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Cusack And 'The Gospel of Democracy'

With the advent of the general election now upon us, we can expect an avalanche of “informed” opinion from the usual suspects. Associated Press writer John Rogers captured one of the latest salvos - a politically charged snippet from actor John Cusack.

Why has John Cusack jumped into the political arena with a video saying John McCain is a clone of President George W. Bush who would continue policies the actor says benefit war profiteers?

"I know my opinion doesn't matter more than anyone else's and I just make films," he told The Associated Press in a phone interview Wednesday. "But I do feel you have to speak out, and that's what I'm doing." The 30-second video, which went out to members of the liberal political activist group MoveOn.org on Wednesday, will begin airing on television Thursday. In it, Cusack offers a "pop quiz" to voters, asking them among other things: "Who supports keeping our troops in harm's way in Iraq but not the bipartisan G.I. bill of rights to support them when they return home?"

McCain and Bush both do, Cusack says, adding, "Bet you can't tell them apart."

The cost to air the ads is $45,000. They will appear nationally on the Bravo cable channel and in Washington, D.C., on CNN, MSNBC and Comedy Central.

In his latest film, the war satire "War Inc.," Cusack makes no secret that he believes the Iraq war was created to profit private businesses like Blackwater Worldwide, Bechtel Corp. and others that hold war-related contracts worth millions of dollars.

"I'm not going to pretend this thing in Iraq was some kind of free market utopia to spread the gospel of democracy through the Middle East," he told the AP from London, where he's at work on another project.

Cusack says he supports Democrat Barack Obama.

Long accustomed to the ideological excesses of the Hollywood glitterati, most Americans reflexively ignore the political musings of actors and actresses. “Who cares what they think?” regular folks reason. “Nobody listens to them, anyway.” And why does it matter? Well, to put it bluntly, we do not live in a vacuum.

From the outset of the War on Terror, the jihadists have waged a relentless, and increasingly sophisticated, propaganda war against our military efforts to eradicate the scourge of Islamic extremism and its nation-state abettors. The jihadists have endeavored to de-legitimize the architects, executors, and supporters of America’s armed response to terror. The war in Iraq, for instance, has been characterized as a “War for Oil” and, alternatively, a “War against Islam.” Their manifest inadequacies vis a vis the US Marine and soldier on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan notwithstanding, they certainly understand the significance of perception.

Thus, wholly apart from their abject absurdity, comments such as those made by Cusack are injurious to our efforts on “non-kinetic” fronts, namely the oft regurgitated battle for “hearts and minds” and the more appropriately labeled “war of ideas.” If McCain is somehow akin to a war-profiteer enabler, how then do the military actions he embraces escape the stench of illegitimacy? And if those military actions are deemed, at least implicitly, to be illegitimate, how does that differ fundamentally from the arguments proffered by our jihadist enemies?

Is it altogether illogical to suppose that if such comments (that the war was simply for profiteering purposes) were heard on the 'Arab street' then the jihadist argument might resonate just a little bit more, bombarded as the 'Arab street' is by manipulative government news agencies and outfits like Al Jeezera that have more in common with a Ministry of Propaganda than they do with respectable media outlets? Coming as these statements do from Americans of prominence and privilege, is the foreign impact not amplified? Or are we content to offer our dissent in a self-congratulatory stupor, naively unaware of the propagandistic value of our words? Whether intentional or not, and many are doubtlessly unintentional, self-inflicted wounds of this kind only reinforce the public relations fabrications of our enemies.

Critics will surely cite the intrinsic value of internal dissent to a healthy, self-sustaining democracy. They are correct to do so. Spirited domestic debates nourish the root of liberal, democratic societies. But we must also condition ourselves to speak without such unnecessarily damaging hyperbole. Words matter profoundly. Choose them wisely, for our enemies are listening.