-- Political Issues: After September 11th --

Issues Index


This page archives comments by Bruce Cockburn about the September 11, 2001 attacks.

  • 21 October 2001 - Commenting on the Music Without Borders benefit concert for the United Nations Donor Alert Appeal

    Rick Mercer: "Artists and musicians like yourself, they are constantly called upon to perform in benefit concerts for worthy causes. But this is the first time I've seen a benefit come together, on this scale, this fast. Not only the artists are performing for free, but EVERYONE involved. The technicians to networks, the building; every single thing! The credit card companies, Ticketmaster... What is it about this cause, at this time, that has made everyone come together for such a colossal event in such a fast time?"

    Bruce Cockburn: "I think people are afraid of World War III. In a nutshell. I think, as you said, there are many worthy causes and the issues that have lead us to the current state of things have been around for a long time. But people tend not to notice because they are absorbed in their own particular things. And, you kind of know there is stuff going on in the background but it doesn't touch you. So all of a sudden we have an incident in which people close to us ARE touched and its a big wake up call for everybody. And now, of course, the follow up to that is this sort of very violent atmosphere that will go 'who-knows-where'? So as well as having the emotional ranch of having tragedy on our doorstep, there's the fear factor. People are, I think, rightly concerned, that, 'we better do something', to offset the militarization of everything."
    -- from an interview by CBC personality Rick Mercer (This Hour has 22 Minutes, Made in Canada)...following the Music Without Borders benefit concert for the United Nations Donor Alert Appeal, 21 October 2001. Submitted by Rob Heinbecker.

  • 21 October 2001 - from a press conference before the Music Without Borders Live benefit concert at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto

    "When the Sept.11 thing happened and all that's followed it, I felt first of all what good are songs in a context like this? Everything I'd written to that point seemed kind of meaningless. But then better judgement took hold and I realized that now more than ever we need to engage in the sharing of human experience." - folk singer Bruce Cockburn.
    -- from an article "Canadian stars hold concert to raise awareness, money for Afghan refugees" on, 21 October 2001, by Andrew Flynn.

  • 4 December 2001 - Commenting on campaigning against landmines after the September 11th events

    "It might be harder, especially in the U.S., to get people to think about banning a weapon when the country is at war," admits Bruce Cockburn, one of the performers. "At the same time, U.S. troops in Afghanistan are going to be exposed to the risk these mines present."

    BC continues:

    "All human beings have an obligation to make the world a better place. Itís sorta like the idea of leaving your campsite better than you found it. Iím involved with many different issues, and landmines seem completely unnecessary. When youíre dealing with the environment, thereís an ambiguous situation that youíre confronted with where youíre balancing the preservation of nature against peopleís jobs. With the landmines, that isnít there. Itís just evil. It has no redeeming social value. Because of that, itís a nonpartisan issue and a bit more winnable."

    "The landmine issue hasnít changed after September 11. All the countries that had a problem before still have it. The solution is as within reach as it was before. The pain of September 11 hasnít gone away, but I think we can ask an audience to consider the larger picture."
    -- "from Bombs Away: Can a Broad-based Anti-Landmine Campaign Work in Wartime America?", Cleveland Free Times, 28 November- 4 December 2001, by Jeff Niesel.

  • 11 December 2001 - Youíve written some famous songs about world events. What do you think about the situation between the U.S. and Afghanistan?

    "I think a few different things at this point, but above all else I see it as a "wait and see" situation. Things have been set in motion and we donít know where theyíre going to wind up. It has to be acknowledged that U.S. foreign policy over many decades has created a body of anger and frustration thatís out there. Any white middle-class American can find out whatís happening in the third world by going to any inner city in America to see how the people there relate to you. Itís a combination of anger and envy. What can be done about it will continue to be a source of great debate."

    "On the other hand, thereís the fact that in response to an act like what happened on September 11, youíve got to do something. It doesnít matter how we got there. A horrible thing was done and it has to be addressed and, unfortunately, it has to be addressed with violence. I hope and pray that the response is limited and surgical--and itís not clear that itís going that way, but thatís the hope. Peopleís emotions are very raw right now and there are songs that I would not perform because of that. " If I Had A Rocket Launcher" would be one of those. It may come back around when people can put things in perspective a little bit. Many of these songs came out of the experience of the shock that we are feeling now; the sense that the world has always been a precarious place. Anybody whoís lived with a fair degree of comfort was deeply shocked by September 11."
    -- from "Ready For "Anything" From Bruce Cockburn", Gavin, 11 December 2001.

  • Circa January 2002 -

    "When the Sept.11 thing happened and all that's followed it, I felt first of all what good are songs in a context like this? Everything I'd written to that point seemed kind of meaningless. But then better judgement took hold and I realized that now more than ever we need to engage in the sharing of human experience."
    -- from Red, White & Canadian Website, circa January, 2002.

  • 15 January 2002 - Commenting on the US bombing of Afghanistan following the September 11th attack

    Bruce Cockburn: Well, the whole episode of September 11 is so tragic that it's hard to answer that quickly. But, it was a terrible tragedy and like it or not the Americans had to respond in some way. It's unfortunate that they had to respond as they did. It's up to the rest of us in the world to try to increase whatever diplomatic pressure we can bring to bare to hopefully ease the situation and keep that kind of stuff from spreading. I have a lot of American friends and I'm involved in American politics to a degree in the land mine issue. It's not a black and white picture for me. The events of September 11 caught most Americans by surprise because most Americans aren't aware of what their country does in the rest of the world. There's not really any excuse but it's a fact and a fact that we have to work around.
    -- from Canoe Online Chat with Bruce Cockburn, 15 January 2002. Submitted by Suzanne D. Myers.

  • 27 March 2002 - Commenting on not playing If I Had a Rocket Launcher circa 9/11/2002

    "I think it's the wrong emotional climate, especially in the U.S. right now. People will hear it the wrong way, and I don't want to run the risk of feeding a body of emotion that I don't want to trip up."

    Asked if it's tougher for people to be critical of the government down south in the current political climate

    "Certainly. Although I think it's coming around a lot. If you believe CNN and its counterparts, things are a certain way."

    "But I'm meeting a lot of people in the U.S. every day who feel like they need to resist the current tendencies. "

    "I'm not a pacifist. You don't have to be a pacifist to think peace is better than war. There's just a best way to go about things."

    "The world has gotten worse. The poor are getting poorer. Tension is increasing. In terms of most of us in the developed world, we have a choice."

    "And we can exercise that choice with wisdom. That's what I stand for. "

    "My hardest fight as a performer has been with myself, to be as clear a conduit as possible for what needs to be said. That's the ongoing struggle. Get my ego and my brain out of the way and let this stuff happen."
    -- from "mouth that roared: Bruce Cockburn says he's not an activist but a concerned voice", Edmonton Sun, 27 March 2002, by Fish Griwkowsky.

  • 29 June 2002 - Commenting on the after effects of 9-11

    "This particular song was triggered not so much by the event itself, which was horrible but not that surprising if youíd spent time in the rest of the world, but by the aftermath of it. By the pronouncements of, I can never get them straight whether it was Pat Robertson or Jerry Farwall but it hardly matters, sitting there on TV, and I watched this bugger say this, that the destruction of the WTC was really the fault of gays, lesbians, and the people who had abortions. My immediate response was fuck you you pieces of shit get off the TV. Then I got civilized you know, man that made me mad though, anyway, it struck me that that kind of thinking and my thinking in response to that thinking was really, there was almost no difference between that and what Osama bin Laden apparent thinks which is that everybody other than him is really sub-human and doesnít deserve life. Itís all to easy for us to feel like that. This song is kind of a reflection on that and is addressed to whichever one of those boringly suited evangelists it was. It came out of a meditation. Itís called ďPut it in your HeartĒ. I guess itís kind of addressed to me as well."
    -- transcribed from the 29 June 2002, Kate Wolf Festival concert. Submitted by Doug Stacey.

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    Issues Index

    This page is part of The Cockburn Project, a unique website that exists to document the work of Canadian singer-songwriter and musician Bruce Cockburn. The Project archives self-commentary by Cockburn on his songs and music, and supplements this core part of the website with news, tour dates, and other current information.