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Remembrance Poems and Readings

Edited by
David Roberts

More information about this collection of poems and readings for Remembrance Day and Peace Events

 


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Making or Breaking

The following is a poem from ,
Kosovo War Poetry, which was published in 2000.

In 2016 the poem was set to music by Norwegian composer, Kim André Arnesen, with its premier with The Kantorei Choir in Denver, Colorado, 26 February 2016.The music is available from Santa Barbara Music Publishing.Inc.

I don’t know what thoughts this poem might inspire, but there are many ideas that were in my mind at the time that I wrote it. I have often thought about the topic of how most people strive to add to the well-being of the world whilst a minority seem to cause trouble - destroy things, start wars, become terrorists, hurt people.  Often one person or a very small group of people can cause untold misery. At different times I have given varying accounts of ideas that are associated with this poem. The immediate stimulus for the poem is explained below.






















December 1999, New Year's Eve was approaching and I thought of the dawning of a new century and a new millenium. This poem was in part inspired by the first pictures of the earth taken from space. For the first time we could see the whole earth in one picture, one planet for one race, the human race. In the simplest possible terms  Making or Breaking sets out the choice before each of us. Further comments follow the  poem.


MAKING OR BREAKING


We inherit the world,

the whole of history,

our place on earth,

our place in time,

our fortune, good or bad,

pure chance.


Now,

in one picture,

we see our entire planet:

one world,

one race,

one future,

bound together

for the first time.


Ours

for the breaking


or making.



David Roberts


12 December 1999

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A violent or a peaceful world – the note that accompanies the poem, Making or Breaking, in the collection of Kosovo war poetry:


The promoters of narrow patriotism, nationalism and racism suffer from a moral short-sightedness which leads to the kind of misery and horror we have witnessed in Yugoslavia in the last 10 years of the 20th century. Not only Serbs in Kosovo but Albanians too acted on racist motives, but NATO nations, too. Leaders who base action on racist attitudes lack a vision of the world appropriate to the needs of their people and the world as a whole.


All races are in a minority. All need the support and co-operation of others. All could make better use of their time and talent if they directed their energies to co-operative problem-solving, rather than the harassment and extermination of others they have picked on to blame for their troubles.


The fate of the people of the world is linked. We prosper or die together. We have a choice.


The dawning of a new century

As a new century approached, one hundred years before my poem was written, Thomas Hardy had taken another view, a far more poetic response. See his poem, The Darkling Thrush.

Kosovo War Poetry by David Roberts is published in paperback  by Saxon Books .


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An oft studied poem from Kosovo War Poetry. About the book  -  link.










The Pilot’s Testament


I seek no glory.

I bear no anger.

I hate no man.


 I do the unspeakable

on behalf of the ungrateful.


I bomb targets chosen by others.


I have surrendered my will

to a higher authority.

I trust the cause to be right

and the methods appropriate.


There is no place for questioning.


There can be no other way.


I do my duty.

You can rely on me.

I will not let you down.


Though my task may be dangerous,

neither fear nor doubt

will prevent me.


Consider me.

Physically and mentally

my ability is exceptional.


My judgement and reflexes

are trained to perfection.


I am chosen from the elite,

the very best.


Many accord me

great respect.


I possess power beyond imagination.

Like a god I roar through the heavens,

miraculous,

immaculate,

invulnerable,

supreme,

the earth beneath me,

the whole of creation

available to me,

awaiting my quick shot

of death and destruction.


My victims are unaware of me.


I am unaware of my victims.


They go about their lives

not knowing only a few seconds remain.


 We are arriving

at the appointed time and place.


At a touch I fix their fate.


 Moments later,

in mid conversation,

a flash,

and they are gone.


I cannot pretend it was difficult.


Their will was done,

and I, merely an instrument of death.

I did my duty,

but I accept no guilt.


I come down to earth

as a man among men,

unmarked, unrecognised,

unremarkable, unnoticed:


I easily blend.


 I am not available for comment.


I am not an item of news. The story is elsewhere.


 I return to my family

as if nothing has happened.


 David Roberts   

15-22 December 1999





















Aleksinac, Serbia, 1999, where three civilians were killed when a NATO pilot aimed to bomb the Deligrad barracks some distance away. See below for more information on what the bombing did to Serbia.


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Sources of ideas behind The Pilot’s Testament

An influence in this poem was a conversation I had about 1981 when I chatted to a British bomber pilot in a squash club in Haywards Heath [UK]. I asked him if he he would hesitate to obey orders if he were told to drop a nuclear bomb. He said he wouldn't hesitate for a moment. It was not his job to choose the targets. It was not his responsibility. The system could not work if he could pick and chose the orders he would obey.


I asked, "What if thousands or tens of thousands were to die as a result?"  He said he knew that he would only be asked to drop a nuclear bomb if it was necessary for the protection of Britain and he would never regret doing his duty.


It seems to be necessary to point out that when NATO bombers bombed Yugoslavia no NATO country had been attacked or even threatened by Yugoslavia. Self defence is the only acceptable reason for waging war under the |UN Charter which 188 nations have signed up to. The NATO Treaty which governs the military actions of NATO countries also only permitted war in self defence. However, this was changed without it being brought to the attention of the public or even members of the British parliament on 24 April 1999 when a new NATO agreement was signed in Washington. NATO ministers agreed to act illegally under the UN Charter and wage war for a variety of non-defensive purposes. The bombing of Yugoslavia was a practical demonstration of this new willingness to act illegally. It is often claimed that the bombing, though illegal, was carried out to avert a humanitarian crisis. In fact, thousands of bombs dropping on a country itself causes a humanitarian crisis, and the flight of both Serb and Albanian refugees from the Kosovo province began after the start of the bombing.


The first victim of war is morality. Wars are always failures -  failures of diplomacy, failure to see the interest of the enemy is tied up with ourselves, failure to understand that we are all bound together as members of the human race.


The fighter in any war faces difficult moral questions. Anyone who believes that organised aggression by states may sometimes be wrong has some serious thinking and explaining to do about this military action.


Sadly, some people have unswerving faith in their leaders, believe that they can do no wrong, and therefore have no need to question any of their actions.


People who pay taxes that fund wars and live in countries that declare war on others cannot evade their moral responsibility. Do they condone aggression by pretending that nothing has happened or do they take steps to make their opposition to violence abundantly clear to their government and other people.


Are some kinds of warfare more moral than others?


Some readers will have noted the influence of Ted Hughes on this poem. See his Hawk Roosting.


Kosovo War poetry by David Roberts is published in paperback by Saxon Books

It includes the two poems above and 29 others. There is a nine page introduction.   
ISBN 0 952 8969 2 3   
£4-99 (UK), Approx $8 (USA)   
Available Worldwide


See the page about the Kosovo War Poetry book for a link to Amazon and, through the Amazon link, associated book suppliers.


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What the bombing of of the Kosovo War did

(Extracts from the introduction to Kosovo War Poetry)


The most powerful military alliance the world has ever known, conducted the most intensive bombing campaign in the history of warfare against Serbia, the poorest and most miserable country in Europe.


For eleven weeks the war dominated the media. Since then the immense tragedy and crime of the war have faded from public view. Yet the desperate human consequences, and the long-term costs remain. The moral and military principles which guided the NATO campaign go unchallenged and unexamined. [NATO - the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. It was set up as a purely defensive alliance.]


Starting on 24 March 1999 the war was a 78 day concerted action by the air forces of 13 of NATO’s 19 member nations. It was the first time in the fifty years’ existence of NATO that its forces had been used aggressively - in direct conflict with the terms of its own treaty which specifically recognises the United Nations as the principle organisation responsible for peace and security in the world.

. . .

The effects of the bombing of Serbia

In eleven weeks the NATO air forces flew over 36,000 sorties and dropped over 23,000 bombs and missiles on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia, Vojvodina, Kosovo, and Montenegro). These included 400 cruise missiles, cluster bombs, and highly toxic depleted uranium bombs.

Targets included the military forces, bases and equipment of the Serbian army. In addition the bombing damaged or destroyed 144 major industrial plants including all Yugoslavia’s oil refineries, fuel storage facilities, car and motorcycle factories, pharmaceutical and fertiliser factories, rubber factories. The bombing of some of these released large quantities of dangerous chemicals into the environment, created an oil slick on the Danube 20 kilometres long, and put 600, 000 people out of work.

Damaged or destroyed were several thousand homes (mainly in Belgrade, Nis, Cuprija, Aleksinac and Pristina), 33 clinics and hospitals, 340 schools, 55 road and rail bridges. The River Danube was blocked; some of the bridges were hundreds of miles from the scenes of the racial expulsions and were vital trade links to the rest of Europe. Also attacked were 12 railway lines, 5 civilian airports, 6 trunk roads, 10 TV and radio stations and 24 transmitters; power stations were put out of action; sewage treatment plants were damaged; water supplies were cut off.

Five thousand civilians were injured; 1400 adult civilians were killed, 600 children were killed, 600 military and police personnel were killed. As a result of the murder, harassment, violence, and destruction of homes carried out by the returning Kosovo Albanians there are now about 150,000 further refugees (mainly Serbs and Roma) in Serbia who have fled from Kosovo. "Ethnic cleansing" has not been halted. There are now [year 2000]10,000 unexploded bombs scattered throughout the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Serbia is now the most polluted, damaged, distressed, politically unsettled, and poverty-stricken country in Europe. It is an humanitarian disaster area and has the highest UNHCR budget of any country in the world.


From the introduction to Kosovo War Poetry.


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