Celebrities urge Bush to avoid Iraq war

Dec. 10, 2002 at 3:09 PM

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 10 (UPI) -- More than 100 Hollywood celebrities have written to President Bush, urging him to avoid a first-strike war with Iraq.

Former "M*A*S*H" star Mike Farrell -- a main organizer of the group called Artists United to Win Without War -- said the letter's signers agree that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein must not be allowed to possess weapons of mass destruction, but that "war talk in Washington is alarming and unnecessary."

The list of signers included Martin Sheen, who plays President Josiah Bartlet on the Emmy-winning NBC drama "The West Wing," and other Hollywood activists including Alec Baldwin, Harry Belafonte, Tim Robbins and Barbra Streisand.

Anticipating criticism that usually attends public pronouncements by well-known liberal celebrities, Farrell made a point of characterizing the signers as patriotic Americans.

"We support rigorous U.N. weapons inspections to assure Iraq's effective disarm," said Farrell. "However, a presumptive military invasion of Iraq will harm American national interests."

Farrell said such action would cause more human suffering, provoke animosity toward the United States, increase the likelihood of more terrorist attacks, damage the economy and undermine America's "moral standing" in the world.

"It will make us less, not more secure," said Farrell, who will star as former Enron executive Ken Lay in the upcoming TV movie "The Crooked E."

Other celebrities who signed the letter included Oscar-winners Kim Basinger, Angelica Houston, Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon -- as well as actors Matt Damon, Ethan Hawke, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman and Laurence Fishburne.

In an interview with United Press International, former "Lou Grant" star Ed Asner said he gets the sense that the Bush administration has already decided to wage war on Iraq.

"I think that they have keyed and geared the war machine -- which is costing us enormous billions of dollars -- that they've got to unload it someplace," said Asner. "Iraq is the likeliest place."

The Emmy-winning actor also accused Bush of using war for political gain.

"If he defuses it he'll look like a wuss to the hard-liners and the fundamentalists," said Asner. "He's already lost the left, and it's 50-50 on the center, and he'll likely lose some of the right (without an invasion of Iraq)."

Asner was critical of the American public as well, for its support of Bush's approach to Iraq.

"They're sheep," he said. "They like him enough to credit him with saving the nation after 9/11. Three thousand people get killed, and everybody thinks they're next on the list. The president comes along, and he's got his six-guns strapped on, and people think he's going to save them."

Asner is scheduled to join a group of celebrities on Sunday for an annual "Peace Sunday" gathering at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Scheduled participants include Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, actress Lindsay Wagner and actor Ed Begley Jr.

Like Asner, Sheen said he thinks the White House has already made up its mind about war.

"We're assuming it's a done deal," Sheen told CNN. "And the way they're talking and presenting their plans, it is a done deal."

Congress last fall overwhelmingly approved a resolution authorizing the United States to enforce U.N. Security Council resolutions dealing with Iraq and the hunt for weapons of mass destruction by the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Bush has said that he will consult with allies and Congress before launching an attack, but there is nothing in the resolution that requires him to get permission beforehand from Congress or the United Nations.

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