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Penn's Pontifications By: Ben Johnson
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, June 03, 2003


Baghdad Sean is at it again.

Sean Penn purchased a full-page ad in last Friday’s New York Times to publish a 4,000-word wandering philippic that at once assaults true patriotism, common sense and the accepted norms of English grammar. His diffuse scribblings ramble from bleeding-heart leftist myths to conspiracy theories to thinly veiled slaps at the American flag, all liberally infused with non sequitors and sandwiched by anecdotes about how his daughter likes musicals and the way she eats french fries ("one slow bite at a time").

The title of his logorrhea, “Kilroy’s Still Here,” provides the first clue that Penn inhabits a world very different from our own. He alludes to the phrase in his essay only once, referring to September 11th as the day "when Kilroy left his mark." Is Penn actually equating the vilest act of terrorism ever perpetrated against the United States, responsible for the deaths of thousands, with the innocuous graffiti of WWII servicemen? His word choice betrays a callousness (or an ignorance) of immense proportions. Although he later calls 9/11 “forever unjustifiable” (as opposed to “temporarily unjustifiable”?), Penn exhorts his readers to “reflect on the resentment of the world, invited in our positioning ourselves as their police.” (The Institute for Public Accuracy, the facilitator of Penn’s trip, would itself intimate that 9/11 should make America rethink sanctions on Iraq.)  Yet this rhetorical outrage ranks as only the first among many extremist assertions and factual errors; the bulk of his screed progresses similarly uninhibited by the strictures of logic or language.

“Method Acting” Foreign Policy

Predictably, Baghdad Sean wishes to whitewash his trip to Baghdad last December, as America’s fighting men and women geared up for war.  Penn, a “method” actor, claims he wanted to get a firsthand impression of Iraq to make up his mind on the war. Penn claims he foresaw that his trip would be “misrepresented” by “corporately sponsored and largely conservative media outlets.” But misrepresented as what – a blowhard with a messianic complex being led through a series of Potemkin villages by torturous thugs who are consciously cultivating him as their “useful idiot”? 

Penn undertook this trip at the behest of Institute for Public Accuracy Executive Director and Marxist professor Norman Solomon, because the actor feared the distortions offered a mass media dominated by “dishonesty” and “censorship.” (If this is the case, one wonders why Penn’s essay later implies the U.S. military murdered journalists in Baghdad.) On the other hand, Penn describes the IPA as an organization dedicated to “exposing media truth and fiction.” The IPA serves as a mere propaganda clearinghouse financed by Bill Moyers’ Schumann Foundation to shill for the far-left cause of the month. Becoming Solomon’s mouthpiece would serve as a healthy warm-up to the service Penn would provide the Ba’athist regime. 

He writes of his trip, “In Iraq, I made no expert assertions” – Oh, the understatement! – “and came to no absolute conclusions.” The latter portion of that statement echoes the full-page ad he took out last October in the Washington Post, in which Penn informed us that unlike President Bush, he does not “believe in a simplistic and inflammatory view of good and evil.” Yet one is hard pressed to come to a more absolute assertion than Penn’s words at his carefully orchestrated Baghdad press conference, where he declared, "Simply put, if there is a war or continued sanctions against Iraq, the blood of Americans and Iraqis alike will be on our (American) hands.” That’s some nuance. He did not say that since Saddam met with an al-Qaeda envoy in 1998 to solidify their common anti-American agenda, and since he allowed al-Qaeda terrorists to train with Ansar al-Islam in northern Iraq, he has blood on his hands. He made no call for Saddam to shut down the torture chambers and rape rooms. Penn reserved his ire for the Great Satan.

Notice also that he equates not only a war of liberation but also continued sanctions as willful slaughter, putting him further left than the mainstream Democratic Party. Interestingly, although Penn refers to the “slow and agonizing deaths” Iraqis endured under sanctions, he had nothing to say about Saddam’s plundering the Oil-for-Food program for his own private benefit. Despite their recent posturing, both Penn and Solomon had long ago made up their minds: they wanted Saddam Hussein to remain in power unmolested by even ineffective and nuisance sanctions largely ignored by Old Europe. This was the substance of his international goodwill tour.

The Streisand Syndrome

After discussing his near-treason, Penn shifts into attack mode and begins spouting one leftist myth after another. It would appear that, like Barbra Streisand’s infamous “Shakespearean” faux pas, Baghdad Sean imbibes left-wing urban legends without wasting a thought on their source or authenticity. He recycles these as common knowledge in his essay.  For instance, he claims that for Vietnam vets, “postwar suicides of veterans totaled higher numbers than those killed in battle.” The late Michael Kelley demonstrated years ago that perhaps 4,000 veterans have committed suicide, roughly one-eighth as many as died fighting Ho Chi Minh’s Communism.

Penn quickly moves to his next rapid-fire canard: “It should be noted that President Bush’s 2004 budget proposed a 6.2 billion dollar cut in veterans’ health and welfare benefits.”  In point of fact, President Bush’s budget proposed $62 billion for Veterans Benefits and Services, an 8.7 percent increase over fiscal year 2003, one that significantly outpaces inflation. (The final conference proposal totals $63.8 billion.) Indeed, it is impossible to remember a year when any federal department (except Defense) received a decrease in funding, though there are many worthy candidates. President Bush has also extended welfare benefits more than once for those suffering from the recession he inherited from his predecessor.

Playing the “bread, land, peace” card, Sean Penn goes on to decries “the absence of funding crusades for healing the very real suffering of our own people and others.”  This three days after President Bush signed a bill to spend $15 billion fighting AIDS in Africa (and calling on European moralizers to make any comparable contribution).  In less than two years, the United States has spent $840 million rebuilding Afghanistan, while Democrats complain of the heavy financial burden America has undertaken in rebuilding Iraq.

Although Penn trusts the U.S. government to provide for the economic well-being of every man, woman and child on earth, he does not trust its military to search for weapons of mass destruction without UN oversight.  After confidently asserting that Colin Powell presented “fictitious evidence of WMD’s in Iraq” – a claim made by the French, who have strong economic ties to Saddam – Penn claims the media have been derelict in covering the Loopy Left’s take on the issue. The press, he writes, has ignored “legitimate concerns about potential insertion of WMD evidence”; in other words, the United States will fabricate evidence of WMDs to justify its war against innocent Saddam! This evokes the words of Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA), when he visited Baghdad with two fellow Democrats: "I think the president would mislead the American people," because he is “trying to provoke a war.” How curious that every American who visits Baghdad returns parroting the same script.

So far the government has proven slack about “insertion of WMD evidence”; Penn intimates that the fact that no WMDs have been found is somehow a vindication of Saddam Hussein. This is hardly the case. We’re probably looking in the wrong country, as strong evidence suggests some of these weapons were hidden in Syria (or were destroyed in the run-up to Operation Iraqi Liberation).

Red Flags on Old Glory

Trying desperately to deflect questions of his patriotism, the former-Mr.-Madonna offers a perfunctory paeon to the flag before declaring it a vicious symbol of racist, classist oppression. Penn records his long “rebellion” toward the Pledge of Allegiance, admitting it “took (him) so long to love (and) respect” Old Glory. Rest assured, he now he sees the “sacrifice and heroism” embodied in our flag, “albeit historically and presently intermingled with varying degrees of corruption and exploitation”! Having come to an eleventh-hour appreciation of this symbol of our country, he says the flag now “threatens to become a haunting banner of murder, greed, and treason.” One wonders how that would differ from Penn’s current view.

"Aloha, Mr. Hand!"

He uses this fear to launch into one of numerous incomprehensible rants, this one about how Americans will “lose” their flag. This, like many passages in this treatise, reads as though Penn has channeled Jeff Spicoli, the stoner character from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. 

Of the flag, he writes, "If it is lost, it will have been under our watch, under mine and undermined." Wow, like, homonyms. Gnarly, Dude!

Or try this on for size: “When we allow prideful killers to define our value as presumption, then only murder can live in our dreams . . . We can’t be less than yesterday.” Trust me, context does not aid comprehension.

In another passage he writes that the people run this country, and "I want to see who’s the people?" How can Sean Penn hope to bring the nations of the world into peaceful co-existence when he can’t even bring simple nouns and verbs into agreement?

No “Partisan Politicos” Here. . . .

Nonetheless, Penn considers his writing a call-to-arms.  Although he says he’s no “partisan politico” and “not aligned with any party,” one can be certain he won’t turn up at the next Alan Keyes lecture or Harry Browne fundraiser. Penn contributed $1,000 to Barbara Boxer in her last Senate bid, and he singles out Barbara Lee, Dennis Kucinich, Robert Byrd and Ted Kennedy for praise in his essay. He concludes by saying Americans have a duty: “(W)e must do one more thing . . . we must vote.”

And vote they will – for the candidate perceived as most capable of preventing a tyrant like Saddam Hussein from striking America with another national tragedy.  Even Democratic strategist Donna Brazile has described the vital role defense will play in the 2004 election. Meanwhile, Sean Penn sides with the enemy, belittles the American flag and writes something approaching a press release from Al Sharpton’s presidential campaign.

Joyous Iraqis have repudiated the leftists’s every claim about the war and public backlash has already cost Penn a $10 million movie role. Penn should declare a cease-fire on America. The terms would dictate he stop visiting nations whose leaders plot the destruction of our country and the assassination of our leaders, and please keep our newspapers uncluttered by his vapid, fact-free bile. To paraphrase his character from I am Sam, if Sean Penn would give up writing, that would be “a very good choice.”


Ben Johnson is Managing Editor of FrontPage Magazine and co-author, with David Horowitz, of the book Party of Defeat. He is also the author of the books Teresa Heinz Kerry's Radical Gifts (2009) and 57 Varieties of Radical Causes: Teresa Heinz Kerry's Charitable Giving (2004).


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