Penn, Part II

Penn, Part II
: The Chronicle put up the second and last part of Sean Penn’s return-to-Baghdad travelog today.

I meant to point to the paper’s own full-of-crap intro yesterday:

Sean Penn did not go to Iraq a year ago as an actor, but as a father, a husband and an American.

No, Sean Penn does everything he does as an actor. That’s why he went. That’s why media paid attention. That’s what it’s all about. Let’s not be naive about celebrity after all this time.

Penn lets his video camera get him in trouble as he tapes a place that had just been attacked and CIAesque mercenaries working with the Iraqis detain him and review his tape. This allows Penn to launch into a history of Dyncorp that I’m surprised doesn’t wend its way to the Trilateral Commission, though it gets to the next-best thing, Halliburton.

He runs into his Baathist minder from his last visit to Baghdad, who’s now working for journalists. He learns that you can’t tell whom to trust.

Welcome to a world without a script.

He goes to a hospital that hasn’t been fixed up yet. Read the Iraqi bloggers and you will hear about health facilities that have been fixed up. No news there; it takes time to build a nation.

He spends time with a lot of reporters and give them this:

I am deeply impressed with the risk-taking and commitment of all of the journalists I’ve met in Baghdad.

He says goodbye to an Iraqi he has met and has this nice epiphany:

He writes down a Hotmail e-mail address. This world’s getting too small for war.

As he’s about to leave, he sees more mercenary protectors outside a hotel and there’s his neat exchange:

And there they are, another unit of PMC men polishing their rifles, suiting up in bulletproof vests and warming up the engines of armored vehicles. And out of the hotel comes their client. He too has a chain around his neck with an identification card, sees me and says, “Hey, aren’t you …?”

“Yeah,” I say. “Your ID card says contractor. What do you build?”

And with a smile, he says, “Elections.”

“How do you do that?”

He grins a little more and says, “Whatever it takes.”

We’re almost out of Iraq and Penn has been remarkably restrained. So he can’t resist getting in one ideological jab:

We pull over and I get out of the car to urinate roadside while Yasir fills up. None of the black-market gas kids or Iraqis passing in vehicles pays me any attention. The one honk I get from a passing vehicle is from an armored car of PMC men transporting clients into the country. The honk seems to indicate their misguided sense of kinship to me. Perhaps they are familiar with the practice of pissing on this tragic place.

Yeah, yeah. Feeling relieved in many ways, he leaves Iraq:

I get the Air France flight from Amman to Paris and am abruptly reminded of my own notoriety as the pilot invites me to experience takeoff from the cockpit. If I’m on my way home to take more crap from the radical right talking heads on TV, I am damn well gonna strap into a jump seat directly behind a French pilot. And when I do, there sitting to my right in the jump seat behind the co-pilot is CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. Every French story has to have a woman. And I’ve always found this woman impressive. One would think she’d had enough adventures for any six lifetimes, yet she still seems innocently excited about this cockpit takeoff. To look at her face, you think she’s just strapped herself into a roller coaster at Disneyland. She is all giggles. I pretend to share her enthusiasm by accessing the glee I feel just being out of Iraq. For her it is just plain fun, for me it is an escape….

Wheels down. Terra firma, U.S.A., baby. Yes, I love my country.