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An airplane lands with a hundred liars on board.
The city greets them with a handful of flowers,
With a smell of naphthalene and sweat,
With a wind from the plains of Asia.
Beneath the floodlights the liars say
In fifty languages: We are against the war.
Quietly, I consider the liars to be right,
The liars are telling the truth, but
Why do they need fifty hours
For a single sentence?
When they depart, the flowers have turned gray.
The ashtrays overflow with butts joined in solidarity,
With unswerving cigar stubs
And unconquerable stumps.
Peace is swimming in the spittoons.
In the White House, under the floodlights
The honest people announce at the same hour
A new truth. The war is growing.
Only the liars are unswerving.
In the White House, the flowers are fresh,
The spittoons have been disinfected
And the ashtrays are as clean as bombs.
A blast of wind passes over the city,
A wind from the plains of Asia. A throttled woman
Whistles this way, as she battles for her life.
–Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Friedenskongreß in: Die Gedichte p. 270 (1983) (S.H. transl.)
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp
From the June 2014 issue
Number of countries thought to possess chemical weapons:
Placebos are more effective if the drugs for which they stand in are said to be more expensive.
In Torrance, California, an African grey parrot named Nigel, who once spoke English with a British accent and had returned home after a four-year absence, began asking for someone named “Larry” and speaking Spanish.
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“I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.”