A Campaign Thriving on Exploiting Voters’ Fears

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Linda S. Heard

Republican spin merchants play to childish fears with their new television ad. This time, the stars are big, bad wolves, while a chilling disembodied voice says: “Weakness attracts those who are waiting to do America harm”.

And while viewers are presumably shaking under their blankets, Vice President Dick Cheney warns: “If we make the wrong (election) choice, then the danger is that we’ll get hit again”.

Was this a moment of clairvoyance from the man, whose allegation that Iraq was “the geographic base of the terrorists who have had us under assault for many years...” became a self-fulfilling post-invasion prophecy? Was this an inspirational comment from the man who once insisted Americans would be feted as liberators of Iraq? Or, does it represent just another dirty trick in the mucky game of modern-day American politicking?

Tom Ridge, head of the Orwellian Department of Homeland Security, and his multicolored alerts provide those wolves with fangs. Last summer he warned that Osama the elusive troglodyte was directing pre-election terrorist attacks from his hidey-hole. No mention as to when, where or how, and so it’s back to hiding in the closet again.

Let’s face it. Bush’s survival as president — and a self-described “war president” to boot — depends on America facing either real or imaginary enemies. The “Sept. 11 nineteen” were the ones who attacked but they are inconveniently dead. The eccentric Bin Laden served as the perfect personification of “evil” to oil the road to Kabul, only to be replaced by George W’s personal bogeyman Saddam Hussein, his father’s nemesis. So now that Saddam is watering plants in his jail between penning romance novels, another “evildoer” had to be paraded.

This time, it’s the alleged one time Osama follower Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi. There is some dispute as to whether he is actually alive and still sports a wooly balaclava, but the purveyors of fear are sure about one thing: He scoots around the so-called Sunni “Triangle of Death” planning his dastardly agenda amid women, children and babies.

And so nefarious is he that he always manages to evade the smartest of US missiles, leaving his ashen toddler cohorts and their terrorist mothers scattered over craters, while their mendacious fathers and husbands invariably ask between howls of grief “Abu Musab… who? Never heard of him”.

Will they ever catch up with him? Not likely. At least, not until there is another contender for scary terrorist mastermind in the offing. Who will they come up with next time? They’ve already ran the gamut of a one-eyed mulla, a menacing millionaire with a failing liver, a daft would-be shoe-bomber who forgot his lighter, and a one-legged — or is it two? — Jordanian decapitator. We mustn’t, of course, forget the rotund Shiite cleric and his rag-tag, gun-toting army. The next face of evil incarnate will have so much to live up to.

May I suggest they turn to the movies of Federico Fellini for inspiration? A mad cannibal midget might be nice. How about a syntax-mangling member of the Skull and Bones, who used his daddy’s connections to run the world and re-arrange it in his own image for the benefit of his cronies? Too far-fetched…

I know. Perhaps Fox will come up with a new reality show ‘The Devil’s Apprentice” when contenders would efficiently run terrorist training camps instead of Planet Hollywood.

Take away the emotionalism and the hype and the reality is this. Americans have a far greater chance of dying in a road accident or from a heart attack or as a result of a hurricane, fire or flood than during a terrorist attack.

I don’t include American military personnel or mercenaries masquerading as contractors in other people’s countries here. If they stayed home and minded their own business, then they would not be at risk. Helping the Iraqis reconstruct their country, indeed! How about stuffing their pockets with filthy lucre while Iraqis remain vulnerable and jobless.

It’s been three long years since the Sept. 11 attacks, yet the Bush administration unashamedly evokes those images to ensure its re-election. It uses Sept. 11 to play to the fears of Americans and shroud its hegemonic ambitions. It has even ran clips of Sept. 11 victims and their caskets in their campaign ads so as to manipulate the emotional and patriotic strings of prospective voters.

This isn’t to say Americans shouldn’t be scared or, indeed, angry. If Sam were my uncle I’d be incensed at the WMD lies; the $140 million already spent on this illegal war; troops who lack adequate armor and armored vehicles, the more than 1,000 dead and seven thousand injured; and the findings of the Sept. 11 Commission, which found Iraq had no connection to that day.

I’d be furious over the Iraq Survey Group report, which found “there is no evidence that Hussein had passed illicit weapons material to Al-Qaeda or other terrorist organizations or had any intent to do so”. If I were American, I’d be asking: What on earth are we doing there and why didn’t we have a post-invasion plan?

Furthermore, I’d be asking why my president continued his vacation after receiving a memo from the CIA in August, 2001 headed: “Bin Laden determined to attack America”. I would want to know why he initially stonewalled the Sept. 11 Commission, finally awarding it a paltry $3 million to carry out its crucial task. I’d demand to know why the Bush administration hired an unreliable surrogate army to seek out Bin Laden when he was surrounded in Tora Bora, allowing him to cut and run.

I would have genuine fears about North Korea, which is busy making nuclear warheads, and my president’s refusal to talk with that country’s leaders. I would be worried about Iran, which rightfully feels it is under threat, and has seemingly stepped up its nuclear and missile program.

I’d be concerned about the tinderbox the Middle East has become with anti-Iranian sentiment growing in Israel — an unstable country teetering on the brink of an ideological civil war over settlements, which is lashing out at a civilian population in its care. And I would wonder why my president has virtually binned the “road map” while giving Ariel Sharon a free hand.

Most of all, I would be scared that my civil liberties are being eroded daily, and sad that my country has become a symbol of hubris and domination when it was once a torch for freedom, justice and human rights for all.

Then again, I don’t have a vote and, so, like millions like me, I can merely keep my fingers crossed that we don’t have to suffer four more years of the same… or worse… And so, it is up to the US voter to keep the wolves on Pennsylvania Avenue at bay.


Published Wednesday, October 27th, 2004 - 04:47pm GMT
Linda S. Heard is a specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback at solitairemedia (at) yahoo.co.uk

Article courtesy of Arab News
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