This essay chronicles how the George H. W. Bush administration—taking its cues from the fabricated Nayirah testimony given before the Congressional Human Rights Caucus—revised the cultural narrative of the Vietnam War by militarizing the humanitarian ethic of the antiwar movement in the Persian Gulf. While more commonly associated with the Clinton administration’s use of force in Somalia, Bosnia, and Kosovo, humanitarianism also centrally informed the Gulf War––a war that, while remembered for its association with live television and oil, laid the groundwork for a decade of “one-world” humanitarian war-making. This essay then looks ahead to two Gulf War films, David O. Russell’s Three Kings (1999) and Barry Levinson’s Wag the Dog (1997), to consider how the militarization of humanitarian affect contained liberal-antiwar discourse at the end of the twentieth century. When Bush constructed a resolution to Vietnam by reclaiming it as a noble cause––by kicking the Vietnam syndrome––he did so by narratively assimilating it into a new stage of permanent war that bridged the end of the Cold War and the beginning of the war on terror.


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pp. 71-92
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