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The War Party

It came. It saw. It rocked. If only rock could rock so hard

Like most Americans, I have spent the past three months in front of the television, staring at Donald Rumsfeld’s fist, Aaron Brown’s jowls, and Sheryl Crow’s guitar strap. Certainly, this hobby has a cornucopia of benefit. However, I had no idea that one of these spectacles-in fact, the least likely of the three-would lead to the recalibration of my geopolitical paradigm. Because of Ms. Crow’s guitar strap, I’ve come to a radical conclusion: War is bad. This notion had never occurred to me before. If not for celebrities, I never would have realized there are ethical quandaries implicit in killing innocent people in order to “liberate” them so that they can hate us “democratically.” I guess this is why we need E!.

But it turns out there is more to war than just killing people for vague, dubious reasons-there is also a lot of good rocking. Just prior to the United States’ “decapitation strike” on Iraq in March, the following report was posted on It was part of a story about a U.S. Naval commander visiting three aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf:

The mood on the other carriers was unique to every ship, said Cmdr. Jeff Alderson, spokesman for the 5th Fleet. “The Constellation welcomed the admiral with rock and roll, playing ‘We Will Rock You’ when he came onstage,” Alderson said.

Now, skeptics might argue that the music of Queen-while excellent for drug-taking-is not the ideal musical accompaniment for launching airborne fleets of twin-engined AH-64A/D Apache attack helicopters. But those skeptics would be dead wrong, as evidenced by a news report the following day:

WASHINGTON (CNN)-Several large explosions rocked the Iraqi capital at about 9 p.m. Thursday (1 p.m. EST).

This is why the United States shall forever rule the globe with Shaq-like dominance: We said we would rock them, and we did. Our military succeeded at a goal that stymies most conventional rock bands. For instance, in 1989, I went to a casualty-free Great White concert, and they asked me-and all of Fargo, North Dakota, really-if we were “ready to rock.” But then they played the song “Rock Me,” which implied that I was supposed to rock them. I certainly hadn’t paid $16.95 to rock them.

I spend a lot of my time thinking about rocking, and especially about how I can better “prepare myself” to rock. This preparation is key. Contrary to popular belief, songs about rocking are usually not about rocking; most songs about rocking are about getting ready to rock. Kiss aspired to “rock and roll all nite,” but there’s no evidence that they had ever done so in the past. AC/DC saluted “those about to rock,” but not those already doing so. Led Zeppelin were the single most rocking band that ever walked the earth, yet the only time Robert Plant referenced that fact was when he sang, “It’s been a long time since I rock’n’rolled.” Everyone wants to rock, but not until later. Even soft dudes like Fran Healy of Travis will say things like “All I wanna do is rock,” although one suspects that might be impossible for any band that sings about falling rain and driftwood.

Certainly, there are exceptions to this rule: David Essex’s “Rock On” implies that rock is happening in the present tense (and must continue), and April Wine’s “I Like to Rock” suggests that rocking is very central to the protagonist’s day-to-day existence. But what are we to make of a song like “Rock the Casbah,” whose title does not make sense literally or metaphorically (inasmuch as the song’s video interpretation somehow involves an armadillo)? I mean, who were the Clash really rocking in this instance? The answer is nobody (except perhaps the armadillo). Much to the chagrin of FM radio DJs everywhere, ours is a culture of “more talk, less rock.”

That’s why I’m so proud of our befuddling military entanglement with Iraq: We promised to rock them, and we weren’t being ironic. And we didn’t even need to play any “freedom rock” (like Air or Stereolab).

War-what is it good for? Absolutely rocking. Say it again. Ugh.