A 1989 action/ adventure movie:

Director: Brian De Palma
Starring: Michael J. Fox, Sean Penn
Running time: 2 hours
Rating: R

A truly disturbing look at the deterioration of the hearts of some while having to confront the hell of war. Fox and Penn, still practically kiddies, are fellow soldiers in a troop fighting in Vietnam. The troop is sent out on a final mission during the war, and the brutal Penn character decides to take a female hostage along with them in the brush, so the troop can entertain themselves whilst on their mission. The cruelty in Penn’s character reflects the extent of damage his exposure to so much evil and violence has created within him, as well as in others. Fox’s character still has a heart and objects to the rape and torture the girl is forced to endure, but is unsuccessful at stopping it. Fox attempts to tell superiors later on, but is looked upon as being the bad guy because he broke “the brush code of honor” by speaking of said events. That’s about all I can reveal without ruining the movie.

A decent film, all in all, though I admit I have a hard time watching war movies. They disturb me 1,000 times more than any typical horror film, because often war movies are based on truth. And well, the truth of war is one of the scariest realities in living. Sean Penn’s New Jersey accent in the film could have been better, and I’m sorry, but it’s difficult to watch sweet ‘ol Fox in such a movie without a bemused smile. (Alex Keaton goes to war! Oh dear!) It’s worth a watch, but for me, not one to view repetitively. The casualties of war are too numerous and heartwrenching to stock my brain with on a constant basis.

Casualties of War is a song on Eric B and Rakim's 1992 album Don't Sweat the Technique. It is written as a first person narrative of Rakim's (fictional) experience as a soldier in the first Iraq War.

Rakim is generally considered to be one of, if not, the greatest hip-hop lyricist ever. His reputation as a lyricist with a conscious or social message is also strong. This song reflects that, being a strong statement against the violence of war. Rakim, however, was also known for being somewhat understated in his delivery, and instead of making militant statements, he instead writes more personal lyrics:

Cause I got a family that waits for my return
To get back home is my main concern
It's a long way home, it's a lot to think about
Whole generation, left in doubt
Innocent families killed in the midst
It'll be more dead people after this
So I'm glad to be alive and walkin
Half of my platoon came home in coffins

It is hard to analyze this song, because of all that has happened in the intervening years, both in the world of rap, and in the wars American finds itself in. In 1992, the Golden Age of Hip-Hop that Rakim had helped found was on the wane, and hip-hop as a voice of dissent was at one of its low points, even if anyone in the dominant culture was interested in learning, which for the most point they were not. It would be hard to imagine anyone writing an effective hip-hop anti-war song, but Rakim does make an interesting statement. It is not as sarcastic and intellectual as KRS-One might have wrote it, and not as emotional as Nas would manage 10 years later on My Country.

The most striking lyrics from the song come, as they often do with Rakim, as a flash of insight that seems to come out of nowhere. This is the song, after all, where Rakim predicts that terrorists will launch Kamikaze strikes on New York City using airplanes. Although not totally in accord with all the details, he does paint a picture that would have seemed to be crazy at the time, but seems, of course, obvious in retrospect:

So I wait for terrorists to attack
Every time a truck backfires I fire back
I look for shelter when a plane is over me
Remember Pearl Harbor? New York could be over, G
Kamikaze, strapped with bombs
No peace in the East, they want revenge for Saddam
Except for a few references in internet postings (and, of course, you can find an internet post about anything), there seems to be few remarks made about the possible prescience that Rakim exhibited in these lyrics.

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