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‘How The West Was Won’ – A Song For Shaker Aamer
25 Jun 2011

Over a year ago I went to see Andy Worthington and Polly Nash’s brilliant documentary ‘Outside the Law, Stories from Guantánamo’. I wrote a paper about it here. It is the kind of film you can’t shake off. It leaves you with a lingering sense of what it might mean to be arbitrarily captured, tortured, humiliated and left without any plausible hope of reprieve. It evokes the cataclysmic trauma and despair, the heavy grief of all those stolen years. One British resident still flounders in this zone of no jurisdiction. He is Shaker Aarmer. There is no legal reason for his continued incarceration. He has never been charged with a crime and there is no reliable evidence against him. After seeing Andy and Polly’s film I was haunted by Aamer’s plight, by the suffering of his wife who still lives in Battersea where she has been repeatedly hospitalized with nervous breakdowns – and by the awareness that, while I look forward to going out for dinner tonight in London, Shaker Aamer is still in Guantánamo

I wrote this song in his honor. It is not explicitly about him, but it is for him. The imagery in the song mocks the islamaphobic motifs of ‘oppressed’ burqa-clad women, opium trafficking warlords, violent husbands and clandestine plots to enrich uranium. Pondering on this picture it is clear Aamer is one of countless souls enduring hell for our so-called freedom. When I wrote this song, it struck me that this is nothing new. What we refer to as ‘the Enlightenment’ always flourished at the expense of others. European nation states were built on the backbreaking toil of nameless foreigners. Still today, the so-called equality, individualism and liberty we are encouraged to celebrate, invariably relies upon someone else, somewhere else being denied it. In this case, it is Shaker Aamer.

How the West Was Won (a song for Shaker Aamer)

They said they saw me coming

down the foothills of my mountain,

where the women just drink the poison

and the men just kick your jaw in,

where the wells are jinxed with ginseng

by warriors doped up on opium,

where the law men are fictitious

and out desperation get’s ridiculous

You’re only just when you

pull me down down down

a peg or two

If you’re honest to God and men

I’d bend my back in two

to defend you my friend

They mocked me in my chamber

with the women there licking peaches

for boys hell bent on parading me

in my maniacals and my britches

They said ‘Son you must be putting me on.

You know I can get heated.

I’ll just make you like your uranium:

vicious and depleted.’

You’re only just when you

pull me down down down

a peg or two

If you’re honest to God and men

I’d bend my back in two

to defend you my friend

So I wont be back this summer

cause the militiamen got my number

They recorded it to the letter

I sing ‘mama, mama make it better.’

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