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When the British and the French almost

literally drew lines in the sand

to divvy up the Ottoman Empire –

tutored by romantic, wistful Arabists

at the Quai D’Orsay and the Foreign Office –

there was nothing left for the Yazidis,

the Druze, the Kurds… It was always about oil –

and then Sunni Arabs and Zionist Jews.

It is always about oil, diamonds,

timber, gold, slaves, coal — and useful idiots.




Saddam hanged, Gaddafi sodomized then shot.

Being careless about what you wish for

appears to bring bandits, to make Frankenstein

monsters out of mercenaries, assassins

out of mujahideen. Better perhaps

the secret police, with pensionable jobs,

than unofficial executioners?

Better restriction than chaos, repression

than havoc? Better to live in servitude

since death ends all chance of liberty?




The democratic chancellories

of Europe, its communes and councils are

panders soliciting votes from racists

to prostitute the body politic.

They make virtue of prevarication

and casuistry; extol cohesion

and nationhood; plead penury –

yet erect frontiers of razor wire

and bomb far-fetched ideologies,

making accidental martyrs and migrants.



Does only a fool or knave decry

the efficacy of aerial bombing?

Do only knaves or fools advocate peace?

Do only both call, ‘Follow the money!

It’s all about oil!’? Will it always be

about oil – until the earth has become

one unrelenting desert, one vast sea

and there is no one to care about money?

Tetchy, ironic, rhetorical

questions give no shelter, change nothing.




It is about oil and useful innocents

seeking exile, seeking sanctuary.

They run from the bullets at the border –

anonymous children, young men, women

in labour, grandmas – or wait, patiently

for the most part, as if despair were a crime,

as if anger were a fault, in the rain

and the smoke, or, duped, drown in silence.

Theirs has become a name, whoever they are,

to conjure pity and heart break – or lies.




© Copyright David Selzer
2 Responses
  • Nilanjana Bose
    April 25, 2016

    Enjoyed this especially. Being where I am. Congrats on the anniversary and wish you many more!

  • Steve Crewe
    April 25, 2016

    Better the devil you know is the clause, I suppose, but, as with Africa, the European nations’ understanding of the native peoples and their ancient differences has been clouded by greed, and even today we use generic terms for diverse peoples.

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