Article Overview:  Poets Against The War are planning to send 12,000 poems to Congress on March 5 to show their distaste for U.S. war policy against Iraq.   But are the poets acting as Sentinels of Vigilance, or as Terrorists?  Are they injecting Fear, Intimidation and Complacency where Courage, Conviction and Right Actions are required?  Is their demand that only anti-war poems be submitted an act of Terrorism or one of Vigilance?   Does poetry have the right to censor and decide what is right and wrong, or is it saddled with the duty to provide two points of view and let its readers decide?   You be the judge!


Tuesday--February 25, 2003—Ground Zero Plus 531
 Poets Against The War:
The Politics Of Polemics

Cliff McKenzie
   Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

GROUND ZERO, New York City, Feb. 25--War is being waged upon the Bush Administration by thousands of Poets Against The War.  The poets are unwittingly waging their war against the Politics of Polemics.  In the process, they have become caught in their own poetic crossfire and turned into the very Terrorists of War they despise.
Terrorism is about injecting Fear, Intimidation and Complacency into a body politic. 
      A Terrorist likes to drive the nail of dissent into his victim’s hands and feet.  He enjoys crucifying his victims with the Triad of Terrorism--arms pinned by Fear and Intimidation, feet nailed motionless by Complacency.   Such Terrorists sit and watch their victims hang, powerless to do anything but suffer a slow, painful, excruciating death of shadow watching, cringing, ducking, hiding, waiting for the Beast of Terror to finish them off.

High Alert was issued over Valentine's Day weekend 

       I felt the Shadow of the Beast of Terror stalking me as I reviewed the Poets Against The War criterion for submitting an anti-war poem.  The organization is planning to send 12,000 anti-war messages to Congress on March 5.
       The feeling I got reading the submission criterion reminded me of the recent Terrorist scare over Valentine's Day weekend. When the Bush Administration issued a "high alert,"  millions of Americans scrambled to get duct tape and plastic sheeting to cover their windows and shelter themselves in case Terrorists dumped some horrible biochemical substance in their neighborhoods.   Fear, Intimidation and Complacency settled into the marrow of the nation as 300 million people cowered, anticipating the sound of the Beast of Terror’s  footsteps shuffling toward their doorsteps.
       During that weekend, a single mind-set hung over the nation--self protection.  Few, if any, danced in the street to refute the alarm, which turned out to be false.  
       What the great mass of Americans didn’t know, that the Terrorist alert was not necessarily a warning of Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein sneaking into America’s heartland, but instead a precursor of the Poets Against the War assault on the White House.

Laura Bush, a former public school teacher and librarian, reads to children

Laura Bush requests the pleasure of your company
at a reception and White House Symposium
"Poetry and the American Voice"
on Wednesday, February 12, 2003 at one o'clock

      It all started when Laura Bush cancelled a February 12 White House poetic symposium called "Poetry and the American Voice" after learning a number of poets slated to attend were going to read anti-war material.
     Irate, the poets retaliated.   Marshalling forces, the Poets Against The War boasts it will deliver 12,000 poems and statements to Congress on March 5 as a signal of its membership's opposition to the impending war against Iraq.  
       The event is dubbed International Day of Poetry Against the War.
       A White House spokeswoman responding to the question why Laura Bush cancelled the February 12 event said:  "Mrs. Bush respects and believes in the right of all Americans to express their opinions, but she felt it would be inappropriate to turn the literary event into a political forum."
       Her response sparked the creation of a website,,   Its goal has been to solicit anti-war poems and deluge Congress with them.   March 5 is scheduled for the "poetic bombing of the White House."  The website claims12,000 anti-war poems will be delivered to Capital Hill.  Their ultimate goal: to "Terrorize" the Administration into cutting the Gordian Knot wrapped around Iraq and retreat from the Administration’s saber rattling that unless Saddam Hussein buckles to disarmament demands the U.S. will attack his regime and depose him by force.  
 I use the word "Terrorize" to describe the acts of the Poets Against The War because Terrorism employs a gun to one's head with the hammer cocked.   One has no option under Terrorism's "gun-to-the-head" strategy but to surrender to its will or suffer.
        The Poets Against the War are using a gun-to-the-head approach against the White House because they offer no poet a forum to speak out against the anti-war position.  They have censored all pro-war poems, and will only accept anti-war ones.  In other words, “It’s my way or the highway.”
         Terrorism doesn’t negotiate with its victims.   Like the Poets Against the War, it doesn’t give its victims any chance to surrender their will.  It simply attacks.  It lays waste to those whom it has chosen as targets of opportunity.  It feeds off its righteousness.
          Despite America’s critics, the door to escape war in Iraq has always been open.   All Saddam Hussein has to do is disclose his weapons of mass destruction in accordance to U.N. Resolution 1441, or, step down.  
          The Poets Against the War offer no such escape.   They are hell-bent on revenge, and offer no concessions to those who oppose their anti-war approach.   They deny any Voice that argues with them.   They oppose any poem, any thought, any presentation that might be termed “Pro-War,” or might possibly suggest, infer or imply that America is doing the right thing by standing off Terrorism in Iraq.

        Unfortunately, the poets have fallen victim to that which they seek to admonish.   They have taken the position of the Terrorist in their righteously blind belief of what is good for America and the world.   They are saying anti-war is the solution, and refute by edict any suggestion that any Voice speaking otherwise has veracity.

Newspaper Ad run to promote and solicit anti-war poems

    This narrow, chilling position qualifies them as a Terrorist organization for they are creating by exclusion Fear, Intimidation and Complacency upon those who might oppose them.  Let me expand on that point.     
     When I first saw the ad for Poets Against The War I thought about writing a poem for the event with a focus on Vigilance.  That was before I was stopped dead in my tracks by the submission guidelines.
         Personally, I believe the War on Terrorism is twisted out of perspective by protestors and pundits who suggest Terrorism can be controlled by extricating the Terrorists.   My belief is that  we should be fighting the source of Terrorism—rallying our forces against the Beast of Terror, Terrorism’s seed. Terrorism is the result of the unleashing of the Beast, not its effect.  I maintain that we must cut off the head of Terrorism, not its many appendages.  I believe Vigilance is the only way to achieve that goal.

         I also believe we, the Citizens of Vigilance, the poets and pundits, are The Beast of Terror.  We are his hosts.  I believe he dwells within us and tries to make us God.  He attempts to make us believe we "know everything" and have the "right to protest" all the wrongs in the world as though we had the ability to judge all actions and reactions with the keen eye of an omnipotent being who knows exactly what the result of our actions will be. I submit the Beast of Terror loves it when we rise up so high in our righteousness that we think we are right and the world that doesn’t think as we do is wrong.  I believe the Beast of Terror savors it when we see only black or only white, when we know so much we can shut down all other opinions but our own.

         Such black and white thinking makes us either hawks--convinced we are right in our efforts to depose Saddam Hussein without offering any further quarter--or, doves who believe that war is so ugly and vile it should be avoided at all costs, including stopping a known Terrorist before he grows bigger and stronger.   This polarity drives wedges between us all and produces one result:  "You're either with us or against us."  

          The Poets Against The War have no room in their thinking that the United States has posited itself as the Global Sentinel of Vigilance, duty-bound to swing the Sword of Vigilance against any and all who harbor, breed or promote Terrorism.   They have no tolerance for the fact the Bush Administration has elected to define Terrorism to fit strategy and tactics, and put a priority on attacking it that varies with much of the world.  This, they claim, is the problem.  America is acting out of concert with the world as they see it. 

America is considered by some not an aggressor,
but rather  the Global Sentinel of Vigilance

       Unfortunately, I am not in agreement with the common definitions of Terrorism, either those used by governments or Poets Against The War.   We have made Terrorism  faceless, some shadowy figure outside ourselves.  We hunt for it in foreign lands, forgetting when it thrives within us.
       Thus, I believe the War on Terrorism begins within an individual, at the grass roots of a society, and should be fought upward.    The Bush Administration believes it should be fought from the top down, and has chosen to indict, prosecute and convict those whom it believes fit into its narrow definition of Terrorism.
       Where I offer kudos to the Bush Administration is that it is attacking Terrorism, even if its view of it is political and geographic and cultural.   At least it is standing up to the Bully of Terrorism.  It is telling the Children’s Children’s Children of the world that Terrorism has an enemy willing to fight and die to protect the future, even if in the midst of that position it suffers heavy assault of its immediate intentions.   Because America is not a conquering nation, I have faith its goal is not to dominate but to liberate.
       This makes the Poets Against the War stand naked in the Winds of Vigilance.   They would have America stand down, stick its head in the sand, remove from the borders of Iraq the anti-Bullies who are facing off the Bully Terrorist.   They would have America be shamed for standing up to those who pose an unquestioned threat to the future.
        Equally rigid is the definition that the Poets Against the War have constructed in their constitution as to what represents anti-Terrorism.    In their prejudiced and righteous opinion--not unlike that of the Bush Administration--they claim a poem to merit consideration under their website guidelines must be against the war. They are into the black and white just as thickly as the Bush Administration.   Below I have extracted their submission guidelines.   Note their emphasis that "All poems must be against the war, no pro-war poems."

Poets Against The War Submission Guidelines

Guidelines: You may submit either a poem or a statement against the war. You may submit more than one poem. Please limit your poem to no more than about a page (we cannot publish epics or tomes), and submit no more than 3 poems. All poems must be against the war; no pro-war poems, no hate-filled poems, no obscene poems will be published. You may format your poem by adding html tags. We hope to publish your poem within a day of its submission. Note: By submitting your poetry for publication on this website, you represent and warrant that you are the author of the poem, that you have the right to authorize its publication on this website, and that it does not – to the best of your knowledge -- infringe the copyright of any other person.

link to the site

        I find Bullyism vs. Bullyism is still Bullyism. Even if it comes from the soft underbelly of the poet.
       Poets forced to express their feelings about war from the singular point of view of being "anti-war" is just another form of Terrorism.
       Censorship insults poetry.  It criminalizes the purity of poetry as a form of unique expression that, by its nature, defies didactic interpretation.
        I consider myself an accomplished poet, able to compress feelings into conflicting thoughts and ideas, designed for the reader to interpret.    I have for hours and days, and sometimes weeks and even months and years, pondered over a single word to extract from it the most powerful meaning possible, not only to elucidate those words it rests beside, but to ignite the tone and texture of the message I am trying to emote.  I so often sit in amazement when I hear someone interpret what I have so steadfastly tried to create, only to find that they see something far different from what I saw, and feel things much  simpler in some cases, and much more complex in others, than I could imagine.
        So who is to judge a poem is "anti-war" or not "anti-war?"
         It seems oxymoronic to assume such a judgment is possible in the first place.  Yet Poets Against The War have drawn a righteous line in the sand, just a fierce and just as obnoxious as those they protest against.   The have become the kettle and the pot, calling each other black and white, and forgetting that poetry is all about the grey--the innominate zone that makes poetry so magical--that is the privilege of the reader to perceive the word painting's brush strokes and define its meaning through the reader's not the editor's eyes.

President Bush stepping up to the Beast of Terror place

         Poets rallying behind the Poets Against The War guidelines are inferring by their submissions and acceptance of Terrorist Guidelines they believe America has left no option for Iraq but war.  They have assumed the myopic view that America is a belligerent force, bent on issuing death and destruction.   They wish to ignore that America may be standing up to Terrorism while the rest of the world prefers to stick its head in the sand and do nothing but sling rocks at President Bush for stepping up to the Beast of Terror plate.  They leave no wriggle room for those who might see the threat of war a message to Terrorism that at least one nation, one people, one President, will not condone its proliferation.
         Going a step farther than the Administration that they attack as a warmonger,  the Poets Against The War execute any violators who oppose them.  As Saddam Hussein has so deftly shown he can execute any and all who stand in opposition to him, including the killing of his two son-in-laws, Poets Against The War expunge any poem that crosses their desk or computer screens as "dissident."  With the same alacrity of a despot, they cast such dissenting missives into the dark, dungy wastelands of cyberspace or the shredder, gleefully wallowing in their belief they know what's good for the earth.  They arrogantly censor what should be read and not read to cause mankind to evolve to the next higher plane.
         Thus, they become the Beast they rail against.
         Such effrontery of the kind Poets Against The War express is symptomatic of Terrorism.   As Saddam Hussein would deny he is a Terrorist and defend to the world he has acted in behalf of the best interests of his country, so the Poets Against the War will vociferously deny they are Terrorists and defend their right to cut, slash, imprison and exterminate any point of view at odds with their agenda.  After all, they claim to have the corner on "what's right."   And, they stand above all others because they are lofty "poets."
          Despite any protestations they might issue, their guidelines shout Terrorism:  "If you don't play the game we have designed, we will exterminate you!"  
          This edict means that a guy like me who opposes anything "anti-" can't send my thoughts. You see, I view something "anti-" as excluding the "pro-."  It is no longer a balance between what is, what was and what can be, but rather an issue of  "what I have decided it is."
          Under those terms,  I can't even submit.   The wall of Fear, Intimidation and Complacency looms so large I dare not shovel my big toe of Vigilance in the submission direction, for I speak of the Swords and Shields of Vigilance, and I am an advocate that along the Road of Complacency, someone somewhere must make a stand in behalf of the Children's Children's Children.  I also adhere to Parental Duty of Deadly Force when necessary to protect the future from the clear and present danger of those who would destroy the safety and security of all children.  That is, I would not blink an eye to use whatever means is necessary to stop a Beast of Terror from clubbing a child to death.

We must take a stand

         This attitude would surely throw me into the pro-war arena.
         Adding to my frustration is the lack of the genuine poetic message from the Poets of Vigilance.   That message is the cry from the Poets Of Vigilance.  Where are the mothers and fathers and grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, nephews and nieces of Vigilance who know that protecting the world from Terrorism is not a matter of protesting war, but Vigilantly guarding its virulent growth.
         Protesting war is always a Johnny-come-lately activity.  It's the thing one does to keep up with the Jones'.   War, after all is said and done, is the sum of a society's Complacency.   For years the world has watched Terrorism brew, growing ever so strong.   No one has leapt out of the pack and tackled the Beast of Terror head-on before.  Only through September 11 have we begun to realize that Terrorism is a true enemy, a shapeless, nameless creature who has risen from the bowels of human defects to launch us into the Era of Vigilance.
        Nine Eleven has forced America to take a global stance against Terrorism.
        Now that the United States has defied the world by standing up against one of many state Terrorists without seeking the consensus of the other nations, it is being bombarded with criticisms from both within and without.   The poets are just one of many.

Candid Poets write of Hell as Fire.....

        Instead of praising the rightness of a nation to bully the bullies, the poets seek to make the Bully Police the bully.  They don't want to attack the bully for what he has done that cripples, maims and murders his own, but would rather castigate those who wish to quash his oppression.
       Poetry, as with all literature, works only when it seeks to rub the stone against the flint.   Only when one is forced to ponder Hell as "fire or ice" do the engines of the mind engage to cogitate the pluses and minuses of human nature, and to arrive at some conclusion between the extremes, while at the same time recognizing the importance of the extremes. well as Hell Frozen Over

      Poetry has no message without conflict and neither does life.    All existence is the result of gravity, the push and pull of forces good and bad, the challenging issues of right and wrong, and the proverbial issue of what is best for today versus the sacrifice necessary for tomorrow.
        Poetry is nothing more nor less than a giant Question Mark, created in the mind of those who read it to answer.   It delivers to us mighty thoughts in tiny words that explode within us as we ingest the perplexing issues each word symbolizes.
        But Poets Against The War have emasculated the principle of poetry as a means of communicating conflict.   They have stripped the Pro from the Con, sawed off the other side of the see-saw, extruded the plus from the minus in the electron circling the atom.
        In my case, they have stripped Vigilance away.
        While I propose the pole of Terrorism is Vigilance, I cannot employ that in my poetry regarding my views of the war.  If I did, I fear I might be called a "Pro-War Submission," rejected by some pompous ass whose idiot savant finger is poised over the delete key, whose vision is so blurred by righteous indignation that "anti-war" is the so right that everything else is wrong.
         I am Intimidated by the shadow of all the great poets who have signed the proclamation of the Poets Against the War, who have submitted their works, who are scheduled to stand at podiums and rail on about the wrongness of war.  I am Intimidated by them because I realize they are reacting to war, not proacting against it.   They seek the podiums of "I-told-you-so" as the bombs are about to fall, and gain further recognition for their wisdom because they seek the opportunity to catch a headline here, or a camera lens there.    I am Intimidated because I quietly sit here and fight for Vigilance in what seems a lonely place, with no podiums or television cameras, no headlines, no fan letters.   I am Intimidated I do not protest just to protest.  There is fame in that, I know.   But little purpose, I think.  Little purpose.

Don't extinguish the Light of Vigilance

        Then, there is Complacency.
        I am Complacent to set into words my thoughts and feelings.   The Fear and Intimidation imposed by the guidelines and purpose of Poets Against The War are oppressive in nature.  They tell me that no matter how hard I might work to meet the February 28th midnight deadline to submit a poem, that my tongue would be cut off before it could wag in anyone's ears.
        I am defeated before I start.   So, as with any Complacent person, I do not start.  I give up before trying.  Terrorism has won this little battle.  It's Fear, Intimidation and Complacency have all conspired against me, emasculating me before I could strip down to bare bones and expose myself.
        Poets Against the War do not want to hear about Vigilance.
        That smacks too much of a Pro-War stance.
        If I were to demonize Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, Kim Jong Il, I would surely violate the tenants of the guidelines.    If I were to hint that America is a Parent of Vigilance, acting in behalf of the Children's Children's Children, I would be earmarked a hawk.   If I were to force the thinking of the readers into future generations, and pose the battle between the Beast of Terror and the Sentinel of Vigilance as the ultimate in human conflict, I would be called a warmonger.
        So I will not participate.   I can't, even if I'd like to.
        I offer instead the words of Shakespeare in As You Like It::

                          Sweet are the uses of adversity;
                          Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
                          Wears yet a precious jewel in his head...

Vigilance is the jewel on the head of the Toad of Terrorism

        Vigilance, I believe, is the precious jewel on the head of the Toad of Terrorism.   But, I can't express that to the Poets Against The War.   It might sound like I'm giving credit to America's stand-off with Terrorism.  
        It might make people think that President Bush isn't such an "ugly, venomous toad" after all.





Feb 24--The Definition Of Terrorism?

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