18:20 PDT OAKLAND — Oscar-winning actor Sean Penn was the star attraction at a town hall meeting today in Oakland, where hundreds of people gathered to denounce the war in Iraq and call for an immediate withdrawal of American troops.
Neither Penn nor Rep. Barbara Lee, the Oakland Democrat who has opposed the war since before it began four years ago, offered much in the way of specifics for ending the conflict, and they were largely preaching to the choir. The enthusiastic and occasionally boisterous crowd of 800 or so crammed into the Grand Lake Theatre wildly cheered as Penn excoriated President Bush.
“You and your smarmy pundits — and the smarmy pundits you have in your pocket — can take your war and shove it,” Penn said. “Let’s unite not only in stopping this war, but in holding this administration accountable.”
The town hall meeting came six days after peace marches were held nationwide to mark the fourth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq and one day after the House of Representatives voted 218-212 to withdraw combat troops by Sept. 1, 2008.
Penn reiterated a point often made by opponents of the war when he said he supports the troops but opposes the war.
“Let’s make this crystal clear: We do support our troops, but not the exploitation of them and their families,” he said. “The money that’s spent on this war would be better spent on building levees in New Orleans and health care in Africa and care for our veterans. Iraq is not our toilet. It’s a country of human beings whose lives that were once oppressed by Saddam are now in Dante’s Inferno.”
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