Thursday, April 25, 2013

'The colour of blood I'd say' -- songs on the horror of war

Today is Anzac Day, commemorating the day a contingent of Australian and New Zealand young working class men landed at Gallipoli in a bungled invasion of the Ottoman Empire on behalf of the British Empire -- and got slaughtered in weeks of horrific mass carnage of unspeakable horror. It is ridiculous and tragic in equal measure that this horrific example of industrial scale killing is used to bolster nationalism and militarism, to help justify MORE killing.

Wel, I wrote a column, my weekly Carlo's Corner for Green Left Weekly, called Gallipoli -- Never forget, and never forgive that gives my views on this issue. Rather than repeat that here, I have produced a list of songs on the horror of war (in the case of the first three, specifically on Gallipoli). Then, three songs on *responses* to the horror of war.

The list is not intended to be complete. These are just the songs that I love that occurred to me today. You got others, don't fucking complain it is not on there, put it in the goddamn comments section. You can go to a Youtube playlist based (but not 100% the same) as the list below.


'If I was asked I'd say/The colour of the Earth that day/It was dull and browny red/The colour of blood I'd say'

'Death hung in the smoke and clung to four hundred acres of useless beachfront.' All the songs, each a snapshot of the horror of war, from PJ Harvey's 2011 'Let England Shake' album are on this YouTube playlist. The lyrics of each can be read here.

'How well I remember that terrible day when our blood stained the sand and the water. And how in that Hell that they called Sulva Bay, we were butchered like lambs at the slaughter.' Liam Clancy's live version above is pretty untouchable version of this song, but for the best recorded version, you cannot go past The Pogues rendition.

'Well the suffering, the sorrow, the glory, the shame, the killing, the dying, it was all done in vain.' The sound quality on this clip is not the best, but the emotional weight of the performance makes it worth going with this version. The best recorded version is the fantastic rough-edged rendition by early folk punk band The Men They Couldn't Hang.

'Frankie kicked a mine the same day mankind kicked the moon. God help me, he was going home in June.' The Herd provide a hip hop cover of Redgum's classic about an Australian soldier sent to Vietnam.

'At least we’re winning on the Fox Evening News.' Richard Thompson on the horror of the Iraq War, the title taken from British soldier slang for 'Baghdad', filled with other pieces of slang coz 'no one dies when we're speaking double speak'.

'The smell of blood, the drone of flies. You know what to do when the baby cries. HOIST THAT RAG.' Tom Waits, asked about his 2004's Real Gone album that contained anti-war songs for the first time in his career, said singing protest songs was like "throwing peanuts at a gorilla". But Waits has a good throwing arm and his aim is true.

'How is it that the only ones responsible for making this mess got their sorry asses stapled to a goddamn desk?'

'I'm not fighting for justice. I'm not fighting for freedom. I'm just fighting for another day in the world here.'

'Yeah, you tell me that this is not a dream. I've become a steel spring. Uranium tips, night vision cruise missiles gonna cut the belly out of the sky.' The Drones perfectly capture the horror of war throughout the past century... right up to the sheer unspeakable horror of the permanent, endless so-called "war on terror". Read all the lyrics.


Bob Dylan-Masters of War(graphic) by ccharlie182

'And I hope that you die. And your death'll come soon. I will follow your casket in the pale afternoon. And I'll watch while you're lowered down to your deathbed. And I'll stand over your grave 'til I'm sure that you're dead.'

'Political scum, political scum, you lead the way, you beat the drum...' Irish American celtic punk band The Tossers give their considered view on politicians who send young working class people to kill and die. But the best response of all is....

'Right proudly high over Dublin Town they hung out the flag of war. Twas better to die 'neath an Irish sky than at Sulva or Sud El Bar.' A rising. The best response to the horror of industrial-scale slaughter for Great Power is to rise up against the Great Power -- and strike out for freedom. Ireland's 1916 Easter Rising against British rule was driven in large part by opposition to the imperialist slaughter in Europe... to keep Irish people, facing the threat of conscription being introduced by their British masters, out of the war and to strike a decisive blow at one of the Great Powers responsible for the carnage.

Sadly, they lost -- so an even better response was the Russian Revolution, which won, took Russia out of the war and was a decisive factor in ending the slaughter as the generals of all belligerent nations began to fear the example of a successful slave revolt on their ranks.


They don't quite fit, but they deserve a special mention...

'Tell me I'm a hero now, so someone else can fight this war...' Texas country singer Hayes Carll's surrealist, hallucinatory, drug-fuelled tale of a soldier in Afghanistan.

'Sent me off to a foreign land. Said go and kill the yellow man. I was born in the USA...' Worth including just because it is so misunderstood. Widely mistaken for a patriotic song, even Ronald EReagan -- to Springsteen's bemusement and anger -- used it as a presidential campaign at one point. By the 1990s, Springsteen had taken to performing the song acoustically or so stripped back (like above) that the words and their meaning were impossible to misunderstand. This song is only pro-USA is you think poverty, lack of opportunities, the send of womring class youths to foreign wars, and the abandonment of those who fight and widespread unemployment are good things. Which, in Reagan's defence, I think he actually did.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

'May the judged be their judges when they rot down in hell' -- Fuck you Maggie

What the media should do, of course, is take all their editorials and op eds about a world famous politican who has died -- with their "authoritarian" and "tyrant" descriptors and their tales of economic destruction and class hatred and rising corruption and society breakdown and support for dictators -- and just do a simple find/replace, removing "Hugo Chavez" and inserting "Margaret Thatcher". Just to save some time.

The two leaders, one who died on March 5 the other on April 8, left rather different legacies -- one, for helping the poor, at home and overseas. The other for waging war on the poor, at home and overseas.

One of these two leaders' deaths sparked widespread mourning, the other street parties. Check out these images and see if you can guess which one was the "tyrant"...


Hundreds of thousands of people accompany Hugo Chavez's coffin onthe streets of Caracas

Venezuela's streets were scenes of outpourings of grief.

Real News report on mourning for Chavez in Venezuela and beyond


Celebrations break out in Glasgow's Green Square after news of Thatcher's death.

Thousands gather outside Belfast's City Hall to celebrate news of Thatcher's death.

A street party in Liverpool with fireworks -- to mark the death of a leader who tried her hardest to destroy the city.

So a murderer and torturer, who denounced Nelson Mandela, befriended the worst dictators like Chile's General Pinochet and gave Pol Pot a helping hand has finally fucked off to Hell.

The corporate media are eulogising her and expressing "disgust" at those who have the gall to be happy at the demise of their greatest tormentor.

But even when they might feel obliged to give some nod of recognition to the savage class war Thatcher waged across Britain, there is one aspect likely to be largely ignored -- on top of Thatcher's infamous assistance to pro-Western dictators all over the world, there was Thatcher's policies of murder and torture in the cause of deepening British control over the six counties in Ireland's north.

It is well known that -- on top of the torture and abuses in prisons and the campaign of killings and repression in Ireland's north -- Thatcher's refusal to compromise in the case of the hunger strike by republican prisoners in the infamous Long Kesh camp lead directly to the death of 10 men.

Under Thatcher, the policies of repression against the Irish struggle extended onto mainland Britain, with the gross violation of the rights of Irish people living in England that included the framing by means of torture of innocent people for bombings they had nothing to do with.

Censorship is a sign of a guilty regime -- the truth cannot be allowed out. And so the censorship in Thatcher's Britain on "the Irish question" went to absurd lengths -- Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams' voice was even banned from being broadcast. But it was not just Adams' voice -- a song by a popular band that dared deal with the topic was banned from public broadcast and a TV performance of the song was pulled from the air.

The song was The Pogues "Streets of Sorrow/Birmingham Six". Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan is now better known as an irredeemable drunk, but his lyircs savaged the British state crimes against the Irish people -- in Ireland and Britain. It campaigned for freedom for the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four -- framed for bombings they didn't commit, both before Thatcher came to power, but whose suffering continued under her government while attempts to get out truth were censored.

Thatcher's regime was one that could not even bear to hear about its own crimes in a song...

...There were six men in Birmingham
In Guildford there's four
That were picked up and tortured
And framed by the law
And the filth got promotion
But they're still doing time
For being Irish in the wrong place
And at the wrong time

In Ireland they'll put you away in the Maze
In England they'll keep you for seven long days
God help you if ever you're caught on these shores
The coppers need someone
And they walk through that door

You'll be counting years
First five, then ten
Growing old in a lonely hell
Round the yard and the stinking cell
From wall to wall, and back again

A curse on the judges, the coppers and screws
Who tortured the innocent, wrongly accused
For the price of promotion
And justice to sell
May the judged be their judges when they rot down in hell...

May the whores of the empire lie awake in their beds
And sweat as they count out the sins on their heads
While over in Ireland eight more men lie dead
Kicked down and shot in the back of the head ...

'Five simple things we asked of them, five simple things denied. But Thatcher would not compromise...'

Scenes of jubilation in celebration at Thatcher's death on Falls Road in Belfast. You can hear the banging of bin lids -- a highly symbolic gesture as the banging of bin lids was used on Falls Road (and other places in the nationalist community) to announce the death of each of hte 10 young men Margaret Thatcher let starve to death in 1981.