Thursday, June 10, 2010

Phosphorus is part of all living things. It is also used to kill things.

In 1980, Morocco was at war with the people of the Western Sahara, some of them proponents of the Saharawi Democratic Arab Republic. Backing Morocco was the U.S. government. Backing the U.S. government was Westinghouse.

The morning after arriving in Tangier I took my coffee at the café where the Englishman took his lumps the night before. Sitting down next to me was another middle-aged man, handsome in his black leather bomber and tinted aviators, which he donned to say hello.

Ca va? he said, his accent American.

Pas mal, et toi?

Can’t complain. What do you think of Morocco?

I told him I liked it, but the street hustlers were driving me crazy, always asking if I need a tour guide.

Look on the bright side, he said -- last year there were twice as many.

What happened?


They were drafted?

He chuckled then leaned over to tell me how every night young men are rounded up, fed into trucks and delivered to induction camps. From there they are tossed into the Western Sahara and told to kill Polisarios, the military arm of the proposed Saharawi nation. Less than half return.

Put off by his smugness, I responded aggressively: I see nothing wrong with a country defending itself.

Yes, he shot back, but this isn’t about sovereignty, it’s about phosphorus.

For the next half-hour I was lectured on phosphorus, how it is an essential ingredient in the formation of cell membranes, as well as fertilizers, detergents, pesticides, toothpaste and explosives -- and that there is not a lot of it, or that some places have it, while others have none. The Western Sahara has a lot of it, and that’s what people are fighting for.

At that point I thought he was a scientist. And he might have been, at one point. But that wasn’t why he was in Morocco.

Your queen was just here. A guest of King Hassan.

I told him she was not my queen.

If you were from Quebec, I might grant you that. But because you sound like you’re from Western Canada, probably the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, I’m afraid she is.

I didn’t know what to say. Technically he was right.

Last month the King invited her to a picnic, out in the desert. He made her wait three hours under an umbrella in 90-degree heat while he sat in his air-conditioned tent and played backgammon. When he emerged, it was to announce the day’s festivities: a series of falcon attacks on decommissioned carrier-pigeons.

Are you CIA? I asked.

Another chuckle. Just remember what I told you -- phosphorus.

And with that he got up and disappeared into the back of the café.

(Liz Phair)

He's just a hero
In a long line of heroes
Looking for something attractive to save
They say he rode in
On the back of a pickup
And he won't leave town
Till you remember his name

He's just a hero
In a long line of heroes
Looking for some lonely billboard to grace
They say he sprung from the skull of Athena
Think about your own head
And the headache he gave

He's just a hero
In a long line of heroes
Looking for action at a price he can pay
They say he's famous
But no one can prove it
Make him an offer just to see what he'll say

Check out the dashboard lights
Glowing all green and white
He feels safe in the dark
He wears his bluejeans tight

He's just a hero
In a long line of heroes
Looking for something attractive to save
They say he rode in
On the back of a pickup
And he won't leave town
Till you remember his name

Check out the thinning hair
Check out the aftershave
Check out America
You're looking at it babe

1 comment:

  1. Hi Michael,

    I hope you are well

    The Western Sahara issue is more complex than a phosphorus business. It's about a coloniaslism legacy. Before 1912, Morocco was united. Since than, Morocco was divided into 3 parts. The north and the south were under the Spanish governorship. The center was under the French protectorate. From 1956 till 1975, Morocco did his best to recover his sovereignty on his occupied territories. The recovering of the Western Sahara in 1975 was transformed to a sahrawi state claim by the great Colonel Kaddafi and Algeria militaries in a context of cold war and here we are. Actually, the unionist sahrawis are facing the separatists in this absurd conflict. They are supporting autonomy as the ultimate solution to the WS conflict. More to read on the WS region and the issue as well :

    Web TV :

    These websites are made by the unionist sahrawis of CORCAS, the official body composed of 141 members representing the WS tribes.

    Ahmed Salem
    Unionist Western Sahrawi