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Byrne, Simmons: Musicians against war

Peace refrain

Editor's Note: CNN Access is a regular feature on providing interviews with newsmakers from around the world.

Former Talking Heads lead singer David Byrne says "artists speak from their heart."

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start quoteBefore our men go to war and before maybe hundreds of thousands people die, before we spend $200 billion, we should voice our opposition to the idea of going to war.end quote
-- Russell Simmons

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Some of the biggest names in music are voicing their opposition to military action in Iraq.

Almost 60 artists have formed a protest group called Musicians United to Win Without War. Among those leading the movement are David Byrne, former lead singer of the band Talking Heads, and hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons.

Byrne and Simmons joined CNN anchor Bill Hemmer on Monday to talk about their position.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: What do you want to accomplish with this?

DAVID BYRNE, MUSICIAN: We would like that there shouldn't be a rush to war. It feels like we're rushing into something. The inspections are working. The missiles are being dismantled, and that's great.

HEMMER: So your message is time? You're not necessarily saying no war?

RUSSELL SIMMONS: Let me say also you have to accept yes for an answer. The fact is we can use power over force here. We've already started a process. The world is focused on Iraq. If disarmament is our real mission, then I believe we can certainly accomplish that. But if not, we can certainly contain them.

HEMMER: But at some point, do you support war?

SIMMONS: Let me just say $200 billion? The war on ignorance and poverty is a war that we have never really put resources to. And I believe, yes, we can contain the war and, yes, we should look to all kinds of other resources that we have, especially our power and our allies to help us with this problem.

HEMMER: Tell me, why should people listen to your message?

BYRNE: We're just like anybody else who has common sense. We read the papers, watch TV and listen to what people say on the street. We talk to our friends. It's the only reason.

HEMMER: The reason I bring that up, though, is celebrities often attach themselves to a project and because of your high profile -- that's why we have you here.

SIMMONS: Our voices are more well liked and [have established] an importance across the world to [more] young people than George Bush.

Simmons says the U.S. should focus on the war on poverty instead of a war against Iraq.

HEMMER: I want to pick up on that point in a second. Rick Lyman of "The New York Times" wrote a piece this past weekend. In it, he says the question is, "With so many celebrities spouting off, does anyone care anymore?" Your thoughts on whether or not the public listens.

SIMMONS: Absolutely. I just said Jay Z. I said he's probably more well liked and respected across the world by young [people] than is Colin Powell. It's very important, that these people's [voices], who speak for the masses, are heard. So people who think like they think, who are compassionate, and want to operate out of love versus fear and anger, there are other people that speak their language and who represent them.

HEMMER: David, pick up on this point. Rick also writes, no one seems to have done any empirical studies on whether attaching a celebrity to an idea makes that idea more attractive to people. Do you think it does with your status and standing?

BYRNE: Well, I think a lot of people who will listen to an artist because they believe that artists speak from their heart. That's what their job is. That's what they do in their career, in their life's work, and presumably, that's what they do when they speak out about something. They don't have ulterior motives. They're not trying to get something over. They're speaking from their heart, and they don't have some hidden agenda.

HEMMER: Russell, you mentioned hip-hop. The influence of Puff Daddy, Jay Z, and there are others who have climbed on board as well. They're speaking to a much younger demographic.

SIMMONS: Remember when they said, 'Hell no, we won't go'? The fact is, the war was over. [It was because of] young people and their input. They don't have to be involved every day in the process. They have hearts and they have common sense. Most Americans have common sense, and when they hear things that make common sense, they respond.

HEMMER: Do you believe, Russell, your position may have a negative impact on the men and women right now serving overseas, on the ground, in the desert in Kuwait when they hear voices of opposition?

SIMMONS: Well, I believe it's very important now because before our men go to war and before maybe hundreds of thousands people die, before we spend $200 billion, we should voice our opposition to the idea of going to war.

HEMMER: Thank you, men. David Byrne, Russell Simmons, good luck to you, all right? Appreciate the give and take.

BYRNE: Thank you.

SIMMONS: Thank you.

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