American icon Tony Bennett took to the airwaves at Sirius Radio to promote his new album, “Duets II,” but it’s what he said about war, peace, terrorism, and who was to blame for the Sept. 11 terror attacks that could get people talking.
Sitting down with Howard Stern on Monday, the 85-year-old singer dodged questions about his sex life and prior drug use. He did so with a laugh, but matters about the U.S. military and 9/11 were fair game, and on these topics the Grammy winner held little back.
Beginning with his service in World War II, Bennett said that his experiences as a teenager in combat forever changed his position on war.
“I’m anti-war,” he said. “It’s the lowest form of human behavior.”
Drafted by the U.S. Army in November 1944, Bennett served as an infantryman in Europe, moving across France, and later into Germany.
“The Germans were frightened. We were frightened. Nobody wanted to kill anybody when we were on the line, but the weapons were so strong that it overcame us and everybody else.”
Bennett credited the Army with allowing him to study singing under the GI Bill. He also admitted that his two years of service gave him enough time to witness the horrors of war.
“The first time I saw a dead German, that’s when I became a pacifist,” he said.
He told Stern that he was left forever shaken by the sight of death.
“It was a nightmare that’s permanent,” he said. “I just said, ‘This is not life. This is not life.’”
Bennett, 65 years after leaving his military life behind, has sold over 50 million albums and developed definite opinions about other wars involving the United States.
“To start a war in Iraq was a tremendous, tremendous mistake internationally,” he said.
Stern then asked Bennett about how America should deal with terrorists, specifically those responsible for the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center.
“But who are the terrorists? Are we the terrorists or are they the terrorists? Two wrongs don’t make a right,” Bennett said.
In a soft-spoken voice, the singer disagreed with Stern’s premise that 9/11 terrorists’ actions led to U.S. military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“They flew the plane in, but we caused it,” Bennett responded. “Because we were bombing them and they told us to stop.”
Following seconds of silence, Stern said that his guest was “making some good points.”
Before leaving, Bennett recalled an evening in 2005 when he was honored at the Kennedy Center. Meeting President George W. Bush at the event, the singer said that the commander-in-chief shared his opinion about the Iraq War.
“He told me personally that night that, he said, ‘I think I made a mistake,’” Bennett said.
Bennett believed that the president made this revelation because “he had a special liking to me.”