It's high noon. The sun is beating down mercilessly on the tin roofs of a generic one-horse town. Inside the smouldering saloon, Dubya the Kid slots the last silver bullet into his patent revolver.
“This is for you, daddy,” he admits to his gang. “And your friends at Halliburton,” he adds to himself.
Quick Draw Rummy and Righteous Rice egg him on to great things. Rummy, disappointed that he didn't get the fireworks he wanted for Christmas, gently wipes away the beads of nervous sweat on The Kid's brow, while Rice eases his tensed body by massaging his ego.
Slick Dick looks on enviously, but is overcome by a sudden anxiety attack as the significance of the moment sinks in. He adjusts his pace-maker and retreats to the cellar to join the shadow war government.
It's time for the showdown. The ultimate face-off between the Washington Dozen and the Baghdad Bandits. Dirty Ari steps forward, “The Kid says this world ain't big enough for him and Smoking-gun Saddam.”
“Well, we're a bullet away from settling that,” challenges Rough-stuff Ramadan.
A heavy silence descends as the two duellers emerge. They stand facing each other on the parched and dusty road. The Kid is dressed in his favourite cowboy outfit. Smoking-gun, donning a Colombian hat, drags on a Havana cigar. “Remember Castro,” he taunts.
Careful Kofi inspects the Kid's pistol. A team of UNSCOM inspectors frisk Smoking-gun and insist on access to the presidential boxers to ensure that no nuclear or biological warheads are concealed there. Blitz Blix uncovers a possible dual-use biological agent.
“At my age, I need Viagra to threaten even my wife with that missile,” the outraged despot booms.
Careful intervenes, asks the two protagonists to stand back to back, take 10 paces, turn and fire!
Will Dubya achieve the regime change he so desperately wants, or will Smoking-gun foil him yet again?
Alas, we shall never know, since Washington has dismissed as “irresponsible” Baghdad's invitation to a duel to settle the current deadlock and, thus, deprived us all of the opportunity to see the Kid and Smoking Gun go head to head.
Granted that responsibility is not one of the Iraqi regime's strong suits, but would it not be reckless of the White House to thwart this prime opportunity to get, without running the risk of “collateral” damage, the man that George Bush calls a “murderous tyrant” under whose tutelage “gathers the most serious dangers of our age in one place.”
As the Iraqi Vice-President Taha Yassin Ramadan suggests, if the Bush administration only wants to change the regime in Iraq, then a duel would be the most effective means: president takes out president, vice-president v's vice-president, and so on.
One must admit that Rough Stuff's idea, inspired by an ancient Islamic practice that the commander of the faithful sometimes used to avoid war, has a certain simple irresistibility about it. Aside from its obvious drama value, it is beautifully clear-cut in its objective and manner of execution. It leaves little room for surprise contingencies, such as a Vietnam-style conflict, the disintegration of the Middle East, or World War III.
This week, Dubya voiced his gut feeling that something was seriously awry in the ‘hood down Baghdad way and, frustrated that few were dancing to the beat of his war drum, urged prompt action.
“We cannot wait for the final proof – the smoking gun – that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud,” he bellowed ominously in an address that most American networks ignored. He vowed that the US would drive Saddam out of Dodge, if the world failed to do so.
Unfortunately for poor Dubya, most of the world, and a majority of his own people, do not share his prophetic bowel movements. Without convincing evidence of weapons of mass destruction, or even a smoking gun, the Iraqi offer may have just provided the Kid with an expedient, and honourable, way out of the current impasse that would bypass the maddening masses.
I am quite confident that, were they consulted, no Security Council member would veto, and even the General Assembly would sanction, such a course of action, if for nothing more than the novelty value. It would also save the treasury and tax-payer up to $200 billion and the Pentagon the headache of a major deployment.
But, above all, it would spare an untold number of lives on both sides. Americans, never welcoming of the prospect of body bags, would naturally be eternally grateful as, I am certain, would the long-suffering Iraqi people.
There is an online petition in which Americans are calling on their president to do the decent thing. “We believe our courageous, tough talking president is fit for the job… Such genuine, personal accountability in leadership is what makes this country great,” the petition read.
And rightly so! In one fell swoop, Bush would exercise the ultimate in personal accountability by risking his life for the greater good of all Americans, nigh the world.
He would also dispel the malicious rumour of his cowardliness after he hot-heeled it to Nevada following 11 September, while boosting his personal approval ratings in time for the November mid-term elections. There is, of course, the snag that he might not make it that far. But, as an honour-driven Texan and the fastest draw in the West, I'm sure he wouldn't let that possibility colour his resolve to take on the baddies.
I imagine the prospect of a showdown with Saddam must appeal to his Wild West romanticism. He has probably been flush with excitement, or perhaps a pretzel, ever since he heard the ultimatum and is raring to leap on his trusted steed Silver and gallop off to the agreed location with all guns blazing.
There would naturally be logistical problems involved with booking a venue for this jewel of all duels. Although Ramadan's suggestion of having Kofi Annan as a referee is workable, finding the ‘neutral' ground he calls for would be thorny. There is hardly a country on the planet where Saddam, who has not been overseas in years, would feel unthreatened and Dubya, with the amount of friends he is losing, is closing the gap fast. Perhaps a deserted Pacific island, the kind used for survival-type reality TV, could be the safest bet.
A shoot-out with Saddam could point the way forward for Bush's flagging “war on terror”. It appears that no matter how hard US troops try to re-landscape Afghanistan, they cannot dig up America's other most-wanted man, Osama bin Laden. Well, Bush can become the ultimate smart bomb and smoke out the CEO of al-Qaeda from the shadows in which he dwells by inviting him to a duel, which would probably appeal to his Mujaheddin mentality.
By his noble action, Bush would be helping to set a powerful new precedent for international conflict resolution by proxy such as the modern era has never seen. In an age where warfare has become destructive and impersonal, what better deterrence against war for heads of state than putting their own lives at risk? With time, world leaders, having to do their own fighting, would probably even dispense with the need for pistols in order to save their own hides and, instead, wage their battles over a game of chess.
The BBC's John Simpson may have made headlines by liberating Kabul, but if Bush were to single-handedly free Iraq from Saddam's iron grip, he would be immortalised in history and all its spin offs: the movie rights, the book, the lecture circuit. Bush, you owe it to yourself and your people to keep the American dream alive.