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Celebrities speak out against war

Martin Sheen
Martin Sheen

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(CNN) -- A coalition of celebrities is pushing the Bush administration to stay out of war with Iraq. The celebrities have signed a letter to the president saying war would "increase human suffering, arouse animosity toward our country, increase the likelihood of terrorist attacks, damage the economy and undermine our moral standing in the world. It will make us less, not more, secure."

Actor Martin Sheen makes presidential decisions on the NBC TV series, "The West Wing," and now Sheen has an urgent message for his real-life counterpart at the White House. Sheen spoke Tuesday with CNN Correspondent Charles Feldman.

FELDMAN: Martin Sheen, let me ask you something. Let me pretend -- with all deference, that I'm president of the United States right now.

SHEEN: Please.

FELDMAN: Why would I care -- why would I care about what a group of artists has to say about U.S. foreign policy, vis-a-vis Iraq? Why should I care?

SHEEN: I think that the president should care about all its citizens' opinions, and particularly about matters of war and peace. There's so much at stake. You can't put the bullet back in the gun once it's been fired. That's mainly why we're here today ... we're trying to get the attention of the people who feel that this is a fait accompli, [to] speak out, to say no to war, and yes to life.

FELDMAN: But if you think, as you've said a number of times here, that this is already a done deal, that we're going to go marching into Iraq ...

SHEEN: Yes, with the administration.

FELDMAN: Then, what's the good of all of this?

SHEEN: Well, how would we feel if we did not speak up before the fact? We are assuming it's a done deal. In the way they're talking and presenting their plans, it's a done deal. If we wait until after the fact, then I think we're missing the point.

FELDMAN: Has this been a divisive issue for Hollywood? Is this something that you find difficult selling to fellow actors?

SHEEN: No, no. We're not trying to sell anything. We're just trying to arouse a true patriotism, not just in our industry, but your industry as well as all the others, and that is that we love our country enough to risk its wrath by calling attention to its dark spots, the areas that it's blind to, that will eventually cause a great sickness in our culture.

FELDMAN: Let me ask you something. One of my colleagues during the news conference asked you a question. Let me re-ask it. What happens, Martin Sheen, what happens if you're wrong?

SHEEN: About what?

FELDMAN: About a pre-emptive strike against Iraq. Suppose you are wrong. Suppose that is what's needed?

SHEEN: I don't understand how I would be wrong. Would there not be countless innocent civilians killed in Iraq with a pre-emptive strike? Do you discount that? Is that not right enough to speak at now? I was just at the funeral -- I announced earlier -- of Philip Berrigan, [the peace activist priest] who passed away this past week, and this was the quote that they used on his prayer card, and I want to share it with you.

"Peacekeeping is not only a central characteristic of the gospel. Peacemaking is the greatest need of the world today. We are the daughters and sons of God, and that means we are called to be peacemakers, whether we like it or not. It's a responsibility of all of us to pursue peace for its own sake, for the sake of the future for our children."

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