15 June, 2005

Inside the Minds of Rootless Children

I have chosen this time, in the leadup to world Refugee Day 20 June 2005, to remind us all that wars cause what is eupheistically called 'displacement'. It is like you were on your way home one day after a hard day's work and you found (a) it wasn't there (b) it was overrun by armed people who had just killed and raped your neighbours (c) it was surrounded by razor wire and you were shut out.

Of course, to some people this is all of little consequence. Take, for example, Australian Liberal MP, Sophie Panopoulos, who will go down in history for having called five of her Liberal colleagues "political terrorists" because they showed that they have a conscience and want to end the Howard government's pernicious Mandatory Detention policy, one of the worst examples of systematic violation of the human rights of asylum seekers to be seen in the world.

Here is a poem of hope, to address Sophie's identity crisis.
Letter to Sophie Panopoulos, Margo Kingston’s Webdiary, 16 June 2005

Inside the Minds of Rootless Children

The children who knew fear heard gunfire
Saw death felt hunger in their bellies
Envisaged vermilion skies
Poster green fields with happy yellow clouds
Iridescent chameleon standing out from its silver log
In azure and purple conspicuously catching the light
A smiling hippo with perfectly rounded sheen
Only beautiful creatures and tribal customs
With beads and spears and head dress

Willy Bach © 2003
Footnote: written following an exhibition at Alliance Francais, Kampala of art produced by Sudanese children who had been in an Internally Displaced Persons’ camp in Southern Sudan.

06 June, 2005

The Provenance of the Gun

The Provenance of the Gun
(An ‘amusing’ incident of the SLR ‘found’ in Sierra Leone)

Most times no one can tell
The money trail
The secret deals
The strange alliances
Counter intuitive patronage
Of powerful states
Resource extraction
Arms insertion
Private armies
Militia mayhem

How covert leads
To cover-up
And how
A crisp clear
January afternoon
In 1972
Took out
Michael Kelly
And a dozen more

Kept from forensic scrutiny
1 Para’s shameful 29 SLRs
With too much history
There was nothing to be
Proud of on that day*
And grieving Bogside families
Tasted the lethality
Objective contempt
Their disappearance
Supposed destruction
Conveyor belt to new tasks
In tropical forestry

The West Side Boys
Wearing bizarre clothing
Women's wigs and flip-flops
Being almost perpetually drunk
Not a pushover
As they say
In military circles
Those who know
Through close familiarity
And training
'Colonel Cambodia'
A murderous joke
Brigadier ‘Papa’ Bomb Blast
Firm in Masiaka
Occra Hills
Specialists in rape and pillage
Well equipped from the outside

The people who brought us
Pol Pot Osama Saddam
Augusto Pinochet
Lovingly bestowed
The kind of development aid
For Africa awash
Swimming in Kalashnikovs
Burnt villages
A handful of diamonds
Without hands

And so it came to pass
As the saying goes
Operation Barras
11 September 2000
The provenance of the gun
Brought an ‘unexpected’ trophy
SLR with Londonderry
Bogside serial number
A guilty secret
Inadvertently boasted
Its experience in slaughter
For Michael Kelly
Here’s a toast to
'Colonel Cambodia'
Electric purple wigs
Bloody hands
Delirious laughter
Conflict entrepreneurs
And bragging Irishmen

Willy Bach © 2005

Dedicated to my friend and fellow poet Tim Collins (not the Colonel)


An apology, long footnotes are not generally well-regarded in the world of poetry, this is a complex web of story lines and some readers may like to explore further.

This poem was written following an interview on ABC TV with Retired Colonel Tim Collins, who left the Royal Irish Regiment and the British Army very critical of the war in Iraq, the occupation and the ‘war on terror’. Col Tim Collins, a friend of Tim Spicer# seeks employment in what he knows best. The connections with the war in Iraq and the ‘war on terror’ are intriguing.

RULES OF ENGAGEMENT: A Life in Conflict by Tim Collins http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2102-1626689,00.html

“Military contracts are big game. And one of the most notorious hunters is a former British soldier whose past business ventures include violating a UN arms embargo in Sierra Leone and unwittingly triggering a coup in Papua New Guinea. His name is Tim Spicer, and in March his London-based company, Aegis Defense Services, bagged a $293 million contract from the Pentagon to protect US diplomats in Iraq”. http://www.thenation.com/docprint.mhtml?i=20050110&s=ackerman
See also http://www.irishnationalcaucus.org/ and http://www.irishnationalcaucus.org/pages/Spicer/TheSpicerContract.htm

But it was the other things that Col Collins had to share with the world that caught my eye: regarding the lost SLR from Londonderry, Bloody Sunday, 1972 – found in the possession of Sierra Leone’s murderous West Side Boys.

*General Sir Robert Ford – most senior British officer in Londonderry on 30 January 1972, the day known as Bloody Sunday - Commander 'sad' over Bloody Sunday http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/2401597.stm

Don Mullen, Londonderry journalist who investigated the 1 Para killings of 13 people on Bloody Sunday http://www.birw.org/bsireports/1_10/report2.html

Lord Widgery, Inquiry into Bloody Sunday – seen as a ‘whitewash’

The Right Lord Saville of Newdigate – heading new inquiry into Bloody Sunday

Tony Blair MP, The Prime Minister of BritainStatement to the House of Commons29 January 1998, setting up Lord Saville’s Inquiry into Bloody Sunday

Note reports of the destruction of the SLRs to thwart the inquiry

The Derry Journal, Call For Collins To Face Saville
Friday 3rd June 2005 http://www.derryjournal.com/story/6582

The West Side Boys http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/901209.stm
Previously, the West Side Boys have professed loyalty to Johnny-Paul Koroma - the former army leader whose Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) ousted President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, and ruled Sierra Leone for two years before joining forces with the RUF when democracy was restored.
'Colonel Cambodia'
Earlier, the West Side Boys reportedly demanded the release of a man known as as Brigadier Bomb Blast or Brigadier Papa - who has also been named as the group's leader.
Occra Hills, scene of Operation Barrass
Masiaka, Sierra Leone – stronghold of The Westside Boys

RUF leader Foday Sankoh

After the seizing of the soldiers, Sierra Leonean journalist Winston Ojokutu Macauley said he blamed Western powers and the Sierra Leone Government, as they were "dragging their feet" in resolving the situation in the country.

AFRC commander known as Brigadier 55

Operation Barras – 11 September 2000 - A total of 272 Service personnel were involved, including 100 men of D Squadron 22 SAS, a unit from the Royal Marines' Special Boat Service and 110 soldiers from the 1st Battalion The Parachute Regiment. http://forum.keypublishing.co.uk/archive/index.php?t-6324.html