Robert Redford urges a different kind of patriotism

By Duncan Campbell (Guardian, December 3, 2002)

The actor and director Robert Redford has accused President Bush of pursuing a "dangerous and self-defeating" path in the Middle East and asserted that true American patriotism lies in reducing the country's dependence on oil.

Redford is the latest public figure to attack the Bush administration's policy on Iraq and call for a new definition of patriotism.

"The Bush White House talks tough on military matters in the Middle East while remaining virtually silent about the long-term problems posed by US dependence on fossil fuels," Redford writes in an article in the Los Angeles Times. "The Bush administration's energy policy to date - a military garrison in the Middle East and drilling for oil in the Arctic and other fragile habitats - is costly, dangerous and self-defeating."

Redford asserts that "weaning our nation from fossil fuels should be understood as the most patriotic policy to which we can commit ourselves".

He attacks the "absence of leadership" on the issue and writes that the current policy on oil would "guarantee homeland insecurity".

Redford, star of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting, accepts that the political climate may be unsympathetic to such an argument.

"To get the United States off fossil fuels in this uneasy national climate of terrorism and conflict in the Persian Gulf we must treat the issue with the urgency and persistence it deserves."

He argues that changes in petrol consumption are essential and that the government should have the courage to embrace the changes. "Big challenges require bold action and leadership," he writes.

Redford argues that the US policy on energy "creates political liabilities overseas" and makes the country a leading contributor to global warning.

Other well-known names have also challenged the Bush administration's calls to patriotic support for the war.

TV host Jerry Springer said recently that a true patriot would be opposing the threat of war in Iraq because such a war would create a new generation of people who hated the US. A former politician and a Democrat, he said that most Americans were concerned about threats from al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden but not about Saddam Hussein.

Many public figures have been slow to criticise the war plans for fear of being called unpatriotic but there are a growing number of exceptions.

The actor Sean Penn has taken out a full-page ad in the Washington Post to question President Bush's motives and policies. Others, including Susan Sarandon, Marisa Tomei, Kurt Vonnegut and Steve Earle have signed similar challenges to the war in the national media. The actor Woody Harrelson expressed his opposition in an article in the Guardian last month.

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