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.