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Poles Apart

What do you think about Roger Waters' attitude toward the 9/11 attacks and the 'War on Terror'?

"In spite of feeling 'terrible' about the attacks in the USA on Sep 11th, Waters says he understands the motivations of the hijackers of the planes." -- Brazilian newspaper "Folha", October 2001

"I think it's quite interesting, the response in America is, because they're so isolationist, and because they've never come under attack on their own soil their response is extreme and rather infantile in lots of ways... I think it would be a very good thing if they were spending all the money they were spending on bombs dropping on Afghanistan on security measures at airports and so on and so forth." -- London press conference, October 2001

"It's strange thirty years later to be seeing us about to embark on this punitive adventure in Iraq. I find it hard to believe that it's about anything other than the oil." -- Dark Side of the Moon 30th anniversary release interview (circa February 2003)

Waters is off the deep end

I respect Roger Waters as an insightful writer of social commentary, and I certainly respect his right to hold (and express) whatever crazy opinions he wants. But in saying that he understands the motivations of the terrorists who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks on the New York and Washington, Waters goes too far.

I remember reading those comments on Echoes, a Pink Floyd fan e-mail list, back in October 2001, and I remember quite well the sense of outrage that many fans--both American and non-American--felt about them.

Sure, this was the same Roger Waters who has attacked Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan and George Bush and a host of other conservative political figures, and I don't have a problem with that. I tend to agree with him on those points. The part that bothered me--and a lot of other fans--was the fact that the Roger Waters of old would have been the first to denounce the terrorists attacks as wanton, and needlessly destructive, and disrespectful of the lives of those who were killed.

Just like the US's bombing of Tripoli (as described in "Late Home Tonight") or Britain's fairly pointless war in the Falklands to repel the invading Argentinians (as described in The Final Cut), the attacks on the US were ugly, horrible acts of violence that have no place in a civilized society. To say that you understand the motivations of the attackers sounds a lot like a justification and acceptance of the attacks.

What hurt even more was the timing of the comment. Think back to the general sentiment in the air during those days and weeks following the attacks. We--as a united global population, largely--felt shocked, and frightened, and a little unsure of what to expect next. We seemed to stagger about in a daze, going through the motions of or daily routines, but largely bewildered and traumatized. It felt like the world could never be the same as it had once been. I distinctly remember a late night talk show host, on his first night back on the air, saying that the show was going to be pretty serious for a while, and that he wasn't sure if we would ever feel like laughing again. And I remember knowing exactly what he meant.

Two years later, most of those wounds have healed. Even though there is still a lot of wretched, regrettable fallout from 9/11 going on (in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and elsewhere), our lives have indeed returned to their crass, self-centered pre-9/11 status. But Waters' words still sting a little. Calling America's response to the attacks 'isolationist' and 'infantile' is unacceptable. An attack of that magnitude--against unsuspecting civilians and without any real goal to be attained or cause to be furthered--is absolutely senseless, and should be mourned, rather than used as a opportunity to snipe at the victim.

Is the US perfect? No. Has the Bush administration run roughshod over the rights of its citizens and over the international community in the last two years? Absolutely. Did the war in Iraq make the world a better place, where old heroes can shuffle safely down the street? Almost certainly not. But to stick our collective head in the sand and pretend that there aren't evil people in this world who want nothing more, apparently, than to inflict pain upon Americans for no other reason than the fact that they are American is not wise.

Many noted left-leaning celebrities such as songwriter Neil Young and Nobel laureate (and Holocaust survivor) Elie Wiesel spoke out strongly against the terrorists in the wake of 9/11. But Roger Waters has changed over the years, no doubt about it. The Roger Waters of old would not be condoning terrorism and murder, no matter what political cause the terrorists were supporting. The Roger Waters of old would morn the fact that a lot of little kids in New York City are growing up fatherless just because some unhappy zealot decided that flying a jumbo jet into daddy's office building was a nice way to make a statement.

Was it for this that Daddy died?

Mike McInnis is a staff writer for Spare Bricks.

Waters is right on

"You zap and maim with the bravery of being out of range." After decades of lyrics with similar sentiments, you'd think by now people would be aware of Roger's views on armed warfare. Yet every time he elaborates his opinions in interviews, there always seems to be a group of people who are either surprised or outraged. Most recently, his comments on the 'War On Terror' have invited all sorts of harsh criticism--none of which, in my view, is entirely justified.

For a start, if the 'War On Terror' really is about protecting and furthering democracy, then surely the people who support the War should be welcoming Roger's comments, since free speech is one of the things we're supposedly fighting for. Suppressing the views of the general public is one of the methods used by dictators like Hussein to help maintain their hold on power. It seems strange that people can support the right of the Iraqi citizenry to free speech, yet at the same time they chastise those at home who exercise the same privelege.

Besides, most of what Roger said has been taken grossly out of context, or been misquoted. As far as I'm aware, Roger has *never* come out in support of Al Queda or Saddam Hussein, and he has never said that America deserved to be attacked. A Brazilian journalist did write that Roger 'understands the motivations of the hijackers of the planes'. This is not a direct quote, so it may be creative paraphrasing on the interviewer's part. But even if it is representative of how Roger feels, it still doesn't make him a terrorist sympathiser. Surely it's possible to understand why something happens without condoning it? In the very same interview Roger said that he thought the attacks were 'terrible'.

Roger probably also understands why the US reacted to 9/11 by bombing small countries, but he doesn't support that, either. He called the Afghanistan exercise an 'unjust war', and pointed out that the money could have been more productively spent elsewhere, like upgrading security at home. In my opinion, Rog is right on the mark here. The attack on Afghanistan cost around $40 billion. According to the U.N., that's enough to provide the essentials of life to everyone in the world. In particular, the invasion of Iraq cost around $50 billion. That's enough to give over $2000 to every person living in Iraq.

And speaking of Iraq, Rog pulled out all stops earlier this year when he said he believed the recent attack on the country to be solely motivated by oil. We can all draw our own conclusions on that one. If the US really wanted to oust Hussein, why did they wait 20 years to do it? If the attack was motivated by a regard for the Iraqi people, why is nothing being done to improve their lot now that the conflict is over? If they wanted to storm Hussein's palace and force regime change, why did they spend the first two weeks of the invasion securing the oil rich fields of Basra? Why did they broadcast messages urging the Iraqi people not to destroy the oil wells? Why was the attack planned only after Baghdad announced that it would switch its oil transaction currency from the US dollar to the Euro?

I'm sure that nobody was upset to see Hussein thrown out of power, but that doesn't mean that skepticism for the US Government's motives isn't warranted--especially since the 'Weapons Of Mass Destruction' have proven elusive, and Tony Blair's infamous dossier has since been shown to contain information that is up to fourteen years old--dating from a time when the US considered Hussein an ally, before the first Gulf War and the subsequent disarming of Iraq.

But more than anything else, I believe that Roger is right to criticise the US government's policy because ultimately, the two major invasions since 9/11 have both been utter failures. Both have failed to stop terrorism and neither have brought the guilty to justice. Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein are still free men. It's the 12000+ innocent people who were blown apart in their sleep who have paid the price of America's freedom.

Chris Hogan is a staff writer for Spare Bricks.


Who is the strongest, who is the best

The Top Ten Floydian Political Statements

With a theme of Pink Floyd and politics, I first wondered if I was the right person to put together this top ten. After all, I mostly disagree with Roger Waters' political views. But I also know that there are quite a few times when Roger actually has something politically redeeming to say that appeals to just about all ends of the political spectrum. In my view, that is when Roger and Pink Floyd are at their lyrical best, politics-wise.

David Gilmour has also had some very interesting and pointed political statements to make. David, however, tends to be more diplomatic in his political statements than Roger, and stays away from the political hyperbole and ad hominem attacks that Roger is more famous for. Such "Roger rhetoric" in my view does not belong on this list, as those lyrics do nothing more than polarize people. To me, that is not a valid political statement, but rather mere one-sided ravings that instead of bringing people together, only work to bring them further apart.

With this in mind then, here are my top ten Pink Floyd/Roger Waters political songs with the best universal political statements:

10. "The Ballad of Bill Hubbard"

A poignant political statement reminding us that the memories of war can last a lifetime. The song is a powerful instrumental, with Alf Razzell quietly telling us of his war experience leaving his pal Bill Hubbard behind to die in no-man's land. It is what haunts Alf's life the most all these years later. Jeff Beck's guitar is mesmerizing as we hear the story unfold. A great political statement without any of Roger Waters' lyrics... but boy, do we get the point.

9. "Perfect Sense, Part I"

Why this song? World politics summed up in one sentence: "And the Germans killed the Jews, And the Jews killed the Arabs, And the Arabs killed the hostages, And that is the news."

8. "Two Suns in the Sunset"

Fear of a nuclear holocaust is not reserved for the left. We all fear it, if not for the same reasons. The proliferation of nuclear weapons is not a good thing. Two suns in the sunset represent the idea that the speaker has now figured it out... hmmm, must be the human race is run. But the most important lyric comes at the end of the song:

   Finally I understand the feelings of the few
   Ashes and diamonds
   Foe and friend
   We were all equal in the end

7. "The Gunner's Dream"

This song has some of the most gut-wrenching lyrics I have ever heard. Roger's nearly crying out the words raises the hair on my arms every time. People have died fighting wars... some wars that needed to be fought, some that did not. In any case, we can't forget their sacrifice... and why they sacrificed: World War II was supposed to be the war to end all wars, the dream that no one ever disappears and no one kills the children anymore. We should all take heed of that dream.

6. "Sheep"

Being meek and obedient and following the leader renders us all mindless sheep. Such leaders will lead us to our demise unless we rise up and make the buggers' eyes water.

Honorable Mentions

"Out of the Blue"
"Perfect Sense, Part II"
"Each Small Candle"
"Towers of Faith"

5. "Four Minutes"

We see that the end is near, someone has "pushed the button". But, alas, it's a false alarm. We have time to think about our situation and we swear we won't let it happen again. Like when you "run that red light and sit shaking under the street light, you swear to yourself you'll never drink and drive again". I think we all can relate to that.

4. "What God Wants, Part II"

A familiar Roger Waters' theme--it's all about money. A short but powerful song, and one that Roger actually sprinkles in some humor for effect: "God wants poverty, God wants wealth, God wants insurance, God wants to cover himself."

3. "The Bravery of Being Out of Range"

The second half of this song gets to the point. Folks (Americans) sitting in bars watching the war on TV, cheering from thousands of miles away. Not very courageous. War isn't a TV sport and these people should be ashamed... although in my opinion this message no longer applies to New Yorkers.

2. "On The Turning Away"

The weak and the weary, the pale and downtrodden. We shouldn't just accept their fate and we shouldn't turn away. Again, not a theme reserved for one side or the other on the political spectrum. It's a message for everyone.

   Just a world that we all must share
   It's not enough just to stand and stare
   Is it only a dream that there'll be
   No more turning away?

1. "Us and Them"

I don't think the combination of music and politics go together any better than they do on this song. Probably the best combination of Roger Waters and Richard Wright in the entire Pink Floyd catalogue. The message, like every other message on Dark Side of the Moon, is a simple one: War is bad. And the music is alternately powerful yet beautiful. Roger has said in the past that he's not a pacifist, and that some wars are worth fighting. But it should be a last resort. We can disagree on the current situation confronting the world, but I think we all agree with the message in "Us and Them":

   Us, and them
   And after all we're only ordinary men
   Me, and you
   God only knows it's not what we would choose to do

Bob Cooney is a staff writer for Spare Bricks.