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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Angelina Jolie: Not Just a Pretty Face

Angelina Jolie is an actress. She has won three Golden Globe Awards, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, and an Academy Award. She is hounded by photographers and reporters on a daily basis, reporting on her personal life and cameras constantly following her around for a picture of her and her family (Brad Pitt and their children)

What some do not know is that she is also a Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Refugee Agency since August 27, 2001.

Jolie has received wide recognition for her humanitarian work. In 2003, she was the first recipient of the newly created Citizen of the World Award by the United Nations Correspondents Association, and in 2005, she was awarded the Global Humanitarian Award by the UNA-USA. Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni awarded Jolie Cambodian citizenship for her conservation work in the country on August 12, 2005; she has pledged $5 million to set up a wildlife sanctuary in the north-western province of Battambang and owns property there. In 2007, Jolie became a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and she received the Freedom Award by the International Rescue Committee.

She is beautiful, some would say, inside and out, but the one thing she is not, is just a pretty face.

Recently Jolie returned from Iraq and on February 28, 2008, she wrote an Op-Ed piece for the Washington Post, titled, "Staying In Iraq to Help".

Originally that article was named "A Reason to Stay in Iraq", but for reasons unknown, the Post changed that title.

She speaks about the progress of the surge, but she speaks from humanitarian viewpoint and as she puts it, "We have finally reached a point where humanitarian assistance, from us and others, can have an impact."

You can read about her trip, who she spoke to, the work that is being arranged to help displaced Iraqi's to go home, but a few of her comments need to be highlighted.

Today's humanitarian crisis in Iraq -- and the potential consequences for our national security -- are great. Can the United States afford to gamble that 4 million or more poor and displaced people, in the heart of Middle East, won't explode in violent desperation, sending the whole region into further disorder?

What we cannot afford, in my view, is to squander the progress that has been made. In fact, we should step up our financial and material assistance. UNHCR has appealed for $261 million this year to provide for refugees and internally displaced persons. That is not a small amount of money -- but it is less than the U.S. spends each day to fight the war in Iraq. I would like to call on each of the presidential candidates and congressional leaders to announce a comprehensive refugee plan with a specific timeline and budget as part of their Iraq strategy.

As for the question of whether the surge is working, I can only state what I witnessed: U.N. staff and those of non-governmental organizations seem to feel they have the right set of circumstances to attempt to scale up their programs. And when I asked the troops if they wanted to go home as soon as possible, they said that they miss home but feel invested in Iraq. They have lost many friends and want to be a part of the humanitarian progress they now feel is possible.

(Emphasis mine)

Jolie has stated her support of Barack Obama in the past and is in no way what one would consider a "war-monger", or a conservative, nor is she the typical Hollywood celebrity that will kick back in their recliners and insist, without ever having been to Iraq, that they know more about what is going on there than the people who are in Iraq.

She risks her life for her humanitarian work, she was pregnant when she went on the Iraq trip and she understands the political landscape in Hollywood, yet she is honest enough to return after having seen the progress and the difference from her last visit and speak up publicly about the surge, the opportunities and to speak honestly about the ramifications of withdrawing irregardless of the devastation it would cause.

In the world of Hollywood, this could be the equivalent of "career suicide".

She seems to think the truth and helping the people of Iraq is more important than the risk of being shunned in Hollywood.

No.... she is not just a pretty face, she is a woman of honesty and integrity and because of her humanitarian work, not her ability to act, she deserves to be listened to because she has earned that right, not by using her celebrity to push some political agenda, but because she puts herself out there to help others across the globe.

(As a side note since this post is about Iraq- John McCain is in Iraq on an unannounced surprise visit.)