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Pass the Ammunition!
by Peter Kurth
September 22, 2004

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Praise The Lord, and swing into position,
Can't afford to sit around a'wishin'!
Praise The Lord, we're all between perdition
and the deep blue sea!

Praise The Lord, and pass the ammunition!
Praise The Lord, and pass the ammunition!
Praise The Lord, and pass the ammunition and we'll all stay free!


As your parents or grandparents will remember, this was a popular song of World War II, written by composer/lyricist Frank Loesser, whose works later included the Broadway hits Guys and Dolls, The Most Happy Fella and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.  The last – at least the title – really ought to be our national anthem now. 


But that isn’t what Loesser had in mind.  His song purportedly sprang from the actions of a Navy chaplain, William Maguire, who “left his altar” during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and – “in the unholy roar of that torrent of bombs” – manned a gun station for his wounded flock, blasting away at the “Nips” and crying, “I just got one of them!!  Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!!”


According to the official Frank Loesser website (, “Praise The Lord and Pass the Ammunition” sold more than two million records and one million copies of sheet music while the war endured:  “The Office of War Information restricted its performance over the airwaves to once every four hours, lest the public tire of it.”


Wow!  It’s sort of like those magnetic yellow ribbons on the backs of trucks and SUVS, currently making millions of dollars for someone.  Nothing like a “catastrophic success” to get the economy moving, as G. W. Bush might say – if he wanted you to think about war at all, which he doesn’t. 


To clarify:  Bush doesn’t want you to think about war in any actual or contemporary sense – let’s say, the two “successes” now catastrophically raging in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Dubya wants you to think that both of these operations are going awfully well, that “the Iraqis are defying the dire predictions of a lot of people by moving toward democracy,” as he told New Hampshire’s Manchester Union Leader in a telephone interview, and that “freedom is on the march,” as he says in every stump speech he makes.  But anyone with even half an eye open knows it isn’t true.  Even Republican lawmakers have begun to question Bush’s sanity.


“The worst thing we can do is hold ourselves hostage to some grand illusion that we’re winning,” says Senator Chuck Hagel (R.-Nebraska).  “Right now, we are not winning.  Things are getting worse.”  General William Odom, the retired former head of the National Security Agency, tells reporters plainly that the Iraqi “goal is lost.  It’s lost,” and adds, “I’ve never seen it so bad between the office of the secretary of defense and the military.  There’s a significant majority believing this is a disaster.” 


No kidding.  Last week, more than 300 Iraqis died in the general slaughter.  Forty-two Americans were killed in June, 54 in July, 66 in August and more than 50 already in September, including another beheaded businessman.  Even Tony Blair, that vile opportunist, war criminal and prime minister of the British Isles, who last year dragged his unwilling people into Bush’s folly, is forced to admit that a full-scale war, a “new Iraqi conflict,” is now underway. 


Blair is contradicted in this view by no less a creep than Ayad Allawi, forever described as “Iraq's interim prime minister,” who assumed power in Baghdad after the phony “transfer of sovereignty” in June.  Allawi is now in the United States, helping Ding-Dong maintain the lie that something good has, or can, or just maybe will emerge from this debacle.  Speaking in London before flying to Washington, Allawi remarked, "It's not a second war, as such. It's a big conflict” – words to reassure even the most skeptical GOP donor.


It bears mentioning also that opium production in Afghanistan – the only certain way for millions of Afghanis to make a living – has outstripped anything seen under the Taliban, and, according to congressional sources, is expected to rise another 200 per cent over the next two years.  Bush, while puffing on and on about democracy, has just named Afghanistan “number one on his list of evil drug-producing nations.”  As columnist William Greider observes in The Nation, “Down is up, fiction is truth, momentous realities are made to disappear from the public mind.”  But who, Greider adds, “is going to tell the voters?”


It won’t be America’s supine press, that’s for sure, now engaged, to the delight of Karl Rove, in another orgy of self-flagellation over supposedly forged documents concerning Dubya’s draft-dodging tactics in the Vietnam War. 


I say the “supine” press because, as you can imagine, it’s much easier to lick boots if you’re lying on your back.  Nowadays, bootlicking is disguised as “objectivity,” or “presenting both sides of the story,” even when there’s only one side, or many sides, and even when they all confirm that the strutting little horror of “Mission Accomplished,” in fact shirked military duty in 1972 in favor of drinking and carousing in Texas and Alabama.  


But never mind – times don’t change.  A “Nip” is now an Arab, a “terrorist” or “radical insurgent.” It makes no difference when you have The Lord on your side.  "President Bush supports God, and God supports President Bush, absolutely," said Judith Manning, an exalted delegate from Georgia to the Republican convention.  An inexplicable majority of American voters appear to agree with her. 


“The [only] two parties whose interests have been advanced [in Iraq] have been the Iranians and al-Quaida,” General Odom sighs.  Well, bring 'em on.  With the expiration of the assault weapons ban, there’s plenty of ammunition to go around.   


Peter Kurth is the author of international bestselling books including Anastasia: The Riddle of Anna Anderson, Isadora: A Sensational Life, and a biography of the anti-fascist journalist Dorothy Thompson, American Cassandra: The Life of Dorothy Thompson. His essays have appeared in Salon, Vanity Fair, New York Times Book Review, and many others. Peter lives in Burlington, Vermont. He can be reached at: Visit his website at:


Other Articles by Peter Kurth


* Keep Petting That Goat!
* Religion in the News
* Beam Me Up, Mrs. Williams
* Such Emptiness! Such Depth of “Preparedness!”
* Absent on AIDS
* King James and King George

* Beheadings
* F--k this, Dick!
* Reagan Idiosis
* Chickenhawk Chic
* Letter to Mars
* Robbing "Defeat" to Pay "Appall"
* Standing Small
* Bible Time
* One Man's Flip Is Another Man's Flop
* Kee-reist is More Like It
* Star Wars
* The Breast That Ate Pittsburgh
* Monkey See, Monkey Do
* Crank Call
* A Cynic's Guide to the Top Stories of 2003
* Talking Turkey
* Let Them Drink Coke
* The Gang that Couldn’t Talk Straight On Iraq
* Party Rules