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I opposed the Iraq War, while living in Paris, in 2003, and edited some anthologies at the time to help protest that illegal war.  It is therefore reasonable that some people have asked where I stand on a possible coalition of willing Western powers, planning to bomb Assad's forces.

Let us first recognise the cruel paradox of using military force to punish the use of certain lethal weapons.  On the one hand, the use of chemical weapons is surely no worse than the atomic bombs invented by the Americans, and foisted on the Japanese public horrendously, thereby altering mankind's sense of danger and evil.  On the other, using chemical weapons against unarmed civilians, let alone one's own citizens, must surely rank as one of the most vile acts a government's army can perpetrate; it is almost the definition of criminality.

The reason is, that, after WWI, the horrors of the gas attacks was seen by all, and some strange line of humanity was worked out, among agreeable nations.

So - if any war is just - and I think the war to defeat Germany in the 1940s was very just - then a warlike punishment of chemical weapons use by any government seems at least morally defensible; if, arguably, hypocritical to some degree, since some weapons used by Western powers even today are equally cruel, if not as taboo.

Given the situation and the likelihood that, if not punished, the Assad regime will continue to kill and maim children and other innocent people (as well as rebels, who, depending on your politics are also innocent); and given that stopping any mass murder of children is especially to be welcome, it seems that, on the balance of things, a limited and cautious use of aerial bombardment, aimed at military and government assets only, is a reasonable response, under international law, regarding proportional use of force in war.

Sadly, even such limited expression of violent power will lead to the loss of innocent life - maybe even Western military personnel - and may not end the regime's war aims.  As such, this may lead to mission creep, and the overthrow of the regime, as happened in Libya.  As we saw there, this has led to chaos and violence on a large scale, though a dictatorial and insane regime was defeated.

That may be a step too far, given the consequences, but again, weighing the good with the bad, the sooner this regime is gone, the better for the people of Syria.  Correct me if I am wrong.


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Wheeler Light for 'Life Jacket'.

The runner-up is: Daniel Duffy - 'President Returns To New York For Brief First Visit'

Wheeler Light currently lives in Boulder, Colorado.

Life Jacket

summer camp shirtsI couldn’t fit in then
are half my size nowI wanted to wear
smaller and smallerarticles of clothing
I shrunk to the sizethat disappeared

of an afterthoughtin a sinking ship body
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With the death of the poetic genius John Ashbery, whose poems, translations, and criticism made him, to my mind, the most influential American poet since TS Eliot, 21st century poetry is moving into less certain territory.

Over the past few years, we have lost most of the truly great of our era: Edwin Morgan, Gunn, Hill, Heaney and Walcott, to name just five.  There are many more, of course. This is news too sad and deep to fathom this week.  I will write more perhaps later. 

I had a letter from Ashbery on my wall, and it inspired me daily.  He gave me advice for my PhD. He said kind things about a poetry book of mine.

He was a force for good serious play in poetry, and his appeal great. So many people I know and admire are at a loss this week because of his death. It is no consolation at present to think of the many thousands of living poets, just right now. But impressively, and even oddly, poetry itself seems to keep flowing.