A Call to Action
[The following letter appeared the January 14, 2003 issue of the Louisville Courier-Journal.]
A man all too familiar with the horror of armed conflict once said, "You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today." If Lincoln's words hold any truth, let us understand this: It is not the Bush Administration or Exxon Mobile or the so-called Powers-That-Be that launch the juggernaut of war--it is us. We--you and I--will be responsible for the deaths of brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, friends, neighbors, loved ones. We--you and I--will share the in bloodletting of the infants and the elderly and the creation of widows and orphans. We--you and I--will stand accountable to the dead and the devastated, to our children, and to our God. Every moment of every day we choose to speak or remain silent. Though many of us oppose the unprovoked invasion of Iraq we wait and watch in silent resignation for the apocalyptic train wreck. If we truly believe in the Great Democracy of which we endlessly boast, then it is time to take our faith in flags and slogans, in anthems and abstract ideals and put it to use. Let us blow the dust from these pretty little antiquated notions and do something with them.
War on Iraq. Why? Answer not to me, but to yourself. Answer in your heart, where no one but you will ever hear or know. Do you believe it should happen? If you do not, and you do nothing, you are an army of one--not the foot soldier who pulls the trigger but the general who orders the kill. Reject that role, awaken and act. Now is the time to shun the vain distractions and petty concerns that fill our days and turn to matters most grave. Now is the time to wrestle back control of a power of, by and for the people. Now is the time to let our voices resound in the papers and polls, from the page and the pulpit, from the candle-lit corners of Douglass Loop to the mighty halls of Washington. Say a little, say a lot. But in the name of God, open your mouth, and say something.
J. Erick Sinkhorn
[The following letter by actor Sean Penn appeared as a full-page ad in the October 18, 2002 issue of The Washington Post.]
An Open Letter To President Bush
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, CA
A Letter from Terry Jones
[The following letter by former Monty Python member Terry Jones appeared in the January 26, 2003 issue of The Observer.]
I'm really excited by George Bush's latest reason for bombing Iraq: he's running out of patience. And so am I! For some time now I've been really pissed off with Mr. Johnson, who lives a couple of doors down the street.
Well, him and Mr. Patel, who runs the health food shop. They both give me queer looks, and I'm sure Mr. Johnson is planning something nasty for me, but so far I haven't been able to discover what.
I've been round to his place a few times to see what he's up to, but he's got everything well hidden. That's how devious he is. As for Mr. Patel, don't ask me how I know, I just know--from very good sources--that he is, in reality, a Mass Murderer. I have leafleted the street telling them that if we don't act first, he'll pick us off one by one. Some of my neighbours say, if I've got proof, why don't I go to the police? But that's simply ridiculous. The police will say that they need evidence of a crime with which to charge my neighbors.
They'll come up with endless red tape and quibbling about the rights and wrongs of a pre-emptive strike and all the while Mr. Johnson will be finalising his plans to do terrible things to me, while Mr. Patel will be secretly murdering people.
Since I'm the only one in the street with a decent range of automatic firearms, I reckon it's up to me to keep the peace. But until recently that's been a little difficult. Now, however, George W. Bush has made it clear that all I need to do is run out of patience, and then I can wade in and do whatever I want!
And let's face it, Mr. Bush's carefully thought-out policy towards Iraq is the only way to bring about international peace and security. The one certain way to stop Muslim fundamentalist suicide bombers targeting the US or the UK is to bomb a few Muslim countries that have never threatened us.
That's why I want to blow up Mr. Johnson's garage and kill his wife and children. Strike first! That'll teach him a lesson. Then he'll leave us in peace and stop peering at me in that totally unacceptable way.
Mr. Bush makes it clear that all he needs to know before bombing Iraq is that Saddam is a really nasty man and that he has weapons of mass destruction--even if no one can find them. I'm certain I've just as much justification for killing Mr. Johnson's wife and children as Mr. Bush has for bombing Iraq. Mr. Bush's long-term aim is to make the world a safer place by eliminating "rogue states" and "terrorism". It's such a clever long-term aim because how can you ever know when you've achieved it?
How will Mr. Bush know when he's wiped out all terrorists? When every single terrorist is dead? But then a terrorist is only a terrorist once he's committed an act of terror.
What about would-be terrorists? These are the ones you really want to eliminate, since most of the known terrorists, being suicide bombers, have already eliminated themselves.
Perhaps Mr. Bush needs to wipe out everyone who could possibly be a future terrorist? Maybe he can't be sure he's achieved his objective until every Muslim fundamentalist is dead? But then some moderate Muslims might convert to fundamentalism. Maybe the only really safe thing to do would be for Mr. Bush to eliminate all Muslims?
It's the same in my street. Mr. Johnson and Mr. Patel are just the tip of the iceberg. There are dozens of other people in the street who I don't like and who--quite frankly--look at me in odd ways. No one will be really safe until I've wiped them all out. My wife says I might be going too far but I tell her I'm simply using the same logic as the President of the United States. That shuts her up.
Like Mr. Bush, I've run out of patience, and if that's a good enough reason for the President, it's good enough for me. I'm going to give the whole street two weeks--no, 10 days--to come out in the open and hand over all aliens and interplanetary hijackers, galactic outlaws and interstellar terrorist masterminds, and if they don't hand them over nicely and say "Thank you," I'm going to bomb the entire street to kingdom come.
It's just as sane as what George W. Bush is proposing--and, in contrast to what he's intending, my policy will destroy only one street.
Reckless Administration May Reap Disastrous Consequences
[The following speech was delivered by US Senator Robert Byrd on the floor of the United States Senate, February 12, 2003.]
To contemplate war is to think about the most horrible of human experiences. On this February day, as this nation stands at the brink of battle, every American on some level must be contemplating the horrors of war.
Yet, this Chamber is, for the most part, silent--ominously, dreadfully silent. There is no debate, no discussion, no attempt to lay out for the nation the pros and cons of this particular war. There is nothing.
We stand passively mute in the United States Senate, paralyzed by our own uncertainty, seemingly stunned by the sheer turmoil of events. Only on the editorial pages of our newspapers is there much substantive discussion of the prudence or imprudence of engaging in this particular war.
And this is no small conflagration we contemplate. This is no simple attempt to defang a villain. No. This coming battle, if it materializes, represents a turning point in U.S. foreign policy and possibly a turning point in the recent history of the world.
This nation is about to embark upon the first test of a revolutionary doctrine applied in an extraordinary way at an unfortunate time. The doctrine of preemption--the idea that the United States or any other nation can legitimately attack a nation that is not imminently threatening but may be threatening in the future--is a radical new twist on the traditional idea of self defense. It appears to be in contravention of international law and the UN Charter. And it is being tested at a time of world-wide terrorism, making many countries around the globe wonder if they will soon be on our--or some other nation's--hit list.
High level Administration figures recently refused to take nuclear weapons off of the table when discussing a possible attack against Iraq. What could be more destabilizing and unwise than this type of uncertainty, particularly in a world where globalism has tied the vital economic and security interests of many nations so closely together? There are huge cracks emerging in our time-honored alliances, and U.S. intentions are suddenly subject to damaging worldwide speculation. Anti-Americanism based on mistrust, misinformation, suspicion, and alarming rhetoric from U.S. leaders is fracturing the once solid alliance against global terrorism which existed after September 11.
Here at home, people are warned of imminent terrorist attacks with little guidance as to when or where such attacks might occur. Family members are being called to active military duty, with no idea of the duration of their stay or what horrors they may face. Communities are being left with less than adequate police and fire protection. Other essential services are also short-staffed. The mood of the nation is grim. The economy is stumbling. Fuel prices are rising and may soon spike higher.
This Administration, now in power for a little over two years, must be judged on its record. I believe that that record is dismal. In that scant two years, this Administration has squandered a large projected surplus of some $5.6 trillion over the next decade and taken us to projected deficits as far as the eye can see. This Administration's domestic policy has put many of our states in dire financial condition, under funding scores of essential programs for our people. This Administration has fostered policies which have slowed economic growth. This Administration has ignored urgent matters such as the crisis in health care for our elderly. This Administration has been slow to provide adequate funding for homeland security. This Administration has been reluctant to better protect our long and porous borders.
In foreign policy, this Administration has failed to find Osama bin Laden. In fact, just yesterday we heard from him again marshaling his forces and urging them to kill. This Administration has split traditional alliances, possibly crippling, for all time, International order-keeping entities like the United Nations and NATO. This Administration has called into question the traditional worldwide perception of the United States as well-intentioned, peacekeeper. This Administration has turned the patient art of diplomacy into threats, labeling, and name calling of the sort that reflects quite poorly on the intelligence and sensitivity of our leaders, and which will have consequences for years to come.
Calling heads of state pygmies, labeling whole countries as evil, denigrating powerful European allies as irrelevant--these types of crude insensitivities can do our great nation no good. We may have massive military might, but we cannot fight a global war on terrorism alone. We need the cooperation and friendship of our time-honored allies as well as the newer found friends whom we can attract with our wealth. Our awesome military machine will do us little good if we suffer another devastating attack on our homeland which severely damages our economy. Our military manpower is already stretched thin and we will need the augmenting support of those nations who can supply troop strength, not just sign letters cheering us on.
The war in Afghanistan has cost us $37 billion so far, yet there is evidence that terrorism may already be starting to regain its hold in that region. We have not found bin Laden, and unless we secure the peace in Afghanistan, the dark dens of terrorism may yet again flourish in that remote and devastated land.
Pakistan as well is at risk of destabilizing forces. This Administration has not finished the first war against terrorism and yet it is eager to embark on another conflict with perils much greater than those in Afghanistan. Is our attention span that short? Have we not learned that after winning the war one must always secure the peace?
And yet we hear little about the aftermath of war in Iraq. In the absence of plans, speculation abroad is rife. Will we seize Iraq's oil fields, becoming an occupying power which controls the price and supply of that nation's oil for the foreseeable future? To whom do we propose to hand the reigns of power after Saddam Hussein?
Will our war inflame the Muslim world resulting in devastating attacks on Israel? Will Israel retaliate with its own nuclear arsenal? Will the Jordanian and Saudi Arabian governments be toppled by radicals, bolstered by Iran which has much closer ties to terrorism than Iraq?
Could a disruption of the world's oil supply lead to a world-wide recession? Has our senselessly bellicose language and our callous disregard of the interests and opinions of other nations increased the global race to join the nuclear club and made proliferation an even more lucrative practice for nations which need the income?
In only the space of two short years this reckless and arrogant Administration has initiated policies which may reap disastrous consequences for years.
One can understand the anger and shock of any President after the savage attacks of September 11. One can appreciate the frustration of having only a shadow to chase and an amorphous, fleeting enemy on which it is nearly impossible to exact retribution.
But to turn one's frustration and anger into the kind of extremely destabilizing and dangerous foreign policy debacle that the world is currently witnessing is inexcusable from any Administration charged with the awesome power and responsibility of guiding the destiny of the greatest superpower on the planet. Frankly many of the pronouncements made by this Administration are outrageous. There is no other word.
Yet this chamber is hauntingly silent. On what is possibly the eve of horrific infliction of death and destruction on the population of the nation of Iraq--a population, I might add, of which over 50% is under age 15--this chamber is silent.
On what is possibly only days before we send thousands of our own citizens to face unimagined horrors of chemical and biological warfare--this chamber is silent. On the eve of what could possibly be a vicious terrorist attack in retaliation for our attack on Iraq, it is business as usual in the United States Senate.
We are truly "sleepwalking through history." In my heart of hearts I pray that this great nation and its good and trusting citizens are not in for a rudest of awakenings.
To engage in war is always to pick a wild card. And war must always be a last resort, not a first choice. I truly must question the judgment of any President who can say that a massive unprovoked military attack on a nation which is over 50% children is "in the highest moral traditions of our country." This war is not necessary at this time. Pressure appears to be having a good result in Iraq. Our mistake was to put ourselves in a corner so quickly. Our challenge is to now find a graceful way out of a box of our own making. Perhaps there is still a way if we allow more time.
Artists Say Win Without War: The Petition Letter
[The following letter was signed by dozens of musicians and actors and sent to President Bush on behalf of the Win Without War coalition. The names of the signatories appear below]
War talk in Washington is alarming and unnecessary.
We are patriotic Americans who share the belief that Saddam Hussein cannot be allowed to possess weapons of mass destruction. We support rigorous UN weapons inspections to assure Iraq's effective disarmament.
However, a pre-emptive 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. It will make us less, not more, secure.
We reject the doctrine--a reversal of long-held American tradition--that our country, alone, has the right to launch first-strike attacks.
The valid U.S. and UN objective of disarming Saddam Hussein can be achieved through legal diplomatic means. There is no need for war. Let us instead devote our resources to improving the security and well-being of people here at home and around the world.
Artists for Winning Without War
Mike Farrell; Robert Greenwald; Gillian Anderson; Edward Asner; Rene Auberjonois; David Bale; Kim Basinger; Ed Begley, Jr.; Theo Bikel; Barbara Bosson; Jackson Browne; Peter Buck (REM); Diahann Carroll; Eugene J. Carroll, Jr.; Rear Adm. U.S. Navy (Ret.); Kathleen Chalfant; Don Cheadle; Jill Clayburgh; David Clennon; Jack Coleman; Peter Coyote; Lindsay Crouse; Suzanne Cryer; Matt Damon; Dana Daurey; Ambassador Jonathan Dean (U.S. Rep. to NATO Warsaw Pact); Vincent D'Onofrio; David Duchovny; Olympia Dukakis; Charles S. Dutton; Hector Elizondo; Cary Elwes; Shelley Fabares; Mia Farrow; Laurence Fishburne; Sean Patrick Flanery; Bonnie Franklin; John; Fugelsang; Jeananne Garafalo; Larry Gelbart; Melissa Gilbert; Danny Glover; Elliott Gould; Samaria Graham; Robert Greenwald; Robert Guillaume; Paul Haggis; Robert David Hall; Ethan Hawke; Ken Howard; Helen Hunt; Anjelica Huston; LaTanya Richardson Jackson; Samuel L. Jackson; Jane Kaczmarek; Melina Kanakaredes; Casey Kasem; Mimi Kennedy; Jessica Lange; Tea Leoni; Wendie Malick; Camryn Manheim; Marsha Mason; Richard Masur; Dave Matthews; Kent McCord; Robert Duncan McNeill; Mike Mills (REM); Janel Moloney; Esai Morales; Ed O'Neill; Chris Noth; Peter Onorati; Alexandra Paul; Ambassador Edward Peck (former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq); Seth Peterson; CCH Pounder; David Rabe; Alan Rachins; Bonnie Raitt; Carl Reiner; Tim Robbins; Steve Robinson; Sgt., U.S. Army (Ret.); Mitch Ryan; Susan Sarandon; Tony Shalhoub; Jack Shanahan; Vice Adm. U.S. Navy (Ret.); William Schallert; Martin Sheen; Armin Shimerman; Gloria Steinem; Marcia Strassman; Michael Stipe (REM); Susan Sullivan; Loretta Swit; Studs Terkel; Lily Tomlin; Blair Underwood; Dennis Weaver; Bradley Whitford; James Whitmore; James Whitmore, Jr.; Alfre Woodard; Noah Wyle; Peter Yarrow; Howard Zinn