We HAVE to Change the Lyrics to The Marines’ Hymn

We have to change the lyrics to the Marines’ hymn. There’s too much opportunity to misinterpret it as a potentially hostilely intended gesture.

We have fought in every clime and place where we could take a gun. In the snow of far-off northern lands, and in sunny tropic scenes, you will find us always on the job, the United States Marines….”

The Battle Of Chapultepec ended in 1847, and if I remember my history correctly, we’ve actually mostly been at peace with Mexico for the past 150 years.

The Battle Of Derne ended in 1805.  And by contrast, unlike Mexico, our relations with Lybia have not been so peaceful historically.

Which is why we HAVE to change the lyrics to The Marines’ Hymn.  NOW.  TODAY.  WE CANNOT WAIT ANY LONGER.

This is a historic opportunity for peace here, as a small part of the process of normalizing our relations with Libya.

 “to the shores of Tripoli”

Yes, I fully comprehend that Marines have been singing that song for the past 99 years since 1917 (and possibly earlier, 1917 is the first known written record of the lyrics), and it is woven into the concepts of honor and tradition which are so highly valued among the Marines.  As an American, I actually do fully understand that.  And so do most Americans.

But most Libyans won’t understand that the reference “to the shores of Tripoli” is historic, and not intended to provoke modern conflicts in the 21st century.  Much as when we used to see photos of murals which were appearing in parts of North Africa and the Middle East of the destruction of the NATO symbol as being intentionally provocative and portraying hostility, most Libyans today won’t likely say, “oh, we understand fully that the reference to the Battle Of Derne in The Marines’ Hymn is historic, and now the Americans are looking for peaceful relations with us.”

As an experiment, I encourage anyone who reads this article to type “Marines Hymn” into google, bing or yahoo.  Yes, it is that easy.  Within 10 seconds, you’ll have links to hundreds of photos, websites and videos.  And now that the internet is becoming widely readily available throughout north Africa, it will take only those same 10 seconds for anyone who owns a cell phone, a tablet or a computer to look up those same links.

The leadership of the Marine Corps can opt to change the lyrics to their hymn, and if they do not opt to do so, then our President can force them to do so.  It’s now about a historic opportunity for peace.

The late Col. Muammar Gadaffi was in power in Libya from 1969 through 2011.  The Gadaffi regime’s human rights record was abysmal, probably the worst in North Africa.  Our relations with Libya were never anywhere near peaceful during the Gadaffi era.

We only directly bombed Libya once during his reign, we bombed Libya in April of 1986, though we were never close to peaceful relations with them at any time.  The U.S. was attempting to kill Col. Gadaffi.  We quite obviously did not succeed, though we may have killed his infant daughter during the raids.  In 1991, our intelligence confirmed that the Gadaffi government funded the bombing of Pan Am’s flight # 103 in December of 1988.

Following the Libyan Civil War of 2011, a number of different faction were vying for power.  The immediate aftermath of the civil war was that much of the country experienced near anarchy.  In 2014, they did have elections, and what appeared to be the beginnings of a stable government did emerge, though the new government in Libya is really only in control of certain regions of the country.  Other regions of the country are really still under control of local and regional warlords, gangs, terrorists or various militias who are vying for power.

The African Union, the League Of Arab States and the United Nations are all working closely now with the present government in Libya to try to ensure that now for the first time ever in the entirety of the history of Libya, they can have a stable national government which respects the civil and human rights of all of its citizens, constructs modern infrastructure and has healthcare and opportunities for education and employment for all of its citizens.

Libya has never had any of those- not in the bronze age when the Phoenicians and the Greeks were in North Africa, not when they were under Roman occupation during the iron age, they did not have those during the Byzantine era, not during the Tripolitania and Cyrenaica era, not under Ottoman rule, not when they were an Italian colony, and not during the Gadaffi regime.  For the first time in their history, they now actually have an opportunity for a stable national government which respects 21st century international law to emerge from the chaos of the 2011 civil war.

The absolute last thing that these people need is to see that one of the branches of the military of the host country of the United Nations headquarters still sings about how “we will fight our country’s battles … to the shores of Tripoli.”

Scott Benowitz is a staff writer for Afterimage Review. He holds an MSc in Comparative Politics from The London School of Economics & Political Science and a B.A. in International Studies from Reed...

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