by Barry Jeckell [Published on Friday, February 28, 2003 by Billboard]
Dozens of artists from across the musical spectrum have joined forces to speak out against an impending U.S.-led war against Iraq. Rappers Jay-Z and Nas, singer/songwriters Natalie Merchant and Sheryl Crow, roots rock acts Wilco and Dave Matthews, and veteran artists George Clinton, R.E.M., and Lou Reed are among the artists listed under the headline “War On Iraq Is Wrong And We Know It” in an ad credited to Musicians United to Win Without War that ran in Wednesday’s editions of The New York Times.
“Don’t let Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld drown out the voices of reason,” the ad insists, referring to the president, vice president, and defense secretary. “Disarm Iraq with tough inspections.”
The ad, which also includes quotes from former NATO Supreme Commander Wesley Clark and late soul musician Marvin Gaye (“War is not the answer”), carries a coupon soliciting contributions “to fund additional efforts to get the word out and to help avert a war.”
Founded by former Talking Heads leader David Byrne and rap impresario Russell Simmons, Musician United to Win Without War is described on the organization’s Web site as “a loose coalition of contemporary musicians who feel that in the rush to war by the Bush administration the voices of reason and debate have been trampled and ignored.
“We feel that war is not inevitable, though to be honest the U.S. media and government have made us feel that it has become a forgone conclusion,” the explanation continues. “We have no love for Saddam Hussein, but believe that tough [United Nations] inspections have not yet shown enough evidence in justification of invasion.”
The site lists 59 music figures making up the collective, although only 42 appear in the ad. Others who make up the group are Autechre, Eric Benet, T. Bone Burnett, Kandi Burriss, Busta Rhymes, David Byrne, Blu Cantrell, Capone & Noreaga, Rosanne Cash, Dave Chavarri, George Clinton, Brian Eno, Ani DiFranco, Steve Earle, Missy Elliott, Fat Joe, Floetry, Free & AJ, Fugazi, Jagged Edge, 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, Mobb Deep, Ann Nesby, Outkast, Pharoahe Monch, Musiq, Raphael Saadiq, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Russell Simmons, Bubba Sparxx, Seven, Sonic Youth, David Sylvian, Tweet, Suzanne Vega, Caetano Veloso, Lucinda Williams, Bryce Wilson, the Youngbloods, and Zap Mama.
“Iraq’s been contained for 12 years,” Simmons said in a statement. “Hundreds of thousands don’t have to die. Stand up, demonstrate, and have your voice heard.” Added R.E.M. singer Michael Stipe, “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.”
Along with a copy of the ad, the site also includes a link to an online anti-war petition, which, like the group’s online home, is hosted by MoveOn.org, an organization that builds electronic advocacy groups. Another link offers visitors the chance to send a free fax with a simil