February 6, 2006

Of Actors and Analysts

As everyone gear up for the Oscars, Hollywood's annual celebration of itself, one name keeps making headlines - George "Looney" Clooney.

Clooney first came to my attention shortly after the 1999 release of Three Kings, a movie about four Army soldiers seeking Iraqi gold in the aftermath of Desert Storm. For an Arabic linguist and Gulf War veteran, it was interesting, even if the story line was unrealistic, but hey, it's the movies! In the inevitable publicity appearances to promote the movie, Clooney appeared on the usual late-night shows - Leno, Letterman, etc. While he might be a good actor, his grasp of Middle East geopolitics is wanting. I chalked it up to youth and inexperience. Acting in a movie about the war does not make you an expert about the war.

Clooney will no doubt be lauded for his performance in Syriana, a film about a CIA officer in the Middle East, based loosely on a book by my colleague Bob Baer. Again, Clooney used the round of late-night shows to spout off about the region.

In November, he remarked that the war in Iraq was about oil, not regime change. He explained - based on his in-depth knowledge of the region - that if it was about regime change, there were other regimes we could have started with, like Robert Mugabe.

He added, "But then, Uganda doesn't have any oil."

Okay, George, here's the deal. I won't act, and you won't further embarrass yourself attempting Middle East analysis....