Volume 94, Issue 76
Wednesday, February 7, 2001
Gulf War: A walk in the desert spoiled
There isn't quite anything that compares to a war for a government that wants its people to pay attention to something other than domestic policy. It stimulates the economy and often a savage nationalism that can swell an otherwise idle appetite for slitting throats.
This is what happened roughly 10 years ago, when then US President George Bush was faced with an economy racked with recession. In order to keep the American people's hearts and minds off the troubles at home, he dispatched an international army to Iraq and sent the clumsy armies of glorified school bully, Saddam Hussein reeling.
Even in this sobered, Calvinist and politically correct age, people huddled around their TV sets, like Romans in the coliseum, drooling for even the faintest hint of human blood.
The war was completely televised and yet despite the fact our soldiers laid waste to Iraq's cities, infrastructure, industries and worst of all, civilians; no one saw a single cadaver. The spin-doctors in Washington had learned their lesson from the Vietnam War; having journalists on the battlefield, providing raw coverage of organized slaughter is politically stupid.
As a result, it gave us a sense that what we were doing was right. As if we were sending our soldiers on some kind of glorious crusade against a despot whose thirst for power knew no bounds. Whether we were right or not, the Gulf War characterized a high water mark in popular bloodlust that hadn't crested to such extremes since the opening days the First World War.
With the George W. Bush presidency just beginning, it's already apparent that there could be tough economic times ahead for North Americans. Worse still, that clown Saddam is breaking his United Nations imposed isolation. Plus, there are rumours of a new Iraqi weapons program.
There could be another war in the Gulf within a decade. It would be politically expedient for Dubya to cash-in on his father's legacy and declare war on Iraq if things at home get too tough. After all, his father experienced the highest political popularity in the history of the US during the Gulf War.
If Dubya's popularity ever begins to sink, he can count on the fact that Americans love a good war, especially one where they never see any bodies.
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