Saturday, September 04, 2004


Today's Republican Party has perfected the rhetoric of fear and anxiety in post-9/11 America, and is using the power of that rhetoric to maintain George W. Bush's hold on the White House. The Republican War Machine picked up momentum, under the banner of aggression against Iraq. And Republican delegates cheered whenever the United Nations was put down, and America's duty to wage preventative war was being praised. There seemed to be an arrogant consensus among the Republican faithful to ignore their country's increased international isolation.

There was no mention of the President's diabolic process of deception, manipulation, and misinformation, that had steered the nation toward war and occupation of Iraq. There was no clue offered as to why things have gone so badly there. Well, it's impossible to find a Republican pessimist. As US casualties were mounting in advance of the Republican Convention, President Bush was heard to describe our military operation in Iraq as a "catastrophic success". When asked for a response, John Edwards, the Democratic candidate for Vice-President, replied...

"Like most Americans, I have no idea what that means."

Impatient to simply rewrite history, speakers at this Convention clearly opted to create an alternative reality as they went along. In the state of stupefaction created by this Republican narrative, it would be impossible to separate terrorists or the September 2001 attack from the unrelated situation of Iraq and Saddam Hussein. It didn't bother them that the 9/11 Commission had cleared all that up, by its finding that there was no connection between Iraq and the 2001 attack in New York.

John McCain made a speech to the assembled delegates, and suggested that the removal of Saddam Hussein justified everything. Would we (the critics of the war) want Saddam in power, instead? But it's not a particularly honest accusation, considering that we were attacked by an altogether different enemy, in 2001. With better leadership, this travesty in Iraq would never have happened. A clear majority of Americans indicate, in polls, that they would like to take back this last, horrible year-and-a-half. Would that we could unwrite Abu Ghraib. Would that we could restore our country's shattered reputation. Would that we could bring back those 600 civilians shot down by Marine snipers in Fallujah. Would that we could bring back our own dead, or heal our own mangled soldiers.. But it is certain, as well, that tens of thousands of Iraqis are beyond help, and others bear the harder burden, as survivors.

George W. Bush and his cabal have not liberated Iraq; they have only played at liberating Iraq, and with disastrous results.

The Republicans were incapable of facing reality in New York, and simply fell back on their habit of inverting the facts. But we have the laconic Dick Cheney and the homespun figure of George W. Bush to comfort us. Nevermind the raw sewage in the streets of Baghdad. Pay no attention to fifty percent unemployment in Iraq. Don't be troubled by the black smoke on the horizon, the burning pipelines, the mostly unfunctional electrical grid.

Meanwhile, we have to wonder if it was ever the intention of this Bush Gang to rebuild Iraq. John McLaughlin, the host of TV's McLaughlin Group, characterized this convention experience as Kafkaesque, for the way it turned reality upside down.

Gov. Schwarzenegger, former Mayor Giuliani and Sen. McCain were only trotted out as window-dressing. They represent no trend and present no challenge to the extreme faction that controls the Republican Party. Before Gov. Schwarzenegger spoke, there was another speaker at the podium, giving a terse and manifestly unbelievable little pitch for the Patriot Act.

The little homily to surveillance only lent an air of dissonance to the speech that came after it. Schwarzenegger's speech went on to describe how he came to America in 1968. He admitted to deciding that he was a Republican, while part of a television debate was being translated into German for him, by a friend. Listening to both Humphrey and Nixon, he was particularly attracted to Nixon's position for strong national defense, lower taxes, and getting Big Government off our backs.

Isn't it ironic that anti-terrorist laws are now being used on our domestic scene, in order to intimidate protesters. It happened in New York during the Republican convention. Due process laws were being violated, not to make the nation safer or to deter terrorists; but simply as a blunt instrument, used on those Americans who actively oppose the Bush Administration and its policies. Many New York protesters were held in a disused warehouse, made to stand and sleep on oily floors, denied access to a phone call.

And authorities made it impossible for concerned relatives and friends to confirm if those not accounted for, were actually in custody.

During the PBS coverage, there was a moment or two of comic relief from the floor of the Convention. After Michael Moore and his recent film were attacked from the podium, a chant of "four more years" came up from the delegates. Immediately, the camera switched to a shot of Moore, seated in a balcony area, waving at the crowd, two fingers of one hand waving a V-for-Victory salute. And although there was no audio, it was possible to read Moore's lips, saying "two more months".


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