By Todd Peterson And Theresa Crapanzano
Updated March 20, 2003 11:27 AM

Recent reports have indicated that the decision to cancel pre-Oscar red-carpet festivities is as much a conciliatory effort for celebrities — who would rather avoid discussing the war — as it is a nod toward the solemnity of the occasion.

In fact, an Academy rep told Reuters that many stars had requested a back entrance so they wouldn’t be put on the spot. And really, who can blame them? Those who have chosen to voice political opposition, including Martin Sheen and the Dixie Chicks, have been vilified.

The Dixie Chicks — who took a jab at President Bush during a London show, but then later apologized — have faced resounding criticism and calls for boycotts. It’s little wonder, then, that some performers, including country artist Terri Clark, would just as soon not say a thing.

“I think this country’s built on a Constitution and one of those rights is to speak your opinion, and some people are more comfortable with speaking their opinion than other people are,” Clark tells “For me, I’m one of those who is not comfortable with speaking my opinion.”

Others tried a more diplomatic approach. Bono, lead singer of the rock group U2, during a Washington, D.C., St. Patrick’s Day celebration earlier in the week, said his main concern was not the war in Iraq, but the war on poverty. “How we respond to this crisis, along with the war against terror, will be how our generation is judged by future generations and, I believe, judged by God,” reports PEOPLE.

Appearing with Bush administration cabinet members and other politicians, Bono tried to inject a bit of levity into differing opinions. “It’s a hard look for rock stars to be seen with politicians. To be fair, it’s uncool for both of us,” he said.

Meanwhile, others, including Australian actor Heath Ledger, have pulled no punches in their criticisms of the war. The 23-year-old Ledger, in Melbourne promoting his new movie “Ned Kelly,” laid into Australian Prime Minister John Howard’s troop support of the war effort. “He’s so subservient to (Bush), and (the U.S. is) sending 250,000 troops over there,” he said. “Why should we send our 2,000? It makes no difference.”

The comments won’t win the young actor many fans in some circles. The New York Post, for example, recently ran a column attempting to incite public opinion against anti-war celebrities including Fred Durst, Samuel L. Jackson, Danny Glover, Sean Penn, Tim Robbins and many others.

But it was retired newsman Walter Cronkite, 86, who criticized the Bush administration and the impending war in a speech Tuesday, while summing up much of the country’s feelings as the bombing has begun, the Associated Press reports.

“The time has come to put all of our distaste aside,” he said. “That is the duty we owe our soldiers who had no role in deciding this course of action.”