'What Happened Here/Bush Cnronicles' by Eliot Weinberger

War critic uses administration's own words against it

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It usually takes a while for poetry or literature to emerge from a war, but Eliot Weinberger felt he had all the material needed to assemble a literary response to the war in Iraq.

   
"WHAT HAPPENED HERE/BUSH CHRONICLES"

By Eliot Weinberger
New Directions ($13.95)

   

A poet, editor and translator, Weinberger collected quotes, news items and random facts since the invasion-occupation began three years ago to form a kind of poem. For example:

"I heard Donald Rumsfeld say: 'Some have argued that the nuclear threat is not imminent. I would not be so certain.'"

"I heard Donald Rumsfeld say: 'I don't believe anyone that I know in the administration ever said that Iraq had nuclear weapons.' "

"I heard Colonel Nathan Sassaman say: 'With a heavy dose of fear and violence and a lot of money for projects, I think we can convince these people that we are here to help them.' "

"I heard an American soldier ... say: 'We liberated Iraq. Now the people here don't want us here, and guess what? We don't want to be here, either ...' "

You get the idea.

The result, "What I Heard About Iraq," first appeared a year ago in the London Review of Books and Internet word-of-mouth sent the series of ironic paragraphs to a wide audience of Iraq war dissenters.

His essay is now a play, "What I Heard About Iraq: A Cry for Five Voices," adapted by Simon Levy and first performed last year in Los Angeles and later at Hartford, Conn.

It was also used at protest events marking the third anniversary of the war last month.

New Directions, the small literary press founded by Pittsburgh native James Laughlin, has collected Weinberger's list of quotes along with other essays by him critical of the Bush administration and the war, one of the first collections of protest literature to emerge from the ongoing conflict.


Post-Gazette book editor Bob Hoover can be reached at bhoover@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1634.


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