- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 8, 2003

''Don't let Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld drown out the voices of reason," said an advertisement in the New York Times. "Disarm Iraq with tough inspections." The ad, which ran on Feb. 26, was paid

for by Musicians United to Win Without War, a group led by former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne and hip-hop producer Russell Simmons.

Yes, the international peace movement has come to this: They have turned over anti-terrorism and nuclear non-proliferation policy to a man whose most famous artistic utterance is, "You may ask yourself, 'How did I get here?' "

For the Hollywood/New York axis of glitter anti-war activism is this year's anti-AIDS activism, which was that year's anti-famine activism, which was that year's anti-homelessness activism, which was … Who can keep track of all the different colored ribbons?

The stars have taken to the streets in protest, appeared in TV ads and, in Sean Penn's case, actually visited the Iraqi capital of Baghdad for some "independent observation."

A short list of mau-mauing celebrities includes Martin Sheen, Barbra Streisand, Janeane Garofalo, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Jessica Lange, Edward Norton, Rob Reiner, Sheryl Crow and Lou Reed.

Upping the anti-war ante, Chrissie Hynde, the crunchily liberal front-gal of the rock group the Pretenders, said at a San Francisco concert last weekend that she hopes Iraq defeats the United States.

"Bring it on. Give us what we deserve," Miss Hynde said between songs, according to a San Francisco Chronicle review.

But there's a small pocket of celebs who aren't joining the anti-Bush rabble. They aren't as legion as the anti-war faction but they've become increasingly vocal in recent weeks.

Some pro-war entertainers are no surprise, like meat-loving gun-rights advocate Ted Nugent who, if he could, would personally lead a specially trained unit of bowhunters in desert-camouflaged loin cloths into the arid wastes of Mesopotamia to track and fell B'aathists. Even less surprising, former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson, now on NBC's "Law and Order," is currently appearing in a TV commercial praising President Bush for having the "courage to protect our country." The ad, designed as a response to one taped by Mr. Sheen for the liberal group MoveOn.org, is being sponsored by Citizens United, a conservative organization looking to counter the "Hollywood left."

But who could predict that Kid Rock, the hard-partying heavy metal rapper and best pal of Miss Crow, had a jingoistic streak?

"Why is everybody trying to stop the war? … Politicians and music don't mix. It's like whiskey and wine. We ought to stay out of it," Kid Rock (born Robert James Ritchie) told reporters at a Grammy Awards party in New York last month. "We got to kill that [expletive] Saddam. Slit his throat. Kill him and the guy in North Korea."

Comedian Dennis Miller has taken a similar, albeit slightly more sophisticated line. With a reputation as a nonpartisan critic of politicians of all stripes, Mr. Miller has surprised some media observers with his unequivocal support for a multi-theater war against terrorism.

On NBC's "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," Mr. Miller excoriated France for its posturing and dithering.

"I would call the French scumbags, but that, of course, would be a disservice to bags filled with scum. I say we invade Iraq, then invade Chirac," Mr. Miller said.

The comedian too smart for Monday Night Football also had this to say about the Bush administration's struggle to assemble an international coalition for the looming war:

"I'd like to have allies, too, but what's happening in this world right now is we've got a competency chasm. We're getting really good at what we do, and the whole rest of the world is going to hell in a handbasket. As that gap gets wider, they're going to hate us more and more and more."

Mr. Miller, who has in the past characterized himself as a libertarian, told Mr. Leno that the September 11 terrorist attacks crystallized his conservative leanings.

Other celebrities speaking out in favor of the war include Howard Stern, who's been razzing "peaceniks" on his syndicated radio show, and actor James Woods, who said in January, "If they harbor terrorists, we should wipe them off the face of the Earth. Eventually, one of these terrorist diaper-heads is going to come around and do something more horrible."

And Rob Lowe, who hasn't been heard from much since leaving the liberal-leaning "The West Wing," resurfaced to tell Fox News that Americans should be inclined to support President Bush and the nation's armed forces.

To judge from country singer Charlie Daniels' just-published open letter to anti-war celebrities, the devil has left Georgia and set up shop in Hollywood. "You people are some of the most disgusting examples of a waste of protoplasm I've ever had the displeasure to hear about," the fiddler declared.

And B-action movie star Jean Claude Van Damme was quoted in the Globe magazine saying, "Some of those in Hollywood are part of the axis of ignorance." Once the lethal-footed thespian straightens out Hollywood, he might take it up with his compatriots in Belgium.

But does anyone really pay attention to celebrities' politically-minded rants, pro or con?

Melani McAlister, associate professor of American studies at George Washington University, says when actors or rock stars speak out on high-profile issues, it can, to a certain extent, solidify people's opinions.

"They don't speak for anybody, but they do speak to a lot of people," Ms. McAlister says via phone. "They're the ones who get the coverage."

While a fan of, say, Tim Robbins may not form his or her opinion based on the actor's, she adds, Hollywood collectively can have an effect on people.

"It can help strengthen a movement," Ms. McAlister says. "There are a lot of liberals in Hollywood, for whatever reason. They provide a kind of link between the public and the larger anti-war movement."

At least President Bush won't be losing any sleep over this. Chances are anyone who admits to being a fan of Chuck Norris doesn't take Hollywood as seriously as it takes itself.

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