• Steven Heller

This Means War!

Going to war is no joke and must not be rushed into. Yet what if the World War II Allies had acted early and bombed the Nazi concentration camps? How many lives would have been saved? Or, for that matter, how many more would have died? These are strategic questions that often undermine humanitarian concerns. Toward the end of the war, even knowing about the many death camps, the Allies refused to divert its war machine to aid in humanitarian rescue.

The Allies are again faced with a strategic versus humanitarian decision. Should a war-weary nation — the United States — make a punitive strike (war by any other name) against Syria for using outlawed chemical weapons against its own citizens? Should the President, without backing from the UN, NATO and the US congress be the punisher? Charles Blow, writing in Saturday’s New York Times, asks the questions that confound all people of conscience. His column reminded me of one of the most astute antiwar songs of the Vietnam era, Phil Ochs’ (1940–1976) “I Ain’t Marching Anymore.” I thought it might be sobering to read and hear the lyrics during this critical moment of when strategy, conscience and humanity are in conflict.

Oh I marched to the battle of New Orleans At the end of the early British war The young land started growing The young blood started flowing But I ain’t marchin’ anymore

For I’ve killed my share of Indians In a thousand different fights I was there at the Little Big Horn I heard many men lying I saw many more dying But I ain’t marchin’ anymore


It’s always the old to lead us to the war It’s always the young to fall Now look at all we’ve won with the saber and the gun Tell me is it worth it all

For I stole California from the Mexican land Fought in the bloody Civil War Yes I even killed my brothers And so many others But I ain’t marchin’ anymore

For I marched to the battles of the German trench In a war that was bound to end all wars Oh I must have killed a million men And now they want me back again But I ain’t marchin’ anymore


For I flew the final mission in the Japanese sky Set off the mighty mushroom roar When I saw the cities burning I knew that I was learning That I ain’t marchin’ anymore

Now the labor leader’s screamin’ when they close the missile plants, United Fruit screams at the Cuban shore, Call it “Peace” or call it “Treason,” Call it “Love” or call it “Reason,” But I ain’t marchin’ any more, No I ain’t marchin’ any more

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