Sunday, March 25, 2007

Sean Penn: An Open Letter to the President...Four and a Half Years Later (117 comments )


Sean Penn

Four and a half years ago, I addressed the issue of war in an open letter to our President. Today I would like to again speak to him and his, directly. Mr. President, Mr. Cheney, Ms. Rice et al: Indeed America has a rich history of greatness -indeed, America is still today a devastating military superpower.

And because, in the absence of a competent or brave Congress, of a mobilized citizenry, that level of power lies in your hands, it is you who have misused it to become our country's and our constitution's most devastating enemy. You have broken our country and our hearts. The needless blood on your hands, and therefore, on our own, is drowning the freedom, the security, and the dream that America might have been, once healed of and awakened by, the tragedy of September 11, 2001.

But now, we are encouraged to self-censor any words that might be perceived as inflammatory - if our belief is that this war should stop today. We cower as you point fingers telling us to "support our troops." Well, you and the smarmy pundits in your pocket, those who bathe in the moisture of your soiled and bloodstained underwear, can take that noise and shove it. We will be snowed no more. Let's make this crystal clear. We do support our troops in our stand, while you exploit them and their families. The verdict is in. You lied, connived, and exploited your own countrymen and most of all, our troops.

You Misters Bush and Cheney; you Ms. Rice are villainously and criminally obscene people, obscene human beings, incompetent even to fulfill your own self-serving agenda, while tragically neglectful and destructive of ours and our country's. And I got a question for your daughters Mr. Bush. They're not children anymore. Do they support your policy in Iraq? If they do, how dare they not be in uniform, while the children of the poor; black, white, Asian, Hispanic, and all the other American working men and women are slaughtered, maimed and flown back into this country under cover of darkness.

Now, because I've been on the streets of Baghdad during this occupational war, outside the Green Zone, without security, and you haven't; I've met children there. In that country of 25 million, these children have now suffered minimally, a rainstorm of civilian death around and among them totaling the equivalent of two hundred September 11ths in just four years of war. Two hundred 9/11s. Two hundred 9/11s.

You want to rattle sabers toward Iran now? Let me tell you something about Iran, because I've been there and you haven't. Iran is a great country. A great country. Does it have its haters? You bet. Just like the United States has its haters. Does it have a corrupt regime? You bet. Just like the United States has a corrupt regime. Does it want a nuclear weapon? Maybe. Do we have one? You bet. But the people of Iran are great people. And if we give that corrupt leadership, (by attacking Iran militarily) the opportunity to unify that great country in hatred against us, we'll have been giving up one of our most promising future allies in decades. If you really know anything about Iran, you know exactly what I'm referring to. Of course your administration belittles diplomatic potential there, as those options rely on a credibility and geopolitical influence that you have aggressively squandered worldwide.

Speaking of squandering, how about the billion and a half dollars a day our Iraq-focused military is spending, where three weeks of that kind of spending, would pay the tab on a visionary levy-building project in New Orleans and relieve the entire continent of Africa from starvation and the spread of disease. Not to mention the continued funds now necessary, to not only rebuild our education and healthcare systems, but also, to give care and aid to the veterans of this war, both American and our Iraqi allies and friends who have lost everything.

You say we've kept the war on terror off our shores by responding to a criminal act of terror through state sponsored unilateral aggression in a country that took no part in that initial crime. That this war would be fought in Iraq or fought here. They are not our toilet. They are a country of human beings whose lives, while once oppressed by Saddam, are now lived in Dante's inferno.

My 15-year-old daughter was working on a comparative essay this week (you can ask Condi what a comparative essay is, as academic exercises fit the limits of her political expertise.) My daughter's essay, which understood substance over theory, discusses the strengths of the Nuremberg trial justice beside the alternate strategy of truth and reconciliation in South Africa, and I quote: "When we observe distinctions between one power and another, one justice and another, we consider the divide between retribution and reconciliation, of closure and disclosure." I can't do her essay justice in this forum, but at its core, it asks how, when, and why we compromise toward peace, punish for war, or balance both for something more.

This may focus another soft spot in the rhetoric of both sides. We're told not to engage in the "politics of attack." To "keep away from the negative"...Well, Mr. Bush, when speaking of your administration, that would leave us silent, and impotent indeed.

So, in conclusion, I address my remaining remarks to the choir: We all played nice recently at the sad passing of former President Ford. Pundits and players on all sides re-visited his pardoning of Richard Nixon with praise, stating that a divided nation found unity. But what of that precedent on deterrence now? Where is justice now? Let's unite, not only in stopping this war, but holding this administration accountable as well. Without impeachment, justice cannot prevail. In our time, or our children's. And let's make it clear to democrats and republicans alike that we are not willing to wait on '08 to hear them say again: "If I'd known then, what I know now."

Even in a so-called victory, what we saw yesterday was a House of Representatives that couldn't bring itself to represent either conscience or constituents. It's a tragedy that the Democratic Party's leadership in Congress refuses to allow the House to vote on Barbara Lee's amendment for a fully funded, orderly withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of this year. Elites circled the war wagons against this proposal, and postponed the day of reckoning that must come as soon as possible - a complete pullout of U.S. military forces from Iraq.

There are presidential candidates who understand this. We do have candidates of conscience. As things stand today, I will be voting for Dennis Kucinich, who has fought this war from the beginning. You might say Kucinich can't win. Well, we have an opportunity to re-establish the credibility of democracy as viewed by the world at large.

We can fire our current president. We can choose the next president. You and me, the farmer in Wisconsin, the boys at Google, and Bill Gates.

It's up to us to choose. Why don't we choose?!

From remarks at Congresswoman Barbara Lee's March 24 Town Hall Meeting on the 4th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.

READ MORE: Iran, United States, Sean Penn, Iraq, Dick Cheney, South Africa

Academy Award winner Sean Penn has become an American film icon in a career spanning nearly three decades. He has been nominated four times for the Academy Award as Best Actor: in DEAD MAN WALKING, SWEET AND LOWDOWN, I AM SAM and most recently won the Oscar in 2003 for his searing performance in Clint Eastwood's MYSTIC RIVER.

Penn has appeared in over thirty films including TAPS, FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH, THE FALCON AND THE SNOWMAN, AT CLOSE RANGE, COLORS, RACING WITH THE MOON, CASUALTIES OF WAR, WE'RE NO ANGELS, STATE OF GRACE, CARLITO'S WAY, U-TURN, THE THIN RED LINE, DEAD MAN WALKING (Winner Best Actor /1995 Berlin Film Festival), SHE'S SO LOVELY (Winner Best Actor / 1997 Cannes Film Festival), HURLYBURLY (Winner Best Actor / 1998 Venice Film Festival), 21 GRAMS (Winner Best Actor / 2003 Venice Film Festival), THE INTERPRETER, and most recently ALL THE KING'S MEN.

Penn's feature film directorial debut came with 1991's THE INDIAN RUNNER, which he also wrote and produced. In 1995, he directed THE CROSSING GUARD, which he also wrote and produced. His third film as director/producer was 2001's THE PLEDGE starring Jack Nicholson and was named in the Top Ten Films of 2001 by The National Board of Review. Since then, Penn wrote and directed the United States' contribution to the compilation film 11'09"01. This important project gathered 11 acclaimed directors from around the world to create short films in response to the horrific events of September 11, 2001. In 2003 the film was nominated for a French Cesar in the best European Union Film category and received a special recognition award from the National Board of Review.

Penn has appeared on stage in productions including Alfred Hayes' GIRL ON THE VIA FLAMINIA and Albert Innaurato's EARTHWORMS IN LOS ANGELES. On Broadway, Penn performed in Kevin Heelan's HEARTLAND and John Byrne's SLAB BOYS. He appeared in David Rabe's HURLYBURLY, at the Westwood Playhouse, and GOOSE AND TOM TOM, at Lincoln Center, both productions directed by the author. Most recently, Penn starred opposite Nick Nolte and Woody Harrelson in THE LATE HENRY MOSS, written and directed by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Sam Shepard.

In 2002, Sean Penn was presented with the Modern Master Award at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, and in 2003, became the youngest ever recipient of the Donostia Lifetime Achievement Award from the San Sebastian Film Festival. Additionally, in 2004, he received the John Steinbeck Award for outspoken torch-bearers in the creative arts.

As journalist, Penn has written for Time, Interview, and Rolling Stone magazines. In 2004, Penn wrote a two-part feature in The San Francisco Chronicle after a second visit to the war-torn Iraq. In 2005, he wrote a five-part feature in the same paper, reporting from Iran during the election, which led to the Ahmadinejad regime.

Penn is currently in production on INTO THE WILD based on the book by Jon Krakauer.

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