Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Naming Conventions

Prosecutor: Mr Witness, what did Reflection tell you about who shot Superman?

To Make the Road Fearful

Transcript of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, the Trial of Charles Taylor
Witness: TF1-375 [On Former Oath], June 24, 2008
Your Honor, I would first like to caution the witness,
Before he starts to speak with typical military directness
And turns to the sheer horror of the moment and macabre grimness
That there is the matter of naming conventions that we must address

Could we start, if he pleases, with the death and desolation
Of Operation No Living Thing or Operation Spare No Soul?
Oh, I see my learned colleague would rather not go down that rabbit hole
I withdraw the question, let's consider instead Operation Stop Elections
Which introduced the alarming spectacle of random amputations
Institutionalized by his troops as shock and awe situations
I ask you, Mr Witness, what, in all this, was your considered position?

Uh-huh, but what of Operation No Monkey, or the obvious invitation
To marauding and looting embodied in Operation Pay Yourself?
Surely he'll admit the sordid manner in which he outdid himself?
Any observer would marvel at that affair's rather cynical precision

Okay, the witness is being argumentative, we are not getting anywhere,
We can stick to the well worn terrain of what he previously admitted
Just the other day in open court, freely, in his earlier testimony.
But let me ask, what does he think about the names of the wicked?

Where, in all this, was Jungle, Black Jesus, Savage, Crazy, Red Goat, Rocky and Rambo?
All right, I'll restate my question, I am asking here about R.U.F. Rambo
Your Honor, could you advise the witness not to opine on who was scarred and handsome
And please answer instead of commenting on which of the two Rambos was the most fearsome

No, your Honor, my intent is not to blame the witness and the footsoldiers,
It is rather to determine the chain of command, the soul controllers
I understand that you, Mister Witness, followed orders to the letter
But from whom? Was it Zigzag Marzah, Five Five or General Dry Pepper?

Was it Captain Blood, Leather Boot, or the wannabe footballer, Gullit?
Was it Dawn-Dawn, Waco-Waco, Butterfly, KGB, Zino, or Black Diamond
Were the Black Gaddafa involved, or the notorious Adama Cut Hand?
And where was The Devil, The Killer, Scare the Baby and Monkey Brown?

Or was it General 50, General 245, or the rather confusing General Dried Pepper?
I'm sure you, Mister Witness, on this point, can provide further and better particulars
I submit to you that the Black Guards and the West Side Boys were part of the plan
And yes, of course, we'll get to the aforementioned Reflection and Superman

Now you would have us believe that you were present when, I repeat,
Scare the Baby was discussing with Butterfly "somewhere in Ganta"
In Ganta mind you, where to take Superman and Red Goat for dinner

Are you seriously telling this Court that a piece of pizza in Ganta
Costs more than twenty five US dollars?
So it would cost more than the rent of one of your motorbikes
For a whole day just to eat a piece of pizza? Jesus Christ

Witness: In Monrovia, not in Ganta. Monrovia. Monrovia. Yes, in Monrovia.
And I can locate the areas to you, for you to make a background investigation.

There's no need to bring up General Butt Naked, this isn't a fishing expedition
If it please the Court, my purpose is not to summon a play by way of Ionesco
Of logicians, and the plight of those who dance the corruption tango
Of all the things, the blood and the sin, Mister Witness, that this trial has heard
It seems to me that you're taking us to the torrid zone, the land of concern
Now we're completely unmoored, and reaching for the theater of the absurd

The child solder narrative in African literature


See previously: To Make the Road Fearful

The most harrowing bit of reading I've done, the transcripts of the Charles Taylor trial, prompted the scariest piece of writing I've ever published, To Make the Road Fearful. Indeed, after getting it out of my system, I couldn't write a single word for almost a year, I was simply spent.

Four years later, I received a short email from the Chief Prosecutor who was then back at the UN. My piece had been doing the rounds at the International Criminal Court and United Nations and was being well received. It seems my close reading wasn't for nought, that plumbing the depths served some purpose even beyond assuaging this reader's curiousity. I can't say enough how heartened I was by this head nod of appreciation. Still, I felt that I had no business ever tackling this subject matter. I still felt the taint of its dark matter.

Perhaps the global pause enforced by the pandemic has occasioned a soul refresh. With a little distance from that cautionary tale, I now believe I can start to mine that terrain again. Satire is tragedy plus time, a wise man once said, and the balm of time can elevate the heart of darkness into its rightful domain: the land of concern, the terrain of the absurd. Do let me know if this is an easier read than the earlier grief concoction.

Naming, a playlist

A soundtrack for this joint (spotify version)

This internal displacement is part of The Things Fall Apart Series under the banner of Doctor Simbo.


Next in Part IV: Enter Doctor Simbo

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Writing log. Concept June 2008; Prose: April 2015; Poetry: March 28, 2021

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