Our cowboy riding point
The "Old Europe" of Don Rumsfeld and writers for papers like the New York Times share their epithet for President Bush?.."cowboy". There is a striking cultural gap which separates the French, the Germans and their liberal U.S. media sympathizers, from the U.S. West, from President Bush and from those of us who grew up loving the tradition of western cowboys.
Published on LatinoLA: January 26, 2003
Those elitists, all caught up in their disdain for disarming Iraq ala Bush, would never understand how so many Americans grew up with Tom Mix and Buck Jones, and Gary Cooper, or later, Alan Ladd, Henry Fonda, Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne, and don't forget the multicultural Magnificent Seven. They were all "cowboys" but we admired them and always cheered for them. We saw them as brave, unselfish, unstinting heroes, risking their very lives for the powerless farmers and the frightened women and children.
My father, born in a village near Chihuahua, Mexico, taught me about the noble vaqueros; this is what they called cowboys on the other side of the Rio Grande. To him, they were the antithesis of the elites or the wealthy, despotic haciendados. He knew some of those vaqueros who joined Dorot?o Arango, known to others as Pancho Villa,?.in what they believed was a noble search for rights and justice. Like the American cowboys, vaqueros were also portrayed in Mexican films??.brave, handsome, risking all for the downtrodden and powerless.
My father would have really liked President Bush. Angel Oaxaca was old school Mexican; he hated cowardice, wimpiness and ingratitude. He admired those who, like the vaqueros, spoke plainly and would not accept injustice, would take risks to help the helpless and had integrity and principles. He described politicos (in more colorful Spanish) as corrupt and totally unreliable scum.
So what if I hear about our President being described as a "cowboy" by some arrogant writer for Le Monde or Figaro or in a column in the Frankfurter Zeitung or Der Speigel? Predisposed by my father, it only ticks me off; in fact, it ticks off a lot of Americans. It reminds me of two years of my life I unwillingly donated as a drafted child soldier 57 years ago when we operated under the rules that the Germans were the bad guys and the French were "allies"?.if they weren?t "collaborators". That was the "old Europe" that tens of thousands of Americans sacrificed their life for in WWII; to save the French derriere from the Teutonic generation directed, at the end, from a Berlin bunker.
Now, in 2003, another German from a later generation, Gerhard Schroeder, shows the same ingratitude as the French, not just for past American generosity, but for the leadership and willingness to risk of George W. Bush and a nation and its youth in uniform, ready to fight for freedom, peace and security. The "cowboys" of 1945, instead of behaving like the Russians did towards East Germany and the Stalin-conquered Eastern European nations, proceeded to rebuild Germany. The predecessor of George W. Bush, President Harry Truman, picked up the ex-Nazis off the floor, dusted them off with the re-constructive Marshall Plan and allowed a defeated Germany to again become a leading European power.
Now, let us go even further back in time. When a cattle drive was on, in the old west of the mid-1800's, the lowing herds were led and bounded by cowboys, on the flanks , in the rear and on the leading edge, on the "point". Somewhat ahead of the animals and their human drivers, it fell to one or two cowboys to "ride point". The chore of riding point was to scout the ride ahead, find water and the next stopping site and be ready to warn their companions of any dangers ahead. In those same times, when the U.S. Cavalry was on patrol on the plains or the western ranges, a detachment was assigned to "riding point." Their task was to scout ahead for danger and "hostiles", to find and recommend the next night?s camp and, generally, to help assure the safety of the main body.
These days, President George W. Bush is riding point for the West; for the United States and, whether they agree or not, for old and new Europe, and for the Middle East, as he leads the confrontation with Saddam Hussein. He has shoved the United Nations and the American malcontents towards a painfully slow recognition of the danger that Iraq and Saddam represent to stability in the Middle East, to the oil supply for the West and for peace in the world. And, almost in strange denial, these unimaginative nay-sayers choose not to respond seriously to the President?s warnings and his solid support from the majority of Americans. They elect to depend on the work of a hundred or so "weapons inspectors" searching thousands of square miles for deadly weapons......instead of believing common-sense intelligence data and first-hand information from Iraqi defectors now free from the Butcher of Bagdhad.
In the context of the old west, Mr. Bush is indeed a "vaquero". The elites of hoary and liberal U.S. media and their co-conspirators, the envious and increasingly irrelevant leaders of old Europe, are correct in calling the President a "cowboy". But they must recognize that we are at war, in a relentless search and destroy mission against terrorists; our "cowboy" is in uniform. And the war on terrorists includes Iraq.
He is riding point for the cavalry that will disarm Iraq. He will continue on his task, undeterred by polls or media attacks or peaceniks in the street??because he knows the cause is credible and just and the rest of the troops will all in the end follow his lead.
The loudest temporary dropouts, France and Germany, sweating out revelation of their current and past trading with Iraq, will eventually ask for a return to relevance in the mission. Their carping about the U.S. "unilateralism" is already lame and getting lamer. The NATO support for the Iraq mission is now 15-4 for the Bush initiative. Only the tiny postage stamp nations of Belgium and Luxembourg have joined the two malcontents, France and Deutschland;?..that is the "4" in the NATO score!
The U.S.-led cowboys, not at all "alone", include Great Britain, Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Australia, the new NATO countries of Poland, Bulgaria, Latvia, Esthonia, Lithuania, Israel and more "in" than out, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Yemen, Egypt and the Emirates. Even Russia, surely concerned about $8 billion owed to it by Iraq, is teetering and China waffles as it wrestles with the North Korean mess.
So, not to worry. We can now see the chief vaquero, riding point, getting impatient with the faint-hearted, ?..even as the lights of Baghdad come in sight. The rest of the crew is on the way, getting organized, getting ready. The guns are loaded, there?s plenty of ammo in the wagons?..but there?s still time to turn the whole drive around. But there?s got to be a damned good reason??and, unlike now, everybody?s got to be on board.
So for now, grease the wagon wheels and.....head ?em out!
Fernando Oaxaca can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org