By Alexander Billet
So it's official, and has been for some time: most people think the war sucks! The US is undeniably mired in a Middle-East version of Vietnam; Iraqis clearly don't want troops there, soldiers and veterans alike are starting to speak out publicly against the occupation, and the unpopularity of the war is so solid that a quarter million marched on DC last week. Ehren Watada, the first West Point graduate officer to refuse to go to Iraq, goes on trial this week. His case is getting worldwide attention, and really makes it clear how profoundly wrong this war is. It looks like we might actually have the beginnings of an anti-war movement on our hands!
It's pretty amazing looking back on the past five years and remembering the atmosphere of jingoism and fear that sprung up after 9/11. From the beginning, there has been opposition to the so-called "war on terror." People worldwide weren't all so keen on the idea of endless war. But the feelings of fear and defeat was big, and made it easy for the Bush gang to do as it pleased. Not so true anymore. So, in honor of the great potential out there, I have put together a short list of songs released since 9/11 that have openly took on the US' drive to war. Some have been massively popular, others underground hits, others outright banned and vilified by the record industry. But all have done what music does best; spoken the truth and kept people strong. The best song pulls you out of your isolated, alienated place and tells you to keep going, even in the face of all odds. These did that. If you don't know these songs, go download them. If you do, listen to them again, take their message, and go build a better world with them.
In no particular order:
1. MIA-Bucky Done Gun
Who knows better what military aggression looks like than the daughter of a Tamil rebel? MIA has it all: musical ability, a flashy attitude, and the heart and soul to speak up when she thinks something ain't right. All of these have made her music so popular that US immigration banned her from entering the US last summer! Now that's power!
2. Bloc Party-The Price of Gas
Kele Okereke has come under scrutiny ever since he decided that he didn't have to be mindless just because he's a musician. The gay-baiting hasn't stopped since he came out, and now he's apparently coming under fire for criticizing Jack White's complete apathy to the world's social ills. Forget that; these guys are one of the most important bands in rock music right now and Okereke is completely right! Bloc Party's lyrics are so metaphorical and poetic that it's sometimes hard to pull a message from them, but it's pretty clear that this song takes on the connections between consumerism and war. Fuck you, Jack; I'm with Kele!
3. Michael Franti and Spearhead-Bomb the World
"You can bomb the world to pieces/you can't bomb it into peace." Franti has that rare talent to take anger against war and turn it into simple yet eloquent gems like this one. Though I may get some criticism for not including something off of Spearhead's more recent album "Yell Fire," I truly think that this song is one of the best stated cases against this whole war. Franti and co make it clear how upside down priorities are in a world that can spend on war but not on schools and food, all wrapped up in a unique blend of soul, funk, hip-hop, and folk. Unforgettable.
4. Sage Francis-Makeshift Patriot
Banned from radio after 9/11! And it's easy to see why. A month after the attacks, and Sage has the guts to question the imminent wars and rollbacks on civil liberties that were being whipped up in the public's mind. I think even the skeptics would have to say that five year later everything this intelligent and gutsy MC talked about was proven right as rain.
5. Steve Earle-Rich Man's War
There are times when I truly believe that this man is the reincarnation of Woody Guthrie! This folky-country ballad states it like none other. "Just another poor boy going to fight a rich man's war." It's class analysis minus the textbooks, and merely reiterates what we all know; that wars are declared by the rich and fought by the poor. The song is simple and straightforward, but it's hard to think anyone would have any real argument agaisnt what he says in the lyrics.
The list is far from done. As a matter of fact, I've barely scratched the surface! I know I've overlooked a lot, so let me know what exactly I've missed! Come on, we sure as hell can't stop a war by ourselves, so let's make this list a collective effort too! Send me your suggestions. Only qualification is that it be written since 9/11 (in keeping with the idea that resistance to this war has been brewing for five years), and that it be relatively well-known (please, no emailing me and saying "my band and I wrote this anti-war song, and it's really good, so can you include it?"). I'll post people's suggestions periodically.