Drums of War


Photo posted by Tommy Japan, republished under Creative Commons license. My Lai March 16, 1968 – Bodies lay in the road leading from the village of My Lai, South Vietnam, following the massacre of civilians on March 16, 1968. Within four hours, 347 men, women and children were killed in the My Lai hamlets in one of the U.S. military’s blackest days.

My Lai. El Mozote. Manbij.

The drums of war beat on
incessant, insistent
drone on, bomb on, shoot on
drum death
drum war
drum death.


My Lai slept uneasy,
mothers clutching children close.
Keep away from war,
hide when you can.
But then the soldiers came,
large white men with angry voices.
Hold your child close,
fold her inside your arms,
curve your body around her,
forever and ever
until your world ends
bullet by bullet,


El Mozote cried
when soldiers entered, shooting.
When they stopped,
hope bloomed for
an impossible instant.
Then —
men to the church,
old women here in this house,
young women there,
and the beatings began,
the rapes, the killing,
until everyone was dead
(except Rufina, who escaped
to testify
to one more massacre in Morazán)
When the reporters came,
they found skulls,
charred bones,
war without end.


Manbij could not sleep
for bombs falling
Syrian bombs
Russian bombs
ISIS bombs
U.S. bombs
does it really matter?
Flee Manbij,
run from the bombs,
leaving home behind.
Run with your family,
grandma, children, husband.
Run while the planes fly over you,
circle lower,
open their hatches,
drop down death
on refugees fleeing war
as they did two weeks ago,
as they did last week,
death without end,
forever and ever.

Listen to the drums of war,
forever and ever,
world without end,
war without end.
And the generals say amen.
And the presidents say amen.
And the world says amen.

Historical notes:
In My Lai in 1968, U.S. soldiers massacred at least 175 civilians, possibly more than 400, and succeeded in covering up the massacre for more than a year. Eventually, 14 soldiers were tried, but only one – Lt. William Calley – was convicted. My Lai was the most notorious, but far from the only massacre by U.S. forces in Vietnam.

In El Mozote and nearby villages in 1981, Salvadoran soldiers in the Atlacatl Battalion massacred hundreds – 500? 733? 900? We will never know the exact number. “The Atlacatl was an elite, 1000-man battalion trained in counterinsurgency and rapid deployment by U.S. Special Forces military advisors.” (El Mozote case study)

Near Manbij, on July 19 2016, a U.S. coalition air strike killed civilians fleeing from the war in Manbij. Official U.S. spokespersons admitted to 10 dead. Others said 74. Or 205. Or 117. Or 73. On the 27th of July or maybe the 26th, another U.S. air strike killed 28 civilians. Or maybe 13.

From May 21 to July 26, more than 500 U.S. air strikes in Syria killed somewhere between 229 and 425 civilians.


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