IRAQ IS ARABIC FOR VIETNAM:
The Evolution of Protest Songs in Popular Music from
Vietnam to Iraq
Mark Twain supposedly noted: “History doesn’t repeat itself, but sometimes it rhymes.” In comparing the Vietnam War to the Iraq war of the past five years, George W. Bush is hardly a Lyndon Johnson, and Saddam Hussein isn’t vaguely similar to Ho Chi Minh. However, Vietcong guerrilla tactics are similar to Iraqi insurgent techniques, and both wars deeply entrenched America in a foreign civil war. Indeed, the most appropriate antiwar bumper sticker cementing the two wars might read: “How Many Vietnamese or Iraqis Died in the American Civil War?”1
Even if the U.S. government learned nothing from the Vietnam fiasco, protesters against the Iraq war have. The anti–Iraq war protest songs rhyme with the Vietnam War protest songs in some ways, but they have their own unique style, viewpoints, rationale, and substance. They build on the past but reflect the present. For example, Iraq war protesters don’t disrespect the troops in any way; they center on the commander in chief. The big difference in the two wars can be pinpointed with one name and one event—Osama bin Laden and 9/11. The simultaneous war in Afghanistan clearly involves American security, as the Vietnam War never did. Also, there is no draft now, the casualties are much lower, and the high costs of war are being paid for by deficit. Meanwhile, income taxes have actually been cut.
Protests against the Vietnam War by young college students were immersed in unspoken guilt. They were, after all, hiding behind their student