"Rocket Launcher" came from Bruce Cockburn's visits to Guatemalan refugee camps on the border with Mexico. He spent three weeks in Central America in 1983. He had gone to Mexico and Nicaragua with several other Canadian artists at the invitation of OXFAM, the world hunger organization. His tour was, in itself, meant to reach a different audience than a visit the previous year by politicians had reached. It succeeded beyond all hopes when this song, born of Cockburn's anguish, became an international hit.
The song is found on his 1984 album 'Stealing Fire'. Bruce has repeatedly stressed in interviews that the song is not a call to arms, but an expression of frustration at the suffering of the Guatelaman people, and the apparent lack of any ready solutions. He wants the audience to share his experience, not necessarily to extract any political message.
If I had a Rocket Launcher starts like this ...
Here comes the helicopter -- second time today
Everybody scatters and hopes it goes away
How many kids they've murdered only God can say
If I had a rocket launcher...