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The Truth, Mainly - 08/19/2002

A modest proposal: Gulf War with happy ending

President Bush has a problem, and Iím here to help him with it.

His problem is that he's hot to go to war with Saddam but not everyone thinks thatís a good idea. And he's under pressure because Big Daddy Bush had all kinds of support 11 years ago in his war with Saddam.

Dig this statistic: according to an A.P. story last week, "the 1991 war cost the U.S. $61 billion; allies paid for all but about $7 billion."

That's putting your money where your mouth is.

But as of last week, the U.K. was the the only government supporting our replay of the Gulf War. And even that support was shaky. A poll showed that only 28 percent of Brits thought an attack would be justified, and only 19 percent said the U.K. should help us with it.

And these are the guys on our side.

There's not much more enthusiasm in this country. Of course, Democrats are opposed. They say a war would just be a way to distract us from how corporate corruption has played hell with our retirement funds.

But a lot of Republicans are also less than gung ho—including our own Sen. Hagel and Rep. Bereuter.

Bereuter says he'd prefer "covert means" to a "conventional attack"—and without naming names, he said "we have some people in this country who think foreign policy is set by the Old Testament."

Hagel says now is not the time to invade Iraq, "especially without any allies being with us."

Even House Majority Leader Dick Armey said that an unprovoked attack would violate international law and "would not be consistent with what we have been as a nation or what we should be as a nation." He means we don't do "pre-emptive strikes." We used to call them "sneak attacks."

The most persuasive rationale for attacking Saddam would be that he was behind the 9/11 terror, but nobody's found evidence of that.

Another powerful rationale—one I don't hear anyone talking about—is that a new war with Saddam could be a satisfying resolution of an unresolved inter-family feud. The 1991 war wasn't a gentlemanís war. Saddam and Big Daddy traded lots of colorful insults. Big Daddy repeatedly called Saddam "Sad-dumb," and said in his preppy elegance that "we're going to kick ass."

But the least gentlemanly act of all came after the war ended and Saddam had his boys try to assassinate Big Daddy in Kuwait in 1993.

I don't know about you, but if somebody had tried to assassinate my daddy, I'd probably hold a grudge. For a long time.

And the current President Bush is in a position to give payback. Big time, as Dick Cheney might say.

Which explains why in most of his speeches about Iraq, the president seems fixated on getting rid of Saddam. To quote Norman Mailer—wildly out of context—Saddam is the sliver of bone up the president's nostril.

The Truth, Mainly


So here's my attempt to help:

Why involve two whole countries in a Hatfield-McCoy feud? Rather than spend a whole lot of money, rather than kill a whole lot of grunts with no stake in the matter, let's have George W. Bush and Saddam Hussein go at each other alone.

Single combat.

One on one.

Just George W. and Saddam.

It would be a whole lot less brutal than the 1991 war when, according to our own estimates, we lost 300 Americans and killed more than 100,000 Iraqi soldiers and who knows how many civilians.

And George W. should have a physical edge. He probably spends more time working out than any head of state in world history. Saddam's a little paunchy.

Anyway, we could rebuild the set from "High Noon" in some neutral country, sell the TV rights, give six-shooters to our two bully boys and let them go at it.

Surely they'd both welcome the chance to do for themselves what they'd command others to do.

And here's the kicker: The six-shooters wouldnít be real. They'd look real and feel real and George W. and Saddam would believe they were real.

But they'd be paint-ball guns, and the paint-balls would all be filled with sticky blood-red paint.

It would scare the bejeezus out of both George W. and Saddam every time they got hit. On international TV, they'd yelp in terror at every new blood stain, and by the time it was over, they'd have had a bellyful of sticky red liquids.

When they'd realized that they weren't really wounded they might even find it funny. They might even laugh and shake hands.

And then—I know, I know, I'm getting carried away here—they might even pull the same paint-ball ruse on Sharon and Arafat and end up sharing the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize.

I'm a sucker for happy endings.


Retired English Professor Leon Satterfield writes to salvage clarity from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays. His e-mail address is: leonsatterfield@earthlink.net.


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