The Chronicles of Nefaria


William A. Cook

This is the Introduction to Nefaria by Chris Cook, Editor of The Pacific Free Press.


Chris Cook

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 interment 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 tread 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.

As the winter of George W. Bush’s disastrous tenure approaches, new wars and killings vie for headline space with the older horrors we’ve become mainly inured to. Those “regular” daily outrages against humanity allowed to continue year after year, son after father after son cannot be forgotten, but neither can they be reduced to the simplicity of diametrical opposed positions.

This is not a Shakespeare tragedy, with actors familiarly enstaged: Villain and victim locked in a passion play that mutually defines and destroys them both. What William A. Cook has created is a reflection of a reality too searing for the trivial attentions of politicians and network newsreaders. It is more than merely another cri de coeur for the downtrodden of Iraq and Afghanistan and Palestine, and the too many elsewheres people are systematically brutalized. It is an urgent appeal in defense of how we define humanity, and a prayer that, like the better angel embodied by the caring nurse, it is not too late to salvage our collective soul and move finally towards the long-elusive fulfillment of the human promise.

And as for the dictators and their enablers, Cook suggests we: “Let their respective shadows fall over the wastelands they have created in their arrogance that we may learn and dream once again.”

[Chris Cook is a contributing editor to the news web site, Pacific Free Press. He’s also a ten year broadcast veteran whose program, Gorilla Radio, is broad/webcast from the University of Victoria in British Columbia, and still clings to the notion human beings are inherently good.]


Given Senator McCain’s repeated mantra that he would rather lose a campaign than lose a war while Senator Obama would rather lose a war than a campaign, I thought the following article appropriate. It is a way of introducing the voice that owns this blog.

Seeking Victory in Defeat: the Ultimate Deceit

William A. Cook

“Iraq will be a central challenge – perhaps the central challenge – for whoever succeeds President Bush and has to repair the profound damage he has wrought with a war that should never have been fought …” (Editorial, The New York Times, 1/13/2008)

It has come to this after seven years; the venerable New York Times, without acknowledging its own culpability in fermenting the President’s drive to war with its front page declarations of imminent threats from Saddam Hussein against America as reported by Judith Miller, finally acknowledges that this war “should never have been fought” and places the responsibility for its “repair” on the President that succeeds Bush. How righteous. How simply stated — “to repair the profound damage he has wrought.”

How exactly does this new President “repair” the lost lives of 4000 American soldiers and the devastation visited upon their families, mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, and children? How does he or she “repair” the broken bodies and tormented minds of those “wounded” in this war that should never have been fought? How does our newly elected leader “repair” the lives of Iraqis that have suffered in excess of a million dead, millions more forced from their homes and country, hundreds of thousands wounded, their homeland devastated, their lives lived in unending fear, years lost to aspirations and dreams. How does this leader “repair” the lives of children born in fear, raised on the field of battle, witness in youth to the terrifying screech of missiles overhead followed by a thunderous blast, the ear pounding rat-a-tat-tat of the machine guns “everlasting roar,” the sudden thud and collapse of the door followed by monstrous figures cloaked in battle array with guns pointed, shouting unintelligible sounds, thrusting brothers and father against walls, turning over chairs and tables, and then, just as suddenly, rush from the house as the child screams and runs to its mother, weeping at her knees.

How does this individual, thrust into office the day after the perpetrator of this havoc retreats to his ranch in Texas, “repair” America’s reputation in the mid-east? How does America turn again to its founding values when this man has mocked them and made them worthless in the eyes of the world, a deceptive sham used to propel an elite few to power with the full complicity of our once lauded free press? How does he or she apologize for America’s ravaging of Iraq? How does he or she convince the countries of the mid-east that we are no longer supportive of the criminal acts perpetrated against Arabs in Afghanistan, Darfur, Sudan, Somalia, and Palestine? Is it too late to turn to respect for other peoples who live by other values, worship gods we do not recognize, seek goals we do not understand, dress differently, speak different languages, and live by philosophies we have yet to comprehend? Can he or she abandon Bush’s evangelical manifest destiny that requires America to force his reading of “God’s will,” that America is destined to inflict its monetary, Capitalistic form of Democracy on every nation on the planet, and find instead a humane compassion and true tolerance for those different from ourselves?

How does America “repair” what “never should have been done”? Who will the New York Times hold accountable for “the profound damage” “he has wrought”? Have they “editorialized” the absolute need to bring those responsible for this war, that “should never have been fought,” to account through impeachment? Have they held themselves accountable? Have they offered to the American people a sincere contrition for their culpability and restitution to those most affected by its devastation? Have they undertaken a true investigative reporting that would analyze how this war was foisted on the American people, who is responsible, who gains by such deception, what feigned “American” interests were deceptively used to bring this “war” that “should never have been fought” to reality, and offer thereby some protection against future betrayal by our elected leaders? Have they considered the words of our former finance czar, Alan Greenspan, that the “war” was about “oil,” and our soldiers served to make its availability to the transnational energy companies a certainty, a kind of “welfare” for the well-healed lest they have to “buy” the product on the open market and suffer less profit?

How does this new President seek victory when the “war” “should never have been fought”? Does “victory” exist for those who “should never have died,” for those who live the remainder of their lives without arms or legs or a sound mind, for the children of Iraq whose lives have been twisted by the awful sinews of sinister sounds, screaming missiles, and sonic vibrations, for the land of Iraq that is now devastated, a veritable monument of rubble, that proclaims our presence in a land where we “should never have been”? What is victory in a “war” when the act of “war” was deception, a fostered belief in what was never true? What banners will proclaim our triumph in the caverns of Wall Street when our soldiers come home? What truths can they proclaim if the truth is that this nation suffered the consequences the lies its President and Congress and complicit think tanks fostered to enact their war, lies that led to death and debt?

Perhaps its time for the New York Times and all those who shoved this nation into a war that “should never have been fought” to take responsibility for the crimes they committed and foster instead a time of reconciliation and respect for both the Iraqi people and the American people. They have been the victims of this war, not those who deceived to bring about the havoc and suffering. We cannot seek victory in defeat resulting from deceit; but we can seek retribution for those responsible and, with a respectful hand, go forward with the Iraqi people to bring about a new Iraq where victory will be defined by dignity and friendship.