Monday, July 10, 2006
Iraq is going so well we should all pause to remember how WRONG those damn LIBERAL HOLLYWOOD TYPES were on the War.
By David Walsh
20 December 2002
American film actor Sean Penn completed a three-day visit to Baghdad December 15 during which he spoke out against the threat of US attacks on Iraq. The 42-year-old Penn earlier this year took out a full-page advertisement in the Washington Post calling on George W. Bush to halt his administration’s war drive.
On his arrival in Baghdad Penn commented that he was there “to pursue a deeper understanding of this frightening conflict.” The actor expressed the hope that “all Americans will embrace information available to them outside the conventional channels” and called his visit to Iraq “a natural extension of my obligation (at least attempt) to find my own voice on matters of conscience.”
Penn’s visit was organized by the Institute for Public Accuracy (IPA), an American group of liberal policy analysts, with offices in San Francisco and Washington.
During his stay in Baghdad Penn toured a children’s hospital, where some of the victims of US sanctions policies are treated. The film actor refused to permit journalists to accompany him on his tour of the hospital, saying he needed to visit privately with the children. He also wandered around Baghdad streets without an Iraqi guide and had meetings with Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz and Health Minister Umeed Madhat Mubarak.
Penn issued a statement to the press at a news conference December 15. It reads: “I am a citizen of the United States of America. I believe in the Constitution of the United States, and the American people. Ours is a government designed to function ‘of’-’by’-and-’for’ the people. I am one of those people, and a privileged one.
“I am privileged in particular to raise my children in a country of high standards in health, welfare, and safety. I am also privileged to have lived a life under our Constitution that has allowed me to dream and prosper. In response to these privileges I feel, both as an American and as a human being, the obligation to accept some level of personal accountability for the policies of my government, both those I support and any that I may not. Simply put, if there is a war or continued sanctions against Iraq, the blood of Americans and Iraqis alike will be on our hands.
“My trip here is to personally record the human face of the Iraqi people so that their blood—along with that of American soldiers—would not be invisible on my own hands. I sit with you here today in the hopes that any of us present may contribute in any way to a peaceful resolution to the conflict at hand.”
The US media, determined to maintain the image of a nation unified behind Bush, barely covered Penn’s trip. At the December 15 press conference he was asked if his visit might expose him to the charge that he lacked patriotism. Penn indicated he would be happy to debate anyone who made such accusations.
The film actor told the press that he had been touched by the warmth of ordinary Iraqis despite the sufferings of their daily lives. “I do find it very moving,” he said, “you know, the strength of a smile in those circumstances, and the smiles that I saw were abundant.” Penn declined to criticize the Bush administration while on Iraqi soil.
In his October 19 Washington Post advertisement, an open letter to George W. Bush, Penn criticized the administration for its “intolerance of debate (‘with us or against us’), marginalization of ... critics, the promoting of fear through unsubstantiated rhetoric, manipulation of a quick comfort media.” He appealed to Bush directly: “I beg you, help save America before yours is a legacy of shame and horror.” Penn argued that “sacrificing American soldiers or innocent civilians in an unprecedented preemptive attack on a separate sovereign nation ... may well prove itself a most temporary medicine.”
On December 10 a group of film actors and other entertainers held a press conference in Los Angeles to launch “Artists United to Win Without War,” a group opposed to US policy in Iraq. The group issued an open letter to Bush urging the government to avoid military action.
The declaration criticizes the Bush administration in the most timid language, and urges the disarming of Iraq through “legal diplomatic means.” It continues, “We are patriotic Americans who share the belief that Saddam Hussein cannot be allowed to possess weapons of mass destruction. We support rigorous U.N. weapons inspections to assure Iraq’s effective disarmament.” And further: “However, a preemptive military invasion of Iraq will harm American national interests. Such a war will increase human suffering, arouse animosity toward our country, increase the likelihood of terrorist attacks, damage the economy, and undermine our moral standing in the world.”
Martin Sheen, Mike Farrell and Tony Shalhoub were among those who spoke to the press December 10. Shalhoub commented, “This notion of preemptive war is setting a precedent ... and we must ask ourselves, where does this end? Where is the next preemptive strike?”
Others signing the letter included Academy Award winners Kim Basinger, Helen Hunt, Olympia Dukakis, Susan Sarandon and director Jonathan Demme. Other names included Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny of X-Files fame, West Wing cast members Sheen, Janel Moloney, Bradley Whitford and Lily Tomlin, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation actors Marg Helgenberger and Robert David Hall and Ocean’s Eleven cast members Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Elliott Gould and Carl Reiner.
Actors Jessica Lange, Ethan Hawke, Samuel L. Jackson, Jane Kaczmarek, Laurence Fishburne, Alfre Woodard, Danny Glover, Noah Wyle and Téa Leoni also added their names to the list, along with musicians such as R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe, Peter Buck and Mike Mills, Bonnie Raitt and Peter Yarrow. The letter was signed as well by retired admiral Eugene Carroll Jr. and former US ambassador to Iraq Edward Peck.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the open letter originated in a “teach-in” organized by Farrell and director-producer Robert Greenwald in October at the home of a Democratic Party fundraiser, Stanley Sheinbaum. Speakers included Scott Ritter, the former UN weapons inspector, and David Cortright, a professor in peace studies at Notre Dame. Among the 50 attendees were Warren Beatty and wife Annette Bening, along with Democratic politicians Tom Hayden and Gary Hart.
Published in the Washington Post on October 19, 2002
An Open Letter to the President of the United States of America
Good morning sir.
Like you, I am a father and an American. Like you, I consider myself a patriot. Like you, I was horrified by the events of this past year, concerned for my family and my country.
However, I do not believe in a simplistic and inflammatory view of good and evil. I believe this is a big world full of men, women, and children who struggle to eat, to love, to work, to protect their families, their beliefs, and their dreams.
My father, like yours, was decorated for service in World War II. He raised me with a deep belief in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, as they should apply to all Americans who would sacrifice to maintain them and to all human beings as a matter of principle. Many of your actions to date and those proposed seem to violate every defining principle of this country over which you preside: intolerance of debate ("with us or against us"), marginalization of your critics, the promoting of fear through unsubstantiated rhetoric, manipulation of a quick comfort media, and position of your administration's deconstruction of civil liberties all contradict the very core of the patriotism you claim. You lead, it seems, through a blood-lined sense of entitlement.
Take a close look at your most vehement media supporters. See the fear in their eyes as their loud voices of support ring out with that historically disastrous undercurrent of rage and panic masked as "straight tough talk." How far have we come from understanding what it is to kill one man, one woman, or one child, much less the "collateral damage" of many hundreds of thousands.
Your use of the words, "this is a new kind of war" is often accompanied by an odd smile. It concerns me that what you are asking of us is to abandon all previous lessons of history in favor of following you blindly into the future. It worries me because with all your best intentions, an enormous economic surplus has been squandered. Your administration has virtually dismissed the most fundamental environmental concerns and therefore, by implication, one gets the message that, as you seem to be willing to sacrifice the children of the world, would you also be willing to sacrifice ours.
I know this cannot be your aim so, I beg you Mr. President, listen to Gershwin, read chapters of Stegner, of Saroyan, the speeches of Martin Luther King. Remind yourself of America. Remember the Iraqi children, our children, and your own. There can be no justification for the actions of Al Qaeda. Nor acceptance of the criminal viciousness of the tyrant, Saddam Hussein. Yet, that bombing is answered by bombing, mutilation by mutilation, killing by killing, is a pattern that only a great country like ours can stop.
However, principles cannot be recklessly or greedily abandoned in the guise of preserving them. Avoiding war while accomplishing national security is no simple task. But you will recall that we Americans had a little missile problem down in Cuba once. Mr. Kennedy's restraint (and that of the nuclear submarine captain, Arkhipov) is to be aspired to.
Weapons of mass destruction are clearly a threat to the entire world in any hands. But as Americans, we must ask ourselves, since the potential for Mr. Hussein to possess them threatens not only our country, (and in fact, his technology to launch is likely not yet at that high a level of sophistication) therefore, many in his own region would have the greatest cause for concern.
Why then, is the United States, as led by your administration, in the small minority of the world nations predisposed toward a preemptive military assault on Iraq?
Simply put, sir, let us re-introduce inspection teams, inhibiting offensive capability. We buy time, maintain our principles here and abroad and demand of ourselves the ingenuity to be the strongest diplomatic muscle on the planet, perhaps in the history of the planet. The answers will come. You are a man of faith, but your saber is rattling the faith of many Americans in you.
I do understand what a tremendously daunting task it must be to stand in your shoes at this moment. As a father of two young children who will live their lives in the world as it will be affected by critical choices today, I have no choice but to believe that you can ultimately stand as a great president. History has offered you such a destiny. So again, sir, I beg you, help save America before yours is a legacy of shame and horror. Don't destroy our children's future. We will support you.
You must support us, your fellow Americans, and indeed, mankind. Defend us from fundamentalism abroad but don't turn a blind eye to the fundamentalism of a diminished citizenry through loss of civil liberties, of dangerously heightened presidential autonomy through acts of Congress, and of this country's mistaken and pervasive belief that its "manifest destiny" is to police the world.
We know that Americans are frightened and angry. However, sacrificing American soldiers or innocent civilians in an unprecedented preemptive attack on a separate sovereign nation, may well prove itself a most temporary medicine.
On the other hand, should you mine and have faith in the best of this country to support your leadership in representing a strong, thoughtful, and educated United States, you may well triumph for the long haul.
Lead us there, Mr. President, and we will stand with you.
San Francisco, California
Editor's Note: I discussed this issue once when I made fun of Matt Stone and Trey Parker for their pathetic movie "Team America World Police." Just in case some of you missed it here's the link: http://theobfuscationreport.blogspot.com/2005/08/team-america-world-police-trey-parker.html