- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 14, 2002

Under the aegis of a media research group, actor Sean Penn arrived in Baghdad yesterday on a three-day visit to Iraq, declaring himself both patriot and investigator.
"I have the privileged opportunity to pursue a deeper understanding of this frightening conflict," Mr. Penn said in a statement. "I would hope that all Americans will embrace information available to them outside conventional channels.
"As a father, an actor, a filmmaker and a patriot, my visit to Iraq is for me a natural extension of my obligation at least, attempt to find my own voice on matters of conscience."
The actor's visit to Iraq was organized by the Institute for Public Accuracy, a D.C.-based organization whose self-described mission is "to broaden public discourse by gaining media access for those whose perspectives are commonly drowned out by corporate-backed think tanks and other influential institutions."
Mr. Penn visited a children's hospital yesterday, but spurned reporters hoping to accompany him unlike Jane Fonda, who visited enemy territory at the height of the Vietnam War and protested the war in several interviews with Radio Hanoi.
She later apologized to Vietnam veterans in a 1988 TV interview with Barbara Walters.
Meanwhile, Hollywood restlessness is elsewhere. Artists United to Win Without War, a group of 104 high-profile actors and directors want the White House to make love and not war with the Iraqis.
"War talk in Washington is alarming and unnecessary," the group wrote in a statement released Wednesday at a news conference in a Hollywood restaurant signed by, among others, actors Susan Sarandon, Laurence Fishburne, Martin Sheen, David Duchovny, Matt Damon and organizer Mike Farrell.
One NBC affiliate reporter asked Mr. Farrell if there were any Republicans in the group.
"They're here," Mr. Farrell said. "They just don't want to out themselves."
The reporter observed that the group looked like "the same old group of Hollywood liberals."
Indeed, the current roster of anti-war actors has had repeat names on it since the Persian Gulf war, which Mr. Farrell also opposed.
There are those in Hollywood who support an aggressive U.S. stance, though they don't favor petition letters or press conferences. In recent weeks, actors Harrison Ford, Tom Cruise and Lee Ermey, plus director Steven Speilberg, have said they either support or "understand" President Bush's policies.
Earlier this year, Los Angeles activist Tim Smith organized a tongue-in-cheek support group for the "covertly conservative" and "Republicans working in the film industry," according to the London Daily Telegraph.
And while the Hollywood anti-war group say they supporta weapons inspections and Iraq's disarmament, the actors believe a pre-emptive military strike on Iraq "will harm American national interests," and called for peace through "legal, diplomatic means."
Their sentiments have been fomenting for two months.
In early October, a core group of the actor-activists met in the home of Democratic fund-raiser Stanley Sheinbaum to talk tactics and conduct a "teach-in." The gathering included 1960s activist Tom Haydn, former Sen. Gary Hart and former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter.
They organized an e-mail campaign, sending missives to the celebrated to garner support, and drafted their protest letter. The movement picked up speed and stars.
"Tea and I would love to sign the letter," replied former "X-Files" star Mr. Duchovny, on behalf of his wife, Tea Leoni.
"Tea was just saying at dinner, 'We're going to be at war soon and it's like we're just blindly accepting the drift,'" Mr. Duchovny concluded.
Signatories also included singer Harry Belafonte and actor Danny Glover, who recently voiced their own opinions on national affairs.
While visiting Cuba on Thursday, the pair told Radio Havana that Hollywood was under pressure to make war movies "molded by the interests of the Pentagon and the White House."
Mr. Belafonte also pointed out that "the anti-war movement is growing among intellectuals and university students."
The Hollywood artists' group picked other support this week. Their protest statement was also signed by Edward Peck, former U.S. ambassador to Iraq; retired U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Eugene J. Carroll of the left-leaning Center for Defense Information; and former arms-control negotiator Jonathan Dean.
The National Council of Churches, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the National Organization for Women also support the group.

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