Heavy Metal Terror

Friday, November 13, 2015, marked yet another day of tragedy as Islamic extremists from the self-proclaimed Islamic State used AK-47s and suicide bombs in a series of coordinated attacks on Paris, France.  Six sites were hit throughout the city, with the worst being the Bataclan Theater, where the capacity crowd of 1500 were held hostage and 89 people were killed during a concert by the California band Eagles of Death Metal.

Contrary to the band’s name, Eagles of Death Metal are not a death metal band.  In fact, they are not even classified as heavy metal.  But that does not mean that the heavy metal world has not reacted to the band’s loss, to the Paris attacks, or to terrorism, in general.

Rock & roll has been vilified as marking the downfall of civilization since before the term was coined by Cleveland DJ Alan Freed in 1951.  It’s lyrics, driving beats, and decibel levels seemingly make people lose all control over mind and body; it’s listeners seen as rebellious, insurrectious youths–and worse.  And rock’s evolution into hard rock, heavy metal, and its many sub-genres is certainly no exception.  However, the people who listen to, and perform, heavy metal music have the same hopes, concerns, fears, and joys as anyone else.  And when it come to terrorism they react in a variety of ways, just like anyone else.

Immediately following the Paris attacks, many in the hard rock and heavy metal world did what many others throughout the world did–took to Twitter to voice their concerns.  The Australian band AC/DC tweeted “We mourn this tragic loss of life and stand with the world to salute your joie de vivre. Paix.”, Slipknot singer, Corey Taylor, sent “love and thoughts to the French people” and expressed the hope that “justice is done for those who died & those who were hurt”, and Anthrax guitarist, Scott Ian, simply told everyone to “Kiss your kids, hug your partner and hope somebody somewhere has a plan.”  Others expressed anger, calling the attacks “sick”, “cowardly”, and “appalling”.  And others, still, noted that they, too, take the stage every night, and an attack like this reminds them of their vulnerability–and hoped the band and their crew in Paris were safe.  Of course, we later discovered they were not, as news of Eagles of Death Metal merchandise salesman, Nick Alexander’s death was later confirmed.  Eagles of Death Metal eventually made their own statement, expressing their grief, thanking authorities, and reminding the world that “love overshadows evil”.

Heavy metal bands were similarly affected by the tragic attacks of 9/11, which are reflected in their songs and in their actions.  Like what they have to say, or not–heavy metal artists are rarely at a loss for words.  Perhaps one of the most profound reactions to that event came from the American power-metal band, Iced Earth, and its singer, Matt Barlow.  Following the Sept. 2001 attacks, Barlow took stock of his life and left the successful band the following year to get a criminal justice degree and became a Georgetown, Delaware police officer, before eventually returning to the heavy metal stage in 2007.  With a new frontman, the band released its 2004 world history-themed CD, The Glorious Burden, which featured songs such as the US National Anthem, “When the Eagle Cries“, and “The Reckoning”, which warns our enemies that “justice shall be done, nowhere to run.”

As authorities investigated and arrested suspects in the days following the Paris attacks, many heavy metal bands currently touring throughout Europe practiced the entertainer’s mantra of “the show must go on”.  And as investigations turned up more planned attacks against European targets, and ISIS statement claiming the attacks marked the Bataclan concert-goers as “apostates“, and warned of future attacks, several shows did, indeed, go on.  Some shows, however, did not.  Heavy metal acts, such as Motorhead, Marilyn Manson, and Papa Roach, canceled Paris shows that had been scheduled for days after the attacks.  Similarly, other bands, such as Five Finger Death Punch, cancelled shows scheduled for others cities in France.

But as the days moved forward and touring bands moved on to their next gigs, some resurgence of relative normalcy did happen.  Motorhead moved on to Germany, playing shows throughout the country. In Dusseldorf, the band’s classic song, “Bomber”, seemed to have a new and special resonance with the crowd, as air raid sirens preceded lines like “we shoot to kill, and you know we always will. It’s a bomber, it’s a bomber!” as a metal-framed bomber adorned with pulsating lights and a French flag “flew” above the stage.

However, at least one other heavy metal band felt compelled to completely cancel the remainder of its European tour.  The American band, Lamb of God played shows in Ireland and Germany in the days following the Paris attacks.  But on Nov. 18, citing security concerns that have yet to be made specific, the band and its touring guest, Children of Bodom, canceled its Tillburg, Holland show just moments before the doors were set to open.  Reaction from the band’s usually-loyal following has been mixed, with some showing support for the band’s decision, while others expressing sentiments, such as “the terrorists have won”.  In an official statement from the band’s singer, Randy Blythe, his immediate reaction to the threat was that he did not wish to put anyone, including the band or the fans in harms way, which was succinctly stated as “fuck this, I am done here“, and that the band did not wish to play “terror alert hopscotch through Europe right now just to play a few heavy metal concerts”.  He says he hopes people will understand–but, in typical heavy metal fashion, exclaims that he doesn’t much care if they don’t.

Heavy metal songwriters tend to pen lyrics that reflect the darkness that society encounters, so time will tell if the Paris attacks of Friday the 13th will leave a lasting impression upon the heavy metal world, as the New York City attacks of 9/11 did.  On the more mellowed side of rock, UK fans of Eagles of Death Metal launched a campaign to send the band’s Duran, Duran cover of “Save a Prayer” to the top of the charts, with the original artists vowing that any proceeds it gets from the cover will be donated to charity.  As each individual in our chaotic world tries to move on from these latest atrocities, the idea of saving a prayer for those not alive to move on seems an appropriate response for now.

Time to Fish or Cut Bait

KAJAKI, AFGHANISTAN - OCTOBER 08: U.S. Marine SSgt. Dan Gracia (L) of New York City and Sgt. Louis Rosas of Santa Barbara, CA, attached to India Battery Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, patrol near Forward Operating Base (FOB) Zeebrugge on October 8, 2010 near Kajaki, Afghanistan. The Marines of India Battery, 3rd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment are responsible for securing the area around the Kajaki Dam on the Helmand River. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Last week I was watching a discussion on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” which really resonated with me. The concept was not particularly novel or profound but it merits recording here on the blog. The discussion revolved around our protracted involvement in Afghanistan and the conclusion drawn is one I think makes sense.

First, however, I wanted to briefly refresh my memory about our major wars of the second half of the 20th century. It’s actually kind of depressing to read about it. From a casual glance, one gets the impression that we Americans love to fight and love nothing more than fighting against the spread of an ideology with which we don’t agree. Whether or not that ideology is any real threat to us is another matter entirely.  In 1941 we very appropriately declare war on Japan for bombing Pearl Harbor. It is the last time in the 20th century that we actually declare war on a country that hurt us. The next big conflict in 1950 is the Korean War which basically is the result of the US and USSR sharing the spoils of WWII (Korea, a Japanese territory) but then falling out with each other based on ideology (communism). Communist China is our primary foe, with the USSR supplying support. The end of the three-year conflict has us no better off than we were before with a communist North Korea and a non-communist South Korea. China is no threat to the United States at this point, nor have they attacked us, but we jump on the United Nations bandwagon and get involved.

At about the same time, things start brewing in North and South Vietnam with the 50’s ending with our sending “military advisers” to the region. We all know how that turned out. Again, a region that posed no real threat to America other than embracing an ideology we opposed, gets a heap of American youngsters dropped in their lap, many never to return home. The great irony is that the big bugaboo of communism essentially dies of its own flaws in the 1980’s without a single shot being fired. The dreaded Soviet Union dissolves and communist China embraces, in a limited fashion, capitalism. What strikes me about both of these conflicts is our military involvement in regions that did not hurt us, and with no formal declaration of war.

Fast forward to the 21st century. We are attacked on September 11, 2001 by 19 men some of whom trained years earlier in Afghanistan, none of whom were actually from Afghanistan but rather were from Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Lebanon. Our response is to attack the country where most al Qaeda training occurred, Afghanistan. While we are at it, we attack Iraq which had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11 and in fact, we dilute our focus in Afghanistan and increase our military activity in Iraq. We declare war on neither country. As our effort in Iraq finally draws down, we up the ante in Afghanistan, which by this time has next to no al Qaeda. We expand our mission in Afghanistan to include nation building.

So here we sit today with a commitment to withdraw some troops from Afghanistan in 2011 (ten years after the 9/11 attacks) and most but probably not all troops by 2014. The war is a quagmire. The government we are propping up is disloyal to the United States and basically a sham. Most Americans, honestly have lost interest.

So here is the proposal inspired the “Morning Joe” discussion. Let’s fight us a real good old-fashioned war! It’s a two-step plan that would most definitely make the world stand up and take notice, not to mention knock our fellow Americans out of their complacency.

Step 1: Re-institute the draft.

Step 2: Formally declare war on Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Saudi Arabia.

It’s basically the Bush Doctrine on steroids. If you knowingly harbor terrorists in your country or you finance them (e.g. Saudi Arabia), we will formally declare war on you and we will come over to your neck of the woods and bomb the living crap out of you until we are sure that you are taking terrorism seriously. The formal declaration is important. It is symbolic. It says that we are not engaged in some fuzzy-defined venture and we are NOT nation building. Any country harboring terrorists bent on America’s destruction is our enemy, end of story, and will pay the price.

This plan needs people to make it work. A volunteer army won’t do. So the draft must come back. And that is a good thing. Right now, we are waging an undeclared war with a small minority of folks, many of whom bear this burden because their civilian options are limited. Yes of course there are many patriots who would be there under any circumstances, but there are also loads of economically lower-middle class to low-class folks fighting this fight while the rich stay safe and cozy. That needs to change. We need forced buy in.

The great consequence of the draft is that anti-war folks finally wake up again. Folks who think a “war on terror” is a pipe dream equivalent to the “war on drugs” suddenly have good cause to hit the streets and protest because their best friend just got sent over to Yemen or their son or daughter just got shipped to Pakistan.

When I look at the last 50 years I see us doing a lot of fighting. Much of it prompted by no real threat to our safety. When the real threat comes, we fight these pseudo-wars with an all volunteer army that takes more than a decade to get the job done. We also tolerate incompetent governments insufficiently committed to stopping the terrorists within their own borders.

2011 is the year we should either pull out all the stops and make everybody take notice, or go home and stop doing a half-assed job that will go on forever.


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If Islam is the Problem, What is the Solution?

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Nine years ago, 19 men with a perverted sense of righteous martyrdom commandeered four passenger planes in an attempt to take down The World Trade Center, The Pentagon and the White House. Three of the planes reached their target with devastating effect. The fourth plane, the one headed for the White House, crashed in Pennsylvania when the hijackers were overcome by the heroic passengers. The 19 men had one thing in common that has presented the United States of America with one of its most compelling crises of conscience. The 19 men were all devout, radical Muslims. Now, a country whose fundamental principle is freedom of worship is faced with how to evaluate Islam. Recently, we have seen an evaluation that is frightening in its paranoia, a paranoia that seems to grow the further we get from that terrible Tuesday morning.

Suddenly an entire “industry” has arisen around being “non-Muslim experts on Islam”. I won’t use the word Islamaphobe which carries too much baggage. Let’s just call them self-professed experts. They would have us believe that Islam is not even a religion, but rather a vile social movement disguised as a religion. They cherry pick the Koran to prove how evil the “religion” is.

As they warn us about the evils of Islam, the experts are short on solutions. Let us buy their perspective wholesale. Let’s say that Islam is on the same level as the Nazi party and the KKK. What are we to do about it?

Convene a cross denominational panel to publicly draft a declaration that Islam is not to be further recognized as a religion.

Have the United Nations prepare sanctions against every predominantly Muslim country on the planet, to outlaw the practice of Islam or face penalty.

Engage our ground forces and air force both within the United States and around the world to destroy every existing Mosque, since they are terrorist incubators.

Arrest and detain every practicing Muslim in the United States with conversion to one of the “sanctioned” religions being the only condition for release.

If Islam is the problem my friends then what is the solution? If Islam destroyed the World Trade Center as many would have you believe, then how can we allow Islam to exist?

If the proposed solutions I have laid out are repugnant to you, then perhaps you should reevaluate your attitude toward Islam.

We either believe that religion is a force for good in the world and that only individual men are evil or we commit ourselves to the dangerous exercise of defining the good religions vs the bad ones and then take the necessary steps to root out “evil”.

The next time you go quoting Newt Gingrich, think about what you’re willing to do to solve the problem as Newt has defined it. I say the solutions make it crystal clear that you have defined the problem incorrectly.


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