Penn Is Mightier Than The Sword

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Ninety nine times out of a hundred, nothing is accomplished except a waste of air when celebrities espouse their political views.

Is anyone's viewpoint going to be altered by Barbra Streisand's opinions on who should be president, or by the thoughts expressed by a Backstreet Boy while passing through Washington, D.C. during a tour-schedule lull?

But then, out of the blue, comes the exception to the rule. Last Friday, Sean Penn put his money where his heart is by plunking down $56,000 to purchase a three-quarter page ad in the Washington Post.

While it's easy to criticize the sometimes tangled construction and syntax of Penn's message, it's tough to disregard the message itself. Weighing in on the international debate over a possible war with Iraq, the Oscar-nominated actor urged President Bush to stop a cycle where "bombing is answered by bombing, mutilation by mutilation, killing by killing" echoing voices of caution from around the world that have called for a careful response to allegations Iraq is developing nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

"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 ... Sacrificing American soldiers or innocent civilians in an unprecedented preemptive attack on a separate sovereign nation may well prove itself a most temporary medicine ..."

In its self-adopted role as Hall Monitor of the World, the United States has traditionally got the bad guys until we tried and failed to get rid of Saddam Hussein, then tried and (presumably) failed to get Osama bin Laden and the vast majority of his henchmen.

Meanwhile, thousands of innocent civilians were slaughtered. To what end? The same end we'll see when our targets are blown to bits and replaced as they absolutely will be by new, equally frightening, equally elusive targets.

What's the answer? Penn does not presume to know. But he clearly sees the cruel irony of murdering murderers at the expense of countless other human lives.

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