In October, actor Sean Penn spent $56,000 on an advertisement
accusing President Bush of jumping the gun to go to war with Iraq. Penn accused Bush of not seriously debating the
Sean Penn's Open Letter to President Bush
Published in the Washington Post
on October 19, 2002
An Open Letter to the
President of the United States of America
you, I am a father and an American. Like you, I consider myself a patriot. Like you, I was horrified by the events
of this past year, concerned for my family and my country.
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.
father, like yours, was decorated for service in World War II. He raised me with a deep belief in the
Constitution and the Bill of Rights, as they should apply to all Americans who would sacrifice to
maintain them and to all human beings as a matter of principle. Many of your actions to date and those
proposed seem to violate every defining principle of this country over which you preside: intolerance of
debate ("with us or against us"), marginalization of your critics, the promoting of fear through
unsubstantiated rhetoric, manipulation of a quick comfort media, and position of your administration's
deconstruction of civil liberties all contradict the very core of the patriotism you claim. You lead, it
seems, through a blood-lined sense of entitlement.
a close look at your most vehement media supporters. See the fear in their eyes as their loud
voices of support ring out with that historically disastrous undercurrent of rage and panic masked as
"straight tough talk." How far have we come from understanding what it is to kill one man, one
woman, or one child, much less the "collateral damage" of many hundreds of
use of the words, "this is a new kind of war" is often accompanied by an odd smile. It
concerns me that what you are asking of us is to abandon all previous lessons of history in favor of following you
blindly into the future. It worries me because with all your best intentions, an enormous economic surplus has
been squandered. Your administration has virtually dismissed the most fundamental environmental concerns and
therefore, by implication, one gets the message that, as you seem to be willing to sacrifice the children of
the world, would you also be willing to sacrifice ours.
know this cannot be your aim so, I beg you Mr. President, listen to Gershwin, read chapters of Stegner,
of Saroyan, the speeches of Martin Luther King. Remind yourself of America. Remember the Iraqi children, our
children, and your own. There can be no justification for the actions of Al Qaeda. Nor acceptance of the
criminal viciousness of the tyrant, Saddam Hussein. Yet, that bombing is answered by bombing, mutilation by
mutilation, killing by killing, is a pattern that only a great country like ours can stop.
principles cannot be recklessly or greedily abandoned in the guise of preserving them. Avoiding
war while accomplishing national security is no simple task. But you will recall that we Americans had a
little missile problem down in Cuba once. Mr. Kennedy's restraint (and that of the nuclear submarine captain,
Arkhipov) is to be aspired to.
of mass destruction are clearly a threat to the entire world in any hands. But as Americans, we must ask
ourselves, since the potential for Mr. Hussein to possess them threatens not only our country, (and in
fact, his technology to launch is likely not yet at that high a level of sophistication) therefore, many in his own
region would have the greatest cause for concern.
then, is the United States, as led by your administration, in the small minority of the world nations predisposed
toward a preemptive military assault on Iraq?
put, sir, let us re-introduce inspection teams, inhibiting offensive capability. We buy time, maintain
our principles here and abroad and demand of ourselves the ingenuity to be the strongest diplomatic
muscle on the planet, perhaps in the history of the planet. The answers will come. You are a
man of faith, but your saber is rattling the faith of many Americans in you.
do understand what a tremendously daunting task it must be to stand in your shoes at this moment. As a father of two
young children who will live their lives in the world as it will be affected by critical choices
today, I have no choice but to believe that you can ultimately stand as a great president. History has offered
you such a destiny. So again, sir, I beg you, help save America before yours is a legacy of shame and
horror. Don't destroy our children's future. We will support you.
must support us, your fellow Americans, and indeed, mankind. Defend us from fundamentalism abroad but
don't turn a blind eye to the fundamentalism of a diminished citizenry through loss of civil liberties, of
dangerously heightened presidential autonomy through acts of Congress, and of this country's mistaken and pervasive
belief that its "manifest destiny" is to police the world.
know that Americans are frightened and angry. However, sacrificing American soldiers or innocent civilians in an
unprecedented preemptive attack on a separate sovereign nation, may well prove itself a most temporary
the other hand, should you mine and have faith in the best of this country to support your leadership in
representing a strong, thoughtful, and educated United States, you may well triumph for the long haul.
us there, Mr. President, and we will stand with you.
San Francisco, California
Sean Penn Visits Baghdad
By The Associated Press
15 December, 2002
Iraq (AP) -- Actor Sean Penn visited a Baghdad children's hospital Friday, saying he came to Iraq for a better
understanding of the crisis with the United States.
said only that he was ``very glad I'm here'' when he arrived at the Al-Mansour Children's Hospital. He refused to
talk further with reporters or allow them to join his tour of the hospital, saying he needed privacy with the sick
a statement issued here and in Washington. D.C., Penn said that ``as a father, an actor, a filmmaker and a patriot''
his visit to Iraq ``is for me a natural extension of my obligation ... to find my own voice on matters of
said he was happy that he had a chance ``to pursue a deeper understanding of the conflict'' and hoped that ``all
Americans will embrace information available to them outside conventional channel.''
three-day visit to Iraq was organized by the Institute for Public Accuracy, which has offices in Washington and San
December 15, 2002
of Statement by Sean Penn At News Conference in Baghdad
actor and director Sean Penn made the following statement at a news conference in Baghdad on Sunday afternoon:
am a citizen of the United States of America. I believe in the Constitution of the United States, and the American
people. Ours is a government designed to function "of"-"by"-and-"for" the people. I am
one of those people, and a privileged one.
am privileged in particular to raise my children in a country of high standards in health, welfare, and safety. I am
also privileged to have lived a life under our Constitution that has allowed me to dream and prosper. In response to
these privileges I feel, both as an American and as a human being, the obligation to accept some level of personal
accountability for the policies of my government, both those I support and any that I may not. Simply put, if there
is a war or continued sanctions against Iraq, the blood of Americans and Iraqis alike will be on our hands.
trip here is to personally record the human face of the Iraqi people so that their blood -- along with that of
American soldiers -- would not be invisible on my own hands. I sit with you here today in the hopes that any of us
present may contribute in any way to a peaceful resolution to the conflict at hand.
thank Norman Solomon and the Institute for Public Accuracy for facilitating my visit."
December 15, 2002