Taken from Green Left Weekly (March 20, 2002)
Michael Franti: `You can't bomb the world into peace'
by FEDERICO FUENTES
Michael Franti, formerly of the legendary US rap outfit Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy and now with Spearhead, is not been afraid to tackle the key political issues of the day, such as Third World debt, the HIV-AIDS crisis or the death penalty. Resistance's FEDERICO FUENTES spoke to Franti during his recent visit to Perth.
In one of their latest songs, Spearhead addresses US President George Bush's "war on terrorism": "You can bomb the world to pieces, but you can't bomb it into peace."
"Bush's war against terrorism is just an escalation of an ongoing war against the developing nations of the world", Franti told Green Left Weekly "Now they have come up with the great excuse of terrorism to go and bomb any country they define as `terrorist'. But if you look at the list of countries - Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan - what all those `rogue' states have in common is oil.
"Who runs oil in the world? US oil and energy corporations. Who owns them? US vice-president Dick Cheney was CEO of Texas oil industry corporation, Haliburton. The Bush family is an oil family. It's no coincidence."
Franti pointed out that Washington's response to the September 11 attacks was disproportionate and had little to do with countering terrorism. "They say, `We are keeping the world safe', but they're bombing people. How's that keeping the world safe?'
"A couple of buildings that were destroyed in New York and the one in Washington, not to minimise that at all, but the US has bombed Afghanistan now for six months. We have not stopped bombing Iraq [since 1990]. Because of [US-enforced] sanctions against Iraq, half a million Iraqi children have died.
"What it is really about is about keeping this system, this `New World Order', in place. A system in which the developing nations provide the natural resources and the labour for creating the products that we consume in our up-scale life in the West."
Franti told GLW that the real solution to terrorism lies in understanding, and dealing with, the root cause of the problem. "Our secretary of state, Colin Powell, said that to fight against terrorism, we also need to fight poverty. He was only half right. We need to fight the policies of the Western governments which create the poverty.
"There's a lot of people around the world who hate the policies of the US government, because it dramatically affects the quality of their lives by creating environmental injustice, political injustice, and economic and labour injustice across the whole world.
"Bush has positioned himself as the CEO of the world, telling people `if you are not with, us you are with the terrorists'. I believe that all bombing is terrorism, so I'm not with Bush or with people who choose to blow up buildings.
"By continuing the bombing of Afghanistan, the US is creating fertile soil for more violence. Some people call them `terrorists' but others call them `freedom fighters', it all depends on which side of the fence you are on.
"You can't beat on people and blow people up forever without them saying, `I'm going to organise and the first chance I get I'm going to fucking blow up a bomb in your bus, your school, your church, your apartment building.""
On the Australian government's treatment of refugees, Franti told GLW that: "Australia is a land full of refugees, people who were persecuted, who were locked up for stealing a bit of bread and were put on ships and brought here. The British colonialists stole this land by using genocide. Now the government says, `Oh, we don't want refugees'. It's the same thing in America. Colonialists stole the land, killed the indigenous people and brought enslaved Africans over. Now, when other people want to go there to escape a life of persecution somewhere else, we turn our backs on them."
While touring Australia, Franti has lent his support to progressive causes. He gave a spoken-word performance in Sydney on March 12 for Redfern Residents for Reconciliation. He also did a gig for the Brisbane Social Forum.
Franti explained that artists "have to play a large role" in changing peoples attitudes. "We might not get played on the radio, or on MTV, all the time, but we work hard at what we do and try to be conscious of the opportunities we have to speak out."
Too few artists have come out against Bush's war drive, Franti added. "I'm not sitting around waiting for Britney Spears to hold a press conference... [but] I have been disappointed that so few artists have. They don't speak out because they fear the bottom line. Just as globalisation has affected other industries, it has affected the music industry. There used to be 30 to 40 major labels, now there's five and they have bought up all the little labels. They are not beholden to art, but to the bottom line which their shareholders think is more important."
Franti also supports protest action. "Mindful and conscious direct action can help get our message across. Sometimes the world seems to move too slowly or go in the wrong direction. Protesting can help steer it in the right direction."
[Check out Spearhead's web site at <http://www.spearheadvibrations.com>.]
From Green Left Weekly, March 20, 2002.
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