Sean Penn is a strong believer in the principles that went into the founding of his country. As he told a news conference in Baghdad on Sunday, “I believe in the Constitution of the United States, and the American people.” Describing himself as “privileged to have lived a life under our Constitution that has allowed me to dream and prosper,” Mr. Penn added: “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.” He cares enough about human life to challenge our leaders to work towards a peaceful resolution to an obviously complicated issue.
It is the very foundation of this country, for which Sean Penn cares deeply, to encourage open discussion and express opinions, no matter their popularity. As fortunate, free-thinking citizens of the United States of America, we should be encouraged to sort through our own version of propaganda as it appears in mainstream media. Challenging ideas and policies is as American as it gets.
The official Iraq news agency’s misrepresentation of what Mr. Penn said at his news conference in Baghdad is hardly shocking. Propaganda exists and will be used to suit the perpetrator’s advantage. The fact that some — whether the New York Post or the official Iraqi news agency — are likely to distort his words will not prevent Sean Penn from continuing to speak out.
Professor emeritus of political science at Boston University, Zinn is author of numerous books including the widely praised “A People’s History of the United States.” He said today: “People who are accusing the anti-war movement of being soft on Saddam simply aren’t listening to the anti-war movement. Every statement I’ve seen makes clear that Saddam Hussein is a tyrant….”
ROBERT McCHESNEY http://www.robertmcchesney.com Author of “Rich Media, Poor Democracy,” McChesney said today: “Traditionally the news media have had a tendency to reflect those in power, especially on foreign policy. Dissident voices are routinely marginalized, trivialized, distorted and even ridiculed, if not ignored altogether. History shows in the case of the Gulf War, Vietnam War, Korean War, Spanish-American War, these dissidents have been accurate more often than not…”
THE ORGINAL TEXT:
Sunday, December 15, 2002
Text of Statement by Sean Penn At News Conference in Baghdad
The actor and director Sean Penn made the following statement at a news conference in Baghdad on Sunday afternoon:
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.
COMMENTS ON HIS STATEMENT NORMAN SOLOMON, http://www.accuracy.org Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, which organized Sean Penn’s recent trip to Baghdad. “After accompanying Mr. Penn during his visit to Baghdad, I’m heartened by the evident value of dialogue in the midst of this extremely ominous crisis,” Solomon said today. “His visit could inspire many Americans from various walks of life to explore how they can impede the momentum toward war, whether in Baghdad or at home in the United States.”
PAUL ROGAT LOEB, http://www.soulofacitizen.org Author of “Soul of a Citizen: Living With Conviction in a Cynical Time,” Loeb said today: “It’s good that Sean Penn went to Iraq. We all should educate ourselves, we all should speak up. Unfortunately, we’re encouraged to dismiss anyone who challenges Bush’s march to war…. Ordinary citizens can’t speak up because they don’t know enough; young people are dismissed as naïve; older people we’re told are trying to re-live the ’60s; academics are just eggheads; religious people are unrealistic; immigrants are suspects; celebrities are airheads and so on. So basically everyone is written off except the people actually running the show.”
WILLIAM CHRISTISON Former director of the CIA’s Office of Regional and Political Analysis, Christison said today: “When I was with the CIA, we thought the more you know, the better your decisions are. It’s good for all Americans to educate themselves about Iraq at this crucial time. We have an administration that has a lot of people in it who clearly want to go to war…. They have no interest in dialogue, sorting out the facts, giving clear reasons for policy or seeing weapons inspections work.”
JAMES ABOUREZK A former U.S. Senator from South Dakota, Abourezk visited Iraq in September. He said today: “In an effort to silence opponents of Bush’s Iraq policy, Americans have had their patriotism called into question by those who want a major war. Rather than encouraging debate on the issue, Bush has used the element of fear to stifle discussion. The Bush administration is on a campaign to leak one story after another looking for a pretext to massively attack Iraq and frighten the American public into going along with an assault on a weakened Third World country — is that patriotic?”
EDWARD L. PECK Peck is a former chief of mission to Iraq and deputy director of the White House Task Force on Terrorism in the Reagan Administration. He said today: “Dialogue is something that everyone should be for. It’s a shame that Penn could not go with persons from the U.S. government prepared to achieve legitimate objectives without the spilling of blood.”