America: With the Protests Limited to Hollywood Bigmouths Such as Barbra Streisand and Sean Penn, No Wonder That the Latest Poll Shows Six in Ten Americans Are for War

By Stephen, Andrew | New Statesman (1996), February 17, 2003 | Go to article overview

America: With the Protests Limited to Hollywood Bigmouths Such as Barbra Streisand and Sean Penn, No Wonder That the Latest Poll Shows Six in Ten Americans Are for War


Stephen, Andrew, New Statesman (1996)


Thank goodness for Barbra Streisand. Where would America be without her expertise? As the movie star Whoopi Goldberg told a large crowd while campaigning for Al Gore: "You guys are down there, and we celebrities are up here--so we can see what the government is really up to. Then we can tell you what is really going on." The likes of Streisand take this role of foreign policy adviser deadly seriously: she had her assistant write an anti-war memo to Dick Gephardt, then the leading House Democrat. The only problems were that she mis-spelled Gephardt's name ("Gebhardt"), Saddam's ("Sadam") and that of al-Qaeda ("Al Queda").

Streisand went on to address a Democratic congressional campaign committee, to which she movingly quoted a speech by Julius Caesar, penned by none other than Shakespeare: "Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervour, for patriotism is indeed a double-edged sword. It both emboldens the blood, just as it narrows the mind." Tears were shed at her moving performance, although any halfwit knew the words could not possibly have been spoken by Caesar; indeed, it was from an internet hoax written centuries after Shakespeare's day. But this, Streisand claimed afterwards, "doesn't detract from the fact that the words themselves are powerful and true and beautifully written."

President Bush, we can be sure, is quaking in his boots because of Streisand's opposition to the war in Iraq. It is perhaps no wonder, given the quality of the anti-war movement here, that the latest polls out last Tuesday showed that nearly six in ten Americans now support war even without UN sanction. Meanwhile, the actor Sean Penn even went on an unsuccessful peacemaking trip to Baghdad, while more than 100 other Hollywood "celebrities" wrote a letter to Bush.

It is people of this sort who have been by far the most visible anti-war protesters: very few politicians have been willing to stick their heads above the parapet this time. Ted Kennedy. 70, is one--but he is barely taken seriously by the mainstream media these days. The more typical anti-war Democrat is the obscure congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, who announces that he is going to Iowa "to lay the groundwork for a presidential campaign built around an anti-war message . The truth is that the anti-war battle is lost, primarily as a result of Bush's State of the Union address and Colin Powell's presentation to the UN. …

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