Masters of War

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Published : February 26th, 2018
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Category : Editorials



Presentation to a book club

by Peter McKenzie-Brown


The arts have an enormous impact on the life of society, and today I want to briefly give an example. The arts include such traditional forms as paintings, plays and the visual arts. To illustrate, here's how a piece of poetry helped alter American foreign policy.


To begin, consider Dwight D. Eisenhower’s farewell address to the nation – a speech American TV networks broadcast on January 17, 1961.


Despite being a politician with a military background and the only general to be elected president in the 20th century, he famously warned the nation with regards to the corrupting influence of what he describes as the “military-industrial complex.” Characterizing it as a “potential enemy of the national interest” and at a times an “unjustified expenditure”; Eisenhower viewed the military-industrial complex to be “nothing more than a distorted use of the nation’s resources.”


“Until the latest of our world conflicts,” he said, “the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense. We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security alone more than the net income of all United States corporations….”


“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”


The lyrics to Dylan’s song are at the end of this post. He wrote them over the winter of 1962–63, and released the song on the album The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan the following spring; have a listen. Less than three minutes in length, the song took direct aim at the military industrial complex and indirect aim at the Vietnam War. So doing, he began a movement which others soon joined – think Canada’s Joni Mitchell and Americans Phil Ochs, Barry McGuire, Tom Paxton, Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie and Joan Baez. These writers and many other cultural figures played a huge role in making America’s antiwar movement a force to be reckoned with. Thirty-five years ago, the scandal-ridden Nixon government withdrew from that terrible, lopsided war.


The antiwar movement strongly affected me when I lived in the United States, and before coming to Canada in 1970 I frequently and passionately took part in demonstrations, protests and the famous March on Washington. My feeling – and this is the point of my presentation today – is that my views and those of millions of other Americans of my generation began with Dylan’s song. In that conflict, the masters of war turned out to be the baby boomers.


Masters of War: The Lyrics

By Bob Dylan


*Come you masters of war/You that build all the guns
You that build the death planes/You that build all the bombs
You that hide behind walls/You that hide behind desks
I just want you to know/I can see through your masks

You that never done nothin’/But build to destroy
You play with my world/Like it’s your little toy
You put a gun in my hand/And you hide from my eyes
And you turn and run farther/When the fast bullets fly

Like Judas of old/You lie and deceive
A world war can be won/You want me to believe
But I see through your eyes/And I see through your brain
Like I see through the water/That runs down my drain

You fasten all the triggers/For the others to fire
Then you set back and watch/When the death count gets higher
You hide in your mansion’/As young people’s blood
Flows out of their bodies/And is buried in the mud

You’ve thrown the worst fear/That can ever be hurled
Fear to bring children/Into the world
For threatening my baby/Unborn and unnamed
You ain’t worth the blood/That runs in your veins

How much do I know/To talk out of turn
You might say that I’m young/You might say I’m unlearned
But there’s one thing I know/Though I’m younger than you
That even Jesus would never/Forgive what you do

Let me ask you one question/Is your money that good
Will it buy you forgiveness/Do you think that it could
I think you will find/When your death takes its toll
All the money you made/Will never buy back your soul

And I hope that you die/And your death’ll come soon
I will follow your casket/In the pale afternoon
And I’ll watch while you’re lowered/Down to your deathbed
And I’ll stand over your grave/’Til I’m sure that you’re dead


Data and Statistics for these countries : Canada | Georgia | Vietnam | All
Gold and Silver Prices for these countries : Canada | Georgia | Vietnam | All
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Peter McKenzie Brown is the vice president of a resource company. He has written several volumes of history, and has worked in the corporate and academic worlds. He is British by birth, American by upbringing and Canadian by choice. Disclaimer : Although the writer is a director and officer of Stratabound, the thoughts and views herein are his only and not those of Stratabound. He is not registered in any jurisdiction as a broker or investment adviser, so nothing herein should be construed as advice on whether to buy, sell or hold shares of Stratabound or any other company mentioned herein.
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