22 October, 2007

Cowboy up!

Gene Autry must be spinning in his grave.

"Many of my peers think Blackwater is oftentimes out of control. They often act like cowboys over here ... not seeming to play by the same rules everyone else tries to play by."
- A senior U.S. commander in Iraq, quoted anonymously in The Washington Post

And as for the many cowboys who work for a living on the range in the Golden Spread, they need some sort of massive public relations campaign to counter the damage being done to their image.

That great icon of the American West - the cowboy - is now a derogatory term.
Thanks to the Blackwater scandal currently stagnating in Congress, the cowboy is being lassoed and blamed for the failure of U.S. foreign and military policy. Blackwater USA is a private company that provides security in Iraq. Blackwater is under fire for allegedly violent and deadly actions by its employees, many of them former members of the U.S. military, against Iraqi civilians.

Erik Prince - the company's chairman and a former Navy SEAL - testified Tuesday before Congress, denying the "cowboy" allegations. "Blackwater cowboys" is now the term used to describe those who allegedly shoot and kill Iraqi civilians. As of Wednesday, there were more than 730,000 references to this term in cyberspace. An Associated Press headline from last week read "Cowboy Aggression Works for Blackwater."

Last month, The New Zealand Herald ran a story about private security in Iraq. Supposedly, at a meeting of such groups, there was a concern of "an influx of criminals and cowboys" working in private security in Iraq. The world of blogs - many of which are the junior high bathroom wall of journalism - rode herd also: "In any other country in the world it would be called cold-blooded murder and these Blackwater 'cowboys' would be sent to jail for life."

Calling someone a "cowboy" is often the sticks-and-stones attack style of the media. The Guardian, Britain's liberal newspaper, once referred to President Bush as a "hopelessly inarticulate, trigger-happy cowboy." Better cowboy up, cowboys. Your good name is well on its way to politically correct hyphen-word status. There's the n-word, the b-word, the h-word. The c-word is already taken, right? I'll have to update my vulgarity meter. How about the cow-word?

Speaking of Autry, he is credited for creating the "Cowboy Code." The first rule is the cowboy must not shoot first, hit a smaller man or take unfair advantage. Real cowboys will have to excuse the media brand being applied to "cowboy" by those whose only relationship to a horse is acting like the rear end of one.

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