September 25, 2002
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George W. Bush: Eastwood or Cooper
Philosophy on War with Iraq
Photo of Clint with gun Clint Eastwood

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George W. would do well to examine his cowboy image. I think Gary Cooper would be a far better choice than his Clint Eastwood persona in Unforgiven. Remember when Eastwood leaves town, his comments were something like, "OK, you sons of bitches, if one of you fires at me, I'm going to kill him and then hunt down his family and kill him and burn his house down."

How about Gary Cooper in High Noon. Quiet, resolved, fearful but a will of iron. No great protestations, strutting around, just knowing that he will do what he has to do.

I often think when I read George W. on Iraq--what is he smoking? He seems obsessed with Saddam. What is it? The fact that he owes it to his Dad who didn't finish the job? What!After 9-11, for most of the country who cares, George W. had beaucoup moral and political capital instantly. He took over, did the deed, was deliberate-Gary Cooper to the max.
Photo of Clint eastwood Gary "Doc" Smith
What has happened to that man? Politics, I guess. He's getting bad advice? Reached that stage where many leaders do: believes his godlike protestations must be true per his cheerleading minions?

It's a mystery.

He makes a good move taking the case against Saddam to the United Nations, a fairly impotent organization. Saddam promises to let the inspectors in, unconditionally, no less. He is probably lying or figuring out a way to buy time but for the time being, he has to be believed. The world community has heard him-the bad man of Baghdad will have to put up or shut up. Either way, Gary (George W.) wins.
Early photo of Gary Cooper, 1927-in western attire
George W's reaction? He goes into his Clint persona, "I'll kill your families and burn your houses." What is this! All along, telegraphing of our positions, intentions, almost having a carefully worked out plan to kick sand in the face of even our friends. We all understand international politics. Americans who read and care and are involved are not stupid. We see foreign politicians playing to the press like we do. Why intentionally go out of our way to look bad?a big bully with a big stick. And, what is it with this first strike thing? Even the language is guaranteed to sound like Clint, "the United States will never allow its military supremacy to be challenged the way it was during the cold war." Please! Gary Cooper would never talk like this.

I think of the great political capital he had after 9-11 was in terms of leadership. What we want in a leader is someone who'll take the hard path, show integrity and courage in the face of crisis. By any stretch of the imagination, I don't see any redeeming quality in George W. being Clint other than bad posturing-"I'll kill your wife and burn your house." There's not even any political capital to be gained. Unless, the "war-Iraq" talk is a ploy to keep the country thinking war and not other issues. The conventional wisdom is that war talk helps the Republicans. This would make George W. less a leader and more a politician.

I doubt seriously if Congress is going to give Clint a "go for it" first strike as a military strategy. Maybe he's counting on terrorism being the silver bullet. The Clint persona simply doesn't play well and makes even less sense. And, let us not forget timing. This appears to be the worst possible time to introduce something like take out Saddam or Regime change or whatever they are calling it today.

We're still attempting to get our act together from 9-11. Homeland Security is an allusion. Our military is stretched incredibly thin around the world. Financial markets are a mess. And, Clint wants to wage a war where the experts can't agree on what the villain has or doesn't have. Chill Clint and let's do some Gary!

Kelly Thomas

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