- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 13, 2003

An antiwar group has taken the old Strategic Air Command motto “Peace Is Our Profession” as its own. The slogan, used by the Air Force through the Cold War, has been retooled for a different mission.

“We’re taking it back,” said New York-based activist Jen Nessel yesterday. “Their version meant peace is war. Our version means peace is peace.”

The Air Force declined to comment on the group’s use of the phrase, familiar to airmen from 1946 to 1992, when the command and its mission were retired.

Miss Nessel — along with comedian Janeane Garofalo and others — will exercise the slogan plenty in “Operation Strangelove,” an antiwar gathering that will have a short but frantic moment in the spotlight this evening.

The group insists an antiwar message still resonates in America, with or without the war in Iraq.

They have persuaded about 50 groups and individuals to screen the film “Dr. Strangelove” this evening, featuring Stanley Kubrick’s dark, 1964 comedy that satirizes the U.S.-Soviet arms race. The finale features actor Slim Pickens riding a nuclear bomb earthward, waving a 10-gallon hat and hollering, “Yee-haw.”

“It’s deja vu all over again,” Miss Nessel said. “‘Dr. Strangelove’ doesn’t seem so strange today, and that’s scary. Stop cowboy diplomacy, we say. It’s a nod to our concern over the Bush administration’s reckless handling of foreign policy and the film’s iconic ending.”

Miss Garofalo did not respond to requests for interviews. But she is an integral part of the program, billed as a “recent target of blacklist threats.”

Along with dozens of other celebrities, Miss Garofalo has criticized the war in Iraq, the White House and even Fox News Channel, which features “their version of the news,” she said in an ABC interview.

In an appearance on Fox News, Miss Garofalo once promised host Bill O’Reilly she would “go to the White House on my knees on cut glass and say, ‘Hey, you were right,’” if Iraqis welcomed American troops and weapons of mass destruction were found.

There has been a backlash against the self-described “proud, liberal, feminist woman.”

In a recent interview in Progressive magazine, Miss Garofalo said, “I’m not saying that it’s just me, it’s everybody who’s spoken out. The press has wasted America’s time with celebrity-bashing. … They love to pretend that if you are in entertainment, that’s what defines you, and you can’t possibly have any knowledge of what’s going on in the news.”

Tonight, Miss Garofalo will comment on “Dr. Strangelove” and “the art of dissent” at a Manhattan movie theater overlooking ground zero, according to organizer Miss Nessel. She will be joined by New Yorker cartoonist Art Spiegelman, who resigned from the magazine earlier this year to protest what he called “the widespread conformism of the mass media in the Bush era.”

John Leonard, film critic for CBS and the Nation magazine, along with Newsday film critic Gene Seymour and cartoonist David Rees, will also appear.

The “Dr. Strangelove” event does have its grass-roots side.

“People have signed on to show this film in 25 states. We have neighborhoods putting up 12-by-16-foot screens, students at MIT, a commercial theater in North Carolina. … It’s a diverse group,” Miss Nessel said.

In the meantime, one Air Force veteran is philosophical about the group’s use of the old SAC motto.

“There’s always been a reason we’ve had a national defense,” said Marvin Broyhill, a Petersburg, Va., resident who served in the Strategic Air Command from 1961 to 1964 and now shares his memories online (www.strategic-air-command.com).

“That defense was there to preserve our way of life. Part of that life is freedom of speech,” Mr. Broyhill said. “This group is exercising their freedom of speech.”

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