Hunting with George


I was ten years old in a red plaid jacket and a blaze orange hat, it was deer season in New Hampshire, and some goddamned fool from New York fired a .30/30 round at me with his brand new lever-action Marlin 336. The bullet punched a hole in a birch tree ten yards behind me. It was the first time I ever called an adult man a stupid motherfucker, and the last time I got away with it. I asked him, “Do I look like a deer?” and he said, “No, but you moved, so I pulled the trigger.” George W. Bush Jr. is about to make a similar mistake.

Looking back on the incident, I understand what my hunter meant (this does not imply that I sympathize). He was free from domestic concerns, stalking around with a gun for the express purpose of killing something, totally focused on his mission, ‘blood crazy’ as we called it. All day he wandered in the snow and trees. He saw a deer, shot, missed. Saw another deer, shot, missed. Damn things are hard to hit. He saw something easier to shoot, and he shot at it. There was no hesitation, no recognition that the thing in his crosshairs was a garishly dressed juvenile biped. If he hadn’t been a piss-poor shot, my head would probably be hanging on his rec room wall, complete with blaze orange hat.

George W. Bush Jr. is slipping into the same trance-like state my would-be hunter experienced, prompting the following tortuously extended analogy. Bush is avoiding domestic concerns, for one thing. And just like my hunter, Bush spent a long time hunting something else ?Osama Bin Laden- and missed his shot. Bush believes his Daddy missed too, a while back, and that it ended his Presidency; Junior doesn’t understand the complex issues that prompted Senior’s catch-and-release during the Gulf War, or that it was neglected domestic concerns that finally brought Daddy down. Junior has found something else to aim at, an easy target- the one Daddy missed! Just like my hunter, he can’t come up with a good excuse for firing the shot. Just like my hunter, he’s going to squeeze the trigger anyway. Bush is blood crazy, and after the killing is over, when people ask him why the war happened, he’ll shrug and say, “Saddam moved, so I pulled the trigger”. Better to shoot something than nothing at all.

But the United States isn’t a lone hunter (yes it is, but forget I said that). America needs facts to base its military actions upon, undeniable proof that the target has antlers.

First fact:

Saddam Hussein is a bad man. Everybody says so. Dick “Vice President” Cheney deeply regrets doing $73 million worth of business with him, and for Cheney to regret doing business with anyone, the guy has to be appalling. He regrets it so much he denies the business ever happened, which is another kind of tunnel vision, called “prevarication”. Other dead giveaways are Saddam’s dictator moustache and the way everybody in Iraq except him is oppressed.

Second fact:

At one time, Iraq possessed biological and nuclear weapons capabilities. We know this because we sold him the materials. These were not for use in animal husbandry projects, as Saddam suggested at the time, but for exterminating Iranians, Kurds and other persons who didn’t send him a card on his birthday. All of these weapons capabilities were dismantled and destroyed the last time we had a war with Iraq (Operation Desert Storm) with painstaking follow-up inspections (Operation Scott Ritter). My dentist should be so thorough, because I still get that ache in my back molar when I eat tinfoil.

That’s it! There are no more facts. That is to say, there are lots more facts ( the largest organism on earth is a specimen of Armillaria ostoyae, or honey mushroom, which covers 2,200 acres of land in eastern Oregon) but none concerning Iraq as a war-worthy threat, and it would be a shame to kill all those Iraqis again without at least three facts to justify doing so (a trifecta), especially as they so obviously didn’t enjoy getting slaughtered the first time. There are plenty of conjectural reasons to attack, like if somebody gave Saddam a nuclear weapon he would then have one, or if he invaded Kuwait he could get a nice place on the Gulf with southern exposure. But these are not facts, they’re possibilities. Most Americans are willing to support the war if there’s a good reason for it and no draft. So far, that reason hasn’t materialized- although bet you me they do have a tidy conscription program all worked out, in the same locked drawer they kept the USA Patriot Act in before 9/11. We have Iraq in our gunsights, our finger is on the trigger, and we don’t know why. Maybe that nigh-fatal afternoon in the woods changed my heart. I know it sure changed my underwear. But I insist on a damn good reason before we take the shot.

If we go to war with these people, understand our purpose is to kill them, at least the ones who don’t stay indoors and read a book or do crafts while our tanks roll past their hovels. And if we can’t convincingly identify why we’re doing it, as my hunter couldn’t, golly! that would make us a nation of murdering thugs. Just the sort of thing shooting me would have made that hunter. Not that Iraq is the same thing as a 10-year-old kid. I was a pain in the ass, but not as bad as Saddam. Still, evil as he may be, he’s not a threat to us– any more than I was a threat to deer hunters. Saddam might be a threat at some point in the future, and he might have been a threat in the past, but these are just excuses for slaughtering his people now. Excuses are not facts. War is a serious business, and requires a pretty sturdy rationale if you don’t want to end up compared to Hitler by all those liberal academics of the future.

If that hunter who took a shot at me had only been a little quicker to explain himself, he might not have starred in an incoherent satirical essay a quarter-century later. But all he did was shoot; he had no explanation. His brain was off and his reflexes were on. George W. Bush is fixated on killing Saddam Hussein with such absolute intent that he really is just like that hunter. And God forbid Bush should squeeze the trigger and miss Saddam Hussein. Because if he does, he’ll go after someone else. If George W. was the hunter on that snowy day in my misspent youth, he might have missed the deer, and he might have missed me.

But unlike my hunter, who saw the error of his ways and went straight home, Bush will damn sure keep shooting until somebody is dead.

BEN TRIPP is a screenwriter. He can be reached at: credel@earthlink.net

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