IN A classical American western, the difference is as glaring as the midday sun in Colorado: there are Good Guys and Bad Guys. The good ones are the settlers, who are making the prairie bloom. The bad ones are the Indians, who are blood-thirsty savages. The ultimate hero is the cowboy, tough, humane, with a big revolver or two, ready to defend himself at all times.
George Bush, who grew up on this myth, sticks to it even now, when he is the leader of the world's only superpower. This week he presented the world with an up-to-date western.
In this western - or, rather, middle eastern - there are also Good Guys and Bad Guys. The good ones are the "moderates", who are the allies of the US in the Middle East - Israel, Mahmoud Abbas and the pro-American Arab regimes. The bad ones are Hamas, Hizbullah, Iran, Syria and al-Qaeda.
It is a simple script. So simple, indeed, that an 8-year-old can understand it. The conclusions are also simple: the good guys have to be supported, the bad guys have to bite the dust. At the end, the hero - George himself - will ride off into the sunset on his noble steed, while the music reaches a crescendo.
THE CLASSICAL western, of course, does not show us the heroic pioneers stealing the land from the Indians. Or the United States Cavalry attacking the camps of the Indians, burning down the tents and killing their inhabitants, men, women and children. How the US government, after signing formal treaties with the Indian nations, breaks them one after another. And how it drives the remnants into desolate regions, long before the term "ethnic cleansing" was first used.
Denial runs through the classical western like a purple thread, as it does through this speech of Bush's. This finds its main expression in a simple fact: the occupation is hardly mentioned at all.
In the Palestinian community, for example, there is a struggle between the "moderates" and the "extremists". The extremists are killers. Why are they killers? There is no why. They are killers because they are killers. It's in their nature. They were just born that way. The moderates are moderates because they are moderates. Some people are just born good.