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Zero Dark Thirty: Shit Talking With Joe & Cheryl

Cheryl & I watched Zero Dark Thirty, drove home in silence and turned on the tape. It’s a lazy late night conversation. Listen to it while going to bed.


The next morning I happened to be reading Twain on the massacres of Filipinos by American forces between 1899 and 1901. On relating the assassination of General Aguinaldo’s emissaries and his subsequent capture, Twain notes how our forces then were both excellent students of war as well as innovators.  On “Black-Ops”: “By the custom of war it is permissible, in the interest of an enterprise like the one under consideration, for a brigadier general (if he so choose) to persuade or bribe a courier to betray his trust; to remove the badges of his rank and disguise himself; to lie, to practice treachery, to forge; to associate with himself persons properly fitted by training and instinct for the work; to accept of courteous welcome, and assassinate the welcomers while their hands are still warm, from the friendly handshake.”

The General in question is Frederick Funston, who, previous to this assassination, accepted food from Aguinaldo in a state of distress. And here’s the innovation Twain notes: “When a man is exhausted by hunger to the point where he is “too weak to move,” he has a right to make supplication to his enemy to save his failing life; but if he take so much as one taste of that food–which is holy, by the precept of all ages and all nations–he is barred from lifting his hand against that enemy for that time….This is the first time in the annals of the human race that that gracious custom has been smitten in the face. ” The progress continues.

Filed under: Reviews

About the Author

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Joe Hall is the author of five books of poetry, including Someone's Utopia (2018) and Fugue & Strike (forthcoming). His poems, reviews, and scholarship have appeared in Poetry Daily, The Academy of American Poets Poem-A-Day, Postcolonial Studies, Peach Mag,, PEN America Blog, Poetry Northwest, Ethel Zine, Gulf Coast, Best Buds! Collective, and Eighteenth-Century Fiction. He has taught poetry workshops for teachers, teens, and workers through Just Buffalo and the WNYCOSH Worker Center.

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