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A New Dawn?

September's here again, and the long war on terror that began in September 2001 may be drawing to a close - or not.  The past decade has been indelibly marked by several actors on the world stage, and it seems oddly fitting (if a little too neat) that Tony Blair's memoirs, and the cessation of the American occupation of Iraq, should coincide precisely.  Blair's book confesses to utter anguish, and full-metal resolve - a complex and unlikely admixture - over his decision to invade Iraq; and continues the war by other means against his hapless lieutenant, Gordon Brown, now described as "maddening" and with "zero emotional intelligence".

Blair, it seems, was a political animal, shackled to a human handler - all-too-human.  I find it hard to fathom Blair's leap to Catholicism when the Pope was against the war he essentially green-lit, and I tend to find his creepy bonhomie skin-crawling.  Yet, apparently, he was eminently electable.  Why people should pay to read or hear this man is beyond me, but power is an aphrodisiac, as Kissinger once remarked.  Meanwhile, Iraq is semi-abandoned, guarded by 50,000 Americans, and struggling to locate its own good governance, undermined from all sides.  Afghanistan is the new Iraq, and the new dawn that we see is simply the blood red sky over a new set of troubled nations.

In the past decade, British society has done little to look into the mirror regarding this mess, and poets, especially, have done little.  A few books, a few poems (Legion, for one, and work by McCabe), and a wave of protest, quickly stamped on by critics and publishers alike, in 2003 - but where has been the dark night of the soul journey that for instance The Thirties was?  While film and TV and other arts in the UK attempted to somewhat speak of these times, I feel the future will look back at surprise at how much the comfortable middle-class "support for our boys" prevailed, and blanketed deeper rage or response, to what was, in hindsight, an astonishingly immoral and bungled war, executed in our name, the people.


Speaking personally, I was opposed to the invasion of Iraq by the USA and Britain in 2003 and I ceased to vote Labour. However, my prevailing feeling since then has been a sense of powerlessness, that I can do nothing about the bloodshed. I wonder how widespread this feeling is (rather than active 'support for our boys').

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Any original unpublished manuscript, in English, by anyone living anywhere in the world, writing in any genre or on any topic, prose, non-fiction or poetry (even drama) is eligible, making it arguably the world's most eclectic "broad church" literary scouting prize. Last year's debut winner was Sohini Basak (her book is being launched in Bloomsbury July 5th, 2018).

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