Lade Inhalt...

Criticism on American war policy after 9/11 in selected works of System of a Down

Facharbeit (Schule) 2007 17 Seiten

Didaktik - Englisch - Landeskunde


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. 9/11
2.1. The attacks

3. Wars on terrorism
3.1. Afghanistan
3.2. Iraq

4. Artist’s criticism
4.1. System of a Down – B.Y.O.B
4.2. System of a Down – Boom!
4.2.1. The song
4.2.2. The video
4.3. Axis of Justice

5. Conclusion
5.1. Effects on policy
5.2. Only money-makers?



1. Introduction

When I searched for a topic for this skill work, I looked for something that would interest me. I often listen to music, so I thought about analysing song texts. I knew System of a Down criticises the American war policy after 11th of September. I thought that this could be an interesting topic, because of its timeliness. I searched for song texts which are good for analysing.. I’ve found two (B.Y.O.B and Boom) with a clear statement. I know them well, because of listening to System of a Down.

During my research for background information on 9/11 and the war on terrorism I also found the Axis of Justice, an interesting project by System of a Down that I have added to my work in order to complete the topic and tasks.

During this work I want to find out how System of a Down creates and stresses the message in their songs. Still the message of the songs is clear, can you understand parts of the songs different? Are the points of criticism evident in the song or are they hidden? Another questions is, if the band uses audible options only or also visual. For example they could use music videos or pictures in the booklet of the CD. During research I found a protest video by Michael Moore, who used the song “Boom!”.. With the two songs mentioned above and with the video I will try to answer this questions.

I found a lot of material especially by searching for background information to the war on terrorism, because it’s still a current event. While researching I focused on the Internet, because it is the most up-to-date information.

Firstly, I want to give an overview about the attacks on 9/11 and the war on terrorism especially in Afghanistan and Iraq. The main part of the work will be the song text and the video analysing. After that I will give a bit of information on the Axis of Justice. Finally, I will draw a conclusion from my research and try to give an answer if those works are only to earn money.

2. 9/11

On September 11, 2001 the USA was attacked by a group if Islamic extremists. The victims of these terrorists were mainly civilians.[1]

2.1. The attacks

On the September 11, nineteen al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four airplanes. They crashed two of them into the twin towers of the World Trade Center (WTC), which collapsed as result of the suicide attack. Another airplane was crashed into the Pentagon in Arlington County, Virgina. The fourth aircraft was stopped by passengers and crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.[2]

2,977 people plus the 19 hijackers died because of the attacks. An additional 24 people remain listed as missing. The number of victims includes 319 firefighters and 50 police officers.[3]

As a result of the attacks not only the two towers where destroyed, but also five other buildings, two subway stations and a church in the area.[4]

Al-Qaeda, with their leader Osama bin Laden, were responsible for these attacks. A Fatwa signed by Osama bin Laden and his declaration of the holy war are seen as evidence.[5]

In the Fatwa, al-Qaeda accuses the Americans for three crimes and sins they have committed: Firstly, the occupation of the Arabian Peninsula. Secondly, the aggression against the Iraqi people and last, but not least, the support of Israel.[6]

As a first response, the US Government signed the USA PATRIOT act[7] and started their War on Terrorism.[8]


As a reaction on the terrorist attacks on 9/11, the US Government brought in the USA PATRIOT act. The law was signed by George W. Bush on October 26, 2001. The act passed through the Senate (98-1) and the House of Representatives (357-66) without any problems, despite its controversy.[9]

USA PATRIOT is a short form for “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism”[10] Through the act “the authority of American law enforcement for the stated purpose of fighting terrorism in the United States and abroad was dramatically expanded”. It’s controversial because it interferes with civilian rights and liberties. Some parts of the act were declared unconstitutional by a court because of the breach of those rights. As a consequence 5 years later it was revised and renewed on March 2, 2006 and resigned on March 9, 2006.9

The USA PATRIOT act amends several laws such as emigration, banking and the money laundering laws. Also, the criminal act of terrorism is defined through the USA PATRIOT act.[11]

3. War on Terrorism

The War on Terrorism is the primary reaction by the US government. It’s “an ongoing campaign with a stated goal to ‘ending international terrorism’”.[12] Initiated directly after the attacks on 9/11 it remains in act more than 5 years later. It largely focuses on Islamic terrorists. The War on Terrorism is not only a US affair, but it is also supported by their allies, mainly members of the NATO.[13]

The two main events of the War on Terrorism are the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. but there are also other locations of operations all over the world. In Africa it’s the Operation Enduring Freedom and the War in Somalia. In Europe the Operation Active Endeavour in the Mediterranean Sea, and in Asia it takes place in the Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Indonesia and Philippines.[14] All over those places in the world, US forces and their allies are fighting against terrorism.

During the war against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, the USA had a lot of support from other countries, though they lost some when they announced attacking their intention to attack Iraq in late 2002.[15] At this time the most important partner for the USA is England and their president, Tony Blair.

The war on terrorism has many critics. Some people say that you can’t have a war against an idea or an ideology like terror.[16] Other people say that you give the terrorist a legitimate reason for their attacks and bombing. Many Muslims no longer consider this to be a war on terror, but a “War on Islam”.[17]

3.2. Afghanistan

The first rebellion of the ‘War on Terrorism” was the invasion of Afghanistan. The main intent of the war was overthrow the Taliban regime and to find the al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Many members of the NATO and other countries are taking part at the war.[18]

The war against Afghanistan is much more accepted than the one against the Iraq, although one of the main goals, to trace Osama bin Laden, was not achieved. Despite the fact the Taliban regime has been toppled and the country has an elected government, attacks on the international forces, ISAF, continue.[19] [20] Since the beginning of the war more than 16,000 Taliban and al-Qaeda have died. The allies lost approximately 2,000 soldiers. and at least, 5,000 – 7,000 citizens died.[21] [22]

3.2. Iraq

The invasion of the began on March 20, 2003 and is still ongoing. US troops with their allies occupied Iraq and overthrew the dictator Saddam Hussein. As a result of the invasion, there is now a civil war in the country between Sunni and Shia Iraqis. US troops, who continue to occupy Iraq, are often victims of bomb attacks. Duet to the high casualties rate, the war has become extremely controversial in the USA.[23] [24]

One of the reason, the US government had to initiate this invasion, was that the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is accused to hide and support the terrorist in his country and that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction.[25]

By day the Iraq has his own permanent democratically elected government.[26] The former dictator Saddam Hussein was executed on December 30, 2006, and in January 2007, President George W. Bush intended to send more soldiers into the Iraq.[27] [28] Nonetheless, Iraq war is still very controversial and many US citizens and politicians demand the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. In many of Americas allied countries, citizens forced the government to withdraw their troops.[29] [30]

4. Artist’s criticism

During and after the invasion of Iraq many American artists criticised the US war policy in their song lyrics. They organised concerts to protest against the US government and especially against President Bush. The leaders of this movement are mainly (punk-) rock Bands like Anti-Flag, Rage Against The Machine, Audioslave and System of a Down. Two members auf Audioslave and System of a Down also started a project called Axis of Justice.

The Alternative Metal band System of a Down emphasises the criticism in their song texts. I want take a closer look at two songs of the band and examine their devices to expose their message.

4.1. System of a Down – B.Y.O.B.

B.Y.O.B is a song on System of a Down’s fourth album “Mezmerize”, released on May 17, 2005.[31] B.Y.O.B. stands for “Bring Your Own Bombs” and is a modification of “Bring Your Own Beer”, which American teens often use on party invitations..

In the song they criticise the president – in this case George W Bush - of being only spectators in the wars they started. “They always send the poor”[32] instead of fighting himself. The war in this song is the 2003 war in the Iraq. The line “Hangars sitting, dripped in oil” points at this conclusion. With the lines “You depend on our protection / Yet you feed us lies from the tablecloth” 32 System of a Down says that the US government tells the US citizens lies about the reason for attacking Iraq, so that they support their war policy. The lies they mention were the statement that Iraq has atomic weapons and supports al-Qaeda.[33] From their point of view, the US government trivialises the war. The band states this opinion in the lines “Everybody is going to the party / have a real good time / dancing in the desert / blowing up the sunshine” 32. Here is another hint that they are referring to the Iraq war because Iraq has a big desert. “Blowing up the sunshine” 32 could mean the tactical airplanes which fly over the desert and which bomb Iraqi positions in the desert.

In the second stanza, they criticise the those in charge of the US that they do not care about their prisoners and only think about the oil that they want to take over in Iraq. After the chorus there is an ironic meant appeal to go to the desert and fight. George Bush often said that the entire American population has to take the fight against evil, whether they want or not. If you are against the war and say so in public, you will be discredited. The next lines and the repetition of “Why don’t presidents fight the war” 32 and “Why do they always send the poor” 32 are the main statement of this song. System of a Down wants the president and the other persons in charge not only to observe the war, but to take part. Then they repeat the second stanza to strengthen the intention. At the end of the song they repeat the chorus and the two central questions of the song, mentioned above. The last line, repeated twice, is not only a conclusion, but an accusation.

With this song, System of a Down gets their opinion on war across to the listeners. Their central point of criticism is the passivity of the government. With B.Y.O.B., System of a Down wrote a song which was a typical for the anti-war movement. With this song, they reached 27 in place in the US music charts, an exceptional result for an Alternative band.[34]

4.2. System of a Down – Boom!

The song “Boom” was the fourth song on their third Album “Steal This Album”. The LP was published on November 26, 2002.[35] Unlike B.Y.O.B., this song criticises all wars in general and not a specific war.

4.2.1. The song

In the first stanza System of a Down characterise the ignorance of the American people, who are blinded by TV. The people only think about earning money and consumerism. For this reason they do not realise what harm is in the world and that the war is awful. They do not think about the images they see in the TV and so it is easy for the US politics and persons in charge to manipulate them what they see.

The refrain is an obvious statement: with every bomb you drop, you will disclaim god, in whom you believe in. System of a Down wants to link the war to religious idea. The repetition of the explosive word “Boom” intensifies this statement.

The second stanza picks up the suggestion of the first. Again the point of criticism is money but this time they sharpen their criticism by refer to the production of bombs. The industries built bombs while “4000 hungry children leave us per hour”[36] The problem is not only that the money spend on creating bombs could be used to helping those children, but also that bombs kill even more people. The line “Create death showers” 36 strengthens this statement.

At the end of the song, the chorus is repeated twice, with a special emphasis on the word “Boom”. Between the two repetitions they ask on of the central questions of war “Why […] must we kill [..] our own […] kind?” 36 That’s the question which everyone should ask himself after listening to this song.

From my point of view this is a great song against all war and especially against wars waged by the USA. They speak about central points that make a war bad. The song was never in the charts but attracted a lot of attention along with the video.

4.2.2. The video

The video was made by System of a Down together with the popular director Michael Moore as a protest against war in Afghanistan and Iraq in March 2003. They used several videos filmed by anti-war demonstrators from more than 600 marches on the weekend of February 15, 2003.[37] On this weekend there were anti-war demonstrations all over the world with approximately 10,000,000 participants. Referring to the video this was the largest peace demonstration the world has ever seen. The members of System of a Down participated at the demonstration in LA and also appear in the video.

At the begin of the video, they show pictures of the demonstrations all over the world combined with information. Both small marches like Minneapolis with 7,500 demonstrates and big one likes in Rom with 1,000,000 participants are shown. Between these impressions they show short statements of pacifists at the demonstration like the media displays the news. Those comments are for example: “Around the world million of people don’t want this war”[38], “We don’t believe the lies that have been spread through the media” 38 and “We all speak with one voices for peace” 38. After the shout “Stop the war” 38 the regular song texts begins.

During the video facts about the war are faded in. As first they show the message “No. of congressmen with a child in military” 38. With this comment they criticises that the politics let the public fight the war and they only send the soldier in the war without doing a thing.

The video still shows impressions of the marches, but now the people who have a word also speak the text of the song text at this moment. Another fact is faded in: “500,000 projected civilian casualties” 38, pictures the awful dimensions of a war, which actual is against military forces. The repetition of the word “Boom” in the chorus is spoken of various pacifists. After the chorus there tell us that the Iraqi oil reserves have a word of 4 Trillion dollars. A hidden suggestion and one of the main points of criticism is that the USA only invades Iraq for their oil. The same sense has the fact “Halliburton wins contract to rebuild Iraqi oil fields.” 38 Halliburton is a big US oilfield enterprise.[39] Also the line “4,000 hungry children leaves us per hour, form starvation” 38 from the original song text is displayed but in contrast to the song text they display “War could cost U.S. $200 billion” 38. Nonetheless it’s the same point of criticism. In addition to this criticism they display “1 of 6 US children live in poverty” 38. All in all these are facts the US news stations do not want to broadcast.

In the course of the video, they show a rocket launching and exploding, added with comments from demonstrates. One very personal comment is from a young lady, who says: “I’m here because my brother is in the navy, and I want him to home alive.” 38 This clarifies the personal dolour and harm in the war. The last comment in the video is from a lady who can’t understand “why dropping bombs on children is the best way to achieve peace” 38. It’s a similarly structure like the last comment.

The end of the video is an satiric sketch about Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, Tony Blair and George Bush. They are sitting on rockets which throw them down and explode at the sky making a peace sign while the four man take their clothes as parachute. With this sketch they argue that all parties concerned are responsible for the harm and destruction of the war while referring to the UN 10 Million Iraqis could face starvation as a news says.

The video closes with a Arabic boy who rides a bike and grins and with the quotation “war is over (if you want it)” 38 original from John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

The video is an inspiring demonstration of the anti-war movement. Together with the music of System of a Down Michael Moore has created an inspiring anti-war video that was frequently played on music stations like MTV, since stations like CNN and ABC do not broadcast videos and news like the facts in this video.[40] The video uses the power and aggressiveness of the music and perfectly refers to the song text for example by showing a exploding bomb while the song says “Boom“.

4.3. Axis of Justice

The Axis of Justice is an organisation, started by the “System of a Down” leader Serj Tankian and the “Audioslave“ guitarist Tom Morello, who was also an original member of the Group “Rage Against The Machine”. The aim of this project is to bring musicians, who have a social ambition, their fans and the political organisations to fight for social justice.[41] The name is deduced from “The Axis of Evil”, the term US President George Bush used the describe Iraq, Iran and North Korea.[42]

5. Conclusion

All in all I’m pleased with the results of my work. Giving background information about the attacks on September 11, 2001 and the following policy of war, was sometimes a little bit dry because one know a lot of facts from the daily business but I also learned new things, specifically about the War on Terrorism and the politics itself like the USA PATRIOT act.

In the song text, I found many interesting devices that stress System of a Down’s statements.. If you take a closer look you recognise a lot of criticism in the text. Although the criticism is often evident, you can also find hidden points. Nonetheless you can interpret a lot of meanings into the texts if you want so, but overall it’s always the same message: war is awful, needless and unfair.

While the song texts are complex to analyse, the video is straight forward. I really enjoyed to take a closer look at this exceptional anti-war video. One can find a lot of interesting hints, like use of the news bars that news stations display..

5.1. Effects on policy

The protest songs of System of a Down had no direct influence on the American war policy. Nonetheless, they attracted a lot of attention from the media, along with others artists, who criticised war. In US allied countries, mainly European states, the anti war protests forced the governments to withdraw their troops. Anti war music was an important part of theses demonstrations and protests.

5.2. Only money-makers

Of course one can think the band only writes and produces these songs in order to earn money, because anti-war songs become popular when a war starts. System of a Down wrote protest songs long before the aggressive war policy of the USA. The members of System of a Down originally came from Armenia and their grandfathers fled form the genocide committed by the Turks. In their songs, they sing about the Armenian genocide, the American war policy and other political topics. Furthermore the singles of System of a Down only had a fair success in the mainstream. Only their 4th album “Mezmerize” had a great success with many number one charts positions all over the world.[43] The album was the most mainstream adapted album of the band.

All in all one can say that System of a Down writes songs according to their believes. They want to provide their opinion on political events and point the attention of their listeners to these events.


Internet (07.02.2007), Casualties in Iraq, 07.02.2007 (11.02.2007), Our Mission (07.02.2007) Gordon, Philip H.: NATO and the War on Terrorism - A Changing Alliance, Summer 2002, (07.02.2007) George McGovern and Jim McGovern: Withdraw From Iraq, 06.06.2005 (07.02.2007) bin Laden, Osama: Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders, World Islamic Front Statement, 23.02.1998, (12.02.2007) Global Oilfield Services – Halliburton (07.02.2007) Operation Enduring Freedom: Coalition Fatalities (11.02.2007), System of a Down, 30.12.2006, (07.02.2007) Marshall, M: Terrorism Has Political, Historical Roots, Pillar Says, 02.03.2005 (07.02.2007) SEPTEMBER 11, 2001 VICTIMS (10.02.2007) SYSTEM OF A DOWN (12.02.2007) System Of A Down and Michael Moore Join Forces for "BOOM!" Video /vid/boom.htm (12.02.2007) Frank, Arno: Boom! Boom! Boom!, in taz of 22.3.2003, S. 19 (07.02.2007) Security Council, Press Release SC/7143, 12.09.2001, (07.02.2007) Bush, George: Global Message - A CENTRAL FRONT IN THE WAR ON TERROR, 09.09.2003 (11.02.2007) Bush, George: President Delivers State of the Union Address, 29.02.2002 (03.02.2007) Iraq War, 07.02.2007 (03.02.2007) War on terrorism, 05.02.2007, (07.02.2007) September 11,2001 attacks, 04.02.2007, (07.02.2007) USA PATRIOT Act, 06.02.2007 (07.02.2007) War in Afghanistan (2001–present), 07.02.2007,


Video: System of a Down – Boom! (11.02.2007), System of a Down & Michael Moore ripped of


Song texts: (, Lyrics)

System of a Down – B.Y.O.B

Why do they always send the poor

Barbarisms by Barbaras

With pointed heels

Victorious victories kneel

For brand new spankin' deals

Marching forward hypocritic and

Hypnotic computers

You depend on our protection

Yet you feed us lies from the tablecloth

Everybody's going to the party have a real good time

Dancing in the desert blowing up the sunshine

Kneeling roses disappearing into

Moses' dry mouth

Breaking into Fort Knox stealing

Our intentions

Hangers sitting dripped in oil

Crying freedom

Handed to obsoletion

Still you feed us lies from the tablecloth

Everybody's going to the party have a real good time

Dancing in the desert blowing up the sunshine

Everybody's going to the party have a real good time

Dancing in the desert blowing up the sunshine

Blast off

It's party time

And we don't live in a fascist nation

Blast off

It's party time

And where the fuck are you?

Where the fuck are you? (2x)

Why don't presidents fight the war?

Why do they always send the poor?

Why don't presidents fight the war?

Why do they always send the poor?

Why do they always send the poor? (3x)

Kneeling roses disappearing into

Moses' dry mouth

Breaking into Fort Knox stealing

Our intentions

Hangers sitting dripped in oil

Crying freedom

Handed to obsoletion,

Still you feed us lies from the tablecloth

Everybody's going to the party have a real good time

Dancing in the desert blowing up the sunshine

Everybody's going to the party have a real good time

Dancing in the desert blowing up the sun

Where the fuck are you? (2x)

Why don't presidents fight the war?

Why do they always send the poor?

Why don't presidents fight the war?

Why do they always send the poor?

Why do they always send the poor? (2x)

They always send the poor (2x)

System of a Down – Boom!

I’ve been walking through your streets,

Where all your money's earning,

Where all your building's crying,

And clueless neckties working,

Revolving fake lawn houses,

Housing all your fears,

Desensitized by TV,

Overbearing advertising,

God of consumerism,

And all your crooked pictures,

Looking good, mirrorism,

Filtering information,

For the public eye,

Designed for profiteering,

Your neighbour, what a guy.


Every time you drop the bomb,

You kill the god your child has born.


Modern globalization,

Coupled with condemnations,

Unnecessary death,

Matador corporations,

Puppeting your frustrations,

With the blinded flag,

Manufacturing consent

Is the name of the game,

The bottom line is money,

Nobody gives a fuck.

4000 hungry children die per hour,

from starvation,

while billions spent on bombs,

create death showers.


Every time you drop the bomb,

You kill the god your child has born.



Why, why, why, why must we kill, kill, kill, kill, our own, own, own, own kind??


Every time you drop the bomb,

You kill the god your child has born.



Every time you drop the bomb.


Hiermit erkläre ich, dass ich die vorliegende Arbeit selbstständig verfasst, keine anderen als die angegebenen Hilfsmittel benutzt und alle wörtlichen und sinngemäßen Übernahmen aus anderen Werken als solche kenntlich gemacht und mit genauen Quellenbelegen versehen habe.

Ort, Datum



[1] cf 07.02.2007

[2] cf 07.02.2007c, Introduction

[3] cf 07.02.2007

[4] cf 07.02.2007c, Damage

[5] cf Ibid, Responsibility

[6] cf 07.02.2007

[7] cf 07.02.2007c, Domestic Response

[8] cf Ibid, The War on Terrorism

[9] cf 07.02.2007d, Introduction

[10] 07.02.2007d, Introduction

[11] cf 07.02.2007d, Scope

[12] 03.02.2007b, Introduction, 1st paragraph

[13] cf 07.02.2007

[14] cf 03.02.2007b, Campaigns and theatres of operations

[15] cf 03.02.2007b, International support

[16] cf 07.02.2007

[17] cf 03.02.2007b, Criticism

[18] cf 07.02.2007e, Introduction

[19] cf Ibid., Taliban retreat

[20] cf Ibid., Coalition response

[21] cf Ibid., Casualties

[22] cf 07.02.2007

[23] cf 03.02.2007a, Introduction

[24] cf 07.02.2007

[25] cf 07.02.2007

[26] cf 03.02.2007a, May 2006, Permanent Iraqi Government takes power

[27] cf Ibid., December 2006: Iraq Study Group report and Saddam's execution

[28] cf Ibid., January 2007: Bush's "New Way Forward" and Personnel changes

[29] cf Ibid., Calls for withdraw from Iraq

[30] cf 07.02.2007

[31] cf 10.02.2007, Discographie

[32] 10.02.2007 Lyrics -> Mezmerize -> B.Y.O.B.

[33] cf 07.02.2007

[34] cf 11.02.2007

[35] cf 10.02.2007, Discographie

[36] 10.02.2007 Lyrics -> Steal This Album -> Boom!.

[37] cf 12.02.2007

[38] Video: System of a Down – Boom!

[39] cf 12.02.2007

[40] cf 12.02.2007

[41] cf 11.02.2007

[42] cf 11.02.2007

[43] cf 11.02.2007


380 KB
13 Punkte
Criticism American System Down



Titel: Criticism on American war policy after 9/11 in selected works of System of a Down