Steve Earle – Rich Man’s War

Outlaw country musician Steve Earle grindingly tries to rhyme “far” with “war,” and looks at stereotypically hard-working but low income Americans forced to fight in Iraq as an economic opportunity. It’s Springsteen-lite from, still, an engaging performer. And it is an update of the theme expressed decades earlier by John Fogerty, in Fortunate Son, also reviewed here.

In fact, the socio-economic status of US army recruits mirrors the full population. This finding is from the Heritage Foundation, albeit a right-of-centre organization with its own ideological axe to grind. The results aren’t perfect (as if social science data could be), but widely considered authoritative.

Still, what makes the 2004 song compelling rhetoric is it also looks at the other side: poor people in Iraq recruited by rich men, too, to fight for Allah against Americans. The larger point of the song may be a commentary on aggressors on opposing sides being more alike than different.


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