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LETTERS TO THE TIMES

Citizen Sheen's Freedom of Speech

March 18, 2003

Re " "They Don't Speak for Me' " and "A Celebrity, but First a Citizen," Commentary, March 17: The contrast could not be clearer. Esra Naama speaks simply and provides in chilling detail descriptions of the brutality of the Hussein regime and expresses her desire to see her friends and relatives still in Iraq liberated from a madman. Martin Sheen, on the other hand, offers empty cliches and the message that he and his celebrity friends are being victimized because of their antiwar stance, but says nothing of substance.

I would like to see Sheen respond directly to Naama and explain to her why Saddam Hussein should be allowed to remain in power. That would be worth reading.

Ric Ottaiano

Fullerton

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Thank you, Mr. Sheen, for your words of sanity. It seems that only the right has license to speak and then only to talk war and support the Bush position. We all have a right and a duty to make our voices heard. Some of us may be celebrities and some truck drivers, but it was the intention of our founding fathers that we all have an equal voice. Strange that there is little comment about a few radio talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity, who blather on for hours daily. Does their position give them more rights than the rest of us? Perhaps it's just that they shill for the administration.

Phil Rowland

South Pasadena

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I strongly support the right of every American, including celebrities, to speak. But when famous people speak out, unfortunately, because of their "star" status, the effect is brainwashing -- as many take their words as valid. Therefore, their speaking out carries with it the moral responsibility of being informed, plus their realizing the powerful effect of their words.

Yes, Mr. Sheen, you have the right to speak, but what I want to know is exactly what you and your colleagues know about the Middle East regarding the history, the politics, the economics and, more important, the intelligence collected. If a speaker has full knowledge of all these facts, then by all means he or she is free to speak. If he or she doesn't know all the facts, I would suggest keeping quiet.

Vera Zirn

Los Angeles

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