Iraq: Antiwar Voices
With Susan Sarandon
Thursday, Feb. 13, 3 p.m. ET
In an antiwar public service announcement made by "Win Without War," a coalition of organizations opposed to invading Iraq, Susan Sarandon asked, "What did Iraq do to us?" That question was followed by Edward Peck, a U.S. ambassador to Iraq in the Reagan administration saying, "The answer is nothing. Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, nothing to do with al Qaeda." That question is currently being debated in light of the release of an audiotape in which a voice identified as Osama bin Laden exhorts his followers to come to the aid of Saddam Hussein.
Last month tens of thousands of antiwar demonstrators converged on Washington to oppose a U.S. military attack on Iraq. Since then, the momentum for war has been building. But there are many who don't want war. As the Bush administration urges U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix to file a tough report on Iraq and while Secretary of State Colin Powell hopes to persuade the allies to support military action, Osama bin Laden is urging the Iraqis to rise up. The world appears to be very close to a confrontation.
Sarandon, actor and antiwar activist, was online Thursday, Feb. 13 at 3 p.m. ET, to discuss her reasons for being against a war with Iraq and her proposals for a solution to the conflict. She also talked about the other work she does for human rights, world hunger, AIDS, conservation, education and housing and support projects for various national and international organizations.
Sarandon is a four-time Academy Award nominee and won the Oscar for Best Actress in 1995 for her role in "Dead Man Walking." Her latest films include "Moonlight Mile" with Dustin Hoffman, the comedy "Igby Goes Down" with Jeff Goldblum and "The Banger Sisters" with Goldie Hawn and Geoffrey Rush.
The transcript follows.
Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.
washingtonpost.com: Susan Sarandon, thank you for being with us today. Two questions. Is it too late for the antiwar movement to convince the government not to go to war? And second, what will the antiwar forces do if we do go to war?
Susan Sarandon: The antiwar movement is growing at an unprecedented rate both nationally and internationally. Saturday in over 300 cities around the world, people of all walks of life will be expressing their opposition to war with Iraq. People are concerned that a U.S.-led invasion will increase the threat of terrorist attacks against them, their children and their countries. They're not comfortable with the idea of pre-emptive war without an imminent threat to Iraq's neighbors or to the U.S. The destabilizing effect in that region to regimes whose populations are overwhelmingly opposed to an invasion (Pakistan, for instance) would be devastating. And though it has never been disputed that Saddam Hussein is a ruler with many human rights abuses to his credit, to remove him through a unilateral war might momentarily be more humane for the Iraqi people; it would, however, make the world a more dangerous place.
I can only speak for myself. For me, not only am I frightened by the ramifications of a pre-emptive strike, but I have been equally frightened by the systematic threats to our civil liberties. Beginning with the dictum that "you're either with us or against us," the voices of the citizens of this fine nation have not only been ignored, their questions gone unanswered, but they have been told to question is anti-American. For me, this strikes at the very heart of what makes this nation great and in the vacuum of the lack of opposition in the Senate and the House of Representatives, I believe that people will continue to put pressure on the administration in the traditions of the past.
Fairfax, Va.: Why do you think some people call you un-American?
Susan Sarandon: Somewhere along the line the fear, anger and hurt that this nation experienced after 9-11 has been hijacked to fulfill the administration's agenda. This notion that a patriot is someone who follows and doesn't question is anti-American. It is not only our right but our responsibility to question our government and one of the most basic tenets of a democracy is healthy debate. I can only think that the easiest way to dismiss questioning voices is to marginalize them with this label of anti-American.
Fairfax, Va.: I used to believe that war was not the answer to anything. Now, I'm not so sure.
Are you against any kind of war at any time for any reason?
Susan Sarandon: We can win without war. Tough inspections with cooperation from U.S. intelligence agencies would be the most prudent and effective way available to neutralize whatever threat Saddam Hussein poses. If U.N. weapons inspectors need more tools to do the job, let's give them every tool they need. Better to have 1500 inspectors in Iraq than 150,000 American soldiers. There's a difference between an enemy crossing over onto our borders and protecting ourselves against invasion. The terrorists of 9-11 have in no way been linked to Saddam Hussein or the Iraqi people. To ignore the U.N. and its peacekeeping role and to unravel NATO is to dismantle all our hopes for future peacekeeping.
I am against war because I know that there are other means available to solve problems. Our interest in spreading democracy seems arbitrary and capricious. We are not focusing on Burma, for instance, which has had two democratic elections which have been completely ignored and now have a very strong military dictatorship. We are not moving against North Korea which is blatantly threatening us and has nuclear weapons. So why Iraq, why now, when two months after Saddam Hussein "gassed his own people," we doubled our aid to Iraq and our own vice president and Halliburton went in after the Gulf War and made substantial oil deals.
Washington, D.C.: Let's say Bush calls back the troops and does not initiate war with Iraq. How do you think Saddam Hussein will respond? Do you think Saddam is a threat to peace in the Middle East?
Susan Sarandon: As the CIA pointed out months ago, Iraq poses no eminent threat to its neighbors or to the U.S. unless we invade at which point Saddam has nothing to lose and then would possibly become more dangerous.
Portland, Ore.: How do you feel about U.S. efforts in Afghanistan? Is that similar or dissimilar to Iraq?
Susan Sarandon: I find it interesting that the new president of Afghanistan and the ambassador to Afghanistan are both UNICAL. I worry about our troops that we have left there in an impossible situation and I worry about our promise to help rebuild Afghanistan, as, by the way, we have promised to do in Iraq because there seems to have been very little follow-through in Afghanistan because now we are focusing everything on Iraq.
Washington, D.C.: Ms. Sarandon:
Honestly, what would you say if let's say we didn't go to war with IRAQ and one day you are sitting on your porch enjoying life and suddenly there it appears the clouds of chemical death?
What would you then say. We should have gone to war?
Susan Sarandon: From where? There has been absolutely no proof that Saddam Hussein has the means or interest in attacking the U.S. and we should by all means possible, stay in Iraq and make sure that they are disarmed and then I believe we should all begin to look at our weapons of mass destruction and disarm. There is nothing that says if we attack Iraq, poison gas will not come from somewhere else because a U.S. invasion of Iraq plays into the hands of Osama bin Laden and other terrorists who will use it as an opportunity to recruit and attack.
Alexandria, Va.: As a female performing artist also striving to find ways to open American hearts and minds to realities outside themselves, I have long thought of you as an inspiration. Thank you.
Given that you were a student at Catholic University during a very turbulent time in modern American history, how did living and studying here influence both your politics and your craft?
Susan Sarandon: I was very fortunate to come of age at a time and in a city where the issues were so vital and so clear. It was empowering to believe that you could make a difference as an individual and to actually see a war stop, the South desegregated and to be part of the women's liberation movement. Like many people of my generation, this empowerment became part of who I am and this belief in democracy and justice for all was not just theoretical.
I think everyone strives to be awake and present in their life and to speak to a higher purpose. I've been so fortunate in finding a profession which encourages me to do that and to follow my passion and curiosity.
Minn. Minn.: I am a huge fan of yours, and respect greatly that you and Tim speak out for what you believe in, no matter the cost.
That being said, I am planning on going to NYC this weekend, and don't want to miss out, but all of these terror warnings, etc., have made me a bit wary. How do you feel about the terror threats as they apply to your life, and what recommendations do you have for those of us with these types of decisions to make? Do you go on with your life with a cautious optimism or just stay where you are and bunker down and think that the worst is coming?
Thank you for your time, and sharing your voice and talent.
Susan Sarandon: That's a very difficult question because, as a mother, I am wrestling with my options as we speak, but I do believe it is as equally important to be able to say to my children that I did everything I could to prevent this war which I know is unnecessary and immoral as it is to keep them from bodily harm.
Susan Sarandon: I'm going to be at 49th and First Avenue in New York at noon on Saturday to add my voice to the hundreds of thousands of people who will go on record as questioning this war.
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