A historical note

I just came across this old file -- written in January 1991.
Gulf War I, Bush I

by Geoffrey Fox

America loves a bad guy, the tougher the better. A guy who knows how to keep cool until the moment to unleash his deadly violence. A guy who betrays no fear when surrounded by vastly superior forces, and who combines shrewdness, courage and malice to damage his enemies even when it appears that all is lost. "Hombre," by Elmore Leonard, besieged by Mexicans. Butch Cassidy in Bolivia, John Wayne in the Alamo, Eddie Murphy in Korea, Rambo in Southeast Asia. Even non-whites may apply: the half-breed Billy Jack against the forces of law and order in the southwestern desert. Or Jimmy Cagney. Whose haberdashery gets more publicity than John Gotti's? Whose smirks, mumbles and rampages than the many movie "Godfathers'"? The American paragon is insolent, intransigent, and dangerous.

Maybe we've been misreading Saddam Hussein. Maybe he isn't so all-fired hot on Islam. Maybe he doesn't give a damn (to be polite) about the Palestinians, or even about Iraqi sovereignty in Kuwait. Maybe he's just seen too many American movies. Or maybe--and this too is possible--the values he learned scrapping on the dusty streets of Tikrit weren't too different from our own. Which means that to prevail, you've got to act tough, whatever the consequences. And prevailing is the only game worth the candle.

So, if this is the script, where does that leave our guys? All those airmen and sailors and soldiers and marines, from 28 nations, with tons of bombs to drop and thousands of missiles and many times more airplanes than Saddam ever had--if this is the script, then our guys are the cops, or the federales, the hordes of lawmen fought off by the heroic renegade.

Some people have been comparing him to Hitler. But that was a different movie, more like the evil Ming against Flash Gordon. This guy may be evil, a scourge of society--his own and those of his neighbors. The poison gas against his citizens, the horridly costly war against Iran, the invasion and pillage of Kuwait, and probably lots more crimes we're only dimly aware of. But as any American movie-goer knows, what counts is coolness under fire. He'll probably go down in flames at the end, and people in this country aren't likely to forgive him, and hardly anybody outside of Iraq loves him, but everybody, from our president on down, respects him.

And if Arabs have been as deeply influenced as we have by American movies, long after he is gone, his exploits will be sung in the souks and coffehouses as the people wait for the rise of a new Scuds Saddam.

Geoffrey Fox has no special knowledge of the Middle East, but he's seen a lot of movies.