I think this song is about how violence can't change anything and if you try, violently, you are no better than the ones in control, the people you riot against. Speaking without knowing much U2 history, just from a lyrics-point-of-view, to me, this song preaches passive and non-violent recistance. It also expresses sadness for what the world has come to and that things were better before(as they are worse now).
The author of the song won`t be fooled by uniforms and revolutionary artefacts as he truly believes the hysteria of a "violent" revolution, with all the different opposing groups fighting also among themselves, will not make things better, it will only add to the bloodshed. He also feels numbed by his experiences and thinks that the world has little or nothing to offer him and his generation; he longs for feelings(.. .make it(heart) bleed....) I think he also wants people to care more for others and be less selfish and more patient, and he strongly condemns the militia.
Britt Engelstad engelstonline.no (contributed before the 20:th of February 1998)
This song could easily be about young men and now women in war. Few can forget the huge figures of casulties duing the World Wars among young men. Whole age groups were wiped out thus a generation without name / ripped and torn.
Vgavinator vgavinatoraol.com (contributed before the 20:th of February 1998)
This song is, like the more recognised Sunday Bloody Sunday on War, about the fighting between the North and the Republic in Ireland. It's obvious in the line that goes And I won't let others live in hell/as we divide against each other/and we fight amongst ourselves. The fighting against others is a reference to the Republic fighting against others (the British) and the dividing amongst ourselves is the Republic and the North, the country of Ireland, dividing. There are numerous other lines which refer to the fighting in Ireland, which the band was, and still is, quite vocal about in that they would like to see it end.
Annie D mrs_chanandler_bonghotmail.com( 3:rd of July 2000)