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U.S. Military Diplomacy – From Wounded Knee to Afghanistan


By Larry Kerschner

1890 Wounded Knee, South Dakota
Lakota massacred by U.S. Army

A blue-coated motorcycle gang
armed with rifles and pistols
rolled into this peaceful
residential neighborhood at dawn today.
Chankpe Opi Wakpala community members
were herded
together and shot down.
Unarmed men, women and children were
pulled from their homes.
Commenting on reports that
those trying to flee were run down and
shot in the back,
one biker is quoted as saying
It was great sport
like shooting fish in a barrel.

Reports of the number killed
range from 150 to 370.

1890 Buenos Aires, Argentina- U.S. troops
intervene to protect U.S. business interests
1891 U.S. troops battle with nationalists in Chile

walking backward
my hidden face
does not go before me
I cannot see
the dogs of war
I hear
salt
blood and tears
dripping down
I hear
children become gravediggers
howling
boy soldiers flung into the dark
I hear
the knife
tearing cartilage between
the ribs

I hear two lovers
one is walking backward

1891 U.S. Navy in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil to
protect American commercial interests
1892 U.S. Army kills 12 railroad workers
on strike in Chicago
1893 U.S. Marines help overthrow the
Kingdom of Hawaii
1894 U.S. Army occupies Bluefield region
in Nicaragua
1894-95 U.S. Marines land in China during
Sino-Japanese War
1894-96 U.S. Marines present in Seoul, Korea
1895 U.S. Navy and Marines land in the
Colombian province which is now Panama
1896 U.S. Marines show the colors in Corinto,
Nicaragua during political unrest
1897 U.S. military forcefully suppresses a silver
miner's strike in Idaho

driving I remember to note
sites which would be good for an ambush
walking I watch the ground for
dirt which may have been disturbed
in the laying of mines
nearly forty years later
I still expect the bullet
to hit that spot
just below my left scapula
that always itches
like a target

nearly forty years later
I remember when we were boy warriors
thrown together far from home

(gun smoke thick as fog
hot brass litter
the lamb-like small of napalm
burnt indigenous personnel
pile of bodies
slowly moving limbs in rigor
greenthick vietnamese jungle vines
sticky red clay mud in monsoon reason)

if he wasn't part of that
piece of me that couldn't come home
maybe I could
remember my friend's face
nearly forty years later

1898-01 U.S. Navy and Army seize Phillipines from
Spain killing 600,000 Filipinos
1898 U.S. Navy and Army seize Cuba from Spain,
we still have base at Guantanamo Bay
1898 U.S. Navy and Army seize Puerto Rico from
Spain, our occupation continues
1898 U.S. Navy and Army seize Guam from Spain,
we still have military bases there
1898 U.S. Marines land at San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
1899 U.S. Army battle Chippewa tribe at
Leech Lake, Minnesota

finally in each war there are no heroes only wasted victims
conscientiously objecting to another stupid useless death
(arresting warm blood torn from leaking limbs
lung rasped pink bubbles froth their breath)
howmany more times is hell to be let loose
cursing youngsters we say we love best
children sacrificed who may finally see
our lies as a clear patriotic ruse
dulce et decorum est
pro patria
mori

1900 U.S. troops fight to put down Boxer
Rebellion in China
1900 U.S. Marines and Army again use force in
Bluefield, Nicaragua
1900 U.S. Army occupies Coeur d'Alene Idaho
silver mining region
1901 U.S. Army attacks Creek tribe in Oklahoma
1902 U.S. military supports the province
(now Panama) seceding from Colombia
1903 U.S. Marines intervene against a popular
uprising in Honduras
1903 U.S. Marines land in Abysinnia
1903-04 U.S. military invades Dominican Republic
to protect U.S. business interests
1904 U.S. Marines land in Morocco
1904-05 U.S. Marines land in Korea during
Russo-Japanese War
1906 U.S. Marines invade Cuba during
their election

a talking head warmachine propagandist
on NPR yesterday asked
who is winning the war
in that tone that assumes a winner

I don't know who might be winning

but I sure as hell know
who is losing

what if they gave a war and nobody came

fat and flatulent empire sucking
blood sucking oil sucking
life
spitting out the thin bones
of collateral damage
without even savoring the taste of the dead

the dark lord masterfully marches in place
behind a curtain in his white palace
ordering the imperial storm troopers to attention
with no comprehension
his nose pressed tight into this corner of history
blind with no peripheral or any other vision

what if they gave a war and nobody came

Gandhiji assures us that light is persistent
even in the darkness
Dr. king had a dream
for his children and yours and mine
all God's children
love will bubble up between us
in our ordinary lives
when we see each other
as we are without power
or prejudice

hope is in justice
justice is in hope

what if they gave a war and nobody came

1907 U.S. Army sets up a protectorate in Nicaragua
1908 U.S. Marines land in Honduras during war
with Nicaragua
1909 U.S. Marines intervene in elections in Panama
1910 U.S, Marines again invade Bluefield and
Corinto, Nicaragua
1911-41 30 years of continuous occupation of
parts of China by U.S. Navy and Army

the voice of the official prophet
speaks the words that must be seen
a reluctant vision
in which suffering has a reason
a positive tale
of the heavy-fruited tree of grief
that can be viewed from either side of the fence
in this story a willing heart
may be the cure for life
a dance where the flesh machine
steps in and out of the grave in grand style
to the sound of an ancient military tune

1912 U.S. Army goes to Havana, Cuba to protect
U.S. business interests
1912 U.S. Marines land in Honduras to protect
American commercial interests
1912-33 U.S. Army 20 year occupation and war with
guerilla peasants in Nicaragua
1913 U.S. Navy intervenes to evacuate Americans
from Mexico during their revolution
1913 U.S. Marines again land in Panama to effect
outcome of local election
1914-99 U.S. military forces annex and occupy
Panama Canal Zone
1914 U.S. Navy fights with anti-government rebels
at Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

after we are the ones to survive
after the chill
after the heat
after we have killed but
before we have thoughts of being loved
we sing a manly song
martial and stirring
not low and blue we sing
when and because
we are distanced from the front
a reminder to remember
to forget what we want forgotten
we sing our loud song of silence
we sing again
and again
until it is done
until it is gone

1914 U.S. Army breaks up a miners strike in Colorado
1914-18 U.S. Army and Navy in a series of
interventions against Mexicam nationalists
1915-34 U.S. Army in 19 year occupation of Haiti
1916-24 U.S. Marines in 8 year occupation of Haiti
1917-33 U.S. Army 16 year occupation of Cuba
1917-19 U.S. military in World War I

the war to end war
to end war to
end war to end
war to end war
to end war

1918-20 U.S. Army and Navy land in Siberia to
fight against Bolsheviks
1918-20 U.S. troops in “police duty” suppressing
discontent after elections in Panama
1918 U.S. Army enters Mexico chasing “banditos”
1919 U.S. Marines intervene in Yugoslavia for
Italy against the Serbs in Dalmatia
1920 U.S. Marines land in Honduras to effect
the results of a local election

1920-21 U.S. Army forcefully puts down a strike
of miners in West Virginia
1921 U.S. Army in two week intervention in
Guatemala against union organizers
1922 U.S. Army fought against nationalists
in Smyrna, Turkey

a black granite wall to rest against
each name an act calling for re-write

58,195 times rendered unto Caesar
58,195 rendered like fat on a hot stove

1922-27 U.S. Army and Navy deployed in China during
nationalist uprising
1924-25 U.S. Army landed twice in Honduras during
their elections
1925 U.S. Marines suppress a general strike by
the workers of Panama
1926-33 U.S. Marines in seven year occupation of
Nicaragua

I have deemed it my duty to use the powers
comitted to me to ensure the adequate protection
of all American interests in Nicaragua, whether they
be endangered by internal strife or by outside interference
in the affairs of that republic.
--Calvin Coolidge, 1926

1932 U.S. Navy warships sent to El Salvidor during
Faribundo Marti revolt
1933 U.S. Army uses force to stop WWI veterans
bonus protest march in Washington D.C.
1934 U.S. Marines land at Foochow, China
1941 Greenland and Iceland taken under U.S.
military protection

nights he still comes to me
eyes clear
black and white
unlike his body
yellow and red

this spectre
of a rising tide of godless communism
turning
amidst the tangled pile
of bodies

the 300 piastres
and the red-starred belt
I took from his body

1943 U.S. Army forcefully puts down a rebellion of Black citizens in Detroit
1945 50,000 U.S. Marines sent to Northern China
1945 Military occupation of South Korea which continues today
1946 U.S. threatened Soviet troops in Iranian Azerbaijan with nuclear weapons
1946 U.S. Navy responded in Yugoslavia to shooting down of U.S. plane
1947 U.S. nuclear bombers deployed over Uruguay in a show of strength
1948 U.S. Marines evacuate Americans from mainland China

cardinals and bishops call it a just war
just because the president said so
just because they hurt us
just because we can
just because not enough of us said no
just because the snow falls and the shadows grow longer each day
just because we see it on CNN
just because after the bombs fall there is no one left to hear
just because

1948 U.S. nuclear bombers threaten the Soviets over Berlin airlift
1948 U.S. Marines to Palestine
1950-53 U.S. troops in Korean civil war; tthreaten China with nuclear weapons
1953 U.S. military and CIA overthrow democracy and install Shah of Iranian

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every
rocket fired, signifies, in the final sense, a theft from
those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold
and are not clothed. Pres. D.D. Eisenhower 1953

1954 U.S. offers use of nuclear weapons to French to
use against siege in Viet Nam
1955 U.S. bombs Guatemala from bases in Nicaragua
after Guatemala nationalized U.S. business
1956 U.S. threatens Soviets with nuclear weapons
during Suez Canal crisis in Egypt
1958 U.S troops occupy Lebanon
1958 Iraq threatened with nuclear weapons to
prevent invasion of Kuwait
1959 U.S. troops forcefully stop political protests
in Panama
1960 U.S. military advisers begin to be used in
numbers in Viet Nam

weapons of mass destruction

wep
wept
jesus wept
tears slick and shiny like blood
salt falling to the earth
wept words
chemical words
biological words
radiological words
wept puns
puns
puns
hidden
double meaning of mass
black hole
air hole
ass hole
bullet hole
rabbit hole
massah

holy mass
a catholic ritual
making us all holy this day
de
de
deny
dumb
dum de dum dum
haunted by the ghosts of children
banging on the catatonic piano
struck
struck
struck with the brutality of it all
struck with the futility of it all
shun
attention
shun this thought
stay in your place
self censor

three dimensional auditory weapons of mass illusion

1961 U.S. military and CIA train commandos for
operation against Cuba at Bay of the Pigs
1962 U.S. government threatens to use nuclear
weapons in Berlin Wall crisis
1963 U.S Army shoots Panamanian citizens
protesting about return of canal

madres llorosa

she was last seen
in a photograph
kneeling

peasant dress
little protection
between her and the roadstones

none
between her
and the boy soldiers

the body lying there
looked
something like her son

1964 U.S. military assists Indonesian Army coup
in which one million were killed
1964-75 Viet Nam War
1965-66 U.S. Marines land in Dominican Republic
during their election campaign
1966-67 U.S. Green Berets intervene in Guatemala
against anti-government rebels

we move out of the treeline
spread out surround the huts
the village headman says
two wounded men died
and were buried
several days before

a green black shimmer
rises (after three days;
the sun)
the skin
taut with gangrenous gas
bursts
with the weight of a landing fly
spewing
pus to dust

we dig
small men's bones
in a small hole
a soup of khaki straps and steel buckles
stirred and sifted
for intelligence

1967 U.S. Army battles U.S. citizens in Detroit killing 43
1968 21.000 U.S. troops on the streets of American
cities after MLK assassination
1969 U.S. Army and Navy secretly attack North
Vietnamese and Viet Cong in Cambodia

a bullet manages to exist
without a mind of it's own
slowed to sixteen frames per second
it barely precedes the out-flowering
crimson and grey
from the back of the skull

dead is still dead
despite any noise of martial music and honor
the dead don't awaken

1970 U.S. troops invade Cambodia
1971 U.S. Air Force “carpet-bombs” Laos while
directing a South Vietnamese invasion
1972 U.S. Army supports the FBI in seige against
Lakota at Wounded Knee, South Dakota
1973 U.S. military in world-wide alert nuclear
threat against those attacking Israel
1974 U.S. military and CIA command operation
assassinating the elected President of Chile

backs to the white bright light
young men wearing goggles
a boy soldier among many
dug into the Nevada desert
sand scoured grey mesquite
secure the area

following orders
he knew no
Korea no
Viet Nam no
his was an Eisenhower
time of piece

now his Auschwitz eyes in sunken sockets
this atomic vision
shadowed him
these twenty-five years
sallow grey
against white sheets
death fetid breath
stomach gone to gastric cancer
100 milligrams of morphine each hour
bring
a time of peace

dying
he spoke briefly
of a bright white light

1975 U.S. bombs Cambodia during attempt to free
captured ship Mayguez
1976 U.S. military command assists South Africans
attacking rebels in Angola
1978 U.S. Air Force provides logistical support to
French in Zaire
1980 U.S. in aborted bombing raid/hostage rescue
from U.S. Embassy in Iran
1981 U.S. Navy shoots down two Libyan jets during
maneuvers
1982 U.S. Navy mines a harbor in Nicaragua as
part of U.S. support of Contras

We have never interfered in the internal government of a country
and have no intention of doing so, never had any thought of that
kind. Pres. Ronald Reagan, 09-28-1982

1982 U.S. Marines expel the PLO from Lebanon
while the U.S. Navy bombs Syria

this militaristic corporate statist
religion alive in our midst
barely hides the bronze face of Moloch
Canaanite sun god risen again amongst us
this god whose face is ours
whose name is consumption
whose tongue is greed
demands the sacrifice of our children
in blood and madness
name them warriors these boy soldiers
and our daughters now
to kill or be killed
a death hunger never satisfied

dance with the flute and cymbal
sing the patriotic anthems
loud martial songs
to drown the voices
and screams of the dying

1983 U.S. military builds bases on the border between
Honduras and Nicaragua for Contras
1983 U.S. bombs and invades Grenada four years
after their revolution
1984 U.S. military shoots down 2 Iranian jets over
the Persian Gulf
1985 U.S. Navy jet forces an Egyptian commercial
airliner to land in Sicily

These people expect their satisfaction guaranteed
Anything less comfortable is not allowed.
Different voices we Americans seldom heed.
Simple moral questions won't be said aloud.
The leaders state that which everyone is to see
But their type of truth is just another useless root
Of that once verdant tree that should mean liberty.
That now is hacked and sadly broken underfoot
While snakeoil hucksters proudly ply their ware
Selling safety and security in that old new offer.
A Potemkin vision in which everything here is fair
And if the evil die young it's their fault they suffer.

When Christ called us to be willing servants of all
Of course, He meant only those on this side of the wall.

1985 U.S. Army assists in raids in coca regions of Bolivia
1986 U.S. Navy bombs Libya killing Col. Khaddafi's daughter
1987-88 U.S. Navy bombs Iran on the side of Iraq in their war

blue gulf
grey sand
black oil
green money
brown skin
red blood

1988 U.S. Navy shoots down 2 Libyan jets
1988 U.S. troops invade Panama killing over 2,000
while arresting President Noriega
1989 U.S. troops used to put down Black unrest after
hurricane in Virgin Islands, St. Croix
1989 U.S. jets provide air cover for Marcos government
against non-violent coup in Phillipines
1990 U.S. troops evacuate civilians during civil war
in Liberia
1990-91 First Gulf War against Iraq

the war was black and white
at first but then
in living color red and yellow and khaki green

brought into the living room but what was always missing
was the smell of war
my war smelled
of dying vegetation eau de agent orange
burnt gunpowder and burnt people
dark blood sweet and warm
piss shit sweat
testosterone
the same smell is found in what is left of a pizza shop
in Jerusalem
now the smell of war is in Jenin and Ramallah
piss and shit and blood
mixes with the frustrated cries
of the people
Helen Caldicott holds up
a picture of a baby with his head blown off
the smell of his head seeps up through the
concrete rubble after the tanks roll on
the same smell of piss and shit and blood
rose in the hot desert
some days after soldiers were buried
alive
the same smell at Waco when the embers died and
the smoke cleared
the same smell of
more piss and shit and blood
was found by firefighters
and police digging below the twin tower's space
the same smell more piss more shit
more blood
was found near Kabul raised with the dust
by bombs from 40,000 feet
next we'll find that same smell in some new axis of evil where
the smell of oil added to the smell of dead children
added to the putrescent odor of piss and shit and blood
of war and death
should gag us all

however as Erasmus said five hundred years ago
war is sweet
to those who know it not

1991-2001 U.S. bombs Iraq hundreds of times killing
many civilians maintaining the no-fly zone
1991 U.S. Army and Marines deployed in Los Angeles
during anti-police uprising
1992-94 U.S. Army and Navy bombing and raid
during U.S. led U.N. occupation
1993-95 U.S. jets bomb Serbs in Bosnia

I will teach you how
to perform a war
a clean operation
to remove that dangerous tissue
which can no longer be controlled
we first name it cancer
we curse it for an inhuman bastard
nothing legitimate to be found
the pathologic question
must be asked and answered
weighing whether a pound of flesh will be enough
shared definitions in hand
we sharpen our knives
sanitary
chrome and steel
bright lights
remove any shadow
of doubts
patriotic anesthesia dulls the senses
common and other
to the loud cutting
ripping and
bleeding to come
once hidden viscera bloody red
broken bone white
and hypoxic blue tissue
stare out at us
unexpected collateral damage
can be dressed
with sterile white gauze
although the bloated smell
sometimes remains

afterwards
we will remove our gloves and
wash our hands

1994-96 U.S. Army and Navy blockade the nation of Haiti
1995 U.S. jets bomb Serb airfields in Croatia
1996-97 U.S. Marines at Rwandan Hutu refugee camps
in Zaire
1997 U.S. troops evacuate foreigners from Liberia
1998 U.S. troops evacuate foreigners from Albania
1998 U.S. missiles attack a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan
1999 U.S. missiles attack a former CIA training camp
in Afghanistan

I think that the targeting of innocent civilians is the worst thing
about modern conflicts today. And to the extent which more and more
people seem to believe it is legitimate to target innocent civilians to reach
their larger political goals, I think that's something to be resisted at every
turn. Pres. Bill Clinton, 03-21-2000

2001 U.S forces attack Afghanistan in response to
terrorist attack by Egyptians and Saudis

I heard it on NPR
someone said we're at war
yeah that's terror
here in North America
now we get a taste of it
we get to see the other side
now our children die
now we see there are no accidents
only consequences
we gag on the dust and rubble and fumes
in New York
in Washington D.C.
in Pennsylvania
in Kabul
in Bagdhad
now we gag on the truth

and

2003 U.S. military in massive unprovoked attack
against Iraq leads to the death of thousands

and

This poem initially was my response to the events of September 11, 2001.
Published as a chapbook by D-Press 2001, Sebastopol CA. The historical
data was gathered from several sources including a website by Zoltan Grossman,
the Library of Congress and the U.S. Navy historical websites. I tried to find
secondary sources to assure historical accuracy but this is a poem not a history book.
Errors are mine. This poem has been revised several times.

*****

Answering a question

The first man I killed was small and
hiding in the tall grass.

Being a killer forever changes you.
Even if you learn to be kind and considerate and civilized
that part of you is always
hiding down inside
awaiting a chance.

A normal person does not want to kill and
will avoid it at all costs.
The military won't let you remain normal.
It doesn't matter if you think
you are smart enough
not to get caught up in their lies.
They will change you.

Don't be sucked into the biggest myth and lie
that dying for your country is somehow heroic

Really be all that you can be

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