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War Songs..Next Stop's Iraqistan

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I got 2 text messages from my son last night, one saying he realised I would be asleep as it was after 10.00 (!). It added that he had seen a programme about Vietnam and he was moved by the bravery of the vets who had been so much part of the peace movement. The other, angry, saying CNN should show the dead vets from Iraq in close up to stop the recruitment.

I was caught between pride that he has the same view as his old man and fear that he would live his life similarly, permanently disappointed that we continue to allow our children to be set up like this.

'If I should die, think only this of me: That there's some corner of a foreign field that is for ever England. There shall be in that rich earth a richer' ...etc etc. Brooks was making a point which helped many widows and sweethearts after the 'Great War'. This was noble and your friends who died were preserving civilisation.

People are a bit sharper now... 'a foreign field that is forever Exxon' does not have the same resonance or ability to help you forgive the Kaiser or King for your wonderful son's death. Great War? Oh boy.

When I heard the new Dixie Chicks song 'Not Ready to Make Nice' I did some internetting and noted the bad time they were getting in the States because of their stance on Iraq. There are others including Jackson Browne and Neil Young who have also stood up. However we need more.

I have written lots on the impact of American music on the world and war songs have featured a lot, of course, as war is such a part of Americana .War songs figure very much in any consideration of popular songs and the Americans are no less adept at them than any other type. And what a history.


When 'Johnnie Comes Marching Home', is a wonderful tune but could not be released now due to its blatant 'cut and run' bias. The Civil War produced some other crackers. "As we were burning our way through Georgia" went through the spin machine and was subtly altered.

The Civil War still casts a spell. 'The night they drove old Dixie down' and Elton John's 'My Father's Gun' are just the ones I know. I bet there are lots more in the US, where the idea that they slaughtered their own in such ghastly numbers is re-enacted by communities with nothing better to do. Well the TV is not great.

I have previously suggested how you can use the Civil War to talk to Right Wing Americans without alienating them. I said that if the talk turns 'Military' avoid obvious sore points such as Iraq and instead steer the conversation towards the Civil War, where brave young men died defending their lands. Gently point out that all soldiers fight better defending their homes. (Talk about the Finns, for example, rather than wax on about the Russians at Stalingrad again.)

The Civil War was dreadful, not a lot worse than, say, the Crimean War from the same era, but a great shock to a young, idealistic country like the US, whereas this was business as usual for the Europeans. You can cosy up to Southern Conservatives by saying the Civil War was less about freeing slaves, more about the North gaining markets. Straight afterwards, you can discuss socialism. Only kidding, wait an hour or two.

Back to the songs. Where have all the flower people gone? What are we fighting for? I ain't going to study you Masters of War no more. Who will take up the challenge? Did Madonna really cancel her anti war song because of Iraq or was that a bad dream?

The answer, my friend ....

 

'Hamish ' is an antiwar writer socialist- scientist and musician living in Scotland.

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