REWIND: Since it might come up, here are five of the best anti-war songs

Edwin Starr

Edwin Starr: Not a fan of war.

So… 2020, huh? Been a long year.

For no reason in particular I thought this might be a good time to do a list of the best anti-war protest songs. You know, just because the music is good. Not with any particular news hook. Just a plain ol’ list of songs about how bad wars are.

Just, you know, putting them out there.

Edwin Starr — “War”

Let’s just get the obvious, overt one out of the way. No reason for any particular subtlety out of the gate.

As far as messages go, it doesn’t get clearer than “War. Unh! Good god, y’all. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing.” And it’s right! It’s good for absolutely nothing. It never, just totally picking something at random here, raises poll numbers in a sustained way. It never makes anyone change their mind about, say, an impeachment.

It’s good for absolutely nothing.

Creedence Clearwater Revival — “Fortunate Son”

Remember that commercial for jeans or something that played the lyric “Some folks are born made to wave the flag…” but then just did instrumentals for the rest of the song? That’s because it’s not a patriotic anthem. It’s about how the rich expect to be given everything but never want to give anything themselves.

The key verse for this column is: “Yeah, some folks inherit star spangled eyes/ Ooh, they send you down to war/ And when you ask ’em, ‘How much should we give?’/ Ooh, they only answer ‘More, more, more!'”

John Fogerty makes a great point. Nobody who starts the war actually ends up getting shot in, to pick a hypothetical biome, the desert. None of their family actually fights. They pick the fight for their own benefit then send someone else’s kids to risk their lives.

Dead Kennedys — “When Ya Get Drafted”

Selective Service

Selective Service ad on BART in November 2019.

Despite its release coming 40 long years ago, this song seems timely for some reason. I can’t imagine why. What relevance could lyrics like these have to 2020 America: “Economy is looking bad, let’s start another war/ Fan the fires of racist hatred, we want total war.”

Of course there’s no sign of a draft happening any time soon. That would be silly. People are just nervous because Selective Service ran that coincidentally timed ad campaign on BART a couple months ago. Of course if Qasem Soleimani turns out to be the 21st century Franz Ferdinand that might change.

The Offspring — “Tehran”

Speaking of prescient lyrics, this was written in 1989: “Soon America may find/ It’s young men in the sand/ Where the casualty/ Is just a number/ In Iran.”

This has been going on a very long time! I can’t imagine what would be buried under Iran that could make it such a constant target of aggression from the United States for so many decades. It’s a complete mystery.

But don’t worry. This is no Vietnam, we will win in Iran.

Rage Against the Machine — “Killing in the Name”

Whatever happens in 2020, let the end of this song guide you. To quote Edmund Burke, “When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.”

Things happen because we let them happen. That one corporate-sponsored march you attended three years ago didn’t do the trick, the only way to make the system listen is to break the rules. If you object within the rules it will do nothing; the rules are designed to harmlessly channel your outrage in a way that doesn’t rock the boat.

The President of the United States unilaterally ordered the assassination of a foreign general the day before a Congressional hearing on his impeachment. It’s not going to slow down and it’s not going to get better. It’s time to accept that everything you’ve done so far hasn’t worked, this situation isn’t going to get fixed by retweeting the Krassensteins and marching when you’re told to.

Now is the time to ask yourself what Tom Morello would do.

Follow editor Daniel J. Willis and tweet column ideas to him at

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