Thursday, January 06, 2011

Iraq: Idiots to the Right of Me, Idiots to the Left

By Nicholas Stix

(Previously: “What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?”)

Following up on the Left’s claim, at least since we went into Iraq, that the war there, and indeed, our entire Mideast politics is all for the sake of oil—which perfectly explains America’s support of Israel, the only country in the region without oil—in 2006, blogger Chris Reed called George Clooney “the smuggest man alive.” As liberal Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen wrote in 2005, in response to the propaganda movie Clooney starred in and politically promoted, Syriana,

You will not be surprised to learn that the locus for all this “oil, terrorism, money and power” is the United States, which is up to no good. With the exception of the Clooney character, everyone is corrupt, including, of course, the CIA. The agency not only sets up one of its own, Clooney, but it assassinates a perfectly nice Middle Eastern potentate to ensure that his oil remains in friendly hands. This sort of thing is distinctly against the law, a true career-ender at the CIA and elsewhere, but never mind. A movie does not have to stick to the facts.

Still, if it is going to say anything, then it ought to say something smart and timely. But, the cynicism of “Syriana” is out of time and place, a homage to John le Carre, who himself is dated. To read George Packer’s “The Assassin’s Gate” is to be reminded that the Iraq war is not the product of oil avarice, or CIA evil, but of a surfeit of altruism, a naive compulsion to do good. That entire collection of neo- and retro-conservatives -- George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and particularly Paul Wolfowitz -- made war not for oil or for empire but to end the horror of Saddam Hussein and, yes, reorder the Middle East.

They were inept. They were duplicitous. They were awesomely incompetent, and, in the case of Bush, they were monumentally ignorant and incurious, but they did not give a damn for oil or empire. This is why so many liberals, myself included, originally supported the war. It engaged us emotionally. It seemed . . . well, right -- a just cause.

It would be nice if Hollywood understood that. It would be nice if those who agree with Hollywood -- who think, as Gaghan does, that this is a brave, speaking-truth-to-power movie when it’s really just an outdated cliche -- could release their fervid grip on old-left bromides about Big Oil, Big Business, Big Government and the inherent evil of George Bush, and come up with something new and relevant. I say that because something new and relevant is desperately needed. Neoconservatism crashed and burned in Iraq, but liberalism never even showed up. The left’s criticism of the war from the very start was too often a porridge of inanities about oil or empire or Halliburton -- or isolationism by another name. It was childish and ultimately ineffective. The war came and Bush was reelected. How’s that for a clean whiff?

[“Hollywood’s Crude Cliches,” by Richard Cohen, Washington Post, December 13, 2005.]

But don’t hold your breath waiting for George Clooney to apologize.

A tip ‘o the hat to Chris Reed.

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