Letters from Iraq – a poem by a soldier and its commentary

Commentary and footnotes by Miguel Martinez. The Italian version of this post can be found at his blog Kelebek.

We have found this poem on the Fight to Survive blog of J.D. Engelhardt, a courageous American former soldier who has made known to the world the horror that is White Phosphorus which was used at Fallujah. Engelhardt writes:

“While in Iraq, I never once saw a terrorist with extreme inclinations for senseless bloodshed, but only angry farmers and shop keepers who for one reason or another wish to end our empirical domination over their homeland. What I saw was an honest insurrection fought by average citizens, a perfect guerrilla war ran by no centralized leadership and with the potential to overcome any obstacle furnished by the conventional coalition forces.”

Author of the poem is another soldier, who uses the name The Heretic. The text uses elementary and crude images, but ones that perfectly render the sense of the enormous crime against the Iraqis and extraordinary cultural void of a mercenary military force.

Noteworthy are the typically Anglo-Saxon, and especially American, tendencies to personalise all of the elements, from “General Hash” to “Ramandan Rebel”.

The hot Sunni sun
passes Moaning Mosque Spire.
B-company’s pinned down
and under heavy fire.
Underneath the palms
there’s improvised bombs.
Because, Jihad Johnny
knows Yankee is a liar.

On Euphrates east bank
where the desert winds blow,
M 1 Abe (1)
keeps his head down low.
Smoking up Joe,
With a front back go,
Is General Hash,
And his puppet show.

They lost another friend today.
It’s getting rough over there.
They say the food tastes like shit.
They miss the pussy, drugs and beer.

They say the whole things fucked.
I wish the boys were back.
At least I know they’re still alive.
Another letter from Iraq.

Police Call Kilo’s
marching double time.
While, the grease monkeys
sweep the motor pool line.
On guard is Shaming Jay.
Rolls his own every day.
Lifer Lenny’s getting fitted
for new box of pine.
On an empty cot,
Presents full of Christmas loot.
All that’s left of Bullet Billy
is a pair of bloody boots.
His mom is on the phone.
His girl is all alone.
We all stand in the rain
for a twenty-one gun salute.

They lost another friend today.
It’s getting rough over there.
They say the food tastes like shit.
They miss the pussy, drugs and beer.

They say the whole things fucked.
I wish the boys were back.
At least I know they’re still alive.
Another letter from Iraq.

Ramadan Rebel Is in the holding cell.
The brass looks away
while MPs give em hell.
Guantanamo rule book.
From Basra to Kirkuk.
Beat em’ in a bag,
and drop em’ in a well.
Iron Mike’s on patrol
his weapon status red.
He rolls out the gate
with a foot full of lead.
Tango’s on the hill,
looking for a kill.
Mohammad’s got him convinced
he’d be better off dead.

They lost another friend today.
It’s getting rough over there.
They say the food tastes like shit.
They miss the pussy, drugs and beer.
They say the whole things fucked.
I wish the boys were back.
At least I know they’re still alive.
Another letter from Iraq.

Ali Babba’s on the offense
picking up the beat.
Delta needs an e-vac, (2)
but the bird’s outa seats.
There’s a four man stack
outside the Haji Shack. (3)
Bradley’s zipped in
calling Willie Pete.(4)

There’s celebratory fire.
And a purple thumb vote.
Tom cruise is on a sortie
from a gulf love boat.
Smart bombs are a coming.
See the children running.
The dead are all laughing,
but we don’t get the joke.

They lost another friend today.
It’s getting rough over there.
They say the food tastes like shit.
They miss the pussy, drugs and beer.

They say the whole things fucked.
I wish the boys were back.
At least I know they’re still alive.
Another letter from Iraq.

An eye for an eye.
And, blood for Texas Tea.(5)
At the call to prayer
Al Queda’s on his knees.(6)
Issac versus Ishmael. (7)
Allah versus Christ.
Basic Training to Route Tampa (8)
rolls in the F-N-Gs. (9)

Mairnes say Sempi Fi (10)
as they cross Highway Ten.
Uncle Sam’s in Highschool
Seeking a “few good men”. (11)
Rummy’s in the Green Zone. (12)
We’d all rather be home.
Where we can watch the war
On C-N-N

They lost another friend today.
It’s getting rough over there.
They say the food tastes like shit.
They miss the pussy, drugs and beer.
They say the whole things fucked.
I wish the boys were back.
At least I know they’re still alive.
Another letter from Iraq.

the heretic

—————————————–
[1] The armoured tank M-1 Abrams is the principle vehicle used by the American Armed Forces.
[2] e-vac, emergency evacuation of the injured soldiers.
[3] Hajji, honorary title that indicates a pilgrim to Mecca, used by the Americans as an offensive ephitet to mean Arabs. The soldier in the poem refres to the mosque as a Haji Shack, which is where the piles of dead Iraqis are to be found.
[4] The Bradley Fighting Vehicle Systems are high speed armoured vechicles; Willy Pete is the euphemism taken by the intitials of White Phosphorus.
[5] Texas Tea is obviously, oil, as anyone who grew up watching the Beverly Hillbillies, an American situation comedy, knows.
[6] “al Queda’s on his knees”. The “u” must evidently always automatically follow the “q”. The pronoun “his” could clearly indicate that we are talking about one person, and not a movement: an Iraqi pushed down to his knees and demonised as if he himself was al-Qaida. It also could indicate a Christian way of expressing the Muslim position of worship.
[7] It is meaningful that in this poem, where every cultural element seems to be absolutely absent, there is reference made to the Founding Book of the United States, The Old Testament.
[8] Route Tampa is an important street near Mosul, typically given an American name.
[9] Fuckin’ New Guys”.
[10] Semper Fidelis, is the motto of the Marines, taken from the official march of the corps, that among other things recites,

“Those who worship the one true God are rarities
who remember the Biblical saying that God will not be mocked!
When the call to the true believer comes from the Church of God
Will they all in their heart receive Him go where He bids them trod? “

The official hymn of the Marines boasts of the first imperial sacks, in Mexico and Libya: L’inno ufficiale dei Marines inizia invece vantando i primi imperiali saccheggi, in Messico e in Libia:

“From the Halls of Montezuma
To the Shores of Tripoli;
We fight our country’s battles
In the air, on land and sea”

[11] The military recruiters, true salesment paid for every person they manage to convince to enlist, invade the high schools of the United States to find clients. Schools that don’t consign lists of their students are threatened with a cut in funds.
[12] Donald Rumsfeld, Defence Minister, United States.


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