Be afraid. But keep shopping.
- Republican propaganda machine rolls on
Sep. 5, 2004. 01:00 AM
Be afraid, very afraid. But keep shopping.
That was the message to the American voters from George W. Bush and
the Republican National Convention.
Even discounting the partisan exaggerations of such self-serving
gatherings, one can't think of a contemporary parallel in which the
dissonance between rhetoric and reality was greater.
In the $107 million (U.S.) fantasy beamed out of Madison Square
Garden in New York, there was nary an acknowledgment of several
inconvenient facts. To wit: Self-absorbed Americans are not the only
victims of terrorism. The applause greeting the president's
triumphant declarations coincided with the cries of children and
adult hostages at their impending murders in Russia by Chechen
terrorists. The 140,000 American troops in Iraq are presiding over
an exponential growth in terrorism. Extremism is flourishing in
almost every place this president has intervened. America is deeply
divided at home and almost universally reviled abroad.
Yet, here was Bush promising more wars, not fewer. And, oblivious to
all of the above, the faithful were cheering him on.
That both the president and the party are in denial is, in some
ways, more instructive than what they are being criticized for: the
shameless exploitation of 9/11, the nasty attacks on John Kerry's
war record and the hiding of the Christian fundamentalist delegates,
who formed the majority at the convention but were barred from prime
Feeding fear of crime and exploiting its victims has long been a
staple of Republican campaigns (and copied here by the Harris-Eves
Also familiar is the Bush family's penchant for demolishing
opponents, whatever it takes. Exhibit A: Democrat Michael Dukakis in
the 1988 presidential election. Exhibit B: Republican war hero John
McCain in the 2000 primaries.
It comes as no surprise that Bush and running-mate Dick Cheney,
having dodged service in Vietnam, are presiding over a vicious
campaign to question Kerry's heroic service in that war and his even
more heroic opposition to it when he returned home.
Having made a mess of the economy only "girly men" worry over it,
said Arnold Schwarzenegger, while Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New
York counselled shopping the Bush-Cheney team is campaigning on
its foreign policy, despite its demonstrable failure in curbing
War talk it will be from now until election day a balm to the
frayed nerves of the citizens of a gun-toting culture, especially
the Republicans' rural and conservative base.
The status of the stateless terrorists has been elevated to that of
the Nazis and the communists.
McCain: "Just as surely as the Nazis during World War II and the
Soviet communists during the Cold War, the enemy we face today is
bent on our destruction."
Cheney: "It's an enemy whose hatred is limitless." Defeating it
is "vital to preserving freedom."
Rudolph Giuliani: Terrorists are "dedicated to eradicating us and
our way of life."
The conservative media join in.
Sean Hannity: "We are in the middle of World War III."
With that spin, it is easier to compare Bush to Churchill and
Roosevelt, however absurd the proposition.
The Iraq war is, again, being rolled into the war on terrorism,
notwithstanding the missing weapons of mass destruction and the
missing links to Al Qaeda. It is as though those embarrassments
Bush: "In Saddam Hussein, we saw a threat."
Cheney: "We dealt with a gathering threat."
Giuliani: "In any plan to destroy global terrorism, removing Saddam
Hussein needed to be accomplished. He was himself a weapon of mass
Also back in circulation is the retroactive justification of the
invasion the liberation of Iraqis, even if nearly 20,000 have been
killed in the process, so far.
Giuliani: "We ended Saddam's reign of terror."
McCain: "Iraq was a place of indescribable cruelty, torture chambers
and mass graves."
Which it was. But we must try to forget that it was at the peak of
the gulag, in the 1980s, that Washington was happiest with Saddam as
Similarly, in hearing Bush boast of his democracy initiative in "the
broader Middle East" its geography yet to be defined we are to
turn a blind eye to the fact that the initiative is not going
anywhere, precisely because he is the one promoting it.
We must also not rain on the president's parade of good news from
That "more than 10 million citizens have registered to vote in the
October presidential election" is, in fact, a reminder that there
are only 9 million eligible voters.
Afghans are acquiring more than one ballot not out of democratic
enthusiasm but because they can trade them to the warlords who hope
to use them as bargaining chips with President Hamid Karzai.
The mission in Afghanistan remains half-finished, principally
because of Bush's detour in Iraq. The Taliban are on the rise, as is
While the American war machine is bogged down abroad, the Republican
propaganda machine rolls on at home.
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