The Fire Next Time

by Colm Herron Colm Herron's first writing career began at the age of seven when he stitched together his vampire stories on his big sister’s Singer sewing machine and sold them to classmates for a penny a piece. He was in business. Two years later he was telling cliff-hangers to the ne’er-do-wells in the local gambling hall. Colm’s abiding memory is that these wasters seemed to enjoy this weekly break from misspending their lives.

When he was fifteen he had a play on BBC and later brought his short stories to Brian Friel, an emerging playwright. Friel said “Great. This stuff’s better than what I wrote at your age."

But Colm was unimpressed and thought “This guy’s going nowhere. I don’t know why I came to him at all."

So Colm gave up writing, deciding to live instead. Meanwhile Friel took off and, while his plays were showing worldwide for the next thirty years,stories were kicking and turning in Colm’s head. But they still weren’t ready to come out. Till twelve years ago, that is, when he said to himself “OK, I’ve lived. Maybe it’s time to do the other thing."

Thus began his second writing career. And his latest novel The Wake (And What Jeremiah Did Next) has just been published by Nuascéalta Teoranta.

Who said these words? “You just don’t invade another country on a phony pretext in order to assert your interests.”

Was it Ambassador Joseph Wilson, former U.S. chargé d'affaires in Baghdad, who resigned from the Foreign Service in 2003 questioning the need for another war in Iraq? Or was it Glenda Jackson, prominent member of the British Labour party and former movie star and stage actress, at the onset of the Bush/Blair war?

Neither. It was John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State, during an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press in March of this year. He went on to say (with regard to Vladimir Putin’s seizure of the Crimean peninsula): “This is an act of aggression that is completely trumped up in terms of its pretext. It’s really 19th century behaviour in the 21st century.”

And this is the John Kerry who voted for the criminal invasion of Iraq in 2003, an invasion which resulted in between 400 000 and a million deaths depending on what survey you consult. In addition to this and the untold number of people maimed there were up to five million refugees and internally displaced. There are now at least 4.5 million orphans in Iraq, six hundred thousand of whom are living in the streets.

This out of a total population of 30 million.

Not for the first time I despair of U.S. politicians, especially those charged with responsibility for foreign affairs. As Marcus Papadopoulos, commentator for ‘Politics First’ recently told RT the Russian English language news channel: “Since when does the United States government genuinely subscribe to and defend the concept of sovereignty and territorial integrity? They certainly are not doing that at the moment in Syria. They certainly did not do that when they attacked Libya. They certainly didn’t do that when they invaded Iraq. They certainly didn’t do that when they attacked Serbia over Kosovo and then later on recognized Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence. The United States government merely pays lip service to sovereignty and territorial integrity, it picks and chooses.”

He’s right of course. The U.S. is the biggest cherry-picker in the business. Ukraine is not a member of NATO. So what gives America the right to be involved in the Russia Ukraine business at all? Nothing, except what they see as their manifest destiny. And what is manifest destiny? you may ask. Well, it is difficult to answer that question without coming across as absurd. Manifest destiny is the conviction that they (white Americans) have approval from God Himself to invade any country they want if it is for America’s good. Its origin is found in the Mexican-American War of 1846 to 1848, the first American military conflict fought entirely on foreign soil. American victory and the subsequent treaty gained three quarters of a million square miles for America. That’s a hell of a lot of territory and its acquisition served as a kind of model for what was to come.

On the matter of U.S. adventures and adventurism Professor Juan Cole, Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan, has this to say:

“The American public still for the most part has no idea what the United States did to that country [Iraq], and until we Americans take responsibility for the harm we do others with our perpetual wars, we can never recover from our war sickness, which drives us to resort to violence in international affairs in a way no other democracy routinely does.”

And now it’s Ukraine. Last December Senator John McCain vowed U.S. support as he dined with the leader of the far right Svoboda party which was at the heart of protests to unseat the then president Viktor Yanukovych. U.S. Assistant-Secretary of State Victoria Nuland paid three visits there in the space of five weeks in her efforts to rally the coup leaders. Joe Biden flew in with more moral backing. After the coup Barack Obama described the interim government there as “duly elected” (What is this? Some kind of doublethink? No, it’s a barefaced lie) and warned Vladimir Putin that the U.S. can “calibrate our response” based on whether Russia chooses “to escalate or to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine.” The question is, who is doing the escalating? The U.S. has put into place in Ukraine what it calls a “security structure”, i.e. units from the CIA and FBI. Why are they there?

But what is this all about and how did it happen? Was it EU mismanagement of negotiations with the Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych last year when they failed to offer a financial package substantial enough to rescue him from his Russian debtors?  Was it the EU’s half-witted insistence that a close relationship with Brussels must exclude a close relationship with Moscow? Or was it Vladimir Putin’s fear that the EU’s demands were actually tied in with NATO’s eastward march that might sooner or later rob Russia of its vitally important neighbour, the last buffer state bordering Russia?  Could it have been his apprehension that any sign of weakness on his part might well usher in an end to his oligarchic nationalistic rule? No one should underestimate the Russian leader’s determination to hold onto power and to restore his country to its former greatness.

In Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four Big Brother oversaw perpetual wars among the superstates of Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia. By this means he controlled the minds of his people and thus sustained his popularity. At this moment in time the U.S. is locked in a deadly symbiotic embrace with arms manufacturers while conducting what they call “special operations” in 124 countries. These “special operations” are in fact secret wars. In Orwell’s novel Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia had emerged from an atomic global war. The fact that the U.S. is now taking on Russia should bring the American people – and the rest of us – to the realization that the nuclear holocaust may be closer than any of us feared.       

In the picture the author Colm Herron as portrayed by his daughter Nuala Herron. For her web site please click here.

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