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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

A Musical International Incident

I recently learned from a Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi email about a recent Internet phenomenon. Members of the Norwegian Army's Telemark battalion created a music video of a song parody of the Beach Boys' "Kokomo" titled "Kosovo." The song was originally recorded by KZOK/Seattle's "Bob Rivers Show" in 1999. This ruffled a number of diplomatic feathers; Winds of Change covered the story here and here (lyrics posted at first link).

Bob Rivers is also not pleased:

The song has been stolen, video put to it, and I wish there were a way to stop it.

His explanation of the inspiration for the song raises some eyebrows:

Let me start by saying that the intent of the song was to mock my own country for its bullying ways around the world. The idea was to point out how casually the US plays World Police. The song takes on the persona of the US government, ridiculing the fact that we push others around without much concern. It is satire, which some have mistaken for literal propoganda. It was meant to be heard in the US and cause a US citizen to realize of how stupid our actions sound when put to music.

Here in America, while we love our country, a good many of us have real problems with our foreign policy. And it isn't just President Bush. After all, the Kosovo policy occurred under Clinton.

(Was he referring to the current Bush, or the one whose Somalia catastrophe - cited in the song - was made a bigger catastrophe by Clinton?)

Good satire is rooted in truth and sends a clear message. Bob Rivers accurately refelects the incompetence of the Kosovo campaign - drop a bunch of bombs without any long-term plans on what the heck to do with the aftermath. But I don't see anything in the lyrics that connects this sort of "shoot to kill, figure out what's really going on here" approach, or any other kind of perceived common trend, to overall foreign policy.

Somalia, Grenada,
Or rescuing Kuwait-a
We screwed ya Rwanda
Wish we coulda helped ya
Iraqi embargo
That's where we got hustled

The lyrics themselves don't reveal any criticism of our actions in Somalia or Grenada, and "rescuing Kuwait-a" could be interpreted as positive - to those who believe that Kuwait-a was worth rescuing, or at least that Iraq wasn't worth having it. (To prod your memories, Somalia was an understaffed humanitarian effort that morphed into an understaffed manhunt, and Grenada was rescued from a Communist coup.) The song accurately cites nonintervention as our failure regarding Rwanda. Don't know how Rivers thought we got hustled back in 1999, but we did indeed get hustled. Hearing this song without knowing Rivers' full intent, the above refrain simply sets up the fact of US interventionism, and takes some brief swipes at a few but not all episodes (and the one non-episode in Rwanda).

The juxtaposition of the song with a UN peacekeeping force is darkly amusing but a bit weird. Most of the refrain doesn't fit the image. Neither does the line about "dropping our bombs wherever Serbian bad guys hide." UN police operations are quite the opposite: an armed presence large enough to deter minor skirmishes but way too small to do anything about significant military threats. The "bad guys" remark is especially ironic, since the main bad guys these days are Islamist terrorists and not Serbs. Perhaps a minor change to one verse needs (in italics) would make this a better fit for our UN friends:

Ooo so now we're helping out in Kosovo
We'll make a show and then we'll see how it goes
And then we really don't know
Good luck to Kosovo

See my earlier post on the UN, and my 2003 post on failures in Rwanda, Srebrenica, and the Congo.

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