Recent events led me to remember this poem, written in April 1986.
While Wikipedia notes the event as occurring on Tuesday April 15,
I remember it as a Monday, and this is confirmed by a note in
‘On this Day’, BBC Home:
“Around 66 American jets, some of them flying from British bases
launched an attack at around 0100hrs on Monday.”
The commons argued late last night;
They wrestled with their consciences
On something of immense concern
– While Reagan raided Libya…
And Thatcher gave the go-ahead;
“Oh, use your bases, take your planes
– We only keep them warm for you –
Why ask the people what they think?
Why ask the British Government?
– I am the British Government!
Besides, they’re sitting up all night
Discussing Sunday Trading…”
And on the screen a small boy cries
(Though Sunday’s still a Special Day)
A man sprawls in his dressing gown,
Another feels his bandaged face –
The price of legal Self Defence?
– The rightful Critical Response
To wrongful Terrorist attacks?
– To strike at random counts as crime;
To strike in uniform, as none.
Legitimised, does death lose pain?
Do thirty-five planes smooth the bombs
That kill as hard as Terrorists?
And European Heads of State
(While Parliament plans shopping times)
Delicately advise restraint,
And Geoffrey Howe appears to nod
And share with them the call for calm;
– So why today a different face,
For Reagan and his merchandise?
– And why did Reagan seem to pause
And contemplate another course,
With battle plans already drawn
And jets already underway?
But Libya trains young men to kill!
– Like Sandhurst, do you mean, Westpoint?
No, that is not the same at all!
You can’t compare our training corps,
Our officer cadets, with them!
(Guerrillas aren’t legitimate!
They undermine security,
They’re for aggression, not Defence!)
– I see; like Reagan’s night attack
On unsuspecting families
While Parliament sits late at night
Discussing Sunday Trading…
So MPs probe, on our behalf
(Our democratic privilege
That nothing in the law can change
Without full weight of argument!)
The morals of the Market Place,
While bombers move from British soil
To serve US Diplomacy.
Where was Democracy in this?
– Did I say yes? Did they ask you?
Did MPs agonize all night
Before the Lady said OK
To Reagan’s Monday Raiding?