I wrote this poem after listening to a recent interview on MSNBC Morning Joe with two veterans, about their reactions to the recent pull-out from Afghanistan, completed on August 31, 2021. One veteran was the head of Team Rubicon and the other was teaching a class on 9/11 to college students.
Some of the comments of the two veterans of the Afghan and Iraqi wars, are paraphrased in this poem.
- Young adults in this country need to be taught about Nine-Eleven. September 11, 2001, was when terrorists hit the World Trade Center buildings, in New York City, causing both towers to collapse. They also hit the Pentagon in Washington DC, and tried to hit the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington DC, all three attacks more or less simultaneous, with planes as weapons. Young people need to be taught the importance of Nine-Eleven and what actually happened, because, unlike many of their elders, they have no memory of the event.
- As veterans, they are still processing, and trying to figure out how to think about the pull-out. They are certainly not the only ones in this country with feelings of ambivalence.
- The pullout hits military veterans differently, than it does civilians. That it hits them in a visceral way. Many of them have known or in some way been aided by Afghans who very well may not make it out. Also, many years of their lives have been devoted to this endeavor, and their identities are wrapped up in it. Any indication that they have wasted their time is a heavy blow.
- America does not deserve its military, “so loyal, so good, so brave.” Blood, sweat and tears have protected this country (the US) during the past twenty years and well beyond, but many veterans feel unseen and unrecognized despite their valiant effort.
I guess this poem is my own attempt to process the event. I am not a veteran, nor do I have any veterans of this war in my immediate family. This was another point of the discussion, that the Afghan war was fought by people many of us never met. But for me, the idea of the Taliban or any iteration of that group taking over again, sends shivers through my spine. I worry for the Afghan women. All I can think is, what is First Lady Laura Bush thinking now? For I remember her plea in the early 2000’s, to save those oppressed women from their terrible fate.
But I do not know, how the pullout could have been done better. Or whether it would have been better, had we stayed. Only time will tell.
Thanks for coming by to read.
Nine babies born, aboard a plane,
Chock-full of refugees.
Americans and Afghans.
Full-length burqas. Barren knees.
For twenty years, the babies born
Have known no Nine-Eleven.
It’s over. So they must be taught
Those martyrs’ stab at Heaven.
And here, at home, nigh on two weeks,
It’s been a veteran’s Hell.
The promises they must have made
Have all gone down the well.
What was it for? What good was done?
Such noble sacrifice…
While we at cozy TV’s sat,
The Gold Stars paid the price.
Now, thirteen more–and countless Afghans–
Fertilize the chaos.
A bombing taunts our weak retreat,
With tail between our legs.
While veterans are “processing,”
Our leaders misbehave,
And run to shelter cul-de-sacs,
As turbaned heads invade.
Here’s your reward, Afghanistan,
For planning Nine-Eleven:
A martyrdom, for all your dead,
And virgins, ninety-seven.
Our land no longer gives a hoot.
Take back your dust and caves.
We don’t deserve returning boots:
Copyright 2021 Andrea LeDew
For a poem about the Vietnam War and its aftermath, read Air Mail 1977.
For an essay cataloging my loose impressions of war and terror, read Playing in a Minefield.