At the beginning the 1990s, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq National Guard invaded its tiny oil-rich neighbour, Kuwait.
The United States and her allies, the so-called coalition of the willing, enthusiastically started to mass troops, tanks and other military hardware into Saudi Arabia. The American 6th Fleet moved up to the eastern Mediterranean, nuclear submarines prowled at the head of the Persian Gulf and the politicians and journalists ramped up the rhetoric.
I was reminded of Shakespeare’s manipulative Octavian, whipping up the Roman Senate into frenzy and then declaiming: Cry havoc! And let slip the dogs of war.
Later when the 1st Gulf War was unfolding every evening on TV like some grotesque soap opera and the military pundits were enthusiastically explaining about surgical strikes with smart bombs blithely ignoring the fact that the bombs, intelligent or otherwise, were dropping onto children’s hospitals and mosques thus sewing new seeds of ethnic hatred that would last a generation.
Hello you two, lovely to see you again, come on in, let me take your coats, do sit down and have a drink; for dinner we’re having plovers’ eggs and roast partridge followed by a cheese soufflé; then I thought we could take our coffee into the drawing room and watch The Gulf war, such a bore I know, but Justin’s completely hooked …
As I watched on the television George Bush and his crew of hawkish associates propagating this conflict, I jotted down the title of a poem – In Parenthesis, by David Jones, as a mnemonic … and in the baized chamber the lord Agravaine counsels us, urging with repulsive lips, he nets us into expeditionary war … David Jones had served in the trenches on the western front, as a private soldier in the Royal Welsh Regiment. Steeped in Celtic medieval history, Jones is a difficult but rewarding poet and In Parenthesis is his masterpiece. T.S. Eliot, one of the seminal modernist poets of the century, called it a work of genius.