Monday , May 20 2024

Musicians Know Best

Okay, I’m convinced – time to turn over the government to musicians because if we enjoy their music, then surely they know what’s best regarding foreign policy. I think the judgment shown in letting rip with a fireworks display in a crowded broom closet speaks well of musicians everywhere.

What’s that you say? It’s not fair to tar all musicians for the dangerous mindlessness of a few? It makes at least as much sense as turning to musicians for advice on the affairs of state. I love musicians, I AM a musician at least on some level, but as a class, musicians are some of the most insular, unrealistic, blind, dogmatic people I know. This may be great for making art, but it is really bad for making public policy:

    Russell Simmons & David Byrne Organize New Anti-War Initiative

    Hip Hop, Rock Stars Launch “Musicians United to Win Without War,” Sending Message to Fans: Use Tough Inspections, Work with Allies through the UN to
    Disarm Saddam Hussein, DON’T INVADE & OCCUPY IRAQ

    New York City – Building on the momentum of the week’s events, artists spanning the contemporary musical spectrum gathered today to announce the
    creation of yet another arm of the anti-war movement. From Jay-Z to Dave
    Matthews to Emmylou Harris, members of the coalition represent the potential
    mobilization of hundreds of millions of Americans whose voices have not been
    heard yet; audiences often left untapped, but powerful forces that can spell
    trouble for the Administration in its move towards a preemptive attack.

    “In the rush to war, the voices of reason and debate have been trampled and
    ignored. Musicians United to Win Without War represents a diverse group that
    feels that war is not an inevitable, forgone conclusion” said David Byrne, former lead singer and guitarist with Talking Heads and a co-founder of the latest addition to the national grassroots anti-war campaign.

    “Iraq’s been contained for 12 years,” added Russell Simmons, the legendary co-founder of Def Jam Recordings and one of hip hop’s most influential leaders. “Hundreds of thousands don’t have to die. Stand up, demonstrate, and have your voice heard,” Simmons urged fans worldwide.

    “What we are facing is a complex and multi-faceted problem. Simply bombing
    Iraq would only create more problems, making an already bad situation much
    worse,” said REM’s Michael Stipe.

    The launch follows on the heels of record-setting protests across the globe and a “virtual march” on Washington that jammed phone and fax lines and flooded email boxes in every Senate office throughout the day on Wednesday. A full-page ad, signed by dozens of hip-hop and rock performers, also ran that day in the New York Times.

    “Our groundswell of support is clearly growing as more and more Americans
    begin to reject the Administration’s arguments for war,” said Tom Andrews,
    former Congressman and National Director of Win Without War.

    Members of Musicians United to Win Without War include:

    Laurie Anderson
    Eric Benet
    T. Bone Burnett
    Kandi Burriss
    Busta Rhymes
    David Byrne
    Blu Cantrell
    Capone & Noreaga
    Rosanne Cash
    Dave Chavarri
    George Clinton
    Sheryl Crow
    Ani DiFranco
    Steve Earle
    Missy Elliott
    Brian Eno
    Fat Joe
    Free & AJ
    Jagged Edge
    Peter Gabriel
    Emmylou Harris
    Joe Henry
    Natalie Imbruglia
    Daniel Johns
    Donnell Jones
    K-Ci & Jo Jo
    Angeliique Kidjo
    Kronos Quartet
    L’il Mo
    John Leventhal
    Christian Machado
    Massive Attack
    Dave Matthews
    Natalie Merchant
    Mobb Deep
    Ann Nesby
    Pharoahe Monch
    Lou Reed
    Raphael Saadiq
    Ryuichi Sakamoto
    Russell Simmons
    Bubba Sparxx
    Sonic Youth
    David Sylvian
    Suzanne Vega
    Caetano Veloso
    Lucinda Williams
    Bryce Wilson
    The Youngbloods
    Zap Mama

    Win Without War is a mainstream voice advocating alternatives to unilateral action or preemptive strikes. The coalition consists of 32 organizations including the National Council of Churches,, the NAACP, NOW, the Sierra Club, and Artists United to Win Without War. It supports tough United Nations inspections to disarm Saddam Hussein and opposes a US invasion and occupation of Iraq.

This group is trying to find support with centrists: note the “mainstream voice” language. The arguments are the same however, and are specious.

First, there aren’t “hundreds of millions Americans” to mobilize against the war. there are under 300 million Americans in the first place and over half of them favor military action against Saddam.

David Byrne says “the voices of reason and debate have been trampled and ignored”: this is insane, every possible argument in every possible direction has been aired in every possible forum. This would be impossible to miss unles you have been stuck in recording studio with your head up your ass.

Russell, even conceding the point that “Iraq has been contained for 12 years,” what leads you to believe that it can be contained in the future as Saddam continues to develop and accumulate weapons of mass destruction. Wouldn’t you imagine that he is doing so toward some goal? And by the way, the only way “hundreds of thousands are going to die” is if we don’t do anything: the latest estimates of total casualties in an invasion of Iraq range from the hundreds – not hundreds of thousands – to 30,000 if all goes horribly wrong, which isn’t going to happen.

And Michael Stipe, the plan is not to simply “bomb Iraq,” the plan is to overthrow the totalitarian regime of Saddam Hussein and liberate the terrorized citizenry, and, actually, it isn’t all that complicated.

The only thing that has gained “inspections” and “containment” whatever utility it has eked out, has been the credible threat of force, this credible threat cannot be maintained indefinitely, wich is why Saddam is doing all he can to stall, delay and drag things out until, he thinks, we lose our resolve and move on to other issues. Remove a couple of hundred thousand troops from around his borders and remove “containment.” In other words, there is no “winning” without war.

Regarding anti-war protest in general, I completely defend anyone’s right to voice their point of view as forcefully as is reasonable, but I also know words have consequences, as does Max Boot:

    Saddam Hussein’s mouthpiece, the newspaper Babel, which is run by his son, Uday, has praised the demonstrators for inflicting “humiliating international isolation” on Britain and the United States and for ushering in “a new chapter in the global balance of power.” Seeing that his enemies are divided, Hussein has continued to not fully cooperate with U.N. weapons inspectors. In his defiant interview with Dan Rather, he even sneered at the United Nation’s demand that he destroy his Al-Samoud 2 missiles.

    ….All this should be no great surprise, considering the ignominious history of peace protests over the last century. The record is fairly clear: When the demands of protesters have been met, more bloodshed has resulted; when strong leaders have resisted the lure of appeasement, peace has usually broken out.

    Antiwar movements during the Civil War and the Philippine War of 1899-1902 helped prolong those conflicts by giving false hope to Washington’s enemies.

    ….In 1933, the Oxford Union passed its infamous resolution: “That this House refuses in any circumstances to fight for King and Country.” When Neville Chamberlain returned from Munich in 1938, declaring that he had delivered “peace for our time,” he was greeted by cheering throngs who sang “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow.” Across the Atlantic, the America First Committee mobilized more than 800,000 people to keep the U.S. out of the war.

    ….The Vietnam rallies are usually judged to have been successful because they stopped the killing of Americans in Southeast Asia. The killing of local people is another matter. The U.S. pullout led directly to the communist conquest of Saigon and Phnom Penh in 1975. The results were a human rights disaster. Tens of thousands of South Vietnamese were executed, hundreds of thousands wound up in brutal “reeducation camps” and more than a million sought to escape in leaky boats. It was even worse in Cambodia, where the Khmer Rouge slaughtered more than a million “class enemies.”

    ….The “peace” crowd remained undiscouraged. After Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, demonstrators chanted “No blood for oil,” warning that U.S. military intervention would lead to thousands of body bags coming home. If the protesters had been in control, there is little doubt that a nuclear-armed Iraq would now occupy Kuwait and probably some of its neighbors.

    ….It is perhaps too much to expect self-doubt from any political activist, right or left. But given the dismal record of antiwar demonstrations, today’s marchers should heed Oliver Cromwell’s advice to the Kirk of Scotland in 1650: “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.” [LA Times]

You can put as many qualifiers like “mainstream” and “patriotic” in the mix as you would like, but you are still providing aid and comfort to Saddam Hussein and egging on his defiance of global will. Keep it in mind.

About Eric Olsen

Career media professional and serial entrepreneur Eric Olsen flung himself into the paranormal world in 2012, creating the America's Most Haunted brand and co-authoring the award-winning America's Most Haunted book, published by Berkley/Penguin in Sept, 2014. Olsen is co-host of the nationally syndicated broadcast and Internet radio talk show After Hours AM; his entertaining and informative America's Most Haunted website and social media outlets are must-reads: Twitter@amhaunted,, Pinterest America's Most Haunted. Olsen is also guitarist/singer for popular and wildly eclectic Cleveland cover band The Props.

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