Fat Joe, Russell Simmons, Serj Tankian Haven’t Changed Anti-War Stance

Artists say swift coalition victory hasn't justified use of force in Iraq.

If there are uplifting memories from the conflict in Iraq, they’re likely those from April 9, the day many Iraqis took to the streets of Baghdad to celebrate.

Operation Iraqi Freedom lived up to its name on television screens that day, as those who tuned in saw images of a Saddam Hussein statue being kicked and spit on by his former people. It was a moving scene, but was it enough to relax the stance of those opposed to military action in the Middle East? Certainly the fact that it has taken coalition forces less than a month to remove Hussein’s regime from power has had some sort of influence.

“What people feel before the war starts and after the war starts are two different things,” Russell Simmons, one of many music figures involved in anti-war campaigns (see “Russell Simmons Vows to Get Rappers Like Jay-Z, P. Diddy Involved In Antiwar Campaign” ), said Monday. “Of course seeing the Iraqis cheering instills a bit of pride in me. We see the Iraqis cheering [for what was] accomplished there, but we don’t know yet. I don’t think it’s bad. I certainly know it’s good there are less casualties than they expected. So we’re very happy the physical confrontation has come to an end.”

“Who wouldn’t be happy to be rid of Saddam?” added System of a Down’s Serj Tankian. “After all, he was a brutal dictator.”

Certainly so, but Simmons, Tankian and other artists who opposed the conflict to begin with are still not at all convinced America did the right thing by invading Iraq.

“My position hasn’t changed,” said Fat Joe, who called in to “TRL” at the onset of the war to express his concerns (see “Pride, Shame, Confusion Abound As War Reactions Surface” ). “Too many innocent women and children and soldiers were killed over there.”

“Did we ever doubt we could beat Iraq?” Simmons questioned, downplaying the celebration in Baghdad. “Was there ever a question of whether or not we could run through them?”

Tankian, whose band shined a spotlight on the peace movement in its “Boom!” video (see “New System Clip Features Cast Of Millions, Cartoon Saddam” ), noted that the coalition’s reason for invading — alleged weapons of mass destruction — has not been substantiated, nor has Saddam been located.

“No one ever talked about liberating the Iraqi people from him until the war was labeled with that name,” Tankian said. “Everything was centered around the weapons of mass destruction. The real intentions of this war still worry me, because reconstruction of the Iraqi state will depend on an administration whose concerns — oil anyone? — may outweigh the reconstruction of a nation.”

At the start of the conflict, Simmons prayed President George W. Bush’s mission would be carried out as he said it would. Now, after the government has chosen Vice President Dick Cheney’s old company Halliburton to clean up the oil field fires in Iraq, he, like Tankian, is worried there were ulterior motives for the invasion.

“I think the media is not playing up important issues,” Simmons said. “It’s important what kind of government we set up and what kind of deals we make with our own oil companies. I am proud of what we have accomplished, but now it depends on the choices we make. What a great opportunity we have to show the world something better, ’cause they expect the worst from us right now.”

Fat Joe believes the continuous celebratory footage broadcast on American television was propaganda to promote the war.

“There is more going on than just what the media has shown us,” the rapper said. “I just think the images of destruction have outweighed people celebrating in the streets. And when I was in Canada seeing reports on the war it was much different than what I had been watching in the U.S. All I saw was ladies and children dying and cities in ruin.”

Simmons fears the coalition’s success in Iraq will only lead to more attacks. “I am watching closely the dialogue between America and Syria,” he said. “I’d be shocked if we went into Syria next, but you never know. Why have the dialogue and inflame the whole world? Are you punking them just to see? This is very serious.”

There are several reasons artists are still against the conflict in Iraq, but most said mainly they just oppose the fundamental idea of war.

“I think positive outcomes can and could have been achieved without war and unnecessary death and destruction,” Tankian said. “War, genocide, holocausts and violence are not landmarks of the 20th century alone, however it is in the 20th century that they have been perfected, where the most number of people have been killed by the hands of man. It’s time to move forward from this cycle of violence and create a new world deserving of our smile.”

Lenny Kravitz, who recorded a protest song with Iraqi pop star Kadim Al Sahir (see “Lenny Kravitz, R.E.M. Record Anti-War Songs” ), added, “I’d like to see human beings get to a place where they can learn to be peaceful and to use their minds, because our minds are very powerful. You see what we create with our minds. It’s astonishing. So why can’t we take that same mind power and put that toward learning to resolve issues without having to bomb each other?”