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War just a distraction from real menace

| Thursday, Feb. 27, 2003

They say truth is the first casualty in war, especially when stereotyping takes on a life of its own. Some of America's warmongers imply that those of us opposed to attacking Iraq are anti-American peace weenies.

There are those on the left's outer fringes who probably fit that stereotype, but there are so many more mainstream Americans -- principled and articulate -- who are speaking out against President Bush's misguided Middle East meddling.

Some are willing to risk alienating the very fans they hope will watch their TV shows and films.

Mike Farrell, actor, producer and director, is the co-founder of Artists United to Win Without War -- It's an organization that opposes launching a first strike on Iraq.

You might know Farrell better as veterinarian Jim Hansen in the NBC series "Providence" or Capt. B.J. Hunnicut in the CBS series "M*A*S*H." He also produced the film "Dominick and Eugene," made in Pittsburgh in 1987.

Now, Farrell has a prominent role in the ultimate reality show.

"Political advantage is being taken by Bush and his advisers to propel their own political agenda under the guise of anti-terrorism," says Farrell.

Every other reference to pre-emptive war had to do with terrorism. They have virtually said the 9/11 attacks have been linked to Saddam Hussein. They have had to retreat from every claim. It is not even yet demonstrated that Saddam has weapons of mass destruction, he says.

"This is sleight-of-hand because (the Bush administration) failed to get Osama bin Laden. It removed him from the scene by not mentioning his name and replacing it with Saddam, because we know where he is."

Some superpatriots have been trying to silence the opposition by calling on them -- constantly.

"We have been getting a barrage of hate phone calls because of the press announcement about the virtual march on Washington," says Kate McArdle, Artists United executive director. The "march" gave an opportunity for people who could not make it to a demonstration to express their opposition online Wednesday.

She has been trying not to answer her office phone, letting calls roll over to voice mail so she can call back the legitimate ones. Supporters have not been able to leave messages sometimes because her mailbox is full of venom from those who probably consider themselves defenders of American values.

If truth is the first casualty in war, free speech is a close second. In this instance, it's being killed by friendly fire.

"We are being lied to," Farrell insists. "There are real problems that face us. The threat terrorism possesses is a huge one that must be dealt with seriously. The pre-emptive war on Iraq is a diversion from that pursuit. And it will waste energy, resources, lives and a huge amount of money."

He believes Americans eventually will see that the premeditated attack against Iraq was laid out by a right-wing cabal. "That fact alone makes clear it was not spontaneous," he says.

As evidence, Farrell points to England's Sunday Herald newspaper, available online at, which alleges Bush and his confidants were plotting a regime change in Iraq even before Bush formally assumed power in January 2001.

They also say truth is stranger than fiction.

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