Sean Penn’s remarks at Rep. Barbara Lee’s March 24 Town Hall Meeting on the 4th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.
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 health-care 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?!
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