Holy Wars... The Punishment Due

Album: Rust in Peace (1990)
Charted: 24
  • This song has been interpreted to be about the troubles in Northern Ireland, but Dave Mustaine has indicated that the song is about Israel (Mustaine's mother is Jewish though he is Christian). In an interview with Rock Detector, Mustaine said: "'Holy Wars' doesn't talk about any specific place in time. It doesn't talk about any country. It just says, 'Don't look now to Israel it might be YOUR homeland.'"

    On Israel National Radio, Mustaine said: "I've mentioned Israel in songs before, in 'Holy Wars.' Holy wars don't necessarily have to start in Israel. It can be anywhere. There are so many holy wars taking place in the world right now anyway. People are dying for a cause. It's so unbelievable.
  • Mustaine has explained that the second half of the song was inspired by the comic book The Punisher, which he loves (the Megadeth song "Killing Is My Business…and Business is Good," is about The Punisher). As for the first part, he explained when the album was first released that it was about an experience that happened in Ireland. Said Mustaine: "I had found out that the IRA wasn't as apparently opposed to the English as I was told. Yet the way that was described to me was very watered down. So, I shot my mouth off while there, saying, 'This one is for the cause! Anarchy in Ireland! Give Ireland back to the Irish!' I caught a lot of flack from the English press, and I caught a lot from the Irish... and like I give a f--k for the IRA!"

Comments: 24

  • Jeemy from UkLooked into this a lot and everybody is wrong, and right. The thing is, lyrics don't have to be about just one thing. From interviews with Dave its definitely connected to the Irish incident. He confronted some guys at an Irish gig selling bootleg shirts and was told they were being sold to support "The Cause" - which he was told was to try to reduce the number of Protestants and Catholics dying at each others hands.

    He went on to let them sell the T-shirts, and to dedicate the song "Anarchy in the UK" to "The Cause" at a Dublin gig, getting a huge cheer.

    He repeated this at a Northern Irish gig; in ANTRIM - "Give Ireland back to the Irish! This one's for 'the cause' - Anarchy in Ireland!"

    .....not realizing this was a dedication to the radical IRA and causing a riot between PR and CATH fans; Megadeth had to be taken out of the city in a bulletproof bus, and allegedly travel in same for the rest of the tour, which I can well believe having had friends stationed there and on both sides of the conflict back in the day.

    Holy Wars is actually about foreigners mouthing off about wars they know nothing about...Irish, Palestinian and Israeli all included, the Punishment due section is him imagining the Punisher in real war scenarios.

    I found a quote from him:

    Mustaine recalls, "When I was in Ireland, somebody talked to me about 'the cause', the reason why they were killing so many Catholics and Protestants.

    "To me this made sense, and from the stage I dedicated a song to 'the cause'. The next day, we received threats and had to travel in a bulletproof bus.

    "It turns out 'the cause' was the way in which Irish would call the IRA. I never felt so stupid."

    "I don't really write about religion, but I came close with "Holy Wars," being inspired by the Cause"

    "The second part of the song, "The Punishment Due" – which comes in after the Middle Eastern part – is about Frank Castle from Marvel's The Punisher. We timed that so that part would be at the end, "the could-be messenger of God." There's so many people who act like that. So we tried to make a complete shift and make it really melodic, something really Beatles-esque with that sweeping [guitar] pattern that went back and forth. "
  • Smart Light from UsaYah, he's not talking about Israel, he's talking about Jerusalem in Palestine that has been a center of conflict, recently Israel being the military force causing the warfare and death in the land of Palestine, which in return has caused retaliation from Palestinian due to Zionist portrayal of their holy war (which is a different idea of how Jews return home, since Jews are told their messiah will bring them home, many Jews are against Israel because they see the country of Israel as a fake Jewish state, only Zionist extremists and Jewish investors support Israel in their totality... including many Russian Mafia gangsters, they have big investments in Israel).
  • Danilo from MauritiusLove this song.......m/
  • Idan from Hadera, IsraelAbout the Israel line, it's not something against Israel, it's just saying that a holy war like the one taking place in Israel might accure in your homeland too. He is not anti-Israel at all, he visited Israel 3 times (2 concerts and 1 personal visit) and his mom is Jewish.
  • Inistrator from London, United KingdomThe first part of the song is dealing with Palestinian Israeli conflict, it is so obvious...check this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D8SI3okOxZM
  • Greg from Calgary, AbI love both the official song, and the demo. One of my favorite Megadeth songs.
  • David from Petaluma, CaIn the video, I see Arafat, so it's gotts be about Israel and Palestine.
  • Travis from Charleston, WvDave said once that this song was the first one he wrote about a comic book character, the second being Psychotron and then I think there was another one. Not sure though, don't hold me to it.
  • Cody from Kansas City, MoThe song has two lyrical themes. The first part is Holy Wars. Which is about the war between Pakistan and Israel. The Punishment Due is about the Punisher who is a Marvel character in which Dave Mustaine was a big fan of, but is not anymore because he thinks that the Punisher has gotten too commercial.
  • Ricky from Moncton, Nball i can do is press my fingers and thumb to my lips and kiss the air PERFECTION
  • Sean from Toney, AlYAY MEGADETH! Best, Band, Ever! I love how he ties in things that are happening in the real world, and I think we need to hear it, Megadeth IS one of the only metal bands that talks about this kinda stuff, other bands talk about, Victims Of Love, Whatever the hell Cherub Rock is, and Megadeth writes songs about Aliens! BEST BAND. And I love Dave Mustaines story about how he abused drugs and stuff, and then became a born again christian and everything. But how he got kicked out of metallica is funny, he poured Beer in..I forget his names Bass, and Quote:"Was literally blown across the room" Anyways, I think Return to hangar was there best, but I like this one too.
  • Tom from Chicago, Ilanother example of genius songwriting and guitar work....i wonder if the punishment due is about the comic character "the punisher" ? sure seems like it
  • Paul from California, SdTo Gary: Yeah, you are right. However, U.S. Deployment of troops began on August 7th, 1990. Also, Hussein declared a jihad, or Holy War on the U.S. and the U.N. shortley thereafter. Anyway, this song was definately released in time to be about the first gulf war, or at least the events that led up to it. Dave is very smart and stays well informed. I'm sure his eyes were practically glued to the tv during the whole event.
  • Gary from Isanti, MnTo Paul:Thr U.S. Coalition did not invade Iraq in August 1990...Thats when Iraq invaded Kuwait.The U.S. Coalition started it's air campaign in 17 January 1991 and the ground war started in towards the end of February.
  • Chapel from Columbus, GaThe best Megadeth song. This riff is SO HARD. I have known how to play it for about two months and STILL can't perfect it.
  • G from Belfast, IrelandThis song is actually based upon an event in Antrim, N.Ireland in 1987 .... Dave Mustaine was misinformed of the actual politics and went on stage to make pro-IRA comments ... needless to say the place got trashed and they where led away under police escort ... he just widened the scope to include all pointless holy wars ...
  • David from Petaluma, CaThis song is, without a doubt, about the Israel and Palestine situation. Just watch the video, there is footage of Yasser Arafat.
  • Paul from California, PaJon, I'm going to have to disagree with you, my friend. Holy wars IS about the first Gulf War. Rust In Peace was released in Oct. 1990. The U.N. coalition, led by the U.S.A., invaded Iraq in August of 1990. Besides if the song was about northern Ireland and The Republic of Ireland, why would Dave mention Israel, and totally neglect to mention the Irish countries at all? Moreover, Israel and Palestine are the same country. Palestine is the English version of the Ancient Roman Empires' name for Israel.
  • Rocco from , CanadaThis song has a great solo
  • Dallas from Viking, Canadathis is rated the best megadeth song and its my favorite
  • Justin from Albany, Nyi really like this song and i love the guitar right after the part where Dave says "Either way they die, they die"
  • Dallas from Viking, CanadaThis song has awsome riffs and guitar and i like what the songs about the punisher
  • Sean from Flower Mound, TxIs this a popular song? I'm not a big fan of Megadeth and all I have are their greatest hits album and this song is the first track. The riff is great, but then the song gets butchered by Dave's scratchy vocals.
  • Devon from Westerville, OhThis is one of my favorite Megadeth songs. The whole song just kicks ass.
see more comments

Taylor DayneSongwriter Interviews

Taylor talks about "The Machine" - the hits, the videos and Clive Davis.

Song Titles That Inspired MoviesSong Writing

Famous songs that lent their titles - and in some cases storylines - to movies.

Tommy JamesSongwriter Interviews

"Mony Mony." "Crimson and Clover." "Draggin' The Line." The hits kept coming for Tommy James, and in a plot line fit for a movie, his record company was controlled by the mafia.

Stephen Christian of AnberlinSongwriter Interviews

The lead singer/lyricist for Anberlin breaks down "Impossible" and covers some tracks from their 2012 album Vital.

Gene Simmons of KissSongwriter Interviews

The Kiss rocker covers a lot of ground in this interview, including why there are no Kiss collaborations, and why the Rock Hall has "become a sham."

Classic MetalFact or Fiction

Ozzy, Guns N' Roses, Judas Priest and even Michael Bolton show up in this Classic Metal quiz.