For the purposes
of tonight and my own personal enjoyment, I'm going to yield to
the notion that I deserve this.
And in the
spirit of that, tell you that I am very honored to receive it.
And for this I thank the Creative Coalition and my friend Charlie
Rose. It does seem appropriate to take this opportunity to exercise
the right that honors us all - freedom of speech.
title for the Louis XVI comedy called "Start The Revolution Without
Me" was one of my favorites. That original title was "Louis, There's
a Crowd Downstairs." But I'll come back to that...
be our most civil weapons of change, when they connect to actions
of sacrifice, or good will, but they have no grace or power without
bold clarity. So, if you'll bear with me, borrowing a line from
Bob Dylan, "Let us not talk falsely now - the hour is getting
Massive pollution, Non-stop U.S. war in Iraq, Attacks on civil
liberties under the banner of war on terror, Military spending...
You and I,
U.S. taxpayers, spend US$1.5 billion on an Iraq-war-'focused'
military everyday, while social needs cry out.
Education, Public transit, Environmental protections, Affordable
housing, Job training, Public investment, And, levee building.
should we speak truth, we stand
against government efforts to
intimidate or legislate in the service
of censorship. Whether under the
guise of a Patriot Act or any other
for the age-old game of shutting down
dissent by discouraging independent
thinking and preventing
progressive social change.
largely for information on these issues from media industries,
driven by the bottom line to such an extent that the public interest
should we speak truth, we stand against government efforts to
intimidate or legislate in the service of censorship. Whether
under the guise of a Patriot Act or any other benevolent-sounding
rationale for the age-old game of shutting down dissent by discouraging
independent thinking and preventing progressive social change.
effective forms of de facto censorship are pre-emptive. Systemically,
we are encouraged to keep our heads down, out of the line of fire
- to avoid the danger, god forbid, that someone in the White House,
on Capitol Hill, or a media blow-hard might take a shot at us.
But, as a
practical matter, most of the limits on creative expression and
other forms of free speech come from self-censorship, where the
mechanism of corporate clout offers carrots and brandishes sticks.
We avoid a conflict before the conflict materializes. We reach
for the carrots and stay out of range of sticks.
Fred Friendly called it a "positive veto" - corporations putting
big money behind shows that they want to establish and perpetuate.
Whether in journalism or drama, creative efforts that don't gain
a financial "positive veto" are dismissible, then dismissed. We
may not call that "censorship." But whatever we call it, the effects
of a "positive veto" system are severe. They impose practical
limits on efforts to bring the most important realities to public
attention sooner rather than later...
to see more revealing images of this war. But it's later now,
isn't it? What we have to pay attention to are the results of
these "practical limits." One, is that wars become much easier
to launch than to halt.
a feeling about how we can begin to change this process and I
want to pass it by you. Children grow up in our country - many
by the way, under conditions of extreme poverty - and are told
from a very early age "You will be accountable!" "With freedom,
comes responsibility!" And so the lecture goes... Democratic and
Republican alike. Lie-cheat-steal, and there will be consequences!
Theft will be punished. Actions that cause the deaths of others
will be severely punished. The message, from leaders in Washington,
news media, mom, dad, and church is clear. Criminals MUST be held
been a lot of talk lately on Capitol Hill about how impeachment
should be "off the table." We're told that it's time to look ahead
- not back...
as a practical matter, most of the
limits on creative expression and
other forms of free speech come
from self-censorship, where the
mechanism of corporate clout
offers carrots and brandishes sticks.
We avoid a conflict before the
conflict materializes. We reach for
the carrots and stay out of
range of sticks.
Can you imagine
how far that argument would go for the defense at an arraignment
on charges of grand larceny, or large-scale distribution of methamphetamines?
How about the arranging of a contract killing on a pregnant mother?
"Indictment should be off the table." Or "Let's look forward,
not backward." Or "We can't afford another failed defendant."
has a legal system, not of men and women, but of laws. Why then
are we so willing to put inconvenient provisions of the U.S. constitution
and federal law "off the table?" Our greatest concern right now
should be what to put ON the table. Unless we're going to have
one set of laws for the powerful and another set for those who
can't afford fancy lawyers, then truth matters to everyone. And
accountability is a matter of human and legal principle.
If we're going to continue wagging our fingers at the disadvantaged
transgressors, then I suggest we be consistent. If truth and accountability
can be stretched into sham concepts, we may as well open the gates
of all our jails and prisons, where, by the way, there are more
people behind bars than any other country in the world. One in
every 32 American adults is behind bars, on probation, or on parole
as we stand here tonight.
to say that, globally, the United States is number one at demanding
accountability and backing up that demand with imprisonment. But,
when it comes to our president, vice president, secretary of state,
former secretary of defense... this insistence on accountability
vanishes. All of a sudden, what's past is prologue. And we're
But some people can't just look forward. Men and women stationed
in Iraq at this moment, under orders of a Commander-in-Chief so
sufficiently practiced in the art of deception, that he got vast
numbers of American journalists and the most esteemed media outlets
of this country, including The New York Times, The Washington
Post, NPR, and PBS to eagerly serve his agenda-building for war.
And the process also induced vast numbers of artists and performers
(probably even some in this room tonight) to keep quiet and facilitate
the push for an invasion in Iraq.
many people who I met in Baghdad, both in my trips prior to and
during the occupation, now similarly cannot just look forward.
With lives so entirely shattered by a violence of occupation -
an ongoing U.S. war effort and the civil war that it has catalyzed.
All on the back of a crumbled infrastructure, following eleven
years of devastating U.N. sanctions.
is the accountability on behalf of the American dead and wounded,
their families, their friends, and the people of the United States
who have seen their country become a world pariah. These events
have been enabled by people named Bush, Cheney, Powell, Rumsfeld,
and Rice, as they continue to perpetuate a massive fraud on American
democracy and decency.
11, 2003, I made an appearance on Larry King's show following
my first trip to Iraq. I suggested that every American mother
and father sit down with a scrap of paper and pencil and scribble
the following words: Dear Mr. and Mrs. So-and-so - We regret to
inform you that your son or daughter so-and-so, was killed in
action in Iraq. I then asked that those mothers and fathers complete
that letter in whatever way might comfort them should they receive
is to say that, globally,
the United States is number one
at demanding accountability and
backing up that demand with
imprisonment. But, when it comes
to our president, vice president,
secretary of state, former secretary
of defense... this insistence on
considers what a bewildered continuation of those words a parent
might attempt to write today, it seems inconceivable that this
country could've ever bought into this war. Who were those mothers
and fathers believing in?! We know it's not the administration
alone, but a culture at large, cloaking itself in self-righteousness,
religion, and adolescent hero-dreaming machismo. Would they have
believed Rush Limbaugh if they'd known he was high as a kite on
OxyContin? Would they have believed the factually impaired Bill
O'Reilly if they knew he was massaging his rectum with a loofah
while telephonically harassing a staffer? Hannity, had they known
he was simply a whore to the cause of his pimps - Murdoch and
Ailes? Or the little bow-tie putz, if they knew all he was seeking
was a good laugh from Jon Stewart? Maybe our countrymen and women
were listening to Ted Haggert while he was whiffing meth and boning
a muscle-headed gigolo? Or Mark Foley seeking junior weenis? Joe
Lieberman, sitting Shiva? And Toby Keith, singing about how big
his boots are?
goes Sean... he had to go and name-call. They say he can't help
himself." Or, did I name-call? Maybe I just quickly summed up
seven or eight little truths. Oh, no, you're right - I name-called.
I said, "putz". I take it back. Or, do I? Did I say "whore?" Pimp?
These are questions. But, the real and great questions of conscience
and accountability would not loom so ominously - unanswered or
evaded at such tremendous cost - without our day-to-day failure
to insist on genuine accountability.
Of course we'd prefer some easy ways to get there. But no easy
ways exist. Not a new Congress. Not Barack Obama. And, not John
McCain. His courage in North Vietnamese prison makes him a heroic
man. His voting record in Congress makes him a damaging public
servant. We have gotta stand the fuck up and show the world how
powerful are the people in a democracy. That's how we regain our
position of example, rather than pariah, to the world at large.
And that is how we can begin to put up our chins and allow pride
and unification to raise our own quality of life and security.
us we lost 3,000 Americans on 9/11. Is that enough? We're about
to match it. We're within weeks, if not less, of killing 3,000
Americans in Iraq. I ask Speaker Pelosi, can we put impeachment
on the table then? Without former FEMA chief Mike Brown being
held accountable, post Katrina (scapegoat though he may have been)
we'd have had the same chaos and neglect when Rita hit Houston.
Think about it. And, the same people who trumpet deterrence as
a justification for punishment when we speak of "crime and punishment"
will boast their positive thinking when dismissing the deterrent
qualities of an impeachment proceeding.
What is impeachment?
It's not a Democratic versus Republican event. Not if used responsibly.
If the House of Representatives votes to impeach this president,
is he thrown out of office? No, he is not thrown out of office.
That is not what impeachment is. Impeachment is the opportunity
to proceed with accountability and give our elected senators,
democratic and republican, the power to pursue a thorough investigation.
The power to put the truth on the table.
Mothers and fathers are losing their kids to horrifying deaths
in this war every single day. Horrible deaths. Horrible maimings.
Were crimes committed in enlisting the support of our country
in this decision to go to war? For the moment we're living the
most spineless of scenarios; where the hawks abused impeachment
eight years ago, now, the rest of us politely refuse to use it
today. Let's give the whistle-blowers cover, let's get the subpoenas
out there, and then, one by one, put this administration under
And then, if the crimes of "Treason, bribery, or other high crimes
and misdemeanors" are proven, do as Article 2, Section 4 of the
United States Constitution provides, and remove "the President,
Vice President and... civil officers of the United States" from
office. If the Justice Department then sees fit to bunk them up
with Jeff Skilling, so be it.
if we attempt to impeach for lying about a blowjob, yet accept
these almost certain abuses without challenge, we become a cum-stain
on the flag we wave. You know, I was listening to Frank Rich this
morning, speaking on a book tour. He said he thought impeachment
proceedings would amount to a "decadent" sidetrack, while our
soldiers were still being killed. I admire Frank Rich. And, of
course, he would be right if impeachment is all we do. But we're
Americans. We can do two things at the same time. Yes, let's move
forward and swiftly get out of this war in Iraq AND impeach these
Reeve promised to get out of that chair. Well, I don't know about
you, but it feels like he's up now and I wouldn't be standing
here if it weren't on his shoulders. Let it be for something.
there's a crowd downstairs.
and good night.
From Information Clearing House. This is the complete text of
a speech on Dec 20, 2006.
Killroy's Still Here, by Sean Penn