Is George Bush Like Gary Cooper in "High Noon"?
Mr. Toplin is a professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and a writer for the History News Service. His latest book is: Reel History.In speeches about the urgency of attacking Iraq, President Bush has described the challenges America faces in the manner of an old-fashioned Western. His scenarios resemble the plot of one of the greatest of the genre, "High Noon." Bush may be drawing lessons from the wrong Hollywood flick, though, for American experiences in the Middle East are beginning to resemble the script of a Spaghetti Western.
In the 1952 saga "High Noon," a villain and his henchmen threaten the safety of a western community, whose cowardly citizens cringe in the face of danger. Sheriff Gary Cooper, alone, stands up to fight. When Cooper dispatches the desperadoes, the nervous townspeople give a sigh of relief, but Cooper throws down his badge in contempt for those who were afraid to deal with evil.
Bush supporters would like to view him as Gary Cooper confronting a world indifferent to Saddam Hussein's malevolence, but what Bush's critics are saying suggests that his war scenario could make him look like Clint Eastwood. In "A Fistful of Dollars" (1964) and other made-in-Italy Spaghetti Westerns, Clint Eastwood had few friends and many enemies. The cynical cowboy lived in an ultra-violent society populated by warring gangs. To survive in this tough environment, Eastwood needed to be as brutal as the desperadoes he confronted.
No moral certitude like that of "High Noon" informed the typical Spaghetti Western. There was so much murder and mayhem in the films that the traditional Hollywood Western clashes between good and evil, hero and villain, and civilization and barbarism vanished.
The encounters of the United States in the Middle East have played out, at various times, according to both scenarios. America's intrusion in Lebanon is a case in point. In 1958 President Eisenhower sent marines and warships to the Mediterranean country to help end a civil war there. Within a few months, he was successful. Like Gary Cooper in "High Noon," Ike succeeded in promoting law and order.
In recent years American interventions in the region have looked more like the script of "A Fistful of Dollars." In 1983, when President Reagan sent marines into Lebanon to save it from destructive fighting, American soldiers became the targets of warring parties; 241 Marines died in a terrorist bombing, and Reagan quickly pulled out U.S. military forces.
Worse for American popularity, there has been a role reversal. Many in the region now view Osama Bin Laden as a folk hero and view the shameful attacks of Sept. 11 as courageous. Public reactions are especially surprising in Kuwait, the country U.S. forces help to liberate in the Persian Gulf War. Anti-American sentiments are growing there, too.
The current promoters of war against Saddam Hussein's brutal tyranny in Iraq speak as if American military action will take the form of a "High Noon" morality play. Iraqis will welcome liberation, they say, and members of the world community, like the cringing citizens in "High Noon," will celebrate once they see that the action is successful.
Opponents of the use of force point out that military intervention could produce unintended consequences. The United States could find itself in a troublesome mess that resembles the moral chaos in a Clint Eastwood picture. People of the Middle East may not welcome the Americans as saviors, they warn.
War would excite mass protests, and some moderate regimes in the Middle East might fall into the hands of extremists. American military action could excite radical Islamic groups to participate in a jihad against the United States, intensifying the danger of international terrorism.
No one knows with certainty which movie scenario will hold true if the United States attacks Iraq. Those who favor war hope that events will unfold like the script of "High Noon," with the forces of moral rectitude bringing security and progress to an appreciative Iraqi and world community. In moments of doubt, however, they wonder if they may be entering the setting of an ultra-violent Spaghetti Western that places them among few friends and many enemies.
A quick victory in war would be likely to leave the impression of a "High Noon" experience. It might take a little time to see the relevance of "A Fistful of Dollars."
This piece was distributed for non-exclusive use by the History News Service, an informal syndicate of professional historians who seek to improve the public's understanding of current events by setting these events in their historical contexts. The article may be republished as long as both the author and the History News Service are clearly credited.
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john Wilcox - 7/19/2004
In the world created by Kissinger, we are accustomed to cynical and unethical geoolitics. This is just a continuation Dubya also sees himself as Terry Molloy, calling out John Friendly on the west side Waterfront
Neil - 3/2/2003
You didn't answer the question, that really matters, about Ambassador April Glaspie. She told Iraq that the US had a hands-off attitude about their disputes. It wasn't prudent for her to say that, and that isn't about overreaching as a global policeman - we should promote responsible actions when we can, especially with statements from our ambassadors.
hans shapiro - 2/27/2003
Bernie Ward, talk show host at KGO in San Francisco,
commented recently on his show that April Glaspie died in an
automobile accident. No details given.
jammer - 2/12/2003
I agree with you on the part about other countries having nukes. It's hard to admit, but I feel a lot more safe with usa having nukes, compared to Iraq or North Korea.
This is of course because I belong to the western world, and see usa as my "friends". But isn't it only fair that we should be opposed to the other countries having nukes? After all, the Iraqies are not afraid to express their feelings about the western world..
Audun Forgard - 1/6/2003
I don`t know, I guess it`s okay to get rid of Saddam and his wmd`s but, why only him? Brazil has got Nukes, Israel has got nukes, North Korea is producing, shit, anyone with a stable economy, or sometimes even an unstable economy can put those fuckers together, itain`t rocket science.
However I feel I have to object to mr. Bush (and I use the term mr. very loosely), I have to object on his take. It`s like he can`t open his mouth without lying. Terror can`t be fought with massacre, just ask Sharon, that`s how it goes. In Afghanistan there are already a civil bodycount on over 5000 peeps dead, that`s more than the wtc. The Saudis are able to go scot free even though they are very easy to link up to this well organized disaster.
I just wish Bush would come clean and admit that he`d welcome Iraq as the 52 (is it 52?) state of the US because he likes to accelerate the greenhouse effect by making sure that the world consumes ever more oil, and tipping that balance.
Why does he have to lie about everything?
Why don`t he ever answer any questions?
Why does he seek to solve all the worlds troubles with the gun (texan disease?)
Shit, I aint getting paid for this, but the f-16 pilot who dropped a 500 pound bomb on a desolate school on the Pakistan border does...
He should spend more time on making it easier for us to get by, which he`s no doing in any way now.
He is however also accelerating the time for the expected US collapes which will see the big nation succumb to a feudal society, run by old fat oil barons (untill oil gets obsolete, within 60 years or so), defended not by the national guard or army, but those small blossoming security firms.
Good luck with coping with the war!
Hardcore Loves from:
Audun Forgard - 1/6/2003
It seems like she`s working for the UN in SA:
N.T. Beckett - 1/5/2003
Last I heard of her she was, as of 1999, Consul General in Cape Town, South Africa. I can only assume she is protected by civil service, as a meritocratic, results-oriented evaluation of her performance would have ended any career diplomatically representing the United States in any capacity whatsoever.
If one reads the full transcript of her exchange with Hussein, it truly leaves some questions that have yet to be adequately answered (and perhaps never will be). The comments by Tariq Aziz do not absolve or explain her explicit communication that the U.S. had no interest or intention to interfere with Iraq's "border dispute" with Kuwait. Obviously that statement by the Ambassador to Iraq was not just mistaken, but dramatically false. 10 years later it remains inadequately examined.
Sally D. Oliker - 1/5/2003
I found the articles on April Glaspie informative and interesting although I had not been unaware of the events in Iraq prior to the Gulf War.
I am interested to know if April Glaspie is in politics at the present time and what she is doing now after having "taken the heat" for the misleading and contradictory actions of the U.S.
There is no ulterior motive to my question. I just am curious about the fallout of a situation that seems not to have been her fault.
Sally D. Oliker
ben wetmore - 12/11/2002
the problem with this site is no scholar can take it seriously.
here is a vindication for Glaspie
please, folks, think before you type:
November 27, 1992, Friday, FINAL EDITION
SECTION: NEWS; Pg. 2A
LENGTH: 196 words
HEADLINE: Iraq had no 'illusions'
BYLINE: Lee Michael Katz
DATELINE: NEW YORK
Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz says neither he nor Saddam Hussein thought U.S. Ambassador April Glaspie gave Iraq a green light to invade Kuwait in a notorious July 1990 meeting.
''We didn't have any false illusion about the position of the United States. We knew the United States would have a strong reaction against that,'' Aziz said in a 90-minute interview.
''So we didn't have any false expectations the United States would sit and watch'' the invasion, Aziz says. ''At that stage we knew that it would lead to a conflict. And later on, when they sent troops, we knew it would lead to a war.''
Glaspie's famous quote to Saddam and Aziz days before Iraq invaded Kuwait, that ''we take no position on these Arab affairs,'' has long been cited by Bush administration critics as evidence the United States acquiesced to Saddam's invasion. During the election campaign, Bill Clinton charged that President Bush ''coddled'' Iraq prior to the invasion.
Glaspie ''didn't carry any message. She just listened and made general comments,'' Aziz says, noting that ''to be fair, she acted in a professional manner.''
Glaspie could not be reached for comment.
Edward Teague - 12/6/2002
Saddam invaded Kuwait because (1) he was allowed to , i.e not stopped by US. Probably mildly encouraged by Apil Glaspie, who "couldn't ghet in touch with the State Department - source UK Ambassador Harry Walker now SIR H Walker BBC in last few weeks).
(2)Territorial aggrandisement. Iraq was pout together by UK / French interest long before oil wealth was understood. Naturally making claims over opil fields.
(3) Kuwaitis trying to collect on loanbs that SH didn't want to pay back.
(4) Testing the resolve of the US alliance. First they kicked him out and then they kicked the shit out of his troops and then left him alone and told him to keep on pumping the oil.
Now george has to kick ass again.
That's my take on it from my armchair.
Alec Lloyd - 11/7/2002
The logical gymnatics Mr. Kellum has performed in that post are breathtaking. Let me see if I can follow his train of thought.
Iraq apparently was justified in invading Kuwait because Kuwait was slant-drilling into his oil fields. Thus, if the ruler of the nation is a despot, “blood for oil” IS an acceptable justification for war.
The US was culpable for the invasion because it did NOT warn off Saddam with sufficient vim and vigor. Thus, because we were not an angry enough international policeman BEFORE the crime, we forfeit our moral authority to fix it after the fact.
Mr. Kellum then verges into Black Helicopter territory with vague and strange notions that Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney were smuggling bio-agents into Iraq during the 1980s. Did this do this before or after George HW Bush flew to Iran in an SR-71? And were they working for the Trilateral Commission or the New Illuminati?
Mr. Kellum then concludes by insinuating that because the US buys Iraqi oil (through the UN-sponsored Oil for Food program) we are also morally tainted. I’m not sure if Mr. Kellum is advocating dropping all sanctions or strengthening them into a total blockade and starving the Iraqis into submission.
He also brings up the fabled “world opposition” to military action against Saddam, but ignores the fact that French and Russian opposition is largely based on THEIR trading relations with Iraq, not ours. Indeed, if anyone built the Iraqi army, it was Russia (which would explain why their tanks are T-62s rather than M-60s, their jets are French, etc.).
As I’ve noted before, is it not strange that France and Russia are given a pass for crassly choosing national interest over global security? For some reason, their decision not to support military action against a despot is laudable even though it is because they want to collect on all the guns that they sold him. That sounds precisely like what Mr. Kellum is accusing the US of (unbridled greed). Do clarify how the Franco-Russian blood-money cabal is morally superior to our own desire to rid the world of a despicable tyrant?
Or, to put it differently, why is it moral to keep a proven tyrant in power so you can sell him more weaponry rather than remove him and alleviate the sufferings of an oppressed people?
Bill Heuisler - 11/2/2002
Among your litany of insult and inuendo you have nearly stumbled into the truth. April Glaspie took the heat; she was following misguided Arabist nonsense in the name of Sec. of State, Baker.
On July 31st (two days before the Iraqi invasion) John Kelly, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern affairs, testified to Congress: "United States has no commitment to defend Kuwait and the U.S. has no intention of defending Kuwait if it is attacked by Iraq."
HW Bush was wrong. Baker was wrong. They thought Saddam only wanted Khwawr Abd Allah and the island of Bubiyan so he would have a defendable base for his navy.
The facts above are not an argument against the US enforcing the Gulf War cease-fire agreement. Saddam entered into an agreement with the US and the UN to save his miserable life. He has broken that agreement. Like it or not, we are at war now.
So, you ask, now what? Now we act in the national interest and kill a nasty butcher we should have never helped. Life's a bitch.
Insulting W, Rumsfeld, Chaney, etc makes no point and wins no arguments. In fact, sloppy insults usually weaken discourse.
Tom Kellum - 11/2/2002
Would an objective "arm-chair" historian please give their understanding of why Saddam Hussein "invaded" Kuwait?
Wasn't there something about those alleged pedophiles (excuse me, Emirs) stealing oil from the Rumallah field via slant-drilling, and selling it at reduced prices that depressed Saddam's wherewithal to continue purchasing goods being promoted by Cheney, Rumsfeld et al.? I thought there was something about SH trying for months to get the Emirs to desist and pay up.
Which brings me to the question about our Ambassador (who has seemingly gone into permanent retirement) having a meeting with the SH and telling him "We have no opinion regarding your border dispute with Kuwait ---wink, wink." Would an objective person who knows something about all this please comment.
N.B. Do the supporters of starting another war on Iraq place SH at the top of the list of "bad" people, or just somewhere on the list? Why doesn't the rest of the civilized world "get it" if SH is so evil? Why didn't Viagra Bob, Cheney (whose firm continued doing business with SH all these years), and Rumsfeld, have enough sense to realize S's evil when they were providing him with all those biological/chemical agents? And, isn't it true that U.S. oil companies are still buying Iraqui oil to this day?
Al Czervikjr - 11/2/2002
>>To arm-chair half-educated historians who think the Contras >>were freedom fighters....
>>3. Get a real job
I suggest that you review the recent history of elections in Nicaragua before you post comments...it may save you from unneccesary embarassment.
As for us "arm-chair half-educated historians" (shouldn't it be half-educated armchair historians?), most of us are probably none of the above. As such, we do not need to get "real jobs" because we already have them.
Bill Heuisler - 11/1/2002
Dear Mr. Cruz,
Your words chagrin and chastize; their depth and insight have surely humbled all who read them. Me? After the tears, my first thought was flight. A monastery? Reenlist in the Corps? But would they accept a recruit so horribly disfigured? What to do?
Anyway, you can certainly color this jobless, arm-chair, half-educated patient grateful.
And, in addition, thank you also for parenthetically explaining how "blatantly propagandistic ahistorical claims" were otherwise known as Big Lies. Profundity, thy name is ABC.
Alec Lloyd - 11/1/2002
The irony of Mr. Cruz’s posting is not lost on me. He starts by telling me I have my head up my…and then lectures me on civility.
No, Mr. Cruz, I don’t think JFK was a terrorist and yes, the Contras were freedom fighters. They are part of the reason Nicaragua was able to hold fair free and open elections (supervised by none other than James Carter, who could scarcely disguise his disappointment at the Sandanista defeat. But I digress).
There is considerable evidence that al-Qaeda and Iraq have been coordinating their actions. It’s the old “enemy of my enemy is my friend” thing at work. For those who insist that religious scruple prevents such a collaboration, I will merely point out that in the Middle East, all things are negotiable. This is why Hamas and Hezbullah, ostensibly violently opposed due to the Sunni Shi’ite split, aren’t above working together if it bolsters the common cause of attacking Israel.
So it is with Iraq. Saddam clearly fears Islamic fundamentalism, but isn’t above building mosques and introducing Islamic themes in his propaganda to shore up his own support. Like all tyrants, his ideology is a servant of his thirst for power, not vice-versa. Just as Stalin railed against Nazis, then allied with them, then railed against them, so one should not be surprised to see Wahabbis, Shi’ites and Sunnis working together against the infidel West.
The rest of your points are confusing and contradictory, and thus I find it diffcult to discuss them.
For example, no one has suggested a merging of various states, though again, al-Qaeda will take help from where it can get it. Saddam’s enemy is the West, personified by the US. Al-Qaeda is doing his work for him. Aiding them makes perfect sense, particularly when he can count on people like Mr. Cruz to oppose any and all punitive efforts, apparently against either al-Qaeda OR him.
Furthermore, Mr. Cruz’s assertion that Rumsfeld and Cheney built Iraq is comical at best. What, WE started the Iran-Iraq war? Did we start everything else? What war DIDN’T the US instigate? Mr. Cruz, you sound almost paranoid. Please rethink this argument.
Indeed, even if it were true, would that not place a GREATER moral burden on the US to right its past wrong? Mr. Cruz seems to be hauling out the rogue cop fallacy, which is to say that since we issued the policeman a gun, we have no right to prosecute him if he murders someone with it.
In sum, Mr. Cruz has provided an excellent example of the typical anti-everything poster: he has no plan, no alternative policy but rather blames the US for the actions of others. In addition, he changes the subject no less than twice and throws personal insults into the mix.
Thank you for your example.
Frank Lee - 10/31/2002
Except that Gary Cooper was a better actor, a lot of people liked him, nobody was forced to sit in the cinema against their will, and nobody died due to reckless international blundering during the filming.
Alan B. Cruz - 10/31/2002
Diagnosis: Heuisler-Lloyd syndrome, a form of rectal-cranial inversion characterized by arrogance and reckless disregard for historical reality.
Symptoms: Blatantly propagandistic ahistorical claims (aka Big Lies) such as
1. “1993...marked the emergence of al-Qaeda, rather than Iraq. Since that time, the two threats have merged”
2. “Most of us know Iraq has been at war with the world since they invaded Kuwait”
If you believe ridiculous claim 1, then the Gulf War was a complete sham, because Saddam has taken over or “merged with” Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Afghanistan where Al Qaeda recruited, got funding, and trained.
To arm-chair half-educated historians who think the Contras were freedom fighters and JFK was a terrorist, absurd assertion 2 might sound okay. The one million Iraqis and Iranians who died while Rumsfeld , Cheney, et al were cozying up to Saddam might have a different perspective.
1. Take a course in Civility for Kindergartners
2. Look up words “history” and “propaganda” in the dictionary. Note difference.
3. Get a real job
Alec Lloyd - 10/31/2002
I chose 1993 because it marked the emergence of al-Qaeda, rather than Iraq. Since that time, the two threats have merged (being excellent allies of convenience) but that is why I chose that particular date.
derekcatsam - 10/31/2002
I love how Mr. Llloyd somehow dates the date of the conflict with Iraq to 1993 -- the Clinton administration -- and not to 1990-1991 and the Bush administration.
I'm agnostic on the conflict with Iraq right now -- I certainly think that there is A case to be made for doing something about Hussein, who is a nasty evil man, but this administration is certainly not doing a great job of making it. I do abhor the utter moral righteousness of those on both sides of the equation. I have a very good friend in a pretty solid position at State, and as he tells me, anyone who claims to know unequivocally what is right and what os wrong for American policy vis a vis Iraq simply does not know what they are talking about.
Alec Lloyd - 10/31/2002
Once again, Mr. Moner is trying to confuse the issue.
US aircraft are engaged in patrolling no fly zones the Iraqi regime agreed to as a condition of the cease-fire. Apparently these flagrant violations don’t count because American aircraft are skilled at evasion.
Diplomacy is a wonderful idea and can often bring great results, *assuming both sides are willing to abide by it. Iraq has broken every promise it has made. For some reason, Mr. Moner believes US foreign policy should be based on the Charlie Brown template: no matter how many times Lucy pulls the football away, we still have an obligation to run at it.
I believe Mr. Moner has no mental illness, rather a flat learning curve. Logic tells us that a person who has behaved a certain way for 20 years is likely to continue to behave the same way for the next 20. I’m not sure if Mr. Moner is an utter cynic, reciting stale platitudes simply for propaganda value and because he holds a visceral hatred of George W. Bush/Republicans/the US military or he really does believe that one morning Saddam Hussein is going to wake up and decide that he wants to be the Care Bear of the Middle East, full of love, hugs and happiness.
Saddam has bankrupted and starved his people to develop weapons of mass destruction. Yet Mr. Moner is certain he would never use them. This is anti-logical. Why go through all that trouble for something you can’t use? Deterrence, we are told, will restrain him. Yet this conflicts with the earlier proposition: why should he be logical about self-preservation when he was ILLOGICAL about resource allocation? Mr. Moner is projecting a rationality that isn’t there.
Finally, Mr. Moner is at a loss to understand how someone can love his family and home, yet be willing to fight to protect them. Mr. Moner simply cannot comprehend this: therefore he denies it. Basically, it is too complex a formulation for him. People in the military must, to his mind, be rabid killers eager to slaughter for God and the good ol’ US of A. They are one-dimensional George Patton wannabees.
The truth is that we see the danger and have made a rational decision: we are willing to risk OUR live to protect those of our families and neighbors—and incidentally Mr. Moner as well. Again, though Mr. Moner benefits from this transaction, he does not understand it. This is what limits his thought.
Bill Heuisler - 10/30/2002
Mr. Moner, don't despair, I'm here to help.
You evidently suffer cortical inflamation and infarcted synapses induced by hatred of W.
Prognosis: chronic choleric bluster descending to dementia.
Symptoms: There are many. Two will suffice.
1)You fearfully decry war. Most of us know Iraq has been at war with the world since they invaded Kuwait. See the UN resolution. There was a cease-fire agreement. The cease-fire agreement was broken by Iraq. Without the cease fire agreement we are at war.
2)In another post on the HNN you asked, "Why were there no Islamic fanatics 100 years ago?" First, look up "fanatic". Second, realize Islam has been a religion of deep fanaticism since its inception. Let's skim history from Hasan Sabbah and his Ismailian assassins to Mahdist massacres of Egyptians to the 1909 massacre of Armenians, the 1910 massacre of Albanians and skip to Sirhan Sirhan's assassination of RFK. Fanatics?
Recommendation: Buy two aspirins, a history book and a dictionary. Take the pills. Read the books.
Condolences, Bill Heuisler
Gus Moner - 10/29/2002
The ‘definition’, for war, as you call it, ("For the sake of peace and freedom, the US will lead a coalition of forces to disarm Iraq") was a direct quotation from a GW Bush campaign speech- not my definition.
Regarding your comment on war, have US planes been shot at as often as Iraq has been bombed? By choosing not to exhaust diplomacy, war is the only remaining option. Iraq has so far not been proven linked to 9/11. Where’s the connection to the “simmering war” you mention? If the truth is closer to war, what is the “truth”? It sounds like your keen to go to Bahrain, however I’ll choose my own film.
Alec Lloyd - 10/29/2002
Odd definition of peace you have there. Our planes have been shot at 400 times this year alone.
This isn’t a choice between war and peace. Who willingly chooses war? Given a choice between watching football and having a beer or getting called up and sent to Qatar, I definitely pick the football option, even if Notre Dame wins.
But that’s not the choice before us. The war has already begun, in fact it’s been simmering for years, we simply chose to ignore it. The first shots came in 1993 and it has never really stopped. It took 9/11 to finally get people’s attention.
As much as you’d like to present the issue in terms of war or peace, the truth is closer to war now, on more advantageous terms, or war later against a far stronger and more dangerous foe.
Of course, for those in denial there’s always “Barbarella” on home video.
Gus Moner - 10/29/2002
"For the sake of peace and freedom, the US will lead a coalition of forces to disarm Iraq." Make war for peace? We already have peace. So, if there has been a better example of a contradiction this October, please send it.