The Not-This-War Mix: Mix as Commentary

Julian Halliday

I wanted to write something about the increasing probability of war, about the desperate teeth-gritting insistence with which Bush and Blair approach the topic. I wanted to say something about how Bush reminds me of a child with its fingers in its ears saying nyaa nyaa nyaa nyaa…I’m not listening, because it doesn’t want to be, won’t be, told no. I wanted to write an essay pulling together all the strands of absurdity, banal folly, transparent interest, historical know-nothingness, political opportunism, and simple bloodthirsty lack of imagination and willingness to blunder into slaughter. I wanted to write about the weird calculus that insists a war is ‘clean’ – nay, surgical – if “our” losses amount only to a tiny fraction of “theirs.” I wanted to point out that it would be good for everyone to be aware about the relationship between Rumsfeld and Saddam Hussein, detailed in an article in the Washington Post on-line (“U.S. Had Key Role in Iraq Buildup: Trade in Chemical Arms Allowed Despite Their Use on Iranians, Kurds”, By Michael Dobbs, Washington Post Staff Writer, Monday, December 30, 2002; Page A01), and to juxtapose this with the history of casual brutality to which the US, among others, has subjected the Kurds, and with the craven attempts of the Bush administration – does anyone remember? – to argue that one motive for the war in Afghanistan was to liberate women, even as they acted positively to do the opposite in a host of contexts, national and international; and to wonder whether the women of Iraq, pummeled by a decade of sanctions and now squarely in the sights of “our” military, were currently on the agenda.

But it was too much. So instead I made a mix-CD and then I wrote about it, the mix providing a nifty armature on which to hang a disparate series of comments on the topic, while at the same time introducing the usual host of accidental and adventitious juxtapositions and unexpected resonances. A mix is, or can be, almost olfactory in its ability to summon memories, to conjure new syntheses, to suggest alternative readings of texts familiar and unknown. A mix is necessarily incoherent at some level, since the lyrics and the tone of the pieces are never precisely right for the occasion; but at the same time, the incoherent and accidental character of the overall structure – no matter how well-planned it may be – can articulate a sort of commentary (a, forgive me, meta-commentary) on the muddled constellation of motives and actions the mix addresses.

 A Pro-War Excursus

Right, so I’m referring to a complex and not necessarily well-defined set of motives pushing the US toward war, with Tony Blair (but not, increasingly, opinion in the UK) bobbing in its wake. But it is impossible to discount the arguments made in favor of war by people outside the Bush administration, and beyond those who are reflexively hawkish, and whose judgment I’ve been liable to trust.  Most of these do not dabble in ahistorical parallels from appeasement prior to WWII, or from policies of ‘containment’ during the Cold War. I mention them, not simply to set up straw figures in order to topple them, but because my anti-war sentiment does not proceed from a straightforward pacifism, an opposition to all uses of force. I am happy to demonize Bush, Condi, Rummy, and their ilk – as dinosaurs, as intellectually incurious, as historically ignorant, as in the throes of the most dangerous kind of blinkered arrogance; but at the same time, it’s foolish to assume that the pro-war camp has no argument, that no case can be made.

For instance, William Shawcross (author of Sideshow: Kissinger, Nixon and the Destruction of Cambodia) sees a need for it. He argues (in The Guardian, 27 January 2003) that “I simply do not believe that America and Britain would be acting in this way unless Iraq has weapons of mass destruction.” This is, I feel, a piece of logic remarkable mostly for the degree of its willed naïveté. But it’s hard to square that with Shawcross’s indictment of US policy in Southeast Asia, so one has to pause when encountering his name in this context.

Christopher Hitchens – who, if the truth be told, I no longer trust – is for it; his principal logic appears to be that just because “we” do not topple all oppressors does not mean we should not topple this bad one.  Unfortunately, his polemics on the subject clearly have as much to do with his current personal struggle, an ongoing disavowal of, and disentanglement from, progressive and left politics, as with actual long-term considerations in the Middle East. Hitchens mentions Saddam’s use of genocidal weapons, but when confronted with the point that this was known long ago when Hussein was ‘our’ client, and did not then spur an invasion, responds with a marginally elaborated version of “two wrongs don’t make a right.” He also – and in this he has been consistent – claims to support the Kurds, for instance against the depredations of a fire-and-forget US policy under Kissinger. Why he believes the aftermath will be any different this time – why, with the example of Afghanistan before him, he believes that social justice and sectarian contentment will follow in the wake of the proposed operation – remains unclear.

Salman Rushdie also sees a humanitarian case for war. He uses the term “regime change,” which – together with WMD, or Weapons of Mass Destruction – is one of the two most interesting and complex markers in the debate. Rushdie, while uniquely positioned to comment on “brutal oppression in a Muslim nation,” appears to ignore the point that Saddam Hussein is primarily a secular leader (compared, say, to our ‘allies’ the Saud family or, for that matter, the evangelicals currently policing attendance at “Bible Study” in the Bush White House), and that the fundamentalism that he decries is precisely that from which the US’s attention is now distracted by – I insist – an access of avarice, the perception of a window of opportunity to move in on the world’s second largest known oil reserves.

Undoubtedly almost all the peoples of Iraq (for they are plural) will be better off once Saddam Hussein is displaced from power, assuming that something better follows. Liberation from brutality clearly is a moral imperative. The assumption is a large one, however. And, taking a broader view, justice in the Middle East really should be a prime concern of the US and Europe, not least for self-interested reasons – to combat a variety of oppressions produced in our name, and to remove from play those potent causes for resentment. But it is these causes that Bush and his coterie seem so avid to augment. One of the chief instances of incoherence in US policy has been the proliferation of US bases, from Yemen to Uzbekistan, sited so as to be ready to respond to crises that their very presence foments. (It’s interesting to note that almost one third of the land area of Kuwait is now taken up with US military bases; would it not be cheaper merely to cede that territory to Iraq?) Moreover, US policy toward Israel and its illegal occupation, and the responses to that occupation – almost always construed in the mainstream US media as unmotivated ‘provocations’ – cannot be thought through in isolation from the situation in Iraq, or Syria, or Saudi Arabia. But in the end – since the mix is polemical, and is far from constituting an elegant argument – I feel bound to assert my anti-this-war sentiment in its simplest terms:

First, the supposed morality of the US impulse – to combat evil, to engage in a crusade – is on the face of it disingenuous, and must appear so to anyone with the least grasp of the history of the region, and of US engagements there. No evidence has been offered to suggest that Hussein poses a threat to anyone outside the borders of Iraq, which is why the US has been at pains to frame the proposed invasion in terms of ‘prevention.’ To put it bluntly, peace and justice are not the motivating factors in Bush’s policy. This does not mean that good cannot be done for bad reasons, but it should at least encourage some study of history, and an unvarnished examination of means, ends, and unintended consequences.

Second – on the subject of unintended consequences – although it is plausible that an unambiguously better situation will result from US invasion and control of Iraq, it seems surpassingly unlikely. There are too many variables that appear not to have been accounted for; and the assertion that the people of Iraq are waiting with open arms for their American liberators smacks of the delusional thinking that made the Bay of Pigs invasion look like a good idea. If quelling international (as opposed to domestic) terrorism really is the goal, then a longer view might yield a saner and more reasonably connected policy.

Third, the policy is hypocritical and inconsistent when one compares it to that applied to the Korean peninsula. The North Koreans have been encouraged by Bush’s ministrations into a renewal of their customary bellicosity; he has combined the most provocative and insulting rhetoric (such as his grab-bag “axis of evil” bon mot) with infantile personal commentary (“I loathe Kim Chong Il,” he announced during a televised interview) and a studied policy of heedlessness (undoing the progress toward rapprochement made between South and North Korea during the Clinton administrations). North Korea has been jumping up and down like the child ignored at the back of the class, waving its violations and begging to be called upon. One need look no further than the CIA’s online fact-book for the US government’s own official take on the North Korean situation:

North Korea's long-range missile development and research into nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and massive conventional armed forces are of major concern to the international community.

In light of this, it is hard to read the contrasts in the Korea/Iraq narrative as anything other than a contrived production of enemies, to justify the US’s staggering investment in its already spectacular military machine, and to underwrite an energy grab of historic proportions, to rival Britain’s in the early days of Middle Eastern oil exploration – and, not incidentally, to parallel the domestic looting of the public coffers on behalf of the very rich who are, in the final analysis, W’s real clients, his real constituency. And I believe that if asked to choose between peace and unsurpassable global dominance, the current US administration would unabashedly favor the latter. To anyone who wonders about this strand of American exceptionalism, I commend essays written by Gore Vidal and collected in his United States: Essays 1952-1992 (1992, Random House). His more recent, and less temperate, output suggests that – feeling time running out – he has passed some threshold of frustration and now is simply really pissed off; which I’ll allow him. As the bumper sticker says, if you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention.

Here are some links for readers to follow – places I go for news to supplement, complement, or just plain contradict what I hear in the mainstream media:

The Guardian online: center-left ‘prestige’ journalism from Britain,

The Smirking Chimp – a compendium of articles from various sources, concerning George W. Bush,

The Nation online: subscribe!

Left Business Observer online: just as it says,

And now, the mix:

The Mix: an Annotated Playlist

The structure of the mix is determined, first and foremost, by what I happen to own; this is not so unusual. Like any creation, a mix is the product of a series of constraints and possibilities. The eccentricities of choice here simply reflect the odd array of options my CD collection presented.

  1. Elvis Costello, (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding? I’m including this as a sort of preface, a reminder that there are values to be considered other than dominance, conquest and control. And it’s a damn good question generally, especially as what I’d call masculinity poisoning – or patriarchy pox – is pretty much pandemic.
  2. The Clash, Charlie Don’t Surf. The aftermath of the Franco-US war in Vietnam has provided many an anti-war or war-skeptical text. In this case, the focus is ‘cultural,’ and doubly-mediated as it’s based on a line from Apocalypse Now. The ‘clash of cultures’ or of ‘civilizations’ hypothesis (as between ‘Western’ and ‘Islamic’ modes of being) has been widely argued and compellingly debunked. It’s been shown to be reductive; Manichean, the simplistic good/evil dichotomy being a favorite of our simple president; ignorant of the complexity of culture generally; and ignorant of the specifics both of “our” culture and of the plural cultures of the Muslim world. The assimilationist impulse – they must become like us, do the things we do, and then they will be good – is not, in my view, a real and primary motivation for this war; at best, it’s a legitimating rationale for home consumption, concocted after the impulse is felt.
  3. Leonard Cohen, Everybody Knows. The dice are loaded, the game is fixed; the poor get poorer, the rich get rich. Against the backdrop of a multi-billion dollar foreign policy “initiative” (if one chooses to dignify it with that name) upon which US media are relentlessly fixated, it is as well to remember that at home economic inequities grow ever more savage. The curiously tempered compassion of the Bush II administration is felt most keenly in its moves to revivify the dead notion of a flat (which is to say, regressive) tax, in order to soak the poor who, according to The Wall Street Journal, have been fortunate for all too long, gifted with a “low” tax rate. Low, but not negligible; and swingeing if one takes into account the bite FICA takes, and the relative proportion of poor income spent on basic necessities of life. As for the logic of encouraging the rich to benefit the rest, I can do no better than to quote the great old Labour party statesman, Michael Foot, who said (in response to the market-oriented policies of “New Labour”)

We are not here in this world to find elegant solutions, pregnant with initiative, or to serve the ways and modes of profitable progress. No, we are here to provide for all those who are weaker and hungrier, more battered and crippled than ourselves. That is our only certain good and great purpose on earth, and if you ask me about those insoluble economic problems that may arise if the top is deprived of their initiative, I would answer, To hell with them. The top is greedy and mean and will always find a way to take care of themselves. They always do.

It’s interesting that in recent weeks the term “class warfare” has overtaken “politically correct” as the right’s favored first-strike weapon, a tool to pre-empt reasoned discussion. Those who mention the lopsided effect of W’s embrace of what his father called “voodoo economics” – favour the rich, and we’ll all do well – are accused of suggesting that class war actually happens in our classless society, or indeed of actually inciting such warfare. Whereas, of course, it is W and his ilk who are waging the war, with terrible effect, all the while insisting that nobody mention it. Cohen is, if anything, not nearly cynical enough:

…the meter on your bed that will disclose / what everybody knows.

This sounds, it must be said, like a piece of apparatus coveted by Admiral Poindexter’s Office of Total Information Awareness, whose pyramid-and-eye logo cannot help but put one in the mind of Orwell’s Ministry of Truth or, for that matter, Information Retrieval (which proves to be a euphemism for torture) in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. It’s also worth pointing out that “what everybody knows” is a useful functional definition of common sense, in the Gramscian rendering of the term – which is to say, the traces of discourse deposited in each of us by history, in the form of fragments of unexamined discursive argument and presumption. This, in fact, is a major part of Gramsci’s definition of ideology; so that the characteristic opposition of ideology to common sense is revealed as a defensive sleight of hand, which conceals the interest encoded in that deposit. We appear, as I write, to be in an especially telling moment of the war ‘debate,’ a point at which the ‘taken for granted’ presented by the President is encountering a gratifying increase in popular incredulity. The mainstream media render this as a failure to articulate the message clearly – as if a clear message would make sense of the administration’s actions; in point of fact, clarity is the very last thing the administration can afford, since that would inevitably require an acknowledgement of the odd mix of motives – oleaginous (the fields, the fields), ordinal (the maintenance of a new world order with the US as unchallenged hegemon), and Freudian (as W tries to prove his worth to his father, by beating up the moustached patriarch who defied Bush père). Clarity would also require an exposition of the huge uncertainties within and around Iraq after the inevitable ‘victory,’ with an unwelcome military government and the institution of a truly third-world relationship (extraction of resources for refinement and use elsewhere) with a country hitherto endowed with a sophisticated infrastructure and – pace ‘axis of evil’ adherents – a highly developed civil society.

  1. Jimmy Cliff, Vietnam. A mother receives the feared telegram from the DoD. There are numerous estimates, optimistic and pessimistic, of how many body bags we can expect to come home from an invasion of Iraq; and there are even some estimates of how many Iraqi casualties, military and civilian, we might expect. I regret that I have no song detailing the equivalent sentiment from the point of view of the Vietnamese, who ‘enjoyed’ the privilege of dying near to home. One of the things that might have been learned from Vietnam, but was probably unlearned in the gleeful reassessment of US military power after Bush 1st’s Gulf War, was that people fighting in their own country tend to be highly motivated; and there is good reason to suppose that many Iraqis will not greet a US invasion as the French did GIs in Paris – having every reason to suspect US motivation after years of sanctions and an uneven (to put it politely) policy toward the struggles of minorities in Iraq. One is reminded of Kissinger explaining why the Kurds had been led on and then dumped, prey to Baghdad’s murderous attentions: “Foreign policy is not missionary work.”
  2. Tom Waits, Soldier’s Things. This account of a post-mortem garage sale underscores the poignant ordinariness of the steps to be taken in disposing of a life, and of the artifacts left behind when a human is erased. These little things tend to be overlooked in the scramble to do the big thing: And Bush, describing himself as chief carer, as “the chief hugger,” thus reveals the triviality of mind – the vapid, irreducibly vicious trait which informed his cynical and rather obsessional deployment of slogans like “compassionate conservative” and “I’m a uniter, not a divider” – that enables the scramble in the first place.
  3. Chico Buarque, Calice. This is a song written during the rule of a military government in Brazil, a time when censorship was potent and artists had to work to find ways around it in order to express their discontent. Calice – chalice – is a homophone for the Brazilian Portuguese term for “shut up.” The messianic phrasing – this wine, tainted with blood – thus acquires a punning sense that demands relief from government oppression. For most Americans, current circumstances are nothing like those endured under various Latin military dictatorships; but for some, they are. It’s not a good time to be an Arab male in the US, whatever one’s documentary status. However, the attitude toward civil liberties and fundamental rights evident in the Bush II administration – and especially in its Justice Department – suggests that outright censorship is not far away. A secrecy- and surveillance-obsessed administration riding on a bubble of war popularity is liable to feel enabled to do quite explicit and practical violence to the Bill of Rights that will be very hard to undo subsequently.
  4. Billy Bragg, My Youngest Son Came Home Today. Another pine-box song, this one set against the ‘troubles’ in Ireland. The human sentiment, however, is simple and widely applicable; this song pairs with Jimmy Cliff’s and, to some extent, Waits’.
  5. Talking Heads, Don’t Worry About the Government. One of David Byrne’s experiments with low-affect irony articulated in the paranoid style (as in, I Wish You Wouldn’t Say That). An informed electorate being the very last thing that the owners of the country (to cite Vidal again) wish, one can imagine this song becoming a sort of Apostles’ Creed in this secrecy-obsessed, democracy-challenged age.
  6. They Might Be Giants, Pencil Rain. This band, known for its punning ambiguities, often conjures wisdom from seeming absurdity; the odd juxtapositions remind me of Sergei Eisenstein’s cinematic experiments (1920s and 30s) in the ‘montage of attractions,’ images in collision functioning dialectically, so that a synthesis not actually represented in the text arises as a trace of the collision. In the case of Pencil Rain, the absurdity is applied to the notion of honor in combat, honor as derivative from combat. A nation that feels its highest values are enshrined in an unremitting devotion to things military is more debauched, more decadent, than any of the supposedly effete cultures our leaders are wont to mock. As a columnist remarked on viewing the Queen Mother’s funeral in London, the martial silliness of the royal family dressing up as pretend soldiers merely reminds one how utterly bankrupt is the notion of warrior-leaders; the Queen Mother’s librarians, this observer remarked, were not in evidence at the funeral.
  7. Marlene Dietrich, Sag mir, wo die Blumen sind. (Where have all the flowers gone?) This is a song that skirts dangerously close to the trite, but it’s a Bob Dylan text, and it’s also an explicit critique of war. Of course, “all the young men” was a far more literal figure of speech in the first and second world wars in Europe; only a small fraction of our population will be directly involved in any war on Iraq. The government – about which we should not worry – counts on this distancing effect, counts on the fact that any personal sense of waste and loss will be localized, easily contained in the strictly policed master-narrative of ‘our’ actions and their significance. The American people will not, in the short run, have to confront massive losses; those that are lost will inevitably die heroes’ deaths and be lauded in song and story, reaffirming that militarism is the highest value, justifying the nobility of the action by virtue of their spilled, noble blood, and – much more to the point – silencing dissent and evacuating critique by virtue of being an unanswerable tragedy.  To which one can only respond, as many did during Gulf War I: Support the troops, prevent the war. I chose the Dietrich version because of her established anti-war credentials (Wenn Die Soldaten, the whole text of which reveals itself as anti-war, to the confusion of those who wished to adopt it for other purposes – not unlike Springsteen’s Born in the USA…), and to recognize the profound doubts with which Germany and France, in particular, confront current events.
  8. Randy Newman, Song for the Dead. A further ironic take on relations with the enemy, from the point of view of an involuntary gravedigger. These here gooks, who lie here beside you…there’s an intimacy in death which rather undoes the notion of sacrificing one’s self in the service of a noble ideal. It’s not that there aren’t noble ideals for which it’s worth fighting – the ones currently being trashed by Bush and his henchmen, for example – but that so often the gloss of nobility is so easily shown to be a patina of corrosion on baser goals.
  9. Elvis Costello, Oliver’s Army. This song was banned from the radio in Britain during the Malvinas/Falklands war with Argentina, ample evidence that Costello must have been onto something, must have touched a nerve. The rationale was that it would undermine morale. In this sense, that censorship echoes recent Republican accusations that those who do not accede to Bush II’s plans without a murmur are siding with the enemy. That good vs. evil world-view probably is not the wisest lens through which to regard a complex region in which the government is, by its own admission, especially ignorant. But in any case, the ‘moral’ framework erected by Bush – as a sort of ethical Potemkin village – does not jibe with the realpolitik (real, if misguided) that has consistently motivated US policy in the region. Censorship, in the sense of prior restraint, is a more common feature of British life, Britain not being favored with an actual bill of rights. Nevertheless, it’s closely paralleled in the US by the self-censorship of our media, with their corporate fealties and functional need for access to government figures who must not, therefore, be too far alienated by critical coverage.
  10. Bob Marley, Buffalo Soldier. A song about slaves coerced to fight on behalf of their oppressors in the US Civil War (or the “war of northern aggression,” as the Lotts and Ashcrofts would have it). Until the institution of a draft, coercion is a less obvious feature of the current situation; hegemony, as Antonio Gramsci argued, works by inducing consent to policies, not by inflicting them with brute force. The failing hegemony of the Bush ‘big idea,’ at home and abroad, is a cheering point of leverage, an index of the places where alternative visions may be articulated and gain ground. The media, for all their willingness to fall into lock-step with the government when pre-emptive charges of treason are bandied about, nevertheless are ready to adapt to any new popular mood, any evidently powerful trend in the popular conception of things. They do this, not because they feel any demographic obligation to ideas as such, but because expressing positions too far athwart popular sentiment might compromise their vital access to the markets – their product, formerly known as citizens – that they sell to advertisers.
  11. The Jam, Little Boy Soldiers. Strictly, a critique of British Imperial conquest and, not incidentally, of the same martial compulsion skewered in TMBG’s Pencil Rain. But with the US more and more openly assuming the mantle of empire, and talking about global dominance as its right, the sentiment – we killed and robbed the fucking lot…under the flag of democracy – seems apt. A nation whose highest values are militaristic values is not, in my view, settling in for the long haul, historically speaking.
  12. Jacques Brel, La colombe. The dove…wounded, but not yet dead. My clunky translation of one verse:

Why these monuments

That defeats will offer?

These phrases ready-coined

That will follow the burial?
Why this still-born child

That will be the victory?

Why these days of glory

For which others will have paid?

Why these corners of the earth

Which we’ll paint in grey,

Since it’s with the rifle

That we’ll snuff the light?

There is something unaffectedly impassioned about Brel’s voice, and in this song the mixture of regret, incredulity and sorrow is potent and nuanced.

  1. The Housemartins, Freedom. In a tradition of anti-Thatcherite ballads, Freedom is in the same strand as Marley’s song, a critique of hegemonic forces securing consent to destructive policies. It has become a cliché to quote the US officer in Vietnam who suggested that it was necessary to destroy a village in order to save it (from communism, or more simply from home-rule); but the undigested Liberty in the name of which so much international action is undertaken does seem to require considerable sacrifices of same at home. So this is freedom? … They must be joking.
  2. Randy Newman, Political Science. A parody? I have worked with people, some of whom were comfortable expressing attitudes to the rest of the world that scarcely depart from the text of this song. In 1980 I took part in anti-draft rallies during Carter’s Iran crisis; counter-demonstrators hung from a tall campus building a banner which read NUKE BOWL: JAPAN 2, IRAN ?. I was recently reminded of this when I read that US General Tommy Franks had made a public utterance betraying a really remarkable historical amnesia: He said we must act lest we see for the first time nuclear mushroom clouds above large metropolitan areas. Of course, he meant US metropolitan areas, and this was to be taken for granted; to express unironically the sentiments Newman plays out in Political Science, it is first necessary that the rest of the world be construed as not entirely real, to efface utterly Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the contentious legacies of those acts, of ‘our’ unique use of weapons of mass destruction. I note that Tony Blair has now joined W in refusing to renounce the first use of nuclear weapons in the (as of 1/28/03) impending battle. During Bush I’s Gulf War, my sister’s father-in-law complacently voiced his support for the venture on the grounds that “we [sic] are a moral nation.” And, his syllogism continued, if we are a moral nation, what we do must therefore be moral. This sort of abrogation of citizenship is encouraged by the current administration, and it is to the great credit of a large part of the population both of the US and of Great Britain that they explicitly oppose going to war in this case.
  3. Creedence Clearwater Revival, Fortunate Son. Even setting aside the dubious J.H. Hatfield’s book of the same name, about the life and privileges of the man Molly Ivins refers to as “our only president,” Bush is indeed a fortunate son. Anne Richards made the famously pithy remark that W was “born on third base and thought he hit a triple.” It is clear, in any case, that W not only managed to make his way into the National Guard during the Vietnam war, but failed to fulfill the requirements of his enrollment therein. This is a small, but not irrelevant, sample of the sort of efficiently enforced class divide – between those who are obliged to fight and those who are not – which is the point of this song.
  4. Moxy Frűvous, Gulf War Song. It is awful and sad that, whereas this song arrived in the guise of a topical cri de coeur of purely momentary relevance, it should suddenly become entirely to the point once again. Only the allusion to “join in and fight with the allies” sounds jarring, as the US shows every sign of willingness to act alone, with only the craven British as multi-lateral window-dressing.
  5. Nina Simone, Mississippi Goddamn. Speaking of revived significance, this song is appended to my mix as a sort of homage to Trent Lott. Lott, it’s interesting to note, subsequently claimed he’d been trapped and done in by his enemies – who, if the evolution of events is to be believed, must occupy the White House and the upper ranks of the Republican Party. Simone was moved to write this song by anger at the murder of Medgar Evers and four Alabama schoolchildren, and in the background of the recording one can hear her 1963 audience, mostly white, first laughing nervously and then lapsing into silence as the song’s intensity is born in on them. It’s hard to giggle on being told – even as a rhetorical flourish – that you’re all going to die, and die like flies. There are voices in this country today which are as charged with anger and the desire for justice, but we are not hearing them. Organize and survive; the first ingredient of peace must be justice, and it cannot be local; we must listen hard for the voices the major media find uncomfortable or inconvenient to air, those that do not fit the compelling narrative articulated by the administration. Anyone who has been to a rally – say, the second anti-Gulf War rally in 1992 – knows how bizarre reports of the event are likely to be, once the fighting starts. Listen, and tell.