Republican Propaganda Machine Rolls On
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Republican Propaganda Machine Rolls On
by Haroon Siddiqui
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 time.
Feeding fear of crime and exploiting its victims has long been a staple of Republican campaigns (and copied here by the Harris-Eves Tories).
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 global terrorism.
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 never happened.
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 destruction."
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 an ally.
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 Afghanistan.
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 opium production.
While the American war machine is bogged down abroad, the Republican propaganda machine rolls on at home.
© 2004 Toronto Star Newspapers Limited