TIKRIT, Iraq -- There's a time and a place for political criticism and spirited debate, and Natalie Maines, the lead singer of the Dixie Chicks, seems not to understand either where nor when to voice such thoughts. Maines and her cohorts ran afoul of the American public this past spring when, just before the war in Iraq, she said she was "ashamed" that President Bush was from Texas. The comment itself was bad enough, but what really upset people is that she made it on the eve of war in a foreign land.
Last week, Maines was at it again. Heading into the holiday season, when it is especially difficult for young Americans in uniform to be so far from the ones they love, Maines protested on the "Today" show, "I think people were misled, and I think people are fighting a war that they didn't know they were going to be fighting."
The young Americans fighting this war here in Iraq don't believe they were misled. Their morale is high, their spirits are strong. They are doing a magnificent job, and they would like to know that they have the support of their fellow Americans for what they're doing.
I've been traveling this week with members of the Army's 4th Infantry Division, and these soldiers don't deserve to return home to the kind of welcome my fellow veterans got when we returned from Vietnam. These soldiers are fighting the good fight, and they don't need accusations from celebrity critics like the Dixie Chicks.
Nor do they deserve to have their actions chronicled by the likes of Sean Penn, whom San Francisco Chronicle editor Phil Bronstein is considering hiring as a war correspondent. You may remember that Penn paid a controversial visit to Saddam's Iraq before the start of the war, so he could pursue "a deeper understanding of this frightening conflict." But the only "deeper understanding" he came to was his admission afterward that he was used as a dupe and a propaganda tool by the Iraqi leader. Yet that didn't stop Penn from accusing President Bush of "teaching a master class in the manifestation of rage into hatred."
Membership in Hollywood's Blame American First crowd was not always as big as it is today. During World War II, Clark Gable, Mickey Rooney and Jimmy Stewart were just a few of Hollywood's leading actors who served in uniform. And of course, celebrities like Marilyn Monroe, Ann-Margret, Connie Stevens and Raquel Welch didn't spend their free time criticizing the president or the troops. Instead, they joined Bob Hope and the USO in freely giving their time to entertain soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines overseas.
Today, actors like Gary Sinise and performers like Wayne Newton are the exception rather than the rule on a USO tour.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.