- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 19, 2003

The war is over, troops are coming home, domestic matters are on the mend in Iraq. But the criticisms keep coming. Some celebrities are stuck in complaint mode.
"What's next? Will the Bush administration install a puppet government in Iraq? … Will American corporations with uncomfortably close White House and Pentagon connections reap the spoils of war? Will the United States use this victory as a blank check to go after every other government we don't like?" asks Barbra Streisand in her latest statement, posted at her personal Web site (www.barbrastreisand.com).
"The 'thrill' of war and victory can become addicting," Miss Streisand continued. "The Republican domestic agenda consists entirely of tax cuts for the wealthy and big corporations."
Miss Streisand's ire is typical of the "horror" that remains among antiwar folk in the war's aftermath, explains Xochitl Johnson of Not in Our Name, the California-based group that organized an antiwar petition signed by scores of Hollywood's elite.
"This isn't over. We're just digging in now," Miss Johnson said yesterday. "Everybody, celebrities included, can't suspend their principles because the Iraq war ended. And thanks to all the Ed Asners and Susan Sarandons out there, Bush did not have absolute complicity in the war. The whole world was not going, 'rah rah rah.'"
Still, there must be some reinvention to maintain public interest. Miss Johnson promises that her group will explore "what's next" when they meet in San Francisco next weekend. Meanwhile, rehashing the old guns vs. butter debate has become an effective Act II for the famous who want to continue their diatribes.
"Since September 11, it looks like we can't hold two guns at the same time," former President Bill Clinton said last week. "If you fight terrorism, you can't make America a better place to be."
Filmmaker Michael Moore remains annoyed at the Bush administration, telling a Texas audience April 15 that Americans naturally back a leader in times of national tragedy but hinted that a "Wag the Dog" scenario is afoot.
"It's not about the weapons of mass destruction; it's about the weapons of mass distraction," Mr. Moore said, suggesting that war is a deft way to pull public interest away from domestic troubles.
Then there's always the First Amendment. In a new TV special on cable channel VH1, Madonna voiced her displeasure.
"It's ironic that we were fighting for democracy in Iraq because we ultimately aren't celebrating democracy here," she said. "Anybody who has anything to say against the war or against the president or whatever is punished, and that's not democracy."
Celebrities with complicated finances probably won't contact the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee, which advises Americans to forgo paying federal income taxes to voice political beliefs. "War Tax Resistance during the Reign of W" will be the theme of the group's conference near San Francisco on May 16.
Some celebrities are capitalizing on the negative public backlash to their antiwar beliefs. In an appearance at the National Press Club on Tuesday, actor Tim Robbins railed against "talk-radio patriots," among others, who criticized his political views and those of his companion, Susan Sarandon.
The Dixie Chicks, recently boycotted by country music fans after lead singer Natalie Maines said she was "ashamed" of President Bush, will be featured on ABC's "Primetime" on Thursday to tell their side of the story.
And after muffling his antiwar views after an unpopular visit to Iraq last December, actor Sean Penn has a new project. The actor begins work this month on "The Assassination of Richard Nixon," playing Samuel Byck, who threatened former president in 1974.

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