There seems to some confusion regarding the meaning about this song, it has been stated that is based on the dying thoughts of soldier, but it seems like it has been confused with Winter instread.
My many thanks to Frank van Beek to helping me sort this out.
Jonas Steverud (Maintainer of U2MoL) ( 23rd of March 2009)
It seems that there is some confusion regarding the meaning and inspiration behind "White As Snow" and "Winter", both of which were included in the Anton Corbijn film "Linear", and one of which was included on the album "No Line on the Horizon". The confusion stems largely from their shared theme of the war in Afghanistan, but the description that has been assigned to "Winter" would appear to fit "White As Snow" far better.
The lyrics of "Winter" seem entirely focused on a young soldier's tour in Afghanistan, while the only lyrics between the two songs that reference a young man dying at sea seem to be the bridge in "White As Snow": "And the water, it was icy as it washed over me, and the moon shone above me." The passage in Sean O'Hagan's 13 February 2009 article in The Guardian, cites Bono's thoughts of a soldier dying from a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, which is clearly echoed in the line from "White As Snow": "The road refuses strangers, the land the seeds we sow."
The line that precedes this makes it obvious that the song is about Afghanistan: "Now this dry ground, it bears no fruit at all, only poppies laugh under the crescent moon." Afghanistan is the world's leading producer of poppies used to make opium, and the crescent moon refers to the symbol of the Islamic faith that dominates and defines Afghan society. The final defining difference that makes it clear that the song described in O'Hagan's article is "White As Snow", and not "Winter", is his mention of the melody being based on the hymn "Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel" - the melody for "White As Snow" is obviously derived from this hymn, while the melody for "Winter" appears to bear no resemblance.
Since both "Winter" and "White As Snow" serve as such vivid lyrical portraits of the difficulty of the war in Afghanistan, it's not surprising that their common inspiration has caused confusion behind their meaning. However, it seems clear that the O'Hagan description is, indeed, referring to "White As Snow".
Tom Ordeman catorebornyahoo.com (2nd February 2010)