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Garrett on September 11: 'Keep doing what you normally do'

Peter Garrett  

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Peter Garrett, lead vocalist for Australian rock band Midnight Oil, said the band didn't cancel its current tour in the United States in the wake of the September 11 attacks, citing "to keep doing what you normally do" as the best way to respond to terrorism.

Through his influential, politically driven music and bold activism, Garrett has voiced his support on a range of issues over the past 25 years, such as homeless youth, the environment and Indigenous people's rights in his native Australia.

In the spirit of reconciliation, last year the Oils performed "Beds Are Burning," the band's 1987 hit about aboriginal land rights, at the closing ceremony for the Sydney Olympic Games. By wearing black outfits with the word "Sorry" printed in bold, white letters, Garrett's act became a protest against the Australian government's refusal to apologize for past policies that led to the removal of aboriginal children from their families .

Midnight Oil back to 'rub noses' with North American fans 

Midnight Oil kicked off their first North American tour in over four years in October, pausing in New York to visit Ground Zero.

In a recent interview with CNN, Garrett shared his views on the September 11 terrorist attacks and the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan. Here's what he has to say:

CNN: What was your response to the events of September 11?

GARRETT: Shock, like everybody else, at the extraordinary sort of visual trauma that was inflicted on people in New York. It's sort of cutting to the heart of America in many ways, bringing those two buildings down ... It's clear that (the country has) been shaken to some extent.

Other than that, our own feeling about it is that the media does actually tend to exaggerate things too much in this country and that people are unnecessarily fearful about what is happening. It's a really big place and there aren't that many terrorists.

Without making light of it, a number of countries -- European countries, the United Kingdom, countries through Asia and the Middle East -- for many years have had to deal with low or medium-threshold terrorist risks, so one hopes that terrorism doesn't become a bi-word for a change in the way in which we respond to living.

One of the reasons we decided to keep on touring was because we feel that one of the best ways you can respond is to keep doing what you normally do.

CNN: What's the general feeling in Australia about getting Aussie troops involved?

GARRETT: I think that Australians feel as we do -- a strong sense of outrage at the way in which the terrorism was enacted and the loss of innocent life. And it seems as though (Australian Prime Minister) Mr. Howard committing troops there has the support of the majority of Australians.

CNN: Having traveled a lot yourself, what do you think people from other cultures dislike about America, and by extension, the western world?

GARRETT: For people in Islamic cultures, or in countries where there is a very strong sense of history, culture and community, people feel repugnant towards those aspects of American (or western) culture which are violent and which are sexually exploitive, which are superficial and one-sided.

I think one thing people probably don't understand is that Hollywood has far more effect on the rest of the world than the Pentagon does. And people have got a view that America is Hollywood sometimes.

The second thing I think is that American foreign policy since the war has been extremely selective in the way in which it's sought to encourage democracy. Where it's felt that a client state was worth supporting then it would support it even if it had a dictator or a totalitarian regime. And if it saw the emergence of political institutions or political parties which it thought were too socialistic or anemical to American interests it stamped down very strongly on them. And there's plenty of history in South America of that over the last 25 years or so.

Finally I think it is the fact that America is the biggest, it is the best, it is the brightest and it is the most powerful. People who have got much less than that will always envy those that have more.


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