The release of disgusting photos showing abuse of Iraqi
prisoners was followed by the horrifying beheading of a prisoner in
retaliation for the prisoner abuses. Over and over again we heard from the
right, "How are those parallel? A beheading versus some humiliation - which
is worse?" They argued, again and again, that the beheading shows we were
right to fight this horror which is terrorism, and that it showed we must
stay the course in Iraq.
They don't even have it halfway right. We should be fighting
terrorism, but we have lost our way. The beheading, perhaps above all images
we've seen, shows the mistake of the war. Many have missed the obvious - the
beheading was done by a group affiliated with Al-Qaeda. It was not the Iraqi
people who did this. Rather, the Iraqis have been remarkably restrained in
their reaction to the prisoner abuse scandal, when you consider what has
happened to them. They lost a dictator but gained a military presence that
is responsible for holding innocent people, then humiliating them.
But the beheading - that is another matter.
It illustrates why, in response to an attack by Al-Qaeda
terrorists, we should have gone after the Al-Qaeda terrorists.
This might seem elementary, but it is a point lost on about half
of Americans. This half of the populace is strangely oblivious to facts -
it's as if they live in a world divorced from the one the rest of us are in.
They will support their leader no matter the depths of the disaster we are
This is a sad state of affairs because one can easily imagine
that if a Democrat were in charge of the White House now, and we were in
exactly the same position we are now in - disastrous deficits, an untenable
war, ecological carelessness, soaring gas prices, payoffs to cronies,
arrogant foreign policies, trillions in unfunded obligations that threaten
Social Security, education and Medicare while we go deeper and deeper into
debt every day - he would be lucky to have 20 percent support now. A
Democrat in exactly the same position that President Bush is in now would be
looking at losing the fall election in a record landslide. Why? Because
Democrats are willing to abandon their leaders and vote for the other guy if
the policies their leaders are pursuing aren't working. Many Republicans,
however, have apparently decided they will stick with a disaster all the way
to the bitter end.
Any time you are faced with a Republican making arguments about
politics today, ask him or her to imagine that a Democrat was in charge
right at this moment - that this Democrat has pursued exactly the policies
that have put us where we are now. Then ask the Republican if he would
support that Democratic president. The honest answer for most is no. And
neither would the vast majority of Democrats. Yet while some support for
Bush has dropped, he is still hanging on to much of it. Given where this
nation is, his support is, in fact, incredible.
One reason for this disparity in electoral reasoning, a disparity
that has grown worse over the last 10 or 15 years, is that there is a vast
apparatus fixed to spread right-wing falsehoods. If Rush Limbaugh, Fox News
and the hundreds of local rightist radio zealots began telling the truth,
Bush wouldn't be polling 20 percent. That is because of their relentless
mischaracterizations of Bush policies and Democratic responses - their
willingness to lie to achieve their aims, to portray Democrats as
un-American, or to claim they are unwholesome, or lustful for your tax
money. These are ridiculous but appealing arguments, and to refute them
gives them currency.
After the beheading, those on the right kept asking, "Where is the
outrage?" Here it is - we should hunt down and kill those who beheaded Nick
Berg. By the way, these criminals are the same people who used airplanes to
kill innocent people on our soil. We should be fighting them tooth and claw,
with every method - economic, military, diplomatic - at our disposal. So why
Because of this president, we're letting the bad guys get away.
We're fighting the wrong war while screaming about the terrorist threat.
This president has hamstrung the United States. We're locked in a bloody,
Israeli-like aggression against a people who had no cause against us. That's
where the true outrage should be directed - at the president who has led us
into one of the worst messes in our history. It's costing not only thousands
of lives but billions of dollars that threaten the economic security of the
United States - and this president not only refuses to pay for it, he is
actually is giving MORE money to his millionaire friends who, in turn,
contribute millions of that former tax money to his re-election campaign.
Just think if a Democrat were doing this. He'd be finished.
Guy Reel is an assistant professor of mass communication at Winthrop
University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.