Red Hands: A Poem on Inaction Breeding Injustice

The representatives of Russia and China to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin and Liu Jieyi, signal the intent of their nations to veto a resolution pertaining to the Syrian Civil War.

The representatives of Russia and China to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin and Liu Jieyi, signal the intent of their nations to veto a Security Council resolution.

Red Hands

How void of conscience is the hand

that mandates bloodshed on foreign land?

Raise an untouched veto of defiance-

purely preserve a divisive alliance.


Natural is only his transient hesitation,

as he raises his finger

allows it heavenward to linger

in a verdict of damnation.


Now opioids will not soothe him

and the elixir’s comfort eludes him.

For the conscience has returned from its lapse:

“Was my judgement impaired perhaps?”


Driven to despair by guilt dripping

like blood from fatalities of brutality,

the realisation is dawning-

his were the actions of evil’s banality.


So he shall endure self-vilified

A mental fabric embroidered with lead

for those who so needlessly died

when he dyed his hands red.


Raees Noorbhai


The five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council-Russia, the United States, the United Kingdom, France and China-have the power to veto a resolution being considered by the body. This has allowed for these particular nations to stymie action in favor of their interests and allies, at the expense of peace and security. Hence, a fair deal of the criticism of the UN’s effectiveness can be traced back to these Security Council vetoes. This power to prevent action has contributed to the continuation of some of the world’s most horrendously violent conflict.

With the complexity of causality in mind, this poem explores the path of a (fictional) representative to the UN who vetoed on orders from his home country-and thereafter was consumed by guilt, as he felt increasingly responsible for the consequent brutality and bloodshed. It is a testament to the banality of evil and was largely inspired by the repetitive prevention of action by China and Russia on the bloody Syrian Civil War, which has now extinguished close to 170 000 lives and displaced millions more. However, as the onslaught on Gaza rages on, one can’t help but mention the dozens of times the United States has wielded its veto to prevent action being taken against crimes committed by the Israeli government.

The poem therefore is meant to prompt consideration of Security Council structural reform. It is a call for the international community to commit to concrete action and put humanitarian ideals above alliances and interests. It is, above all else, a cautionary plea for nations to give peace a chance. 


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