Near the end of Shakira's live show, a short film is projected on giant screens, depicting puppet caricatures of President Bush and Saddam Hussein playing chess.
The visual is comical at first, like something from Genesis' "Land of Confusion" video. But as violent war footage begins to intersperse with the match and the shot slowly pans out to reveal the puppeteer is the Grim Reaper, it develops into a disturbing segment that changes the tone of the Colombian singer's concert.
Shakira has been introducing her song "Octavo Dia" with the film since her Tour of the Mongoose launched in November (see "Shakira Shows She's The Colombian Britney, Colombian Tommy Lee At Tour Kickoff"), but as the United States grows closer to attacking Iraq, the film is garnering more and more attention.
On Sunday, at one of the tour's final U.S. stops at the Arena in Oakland, Shakira explained in detail for the first time her motivation for including the segment in an otherwise lighthearted production.
"I think that we see war as a virtual thing and we even get to believe that bombs fall on top of cardboard cutouts and stuff like that," Shakira said. "They don't. They kill real people, real children, real mothers and millions of innocent people. I come from Columbia, which is a country that has been under the whip of violence for more than four decades, so I've seen the consequences of war and I've seen the psychological damage that it does in a society. And I think that we're never ready for war."
By comparing war to a game of chess, Shakira said she's expressing her opinion that the confrontation between America and Iraq is about two people trying to win a game.
"I just feel that there are always pacifist solutions, and I think that the leaders know the exit to the conflict, it's just that sometimes they don't want to use them," she said. "They just want to continue playing their little game of power. And I feel that us people have the responsibility and also the obligation to demand to our leaders to give us the pacifist solutions. To give us a world in peace."
That notion, Shakira said, is addressed in another part of her concert, when the screens project one of her favorite quotes, from Jimi Hendrix: "When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace."
"I might be sounding like an old fashioned hippie, but I believe in pacifist revolutions and I think that we have to look for those solutions, otherwise there's no way to survive in this world," Shakira said. "In the First World War, 13 million people were killed. In the Second World War, 40 million people were killed. I think that if a third war takes place, nothing is going to be left on the face of earth."
While the other 110 minutes of Shakira's two-hour show seem focused on singing, dancing and having a good time, she said the entire theme of the concert is rooted in her political stance.
"It's called the Tour of the Mongoose, and the mongoose is basically one of the few animals who can defeat the most venomous snakes with just one bite," she said. "And that's why I decided to name my tour that way, because I think that if we all have a little mongoose inside that can defeat the hatred and the resentment and the prejudice of everyday, we can probably win the battle."
Shakira gets particularly political, asking fans to support a peace movement, before "Octavo Dia" because of the story behind the song.
" 'Octavo Dia' talks about God when he created the world, the eighth day he went for a walk to outer space and when he came back he found our world in an infernal mess," she explained. "And he found that we were being controlled and manipulated by just a few leaders and that we were like pieces of a chess game.
"Not always do the governments represent their people," she added. "Not always do the governments make the right decisions, because the governments are controlled by just a few, and those few do not always represent faithfully the ideals of the people."
Shakira's Tour of the Mongoose hits Laredo, Texas, on Wednesday and Thursday before heading to Mexico. The singer will return to the States for performances in Albuquerque on February 23 and El Paso, Texas, on February 25.