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Mr. Penn Goes to Bagdad

The actor and director Sean Penn arrived in Baghdad on Friday morning at the start of a three-day visit to Iraq. He said of his trip:

By the invitation of the Institute for Public Accuracy, I have the privileged opportunity to pursue a deeper understanding of this frightening conflict,” Penn said in a statement released in Washington and Baghdad on Friday. “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.

Penn’s visit to Iraq has been organized by the Institute for Public Accuracy, “a national U.S. organization of policy analysts with offices in San Francisco and Washington, D.C.” The founder, Norman Solomon, endorsed–and indeed participated in–the visit of three Democratic Congressmen to Iraq earlier this Fall. In an article he wrote for the Baltimore Sun, Solomon quoted his fellow traveler Congressmen David Bonior: “It seems to me that if we are going to deal with this in a real and honest way, we have got to create dialogue.”

“Dialogue” is what Neville Chamberlain offered to Hitler. It is a euphemism for appeasement, which is a euphemism for capitulation. There is nothing to gain from dialogue with a totalitarian dictator. Such an act is, to use Ayn Rand’s phrase, “the sanction of the victim.” It is acts of appeasement like this that make the Saddam Husseins of the world possible. Otherwise, Saddam would be a street thug.

Now a note on Sean Penn: what a moron. Regardless of whether he thinks there should be “dialogue,” why does he think that he, a movie actor, is the one to do it? He will be nothing more than a stooge for the Iraqi regime, another photoshoot opportunity for Saddam to shove in the faces of the terrorized, and terrified, Iraqi people. Penn will surely smile and shake hands and tell the whole world how nice the country of Iraq is, and how Saddam cares about his people.

Having the excellent fortune of living in America, like Mr. Penn, I do not know how demoralizing such a story of his visit would be to victims of Iraqi totalitarianism. Maybe they are cynical enough not to believe anything from their government. Or maybe, on some level, it crushes, even more, their hope for justice in the world–which they have never once seen. Mr. Penn should have thought about that.

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