The creator of the Tony Cassella p.i. stories (Foreign Exchange, etc.) turns to political satire with a breathtakingly nasty premise: Operation Desert Storm was not only staged for TV but was a piece of Hollywood entertainment drafted and choreographed by filmmakers. Joe Broz, of Universal Security (U.Sec.), is offered a perilously off-the-books job by dazzling Hollywood star Maggie Krebs: lay the groundwork for a $750,000 breach-of-contract suit against RepCo, the talent agency that owns both her and hot director John Lincoln Beagle, by finding out the real reason--not the illness the agency's selling- -that Beagle was abruptly pulled off and the project aborted. Hopelessly smitten with Maggie, Joe (``I'm an authentic American hero. Really'') signs on, only to find that U.Sec. is already in the game- -and not kidding around: they've bugged Maggie's place, they're tailing Joe, they're willing to kill Beagle's inoffensive librarian when Joe lures him into a meeting. What kind of movie would justify such fanaticism? A war movie, as we've already realized--a movie whose concept brainsick Machiavellian Lee Atwater drafted on his deathbed as just the ticket to resuscitate George Bush's faltering image. As Bush and Jim Baker trade gorgeously plausible malapropisms (``Talk about nitty-gritty and cutting through to the nuts of the matter. When Lee Atwater is passing, it's hardball''), Joe maneuvers to get the goods on RepCo head David Hartman and U.Sec.'s Melvin Taylor, Joe's boss, so that even if he can't avert the war, he can help Maggie get her hands on that golden parachute. Joe's plots against the totalitarian conspirators wind down to routine melodrama. The real smart bombs here are Beinhart's diabolical vignettes of the totalitarian alliance of the Oval Office and the entertainment industry (``Who are we going to war with?'' ``I don't know. It's just in development''). Think of a left-wing P.J. O'Rourke, or a Stanley Kubrick production of 1984. What a terrific movie this book is never, ever going to make.