Tom Hanks Angers Conservatives, Comparing 'The Pacific' in World War II to Iraq

Producer of "The Pacific" draws fire for comparing WWII to Iraq.

March 16, 2010, 5:23 PM

March 17, 2010— -- It's no surprise that some conservatives love to hate Hollywood.

Michael Moore and Sean Penn are perennial favorites. But Tom Hanks?

The star of such flag-waving films as "Saving Private Ryan" and "Apollo 13" and producer of the World War II miniseries "Band of Brothers" has come under fire recently for remarks he made while promoting his current project, "The Pacific."

In an interview with Time magazine, Hanks, who is producing the HBO miniseries, compared the World War II conflict in the Pacific with the current one in Iraq and Afghanistan. "The Pacific" began airing March 14.

"Back in World War II, we viewed the Japanese as 'yellow, slant-eyed dogs' that believed in different gods," Hanks told Time. "They were out to kill us because our way of living was different. We, in turn, wanted to annihilate them because they were different. Does that sound familiar, by any chance, to what's going on today?"

Richard Pearle, former secretary of Defense under President Ronald Reagan, told that Hanks has got it wrong.

"What he is suggesting, that the coalition forces are acting out of racist motives, is preposterous," Pearle said. "We're there at the request of the Iraqi government, which is trying to put together a democracy, and we've lost Americans trying to help them do that. I'm not at all clear what Mr. Hanks has in mind.

"He's an actor. He ought to go back to 'Saving Private Ryan,'" Pearle said. "I think if personalities that have a big megaphone by virtue of their acting talent are going to make political statements, they ought to be careful."

Hanks an 'Ignoramus'

Hanks' remarks lit up the conservative blogosphere. Pajamas Media's Victor Davis Hanson did not hold back: "Hanks' comments were sadly infantile pop philosophizing offered by, well, an ignoramus."

Brad Schaeffer, writing on Frum Forum, took Hanks to task for making the comparison to the current war on terror. "To make the claim that we are waging war on Islamofascists because, presumably, we view Muslims as 'different' not only is an insult to the nation but betrays a stunning ignorance of contemporary history."

Tom Hanks Draws Conservative Fire

Hanks did not stop with his comments to Time. In an interview on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," he said the Pacific battle against the Japanese represented a war of "racism and terror," where the only way to complete the battle was to "kill them all."

"Does that sound familiar to what we might be going through today?" Hanks said.

When questioned about his comments by a journalist from conservative CNS News, Hanks clarified his remarks, substituting the word "ignorance" for "racism."

"His first statement was absurd," Pearle said. "The fact that he's trying to back out of that indicates how ignorant the first statement was."

It appears there's no backtracking when Hollywood and politics meet.

Bill O'Reilly has taken swipes at Hanks on three different occasions. In one, he said Hanks has "gone off the rails." In another, two nights ago, Karl Rove, who was promoting his new book, joined in.

Rove told O'Reilly, "I didn't write this book with the expectation that it would be picked up by Tom Hanks and Danny Glover and Sean Penn as part of their book club. He is impervious to rational discussion. He has no intellectual curiosity."

It remains to be seen how Hanks' new series will do in light of his comments. Viewers have shown they can be fickle about war films.

The success of "The Hurt Locker" at the box office and the Academy Awards was a first for films about the Iraq conflict, although conservatives have largely championed that film as apolitical. The dismal box office showing of "The Green Zone," the Iraq war film helmed by Matt Damon, has been more typical of the response to films about Iraq and Afghanistan.

Conservatives have implied that politics are sinking "The Green Zone," since the film, directed by "United 93" director Paul Greengrass, focuses on the touchy area of the hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Politics and Hollywood

In the New York Times, conservative columnist Ross Douthat said "The Green Zone" refuses to "stare real tragedy in the face, preferring the comforts of a 'Bush lied, people died.'"

"Throw politics into the mix, and there seems to be no escaping the cliches and simplifications that mar Greengrass's movie," Douthat said.

Clearly, politics and Hollywood are a combination guaranteed to cause controversy.

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