On Christmas Day 2003, famed singer and song-writer Willie Nelson penned a protest song. According to his wife, Annie, Willie complained that there were “a lot of babies dying and mothers crying” on the TV news. She replied, “That sounds like a song.” And so he penned the song “What Ever Happened To Peace On Earth.”
I first heard these lyrics while driving to lunch one day. The host of the radio show read the lyrics of Willie Nelson’s song aloud in all seriousness. Not being the long-haired liberal type myself, I recognized the sentiment, but not the facts behind the holiday lyrics. And since this is my place to do so, I’m going to spend a bit of time hashing out his words. You can read them in full, and a brief article about the song here at CommonDreams.org.
Before I jump into the actual lyrics, here is the last paragraph from the website above: “Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq in March saying that Saddam Hussein threatened U.S. security by possessing weapons of mass destruction, but no such weapons were found.” Nice ending line, Anonymous Reuters News Person, but you missed a word. It should read “no such weapons were found yet.” That would be more honest, but to fully cross the line from biased news spinner to a factual reporter of the news, it should have said that the U.S., Britain, Russia, Iraq, Iran, and the U.N. claimed that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. In fact, the Danes are reported to be investigating several mortar shells found in Iraq for a liquid blister agent. People often say that Saddam didn’t have weapons of mass destruction, but the Kurds and Iranians would disagree. They experienced Saddam’s chemical weapons firsthand, and it is believed that these mortars date from the Iraq-Iran war of the 1980s.
Anyway, what about Willie’s protest song? In the very first stanza, we get the tried and trite phrase “How much oil is one human life worth?” Earth to Willie! This war is not about oil. If oil were our only goal, why have we not already annexed Kuwait as the 51st State of the Union? That would have been so much easier. But rather than a grab for oil, the war to liberate Iraq from Saddam’s control is very much a part of the United States’ war against terror. I already posted about how Mohammed Atta was trained in Iraq for the September 11th attacks. But Willie says this war is about oil. And as a singer, he has really kept himself abreast of current events. That’s why he can state this with such authority.
“They’re gonna’ kill us / So we gotta’ kill them first” Since Willie has obviously forgotten, the United States was attacked on September 11th, 2001. Atta was trained to do this in Iraq. Are we trying to kill them first? No. We toppled Saddam from power and routed al Qaeda from Afghanistan so they could not hit us again. “But I remember a commandment / Thou shall not kill” This commandment does not make sense if you read it that way. Is it against this commandment to defend yourself by killing your attacker? This commandment is often translated from the Hebrew as “Thou shalt not murder.” A ban on murder is different from a ban on all killing, and Willie should be smart enough to know the difference.
“Hell they won’t lie to me / Not on my own damn TV / But how much is a liar’s word worth” This is a common attack on President Bush — “He lied to us!” Really? Where? Contrary to what many people say, President Bush did not claim that Saddam was an imminent threat. He said, “Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option.” But this does not stop people from changing President Bush’s words and then claiming that he lied.
“So I guess it’s just / Do unto others before they do it to you” Here’s a short list for you, Mr. Nelson: the World Trade Center attack of September 11th, 2001; the World Trade Center bombing of 1993; the attack on the USS Cole; the 1998 American Embassy bombing in Nairobi; the 1998 American Embassy bombing in Dar es Salaam; the attack on Pan American Flight 103. This list is by no means comprehensive, but it should indicate the type and number of attacks leveled against the United States by terrorists. Since we kept shrugging these attacks off, al Qaeda decided to launch an attack that we could no longer ignore — the attacks of September 11th.
“But don’t confuse caring for weakness / You can’t put that label on me” Do you care, Willie? Really care? I guess this caring is what prompted you to put on those USO shows for the troops overseas serving to rid the world of terrorism. Or are you so caring that you feel you have done your part by writing a song filled with mistaken ideas and twisted words?
“The truth is my weapon of mass protection / And I believe truth sets you free” Mr. Nelson, if you had been at the top of One World Trade Center or Two World Trade Center on that clear morning in September, the truth would not have protected you from death. Nor did the truth protect 3,000 innocent people from the hate-inspired actions of terrorists. The truth, Mr. Nelson, is that little of what you say makes a difference in this world. It is what you do, or choose not to do, that will have a greater impact. President Bush decided that we could no longer turn a blind eye to terrorists, and he has laid out a plan to make the world safer. While these actions are painful to us as a nation generally, and to the families of our brave men and women in the armed services specifically, these actions are reaping benefits.
“And whatever happened to peace on earth” Peace — long-lasting and enduring peace — comes from complete victory, not appeasement and token resistance. President Clinton spent eight years tossing a few cruise missiles at empty camps and aspirin factories, or completely ignoring the actions of terrorists. The country of Sudan offered up Osama bin Laden to President Clinton, but he turned the offer down. How well did these actions bring peace on Earth? A few years later, the repercussions from these acts of weakness were played on TVs around the earth as scenes of death and destruction were broadcast to a horrified world.
What happened to peace on Earth? It is being earned day by day by servicemen and -women who are putting their lives on the line fighting terrorists while you, Willie Nelson, sit comfortably at home penning songs about things you don’t understand. Peace will come when those brave men and women finish their jobs despite, and not because of, what you do.
There is a reason why I don’t listen to the opinions of actors and singers. Willie Nelson typifies this reason. In the words of the song, “How much is one picker’s word worth”? Not too much.