by William A. Cook
Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s organs are failing and he remains in critical condition Thursday, …” (CNN.com, 01/02/2014).
For six years, Ariel Sharon, former Prime Minister of the State of Israel from 2000-2006, has been kept alive, though he has been in a comatose state, unable to talk or communicate naturally. The Times of Israel, the Huffington Post, Haaretz, and Britain’s Guardian have recognized his impending death. Perhaps it is time to bring closure to this man, known as the “butcher of Beirut” for his massacre at the refugee camps in that city, Sabra and Shatila:
“The massacre lasted for three days (16, 17 and 18 of September 1982), approximately 3500-8000 persons, including children, infants, women and elderly were slaughtered and murdered in this horrific and gruesome massacre perpetrated by the Israeli army and its allied criminal militia.” (Global Research)
For six years I tracked the behavior of this man as he deceitfully and artfully managed to control the fumbling President of the United States publicly remarking that Israel controlled the United States and they know it. Two of my books mark that tracking: ‘Tracking Deception: Bush Mid-East Policy’ and ‘The Rape of Palestine: Hope Destroyed, Justice Denied.’
“A bitter winter welcomes the annual Sacred Season of Forgiveness and Retribution in William A. Cook’s fictional Nefaria. Fading in and out of lucidity, suspended between life and oblivion, the once all-powerful leader lay in a coma, his bodily functions aided by the latest medical machinery. Too sick to rise, and too mean to die, the figure under the thin cerecloth reminds of Greene’s Harry Lime, the character whose final internment was resisted, “as if nature were doing its best to reject him.”
In this case, the frozen leader’s condition denies him life, while his odious nature and the sheer weight of his crimes seem too great a burden for even Hell’s consideration. He is alone now, none knowing of his moments of motionless awareness, or caring about his fate. Ignored by former colleagues and written off as a lost cause by his celebrity doctors, only his nurse, a lowly member of the despised underclass, remains to minister to the Father of the Nation.
Cook’s narrative takes place within a disturbingly familiar world of injustice, brutality, and unbearable human misery. As in the “real” world, most of the suffering is borne by a population living under the heel of a military occupation that dominates their daily lives. Similar too to our world, the dividing line between occupier and the occupied is determined by race and religion and reinforced by guns, concrete and razor wire.
The colonialists of fictional Nefaria have created for the displaced indigenous people a walled ghetto, where every aspect of existence depends on the goodwill of their often capricious jailers. A fragmented remnant of what was once their home, the landscape serves as metaphor for the unnatural existence of the inhabitants on both sides of the ubiquitous barriers that dissect the territory.
Nefaria is also a tale of parallel personal worlds: The stricken leader, doomed to lay comatose and forgotten in a hospital wrestling his demons, and the attendant “angel,” whose service to the man singly most responsible for the disaster that has befallen her people is her way of fighting to maintain her humanity. Trapped, the man who engineered and administered the slow erasure of a population has only his life and its litany of transgressions against life to occupy his mind between the sweet ministrations of a nurse who refuses to surrender to hate.
Fact and fiction flicker in this account of the miserable conditions created by a settler society that both demonizes and depends upon the natives it trammels under foot and crushes beneath the iron treads of tanks and bulldozers. We need only to tune in to the nightly news to witness the sorry reality Cook’s fiction relates: War, rumours of war, and worst of all, the soul deadening daily cruelty a grinding occupation with no end in sight demands.
Nefaria is an accounting as apt for the bitter betrayal of the planet’s promise in our young century, a promise disappointed by war and the occupations, as it is for those trapped in the afflicted non-fictional territories where the worst of human nature routinely plays out. He details the relentless humiliation suffered under a generational occupation that daily murders individuals with impunity while collectively punishing the population, and notes the pursuit of an inexorable push toward the final extermination of an entire people.
The victims of the intended genocide also fight; they resist with guns and bombs and rockets and stones, but the real battle is within each individual to preserve the “angels of our better nature.” Refusing to descend to the unreasoned hatred that drives the endless cycle of hate, oppression and destruction, the young nurse’s devotion to her higher angels is the only roadmap out of the morass; she is exemplar and her resistance is the only hope for our, and Nefaria’s future.”
With this as introduction let me relate the last moments of this fictional butcher of Beirut’s life. This excerpt comes in the final chapter, “Retribution,” as fitting a thought for the living as for the dead, the one as comfort that justice has been done while for the Prime Minister a revelation of what might have been.
“But unbeknownst to Humilia and Carita the Patient falls into a deep sleep in the depths of which he finds himself surrounded by adulating crowds of Pilgrims standing on the steps of the capitol building, stretching as far as his eyes can see down Ypocrisis Street, all waving Nefarian flags, chanting the national anthem as bands play and balloons float above the masses into the deep blue sky of this glorious fall evening. He stands there beneath the cornice that displays in high relief images of the prophets turned in profile toward the center piece, the distinctive state seal of Nefaria, dressed in his general’s white uniform garlanded with green and red sashes, epaulets and rows of colorful ribbons, a cluster of stars crowning the blue rim of his beaked hat as attendants flank him on either side each holding one of the banners symbolic of the seven days of the sacred season of forgiveness and retribution. He thrusts his hands above his head pointing to the sky and smiles at the crowd, acknowledging their homage to him as the accepted leader of the Nefarian state.
As the music swells into a triumphant march on this seventh day of great victory, he descends the stairs to make his way out of the walls of the ancient city of Desperia and into the covenanted lands of Elusia, and the crowds part like waves providing him a colorful causeway down Ypocrisis Street. On either side, enormous images of him as a young soldier, as General, as a devout worshipper in the Assembly Hall, as a candidate for high office, as Defense Minister, as diplomat and, finally, as Prime Minister glow in the blue glass of the high rise buildings that line the street replacing the billboard images of beautiful girls, vacation homes by the sea, and beauty products usually displayed. The entire assembly moves in unison through the old city toward the eastern gate flowing like a river that ebbs and flows from side to side as the causeway continues to open in advance of the conquering general and his entourage. All bow humbly as he passes murmuring ancient prayers from the prophecies of Thorthana. He acknowledges their worshipful manner with a raised hand in benediction looking very much the regal Lord of the imperial state of Nefaria.
When he arrives at the eastern-most gate in the old walled city, the crowd slows respectfully to allow him to pass. The soldiers open the massive wooden planked gate that gapes beneath the parapets like a huge mouth; he passes through with the crowd following slowly, an elongated pulsing snake that slides past the open doors as he continues down the narrow alleys of Elusia, the same route that Humilia had taken when she went to Joyoa. His route now turns north running parallel to the new wall that he erected to enclose the Elusians. This gray monolith rises abruptly out of the alleyway, 25 feet high, blocking out everything to the west, including ancient sections of Elusia, now a part of Nefaria, buildings that had been home for Elusians for centuries lost forever to the encroaching Nefarians.
He turns toward the right going east up the steep hills crowded with dirty and decaying white blocked buildings stacked upon each other, housing for the thousands of Elusians jammed into this small patch of land. When he reaches the crest of the rise before it swings back toward the west, he turns to see the Pilgrims swarming through the streets, small black forms darting hither and thither, disappearing into side alleys and streets, flowing now up the hill through every crevice like vermin infesting an enormous refuse pile. He notices the black clouds forming in the west far over the city of Desperia and feels the cold wind lashing his face causing his eyes to water.
His triumphant parade through the streets turns menacingly into a funeral cortège where a slow mournful wail replaces the brilliant tone of the triumphant march, where deep purple and blue-black banners draping coffins pulled by mourners replace the bright white and blue flags and gold lined banners that billow in the morning breeze, and dark ominous clouds slink through the streets and alleyways both inside the old city and beyond its gates replacing the warm blue sky that glowed in the evening sun when he stood under the state seal on Ypocrisis Street.
Nothing prepared him for this horrific vision and nothing he can do as he lies in his black tomb can stop its ineluctable sway over his dreaming mind. Fear envelopes him, a fear far worse than the adrenalin rush of battle, fear that sears the soul with the indelible mark of the traitor, known now in his heart as the reality of his life, never to be forgotten, never to be forgiven, ever to be the icon of betrayal, treachery, and ridicule.
But the nightmare continues. As he climbs the hills of east Elusia, skeletons waving the green banner of the Elusian people stream out of the houses that line the streets; they join the cortege that pulls the coffins, a train of coffins that moves up the hill from the gate below each carried by cowled figures, three to a side, all chanting a sorrowful dirge that hovers as threateningly above the scene as the black clouds that now envelop Desperia. A black pall descends over all the land from the walls of the old city and over every hill and valley in Elusia. His dream becomes the reality of his existence; in his comatose body, he’s become the image of Elusia, the barren, impotent, discarded land that he has turned into a wasteland teeming with hordes of humans who seek solace, comfort, joy, and hope, but live in suffering, imprisonment, injustice and helplessness, a people lost on the world’s stage, victims of indifference, malice, racism and fear.
But as he crests the top of the hill that looks north toward Joyoa, he turns once again to observe the strange scene spread out below him, a dark loathsome scene where Pilgrims swarm like maggots, crawling over the skeletons, the emptied houses and streets and byways that stagger up the hill toward the Patient; the banners of the sacred days they hold aloft, ripped now by the blistering wind, snap in the cold air oblivious to their sacred significance.
He sees through the heavy fog that envelopes the hills, he hears the weeping and wailing of the cowled figures who bare the coffins of the Elusian dead, he stares in disbelief as the entombment wall he’s erected looms over him as though it had wrenched loose from its foundations and marches forward, coming closer as the moments pass. He turns in fright from this funereal scene and looks to Joyoa. There in the distance to the east, the sun glints through the black sky, a sliver at first, but it grows as he watches the landscape slowly come into view. To the right and to the left the enormous gray wall stretches as far as he can see converging in the sun’s glare on the horizon. Then, suddenly, it too appears to move as he stands transfixed on this crest from which he can see the ancient city of Desperia and the barren wastes of Elusia. But as the wall moves towards him, it blocks out the sun throwing shadows over all the land, casting a dark shroud over his mind as though it had no light to illuminate his world, destroying forever his dreams of a resurrected Nefaria and his aspirations to eternal glory as Emperor.
The horror of the scene surrounds him now on every side; the walls move like sidewinders closing in on him, growing in size as they sweep over distant hills and down into the valleys pushing trees, houses, bushes, stones and sand before their massive bulk, ever closer, ever larger, high menacing, cement monstrosities that turn day into night, burying alive all inside. And he stands frozen before this implacable force fearing his ultimate end; helpless, he glances back at Desperia just as it sinks beneath the sand in a thunderous roar of lashing wind and hail. He stares in disbelief as he watches the Pilgrims slide backward, down the streets and alleys, arms flailing, legs slipping beneath them as they see the gaping cavity created by the sink hole that forms under the weight of the wall and into which Desperia slips where billowing clouds of dust belch forth from below, and he hears the wailing cries of all the faithful as they hurtle toward the abyss that beckons the legions of Pilgrims to their everlasting doom.
Now in absolute terror, he turns suddenly to the east only to confront the wall as it encircles him, its gray mass towering above him as he searches for the light in the evening sky. But all has turned to darkness as he lowers his eyes to confront his own visage in the mirrored wall in front of him, a mirror that reflects the horrid scene behind him and the heinous face that stares back at him, for there in that massive mirror he sees the crown of Nefaria on top of his gray hair that sticks out over his ears, the crown of ancient wisdom worn these many centuries by all the kings and prophets of past civilizations, ensconced on his skull, his eye sockets sunk deep into the bone, black, ominous, blind to the reality they allegedly observe, and, most horrendous of all, his mouth, swarming with maggots, a gaping hole laid back in a terrible sneer as though he laughs at himself, nay, mocks himself – the icon of clownish diversion, the butt of ridicule and savage sterility. In that moment he realizes he is witness within his own grave of his corrupted self, the ultimate end of all his acts, the final quintessential glory of his horrifying journey through life, when suddenly the mirrored wall towering over him cracks in a thousand places piercing the ever tightening walls of his tomb as the shovel’s dirt cascades onto his coffin and all goes silent.
His mind erupts in horrifying terror, the vision imprinted indelibly on his consciousness. Time may not exist in his frozen isolation, but for the first time he feels a future, undefined perhaps, yet marked with the existential threat of Thorthana’s prophecy of ultimate retribution.
Humilia! My Angel, where are you? I’ve suffered such a dream, a hellish vision seared into my soul so deeply … my life now, reduced to unending reflection, transforms me into an image of human depravity, decades of days devoted to destruction, desolation and death, the sum purpose of my being … I cannot recall a day when I did not cause the death or torture or demolition of an Elusian life. I travel now in this hellish pit through fields of Elusian dead, their bodies form moguls on which I walk, their eyes staring up at me in disbelief and, yet, with sorrow for me. I move through fields of loss where the air stirs, surrounding me like the gentle pulse of a person’s breath, the breath of life never lived. Nightmarish visions of countless days of thinking without interruption … mutilated faces stare at me, children, children as far as I can see shrouded in the shadows of the massive gray wall, never to see the sun, or know the thrill of running through the hills of Elusia … to have to live in this rumination of my atrocities hour upon hour, to face the punishment of the Almighty, to see and feel the pain and suffering I have inflicted on others … that is a hell beyond comprehension … to live to remember and never die, to relive the insidious toxic beliefs I’ve infested our children with that will be their inheritance forever, a mental and emotional tomb in which they live every day of their life. And, God forbid, to never speak to another, to confess to those deceived and destroyed, to bear witness to this understanding in the awful silence of this vault where I lie alone, the sole arbiter of my acts – without comfort, without compassion, without forgiveness, without end. Oh, God, Humilia, what have I done?
Even as her Patient laments the agony of his abandonment, his awful, never ending torment, the ever recurring images of his brutality toward the Elusians flows forth from some unexplainable depth within, where despair and hopelessness reside, and he cries out to Humilia to talk to him, to sing to him, to touch him, to forgive him that he may rest, relieved of the horrific retribution thrust upon him.
But while Humilia cannot see his torment, she feels the anguishing cry that tears at his mind unable to erupt from his throat, the ancient wail of all who suffer beyond the ears of their sisters and brothers, lost, forgotten, the dying detritus of human waste, known to none, abandoned and forlorn in the shifting sand where even the wind whines like a banshee’s cry drowning the lone lament of the suffering Patient in the abyss into which Nefaria sinks to become only the last of all the glorious empires that live and die in these middle kingdoms where human desire and greed meet their ineluctable end.”
Critics will quibble with the unnecessary intrusion of allegory when the narrative clearly focuses on a living man and his years as Prime Minister of Israel. But in our Post-Modern world there is clearly no distinction between fictional devices and reality. We’ve put the illusion aside if only to show that the more gripping reality portrayed heretofore in fiction is only made possible by the tricks of the trade. Here we include them to blunt the feelings of the overly sensitive; let them choose to hide in fiction lest the evil of our world propel them into the slough of despond.
Other writers in other times drew inspiration from ancient kings and emperors; indeed, Shakespeare created his greatest masterpieces by bringing the dead back to life, Caesar, Cleopatra, Henry, Richard. Yet his purpose was to reflect on these images as they mirrored the reality in his own day. Why, I would ask, not use what is at hand, if in the mirror, they reflect a finer image of human degradation than the emperors of old?
I look at our world, the last sixty years of the 20th century, the years of my life, and I realize the barbarity inflicted by our leaders surpassed that of all prior centuries. I had dreams that this new century would usher in a time of peace and understanding, yet we live now, even in this first decade, only a continuation of the past and a prophecy of unending war waged by those in the west who claim to represent the advanced civilizations on the planet.
Why resurrect images from the past? Have we not the very essence of allegorical evil resident in the Prime Minister of Nefaria and the Emperor of the United Corporate States? Let their respective shadows fall over the wastelands they have created in their arrogance that we may learn and dream once again.
About the author
Prof. William A. Cook is Professor of English at the University of La Verne in southern California. He serves as senior editor at MWCNEWS. His commentary and analysis have been featured in several online publications. He is author of The Rape Of Palestine: Hope Destroyed, Justice Denied, Tracking Deception: Bush Mid-East Policy and The Chronicles Of Nefaria. The Plight of the Palestinians: a Long History of Destruction by Dr. William A. Cook is out now, available to order from Palgrave Macmillan! His work that has spanned the Bush era up to now resulted in 100s of articles and three books.