As President Bush sends more and more troops to the Middle East for a potential military operation to oust Saddam Hussein, an increasing number of artists are speaking their minds. And it’s not just the usual suspects like Bono, Chuck D and Michael Stipe.
Performers from Musiq to Godsmack see war in Iraq as an issue that affects more than just enlisted soldiers and their families. It could also rock the worlds of anybody old enough to be drafted, civilians in Iraq and elsewhere, and cause ripples that affect our economy, civil liberties and home security.
Some artists, like Fat Joe, don’t believe the Bush administration’s assertion that Iraq poses a threat to the U.S. “It’s all over oil,” the rapper insisted. “The president comes from an oil-driven family, [and Saddam Hussein] is the same guy who [his father] tried to kill when he was president. We entrust our president to not be biased and … not [have] personal beef. I think this is personal beef.”
Others argue that even if Saddam Hussein doesn’t pose an immediate threat, he eventually will, and the problem is better solved now than later.
“Unfortunately, there were some really bad things that happened [involving the Middle East], and I think if we don’t cut out the cancer while it’s still young, then it’s gonna grow to be this entity that we may not be able to defend ourselves against,” Godsmack frontman Sully Erna said, pulling a page from the quote book of National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. “I applaud the government and President Bush for doing what they’re doing, and I think our military are some of the bravest souls, much braver than I could ever be.”
Members of 3 Doors Down echoed similar sentiments after shooting a video for “When I’m Gone” with American soldiers stationed overseas. The surge of patriotism they got from the project helped them side in favor of going into Iraq and dismantling part of what Bush called the “Axis of Evil.” “Evil is evil, so we’re behind our guys and whatever they have to do,” singer Brad Arnold said. “People just need to realize that the U.S. is the daddy of the world and all the time daddy can’t be the good guy.”
As Audioslave guitarist Tom Morello pointed out, though, not being the good guy has so far included the killing of thousands of civilians in Afghanistan. The Iraq issue is a convenient way to distract people from our failure there, he said.
“One of the reasons the Bush administration is making so much noise about Iraq is because it has failed to do anything about the al Qaeda network,” Morello said. “When was the last time you heard the word ’Afghanistan’ in the news? It was a country the U.S. carpet bombed into a lunar landscape to try to get one dude and didn’t do such a good job. They killed 20,000 civilians — men, women and children who had nothing to do with the Taliban or al Qaeda — and failed to achieve their objectives. Also, going to war is a convenient way to cover up the Enron scandal, the president’s horrible vocabulary, the fact that 40 million Americans are living below the poverty line and 50 million don’t have any sort of health care.”
Rapper DMC agreed that there plenty of domestic issues to be tended to. “Our government needs to mind their business,” he said. “We try to force our help [on others] when we should focus on fixing the problems here first.”
Besides, he said, “I don’t think we have the right to go over there and tell them what to do. Would we want someone telling us what to do?”
Ice-T, for one, doesn’t want anyone telling him what to do. Especially if it involves putting on a uniform and shipping off overseas. “I think the mandatory draft is the closest thing you can come to slavery,” he said, referring to recent talk in Washington about reactivating the program. “Being able to tell somebody they gotta do something and potentially die, that’s scary to me.”
Fear is also what drives many on the pro-war side. After enjoying years of relative security, many Americans suddenly felt vulnerable following the events of September 11, 2001.
“I really love my girlfriend, and I really love my country, and I really love everyone who’s in my life,” Nickelback singer Chad Kroeger said. “And if there are some f—ing a–holes anywhere with the ability to launch a weapon of mass destruction and hurt any of those things that I love or anybody anywhere, then that’s a problem that has to be dealt with.
“Everybody’s sitting around going, ’Oh, don’t go to war, don’t go to war,’ ” he continued. “Well, we’re going to war for a reason: Saddam Hussein is a madman. If there would have been any nuclear capability on any of the Scud missiles he launched [during the Gulf War], do you think he would have not done it? He would have done it in a heartbeat. That absolutely terrifies me.”
But as Morello pointed out, there’s a chance that war against Iraq would make Americans more of a target than ever for terrorists.
“This military adventurism could potentially have a horrific boomerang effect and whip up a cycle of violence that no one can see the end to,” he said. “If Bush’s real goal is to make the world a safer place, the real way to fight terrorism is to deal with the underlying issues of conflict and inequality in the Middle East and around the world, and not carpet bombing any country that doesn’t do our bidding.”
— Ethan Zindler