29 June 2007

Stuff Happens

Last night, we went to see a production of Stuff Happens, a play written by David Hare, at A Contemporary Theatre (ACT) in Seattle. The play, whose title refers to a comment made by then-US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in response to a reporter's question about looting and pillage in Baghdad, is concerned with the run-up to war in Iraq, and the actors portray the members of the Bush administration who were centrally involved in making the case for war: Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice, and George W. Bush, along with Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain. It's a powerful play, and the ACT production was superb, with strong, convincing performances from the entire cast.

Late in Act II, Bush summons his war council to a critical meeting in the Oval Office regarding the Tony Blair problem. Powell, fed up with the vice president's frequent sarcastic asides about Blair, breaks in on Cheney:
Powell: Come on, this is ridiculous. This isn't worthy of you, Dick.
Cheney: Not worthy? You want me to be serious?
Powell: I do.
Cheney: You want me to tell you what I really think?
Powell: Yes.
Cheney: All right. I'll tell you. Tony Blair? I've read his stuff. I've heard him talk. This is a man on a mission. This is a man with a history.
Powell: Sure.
Cheney: He knows what he wants: He wants to build some new world order out of the ruins of the World Trade Center. He wants the right to go into any country anywhere and bring relief from suffering and pain wherever he finds it. And I don't. What I want is to follow this country's legitimate security concerns. And, for me, those come above everything.
Rumsfeld: Me, too.
Cheney: Now: If those interests happen to coincide with some Englishman's fantasy of how he's one day going to introduce some universal penalty system -- three strikes and the UN says you can overthrow any regime you like -- then that's fine. If not, not, and we won't miss him.
Powell: That isn't fair. Blair's loyal. He's been loyal from the start.
Cheney: OK, I admit it, if we want him, Blair's good at the high moral tone. If you want to go into battle with a preacher sitting on top of the tank, that's fine by me. But bear in mind, the preacher's one more to carry. Needs rations, needs a latrine, just like everyone else.
Powell: I like Blair.
Cheney: Maybe you do. But we don't need him. And as of this moment, he's bringing us nothing but trouble. It's a good rule: When the cat shit gets bigger than the cat, get rid of the cat.
Rumsfeld: Nice.
Cheney: This guy is putting himself halfway between American power and international diplomacy. And sorry -- but that's a place where people get mashed.
If you have a chance to see the play, by all means go. It's provocative, it's enraging, it's discouraging, but you won't soon forget it.