelms me;

My darling! Take care of yourself and I will take of myself.

Karzai:

Mountains separate you from me;

Say hello to the pale moon and I’ll do so as well.


 Condolences of Bush and Karzai reads like an SNL skit or an article in The New Yorker’s humor section. It also speaks to the system of personal alliances in Afghanistan culture; Just because Karzai has a good relationship with Bush does not mean he will have one with Obama. Karzai’s relationship is not with the United States or the office of President. It is an alliance cultivated with Bush as an individual.

Propaganda for the Recruitment of Propagandists

There is even propaganda aimed specifically at poets, that calls for them to stop writing about frivolous things and take up the cause of spreading the Taliban’s message. This is presented as a patriotic and even holy thing to do. By turning your pen to a war of words it is possible to simultaneously serve one’s country and serve one’s god and religion. The role of the poets described here begins to seem similar to that of the 18th century pamphleteers who put pen to paper to shape public perception. The poems treat the pen as both a weapon as deadly as a gun or a bomb and as soothing as a doctor’s medicine, capable of healing the wounds of a nation in crisis. This directly validates the essential impossible drive of the writer: to be everything, capable of anything, important to everybody.

Poetic Competition
By Mohammed Omar Kheywawal


I beseech you, O appreciative poet.
Always write the truth, O poet.
In writing what is right, don’t care about anyone else;
You are the consummate translator of the Muslim Umma, O poet.
God has conferred great power to your pen,
Unite the Muslims with your pen, O poet.
Never write for your reputation, O writer.
Yours is the tongue of the nation and its eyes as well, O poet.
You will be questioned for each word you write;
Don’t write things that you’ll regret in the future.
Leave the Godar, Mangai, black ringlet and eyes as well;
Cry for the sorrow of the homeland; leave the pizwan, O poet.
Do jihad with your pen; that is your obligation today;
Fight cruelty on every battlefield, O poet.
I, Kheywawal Omar, am asking for god’s kindness;
Go spread the word and make your faith, O poet.

Thin Tongue
By Zeerak

Your pen holds the power of positive change;
It contains love and charm for hearts.
Hard hearts are melted by it’s tears;
It has many effects and blessings.
Pious god has granted it great respect;
It’s thin tongue holds much virtue and achievement.
It doesn’t act as if white is black and black is white;
Because finally that ends in awful embarrassment.
Write what is real and take the right path;
You will be helped and blessed by God.
Write each line as a prescription for the pains of the country;
If you desire honor, there is honor in this affair.
Oh Zeerak! Telling the truth is considered to be jihad;
Martyrdom is granted for he who dies for what is true.

Like the previous two this last poem gives the promise of a higher calling, a great mission, the ability to be part of something. But more than the previous poems it lays the stick to the reluctant poet, scolding him for making himself illegitimate by writing about frivolities, as well as proffering the obligatory carrot. The carrot in this poem is the declaration that the old songs are now very old, no longer relevant. It’s time for new songs to be written. You, O’ poet, could be the one to write them:

War Talk
Zakir
September 8 2008

Don’t talk about cheeks and beauty here anymore;
Pack up your words about make-up and beauty.
Now is not the time for complimenting pots and springs;
Let’s talk about the blows of white swords.

The old songs are very old now;
Now remember the words for the clink of handcuffs.
Don’t remind us of Atans and picnics;
The word for wars pollution are spoken at every opportunity.
Why do you make yourself more illegitimate?
Why are the words for turbans lost now?
Whose voice would reach from Spin Ghar to Delhi?
Give the words of that powerful father back to your sons.
The history of epics is not lost, reopen it!
Use words about the Tatars and the Moghuls.
You celebrate independence day so why don’t you talk about
The foreigners’ control of our soil?
The fact that the foreign forces may come to my homeland?
Heavy words lie on this path.
For gods sake O Afghans and fellow Pashtuns,
Talk a little about the Western colonization,
About what’s going on with my poor nation in my homeland,
About the words of bombardment against our innocent women.
May this emotionless pen be broken and lost,
The one that still takes about love and the beloved.
If the homeland is crying, people are crying and wounds are crying;
O Zakir, don’t you hear the words of pain and injuries?

Violent incursion against Afghanistan inevitably leads to reactions like these. The more bombs are dropped and the more families are sundered by America’s war on terror, the deeper and broader this shared history of suffering becomes and the more likely ISIS is to find recruits bent on seeking revenge against the West.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s