Bruce Cockburn has lost his way

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M. Spector M. Spector's picture
Bruce Cockburn has lost his way

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M. Spector M. Spector's picture

[url=http://www.cbc.ca/arts/music/story/2009/09/10/bruce-cockburn.html]Add Bruce Cockburn to the list of artists who have gone over to the dark side[/url]

Quote:
Canadian songwriter Bruce Cockburn is known as much for his political activism as he is for his music.

His song, If I Had a Rocket Launcher, was written after he visited Guatemalan refugee camps in Mexico that were attacked before and after his visit by Guatemalan military helicopters.

Cockburn, who has made 30 albums and has had countless hits, visited another war zone this week: Afghanistan. And the conflict involves a member of his own family. His brother, Capt. John Cockburn, is a doctor serving with the Canadian Forces at Kandahar Airfield.

"I was very curious. I have my own reasons aside from national pride and the love I feel for these people," said Cockburn, 64, who has a long history of being outspoken about human rights....

Ottawa-born Cockburn has travelled to many countries, including Iraq and Mozambique, and written songs on political subjects ranging from the International Monetary Fund to landmines....

"It's a long discussion on whether we should be in Afghanistan - whether anyone should be in Afghanistan," he said thoughtfully.

"But since we are, and since we've gone this far, I don't think it's appropriate to leave at this stage.

"Certainly I have not had the idea that anyone I have talked to among these soldiers is hiding anything or been trying to slant things to a particular point of view," he said. "They believe in what they do and are witnesses to what they are doing, and I have to accept the truth in what they're telling me."...

Cockburn drew wild applause when he sang If I Had a Rocket Launcher, which prompted the commander of Task Force Kandahar, Gen. Jonathan Vance, to temporarily present him with a rocket launcher.

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Snert Snert's picture

Not to start any rumours or anything (I love Bruce; he's the only artist I've seen in concert twice) but I'm told that he's something of a gun freak.  Not quite at a Ted Nugent level or anything, but lots of shootin'.

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

It's instructive to see this sort of an example. It is very difficult for someone in an imperialist country like Canada to get everything right on international and solidarity issues, even someone who has demonstrated such enlightenment on solidarity issues in the past, such as Cockburn. 

One must be involved in the struggle, and fighting the enemy, there is no other way. This is also true when it comes to addressing racism or sexism in our society, and a whole host of other issues.

Unionist

Quote:
"But since we are, and since we've gone this far, I don't think it's appropriate to leave at this stage."

But since he is, and since he's gone this far, I do think it's appropriate that he leaves at this stage.

 

Jingles

He is a "devout" Christian, so he is simply doing his part for the Crusade.

martin dufresne

I think that the twist Cockburn manages to put on his song - with help from the brass - is a tremendous illustration of the media-induced reversal that most Canadians are nilly-willing accepting, i.e. that we are not the invaders but the aggrieved parties, in Afghanis' shoes, under attack from outsiders, e.g. the Talibans or whoever threatens Western interests there. What a sham!

Caissa

I'd like to see a longer rendition of Cockburn's ideas outlining why he supports remaining in Afghanistan.

Unionist

Caissa wrote:

I'd like to see a longer rendition of Cockburn's ideas outlining why he supports remaining in Afghanistan.

Conversely, I wish he had said less.

 

Caissa

I don't agree with Cockburn's position but as a long-time fan i'd like to hear a more elaborate articulation of it.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

I think my Bruce Cockburn albums may be going in the trash tonight. I'll re-read the article and then decide.Frown

Unionist

Caissa wrote:

I don't agree with Cockburn's position but as a long-time fan i'd like to hear a more elaborate articulation of it.

Here you go, Caissa:

[url=http://www.myspace.com/officialbrucecockburn]Bruce Cockburn's Myspace page[/url]

There's a link called "Send Message", which should reach him. Let us know if he has anything interesting to say beyond "personal reasons".

 

Lard Tunderin Jeezus Lard Tunderin Jeezus's picture

I can sympathize with his position. For a long time I thought: "We've created a mess, now we have to clean it up".

I've since reconsidered that position. Hopefully Bruce will, too.

As for the people there believing that they're accomplishing something and doing some good - what else would he expect them to think? If they couldn't convince themselves of that, they'd be driving themselves into deep depression or insanity. It's a matter of self-preservation. 

Ghislaine

Jingles wrote:

He is a "devout" Christian, so he is simply doing his part for the Crusade.

Would you say this about a devout Muslim in relation to the jihad? There are progressive Christians you know.

As for Cockburn, I cannot understand why people support staying there. It is so obviously a waste of time, resources and lives.

Caissa

You can send those records to me Boom Boom. COD, of course.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

Cockburn may be getting soft with age - he's no Pete Seeger, for example, but that's okay; not all of us can be Pete Seeger. I haven't bought a Cockburn album in thirty years, and his very early albums didn't show much political insight - they were just music for music's sake, so I guess I'll hold on to them, because his singing and guitar work was exquisite back then. I've never heard If I Had A Rocket Launcher , that's how long it's been since I've bought a Cockburn album.  

If Cockburn is getting soft, then so am I. For almost 60 years, I said I would never join a political party. Now, as I am about to turn 60 in a few weeks, I've gone and taken out a membership in the federal NDP. Why? Because I've come to the conclusion, very late in life,  that, for me, there really is no federal progressive alternative.   

radiorahim radiorahim's picture

How many of us have friends who say or do stupid things?

Does that mean that we completely write them off for all time?

Over the years Cockburn has taken good positions on a wide variety of issues.   We should recognize that but also recognize that he's taking a stupid position on this particular issue.

Unionist

radiorahim wrote:

Over the years Cockburn has taken good positions on a wide variety of issues.   We should recognize that but also recognize that he's taking a stupid position on this particular issue.

The hardest issues to take a courageous position on are the ones that you yourself are ultimately responsible for (or your country, your society, your government). But they're also the most crucial and defining issues. It's not good enough to say, "well I didn't vote for ...", if in fact you're supporting (or remaining silent about) what they're doing wrong.

I have little respect (for example) for a Canadian that condemns the U.S. treatment of its minorities, its workers, its poor, its invasion of Iraq, etc., but doesn't say anything about what Canada is doing.

Cockburn's stand on Afghanistan, therefore, seems to me far more important than protesting  something the U.S. may have done in Central America.

It's something to do with the mote and the beam.

 

Doug

Boom Boom wrote:

I think my Bruce Cockburn albums may be going in the trash tonight. I'll re-read the article and then decide.Frown

 

Why? Since when does an artist have to be politically perfect for you to enjoy them? Besides, he's already had your money.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

Doug wrote:
Why? Since when does an artist have to be politically perfect for you to enjoy them? Besides, he's already had your money.

How could I possibly enjoy listening to an artist who has turned into a complete shithead (and I'm not putting Cockburn in that category)?

ETA: Paul McCartney is a shithead I can't listen to anymore. In fact I haven't been able to listen to him for years. I trashed my McCartney's greatest hits cassette because he pissed me off so much.

Unionist

If Cockburn can't figure out what the majority of Canadians and of the world's people have figured about about Afghanistan, he has two choices:

1. Shut his mouth in public.

2. Be scorned for being an ally of murderers and colonialists.

This is not really that complicated.

 

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

[url=http://www.poleconanalysis.org/2009/09/afghanistan-et-tu-bruce1.html]Paul Kellogg blogs:[/url] [excerpt]

Quote:

Cockburn's confusion on Afghanistan represents the confusion of an older generation, looking to find the "good" Canada exporting its values abroad. Canada is at war in Afghanistan, and Canada is not the U.S., so maybe that makes Afghanistan "the good war," a war to bring "Canadian values" to a far-off land? And besides, this war was problematic when it was conducted by the evil George W. Bush, but now we have the progressive Barack Obama in the White House. Surely Obama's war is a good war?

Afghanistan is not a good war. The thing that made Afghanistan the wrong war was not that it was being conducted by George W. Bush - it was the wrong war because it was a war for U.S. corporate power. At the end of the day, that is what Bush represents - and it is what Obama continues.

The bitter reality is, that Canada is not one of the countries oppressed by the United States - it is a partner with the United States in keeping the world safe for corporate profits. They have Exxon and General Motors. We have Magna and Research In Motion. The fact of a border does not magically make "our" corporations any less greedy and avaricious than those in the United States. Our government is in bed with these corporations just as much as the U.S. government is in bed with its own corporations. This is what their democracy looks like, and it is not pretty.

Let's not choose a "good" U.S. imperialism under Obama over a "bad" U.S. imperialism under Bush. Let's not choose "good" Canada over "evil" United States. Whether we live in Canada or United States, we live in the privileged Global North that for too long has lived off oppressing the impoverished countries of the Global South.

Cockburn's signature political song from Stealing Fire was, without a doubt, "If I had a Rocket Launcher." He sang it to "wild applause" to members of Task Force Kandahar, after which - in a grotesque parody of the song and of Cockburn's whole anti-imperialist past - he was temporarily presented with a rocket launcher by Task Force Kandahar commander General Jonathan Vance.

Let's not remember Cockburn for his new role as progressive cover for Canada's imperial adventures abroad. Let's remember him for his anti-war, anti-imperialist anthems from the 1980s. Let's remember the helicopters which bring death and destruction to peasants and the poor in Guatemala, Colombia, Afghanistan and Iraq....

Unionist

Paul Kellogg wrote:
Let's not remember Cockburn for his new role as progressive cover for Canada's imperial adventures abroad. Let's remember him for his anti-war, anti-imperialist anthems from the 1980s.

Not sure what this means. Cockburn isn't dead, so it's not time yet to define his legacy. As Canadians, our prime duty today to the "peasants and the poor in Guatemala, Colombia, Afghanistan and Iraq" is to stay the hand of our own government in bringing death and destruction to them.

Condemning the U.S. for its crimes, and supporting the same crimes when committed by Canada, is abhorrent complacency and hypocrisy. The troops cheering Cockburn's "rocket launcher" song shows how deep denial can run. I simply don't get Kellogg's point - "accentuate the positive"? The war against the Afghan people is on right now, and that's where the lines must be drawn.

 

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Unionist wrote:

Condemning the U.S. for its crimes, and supporting the same crimes when committed by Canada, is abhorrent complacency and hypocrisy. The troops cheering Cockburn's "rocket launcher" song shows how deep denial can run. I simply don't get Kellogg's point - "accentuate the positive"? The war against the Afghan people is on right now, and that's where the lines must be drawn.

I don't think Kellogg disagrees with you. He's just trying to salvage the good parts from the wreckage that Cockburn has made of his career as a progressive.

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

I still say that it's a useful lesson on how easy it is to go wrong in "El Norte", ... and I don't see any harm if people can find a way to REMIND Bruce Cockburn that he was once on the other side and that it is still possible to find his way back.

The Empire is powerful. It is able to impose its views on the citizenry, and great swaths of people are taken in by it. Any true anti-imperialist must be sublime in their patience in a country like our own. So many are sucked in.

Sky Captain Sky Captain's picture

M. Spector wrote:

[url=http://www.cbc.ca/arts/music/story/2009/09/10/bruce-cockburn.html]Add Bruce Cockburn to the list of artists who have gone over to the dark side[/url]

Quote:
Canadian songwriter Bruce Cockburn is known as much for his political activism as he is for his music.

His song, If I Had a Rocket Launcher, was written after he visited Guatemalan refugee camps in Mexico that were attacked before and after his visit by Guatemalan military helicopters.

Cockburn, who has made 30 albums and has had countless hits, visited another war zone this week: Afghanistan. And the conflict involves a member of his own family. His brother, Capt. John Cockburn, is a doctor serving with the Canadian Forces at Kandahar Airfield.

"I was very curious. I have my own reasons aside from national pride and the love I feel for these people," said Cockburn, 64, who has a long history of being outspoken about human rights....

Ottawa-born Cockburn has travelled to many countries, including Iraq and Mozambique, and written songs on political subjects ranging from the International Monetary Fund to landmines....

"It's a long discussion on whether we should be in Afghanistan - whether anyone should be in Afghanistan," he said thoughtfully.

"But since we are, and since we've gone this far, I don't think it's appropriate to leave at this stage.

"Certainly I have not had the idea that anyone I have talked to among these soldiers is hiding anything or been trying to slant things to a particular point of view," he said. "They believe in what they do and are witnesses to what they are doing, and I have to accept the truth in what they're telling me."...

Cockburn drew wild applause when he sang If I Had a Rocket Launcher, which prompted the commander of Task Force Kandahar, Gen. Jonathan Vance, to temporarily present him with a rocket launcher.

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To you, perhaps, he's gone over to the dark side. But to him, he's just entertaining the troops irregardless of how he feels about the war. This is the same thing that Henry Rollins has also done, and he also visited Iran as well. One does not have to praise the war while entertaining millitary personel.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

That's incredibly disingenuous. Why would anyone who opposes the war voluntarily give comfort and cheer to those who are fighting it? Why would Cockburn say "I don't think it's appropriate to leave at this stage" when everyone to the left of Peter McKay says we should get out? Why would Cockburn sing an openly aggressive song (Rocket Launcher) to the aggressors in Afghanistan (who rewarded him with wild applause)? Why did Cockburn talk about his "national pride" and his "love" of the troops, while visiting a country where those troops are at war?

You can tell as many lies as you like to yourself to avoid facing the obvious, but don't try to pass them off onto us.

Krago

Rock for Public Services

 

Repeat after me... Honeymoon Suite, Trooper, April Wine, Kim Mitchell good... Bruce Cockburn bad...

 

The 80's are officially over!

Polunatic2

If I'm not mistaken, in Cuba, they don't build statues to people who are still living. At the same time, I am sympathetic to RadioRahim's position that we're sometimes quick to completely write our allies off (and everything they've done) as soon as they do something we consider to be a major screw-up. 

Quote:
 he's no Pete Seeger
Well, if we're going to use Afghanistan as one of the key issues by which to judge people these days, Seeger sang at Obama's inauguration and Obama was always clear that he intended to escalate in Afghanistan. Perhaps if we stopped deifying the living, we would be less disappointed when their godly veneer is scratched. 

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Sky Captain wrote:

How you see it is your affair.

And yet you saw fit to comment on how I see it. I was just returning the favour.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Polunatic2 wrote:

Well, if we're going to use Afghanistan as one of the key issues by which to judge people these days, Seeger sang at Obama's inauguration and Obama was always clear that he intended to escalate in Afghanistan. Perhaps if we stopped deifying the living, we would be less disappointed when their godly veneer is scratched.

I've never "deified" Seeger. I have always been critical of his support for the Democratic Party, which stems from his former Stalinist political leanings and the pro-capitalist lesser-evilism that pervaded that particular current of the U.S. left. 

Sky Captain Sky Captain's picture

M. Spector wrote:

That's incredibly disingenuous. Why would anyone who opposes the war voluntarily give comfort and cheer to those who are fighting it? Why would Cockburn say "I don't think it's appropriate to leave at this stage" when everyone to the left of Peter McKay says we should get out? Why would Cockburn sing an openly aggressive song (Rocket Launcher) to the aggressors in Afghanistan (who rewarded him with wild applause)? Why did Cockburn talk about his "national pride" and his "love" of the troops, while visiting a country where those troops are at war?

You can tell as many lies as you like to yourself to avoid facing the obvious, but don't try to pass them off onto us.

 

Buddy, they are lies to you, but not to me. The troops are human beings first and foremost, and even if one disagrees with the role they are playing, that does not mean you can't treat them in a civil manner. That's the thing that Henry Rollins is sticking to, and I guess that's also what Bruce is sticking to as well. How you see it is your affair.

Sky Captain Sky Captain's picture

M. Spector wrote:

Polunatic2 wrote:

Well, if we're going to use Afghanistan as one of the key issues by which to judge people these days, Seeger sang at Obama's inauguration and Obama was always clear that he intended to escalate in Afghanistan. Perhaps if we stopped deifying the living, we would be less disappointed when their godly veneer is scratched.

I've never "deified" Seeger. I have always been critical of his support for the Democratic Party, which stems from his former Stalinist political leanings and the pro-capitalist lesser-evilism that pervaded that particular current of the U.S. left. 

 

Maybe Seeger saw how nasty and evil Stalinism and Maoism was, and gave up on the Soviet Union, tired of being a 'useful idiot.'

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

I am not sure but I do not think that Seeger has ever performed for American troops in a country they were occupying.  Pete like most American liberals believes in the American mythology of it being a democratic light of freedom only off track a bit.  Cockburn in the past seemed to get the whole american empire thing and it is disappointing to see he can't see the afghan villagers being bombed by drones as the same as Nicaraguans or Guatemalans being oppressed in the 80's and 90's. 

Jingles

Quote:
The troops are human beings first and foremost, and even if one disagrees with the role they are playing, that does not mean you can't treat them in a civil manner.

Isn't that what they said when Reagan visited the graves of the SS? After all, Karl Jäger was just a guy who loved his kids.

Polunatic2

Quote:
 I've never "deified" Seeger.
I was responding to Boom Boom's comment and suggesting that if we're going to use Afghanistan as a lens, maybe Seeger wasn't the best example because he's not perfect either and that we shouldn't necessarily write people off because of one act we disagree with. Obviously you have other political bones to pick with Seeger - fair enough. Perhaps the word "deify" was a bit too strong but the point I was making is one that is often made on babble - the left sometimes can't help but eat its own.
Quote:
 I do not think that Seeger has ever performed for American troops in a country they were occupying
That is a valid distinction. We often draw the line in different places. 

Michelle

Oh lordy, Jingles, I want combat pay if you're going to Godwin out on us here. :D

al-Qa'bong

Jingles wrote:

Quote:
The troops are human beings first and foremost, and even if one disagrees with the role they are playing, that does not mean you can't treat them in a civil manner.

Isn't that what they said when Reagan visited the graves of the SS? After all, Karl Jäger was just a guy who loved his kids.

 

Bruce Cockburn is no Joey Ramone.

Jingles

Okay, I retract my Godwin.

revised

 

Quote:
The troops are human beings first and foremost, and even if one disagrees with the role they are playing, that does not mean you can't treat them in a civil manner.

 

Isn't that what the right wing said about the Marines who raped and torched Abeer Qassim al-Janab? After all, they were just good, honest church going kids who had a rough time?

 

Sky Captain Sky Captain's picture

Jingles wrote:

Okay, I retract my Godwin.

revised

 

Quote:
The troops are human beings first and foremost, and even if one disagrees with the role they are playing, that does not mean you can't treat them in a civil manner.

 

Isn't that what the right wing said about the Marines who raped and torched Abeer Qassim al-Janab? After all, they were just good, honest church going kids who had a rough time?

 

 

What about the times that the Scorpions preformed in front of Red Army troops? What about the time the Red Army came to Toronto to perform, and the only protest against them were from the Eastern European immigrants whose land were trod underfoot by them? I'm sure they were good, honest men who the leadership had made into murders. Or did you not notice that they had invaded Afghanistan?

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

The issue, obviously is not whether the Canadian troops should be treated in a "civil manner" but whether people who are supposedly opposed to aggressive war should be given a pass when they decide, of their own volition, to entertain the troops conducting the aggressive war and make statements in support of the "mission".

The answer to that question does not depend on whether or not one considers the troops to be "humans".