Now we see the downside to the strategy of pre-emptive war: the anti-pre-emptive-war movement — but not for the obvious reasons. While the antis may well be spearheaded by the likes of the Workers World Party, a cadre of bona fide communists with "a fancy for North Korea's Kim Jong-Il," as the leftist weekly, the Nation, put it, that's hardly the worst of it. So what if these retro-revolutionaries oppose everything from U.N. weapons inspections in Iraq to private property everywhere? WWP members don't go one-on-one with Wolf Blitzer. They don't draw flash-popping paparazzi. And no one reads their manifestos, except, let's hope, the FBI.
In other words, the very worst thing about the strategy of pre-emptive war as articulated by the Bush administration is the anti-pre-emptive-war movement as articulated (barely) by Hollywood. This week, 100 Hollywood celebrities put their spangled heads together to write a letter to President Bush about his Iraq policy. Rather than mail their missive to the White House, though, the celebs held a press conference. And why not? Actors have ideas, too, as anti-war Hollywood's Janeane Garofalo reminded us in a subsequent interview: "Just because somebody's an actor doesn't make them an unimportant person. And, you know, actors are just a small part of people. It's just irrelevant what people do for a living as pertains to this." Quite. More to the point is the reality of the Celebrity Age. As former "M*A*S*H" actor Mike Farrell put it to CNN, "The "media tends [sic] to pay attention to our community."
And so they do. The unveiling (opening?) of the letter turned out to be an occasion: the world premiere of Artists United to Win Without War, or AUWWW (an acronym, not a yawn). According to the Nation, this self-described "mainstream" anti-war group represents "an attempt to recast and reshape the antiwar opposition." How you recast or reshape your Mike Farrells, your Susan Sarandons, and, not least, your Barbra Streisands, remains to be seen. Sure, AUWWW wrote that Saddam Hussein shouldn't have weapons of mass destruction after all, but neither, it said, should George W. Bush contemplate disarming him by force — the main point — lest terrorism, human suffering, anti-Americanism, economic misery, a loss in America's "moral standing" and maybe even low Nielsen ratings come to pass. No word on the potential consequences of a nuclear-enhanced Saddam.
Which may explain why there is on AUWWW's part no comprehension why George W. Bush is contemplating military action against Saddam's Iraq. Indeed, this very question is pulling La-La Landers in over their carefully-coifed, if sometimes grizzled, heads. Erstwhile "Lou Grant" star Ed Asner, for example, has answered it by explaining that Bush administration officials "have keyed and geared the war machine . . . [to the point] that they've got to unload it someplace. Iraq," he told United Press International, "is the likeliest place."
Translation: It (meaning the Pentagon) is alive! The Pentagon has to go to war — or else! While this cartoonish scenario may well be next summer's blockbuster, as geopolitical strategy it lacks a little dimension. Call it Asnerian. This is a guy, after all, who, according to newsman Sam Donaldson, admitted that he came to believe convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal was innocent — not after examining court transcripts and other evidence, but because pal Mike Farrell told him so.
Mr. Farrell is another one who tends to see the world in made-for-TV terms. To him, American pressure on Iraq comes down to a matter of personal pride — the president's. "George Bush simply cannot turn back without losing face," he says, as though discussing character motivation in front of an acting class. "This is of great concern. This is a nation that ought not be concerned about its leader losing face." In a world according to Mr. Farrell, personal vanity is driving a foreign policy that is being supported, as poll numbers indicate, by Americans ("sheep," Ed Asner says) worried the president might suffer a blow to his pride. Huh?
"I don't know if we'll ever get the whole truth from this administration — about anything," Martin Sheen said when asked why the president might consider war in Iraq. When pressed, the "television president" waxed freshman-year-Freudian: "I think he'd like to hand his father Saddam Hussein's head and win his approval for what happened after the 1991 Gulf War." No doubt the same goes for Dick Cheney, Condi Rice, Donald Rumsfeld and anyone else who supports the president's Iraq policy — all to "win approval" from George W. Bush's father.
Couldn't these Hollywood types go and sell a few pre-emptive war bonds, or embark on a pre-emptive USO tour? Or maybe just plop down under an L.A. palm and read Vanity Fair? Make it this month's issue with the story about CIA reports of Iraqi-al-Qaeda cooperation going back ten years. They might learn something.
Diana West is a syndicated columnist. Her column appears on Fridays.