Dick Cheney’s Rambo Complex

U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney is tour­ing Eng­land this week, try­ing to find co-producers on Gulf War II, the sequel to the dis­ap­point­ing minor hit of 1991. You remem­ber the orig­i­nal: it was briefly pop­u­lar until Bill Clinton’s “Peace and Proper­i­ty” broke all pre­vi­ous records for an unprece­dent­ed run.
In Gulf War II, Dick Cheney is play­ing Ram­bo. It’s twelve years lat­er and he and his side­kick George Bush Jr. are going to re-fight the war against Iraq sin­gle­hand­ed­ly. No oth­er coun­tries will join them this time in their fight for jus­tice.

Like all shot-em-up movies, this one needs a con­vinc­ing vil­lain. There’s no con­nec­tion between Iraq’s Sad­dam Hus­sein and Osama bin Laden but so what? They’re both shifty Arabs with facial hair. Throw in a spicy sub­plot if you want – “Dash­ing Amer­i­can pilots secret­ly held pris­on­er since 1991.” Amer­i­cans bare­ly notice plot and moti­va­tions. After 9/11 the White House is bet­ting that the audi­ence wants more war and ret­ri­bu­tion.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, this isn’t a Hol­ly­wood movie. Dick Cheney and the sec­ond Pres­i­dent Bush are indeed try­ing to start a sec­ond war against Iraq. There’s no new provo­ca­tion from Sad­dam Hus­sein. There’s no con­nec­tion between him and Osama bin Laden or the 9/11 ter­ror­ist attacks. None of our allies from the first Gulf War want to join us in a sec­ond.

But Cheney and Bush want a fight any­way. It’s hard not to con­clude this is some sort of “Ram­bo Com­plex.” The U.S. is led by two men fight­ing lega­cies that won’t let them put 1991 behind them. One is the son of the pres­i­dent accused of pre­ma­ture­ly stop­ping the 1991 war before U.S. troops got to Bagh­dad. The oth­er is the dying aide to both father and son, who has wait­ed almost twelve years for a chance to prove he was right.

This week rumors of an Amer­i­can pilot sup­pos­ed­ly held for eleven years have appeared out of nowhere. Pres­i­dent Bush has been divert­ing atten­tion to Sad­dam Hus­sein even while Osama bin Laden runs free. And Dick Cheney is indeed in Eng­land try­ing to drum up sup­port for a new Gulf War.

While the Vice Pres­i­dent is off wan­der­ing the mar­gins of stage right, real tragedy and dra­ma are hold­ing the world’s atten­tion cen­ter stage. Pales­tine and Israel are close to an all-out war. The mount­ing vio­lence has wor­ried impor­tant coun­tries like Sau­di Ara­bia and Syr­ia so much that they’re propos­ing new peace plans. So much of the Mideast’s anger against the U.S. revolves around the Pales­tin­ian ques­tion. A war there could top­ple friend­ly Mus­lim gov­ern­ments and rip apart our cur­rent alliances.

This is where the world’s atten­tion is focused. But Pres­i­dent Bush and Cheney are ignor­ing the sit­u­a­tion. They have not fol­lowed past Pres­i­dents’ lead in lead­ing peace nego­ti­a­tions. Amer­i­can pres­sure and involve­ment is cer­tain­ly need­ed to craft real peace between Pales­tine and Israel.

But Bush and Cheney are snor­ing in the bleach­er seats when it comes to the world’s most press­ing and intractable con­flict. They’re dream­ing of cin­e­mat­ic glo­ry. It’s 2002 and two lone G.I.‘s are para­troop­ing into Iraq, knives clenched in teeth, machine guns at the ready. One dreams of aveng­ing the cow­ardice and fail­ure of his father. The oth­er of win­ning just one more war before the cur­tains close in on him.