Ben Cohen

In the moments before America was attacked by terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001, Ben Cohen, the co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream kingdom, was begging for a real enemy of the U.S. to show up.

In an ironic and hauntingly prophetic Internet column dated Sept. 4, 2001, Cohen posted an “enemy wanted” ad, hoping that a worthy adversary would soon make itself known to justify President Bush’s defense budget:

You may know some despicable characters, but are they mean enough to apply for this job posting?

ENEMY WANTED. Serious enemy needed to justify Pentagon budget increase. Defense contractors desperate. Interested enemies send letter and photo or video (threatening, OK) to Enemy Search Committee, Priorities Campaign, 1350 Broadway, NY, NY, 10018. …

I am distributing a job description as widely as possible to help our politicians find the enemy they seek. Even with the help of defense contractors – who spend $50 million on lobbyists annually – our politicians do not possess the creativity to find the right adversary. It’s clear that the old concept of enemy doesn’t work anymore.

The trouble is the Defense Department needs to find an enemy in a hurry. The Bush Administration has proposed to increase Pentagon spending by $33 billion, the largest defense increase since the Cold War. …

Over 40 million Americans, including about 10 million children, have no health insurance.

My enemy search – if successful – would go a long way toward easing the consciences of our politicians who support the fat Pentagon budget, which diverts money from poor children, the environment, and other good things.

As of today, however, my search is not going well. So, I am open to any and all suggestions or leads that you might have. I am, of course on the lookout for the right headhunter, but none has materialized.

If you’ve got any killer ideas, please let me know.

Now, more than a year since the enemy has made itself known, Cohen is going on a new offensive – icing down the heated path to war with Iraq.

“I would like to know what the imminent threat is to the United States,” Cohen said yesterday on CNN’s “Talkback Live” program.

The Vermont anti-war activist is the head of an advocacy group called TrueMajority, which has created a set of television commercials featuring Hollywood’s Susan Sarandon and Janeane Garofalo opposing a military conflict with Saddam Hussein.

The Sarandon ad – which debuted just prior to President Bush’s State of the Union address – also features Edward Peck, the former U.S. ambassador to Iraq and deputy director of President Reagan’s terrorism task force.

Actress Susan Sarandon in anti-war ad

“Before our kids start coming home from Iraq in body bags and women and children start dying in Baghdad, I need to know, what did Iraq do to us?” asks Sarandon in the 30-second spot, to which Peck replies:

“The answer is nothing. Iraq had nothing to do with 9-11, nothing to do with al-Qaida. Its neighbors don’t think it’s a threat. Invading Iraq will increase terrorism, not reduce it.”

Cohen’s group reportedly spent $200,000 to place the anti-war commercial on broadcast and cable networks in New York and the nation’s capital, but an advertising source told the Washington Times it was rejected by the networks on a national level because it constituted “political advocacy.”

At the London premiere of her film “The Banger Sisters,” Sarandon expressed some frustration sparked by her outspoken views.

“I’m tired of being labeled anti-American because I ask questions,” she said.

The other ad which is slated to begin airing this weekend features actress and comedian Janeane Garofalo paired with Methodist Bishop Melvin Talbert, who says an attack on Iraq would violate “God’s law.”

Actress Janeane Garofalo in new anti-war ad

The commercial starts with a warning about some scenes unsuitable for children. Garofalo suggests up to a half-million people could be killed or wounded if the U.S. invades Iraq.

“Do we have the right to do that to a country that’s done nothing to us?” Garofalo asks.

Talbert was part of a 13-member delegation of American religious leaders on a five-day peace mission to Baghdad that ended Jan. 3.

A statement he issued criticized the Bush administration’s push to remove the Iraqi dictator.

“No nation under God has that right,” Talbert said. “It violates international law. It violates God’s law and the teachings of Jesus Christ.”

During the CNN program, Cohen claimed the current weapons inspections in Iraq were effective.

“You know, Saddam is a bad guy,” said Cohen. “But the reality is that there are a lot of bad guys around the world. And we can’t go to war and kill hundreds of thousands and wound hundreds of thousands of people, both our own and the people in those countries, any time there’s someone around that we don’t like. It’s going to create more terrorism. It’s going to make it less secure for us in the United States.”

A member of the studio audience named Dan then challenged Cohen.

“Ben, I said off camera and I’ll say it to you in your face, you offend me,” Dan said. “You’re just spending your money. You don’t have any real knowledge that any of us here in the audience have. You just have a position, and you’re using your money to make that position, and that bothers me.”

“I hear what you’re saying,” responded Cohen, “but we have a board of military advisers, including Adm. Jack Shanahan, Adm. Stansfield Turner, former Assistant Secretary of Defense Larry Korb, and we have a whole set of business people that are our supporters. It’s not my money; it’s a lot of people’s money.”

On the TrueMajority website, Cohen claims to have the backing of some 500 corporate leaders “including the current or former chairpersons or CEOs of Eastman Kodak, Goldman Sachs, Visa International, Phillips Van Heusen, Hasbro, Stride Rite and [AOL] Time Warner.”

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