Ugh, I can't believe they made this call. It was a big mistake. Over the last week or so the Democrats have whipped out the "social security" and "flu shot rationing" fear tactics. The hope seems to be that by pointing out to people the (obvious) danger that Bush Administration's blunders and promises put us in, people will become fearful of 'four more years' and move to Kerry's side of the aisle. While under normal circumstances, this might prove to be an effective tactic, but we are not under normal circumstance, we are under a "Terror warning: Elevated" (i.e. 'fear').
We are 'afraid' as a nation, and nothing that Kerry does to increase the net fear is going to work. He should be saying one thing over and over again. He's already said it once, and I applauded loudly. They need to print up signs. They need to go positive in one crucial area. The simple phrase?
Freedom over Fear
The problem with the 'fear tactics' currently being employed by the Kerry campaign is that they play directly into the central theme of Bush/Cheney 2004, which is called on the street, "Kerry is a pussy
MASON CITY, Iowa Oct. 20, 2004 -- President Bush said Wednesday that Sen. John Kerry's views on national security are so misguided that the Democrat would be unable to defeat terrorism.
"The next commander in chief must lead us to victory in this war and you cannot win a war when you don't believe you're fighting one," Bush told hundreds of supporters in a northern Iowa farming community.
"My opponent also misunderstands our battle against insurgents and terrorists in Iraq, calling Iraq 'a diversion from the war on terror,'" Bush added.
Bush is playing a strong hand here, it has certainly worked before. To beat them at this game, a counter-meme must be generated. For our purposes, a simple alliterative phrase works great.
Freedom over Fear.
The deliciously ironic (and therefore powerful) thing about meme is that the phrase plays directly into the ideological beliefs of Neocons in particular, and all Americans in general. The ideology of PNAC is simply that freedom is a useful antidote to fear. The ideology in action is all about 'taking out' totalitarian leaders and watching 'freedom' spring from the barren earth. Like many ideologies, it has been quite flawed in practice, yet still holds powerful cognitive properties.
Freedom over Fear.
It makes 'freedom loving people' happy, by simple repetition.
Now, in between chanting Freedom over Fear, a few pointed questions can be asked, and a few actual realities examined. The first place to start is this Zarqawi bogeyman that Bush keeps trotting out to scare people.
"If Zarqawi and his associates were not busy fighting American forces, does Sen. Kerry think he would be leading a productive and useful life?" asked Bush. "Of course not. And that is why Iraq is no diversion."
Bush was campaigning in three Midwest states that all went against him four years ago and where polls show him in a close race with Kerry. He also was campaigning in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
It's curious that Bush would mention 'Zarqawi' in such stark and fearful terms as many people consider 'Zarqawi' to be something of a phantom himself.
As the story goes...
Before January 2003, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was little known. Very few people were even aware of the one-legged ethnic Palestinian Ahmed Fadeel al-Khalayleh, born in the dreary industrial wasteland of Zarqa in Jordan, who was basically a semi-literate, tattooed, Shi'ite-hating thug.
His goal while in Jordan was to topple King Hussein. It didn't work. He became a jihadi in Afghanistan in the late 1980s against the Soviets, and after returning to Jordan in 1992 spent seven years in jail for possession of guns. In fighting in 2002 following the US-led invasion of Afghanistan to topple the Taliban, one of his legs was severely injured - and may have been, or maybe not, amputated.
That leg is somewhat important, as it's a big part of the 'reasons' that Bush gave for invading Iraq. They "treat terrorists like people" and therefore should be destroyed, the argument went.
"Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime."
Hence is becomes a simple process of accusing someone of harboring or training
'terrorists' and then invasion is the only possible 'rational' course of action. Speaking of 'rational', let's pick back up the Asia Times
and read some more of that story.
Zarqawi stopped being a non-entity on February 5, 2003, when he was spectacularly catapulted onto the global stage - six weeks before the start of the Iraq war - by US Secretary of State Colin Powell's weapons of mass destruction speech at the United Nations. Powell used Zarqawi to link Saddam Hussein's secular Ba'athist regime to the "Islamic terror network", and thus partly justify the invasion and occupation of Iraq.
Asia Times Online confirmed in Amman, Jordan in February 2003 that practically nobody knew Zarqawi outside of Jordan - even though in 2002 he had been the target of a CIA disinformation campaign tying him to the theocratic regime in Tehran. But soon the Bush administration was to invest him with the aura of an "international man of mystery" - the world's most dangerous man after Osama bin Laden.
Hence we have Bush now mentioning "Zarqawi," who many people have watched chop the heads off of various other people, and stil isn't talking about Osama, in any way other than as a tie to Zarqawi. Yes, that's a tricky lil' "flip-flop" this campaign has been full of them
. Bush isn't the only one that has been using the Zarqawi bogeyman extensively. Remember, it's the Bush/Cheney 2004
ticket you want to avoid.
Cheney also insisted that Zarqawi could not have had his leg treated in a Baghdad hospital without Saddam's Mukhabarat (secret service) knowing it. But the leg story is a mess. US intelligence thought that Zarqawi had lost a leg in Afghanistan in 2002. But then, last May, they concluded that he still had both legs. The Bush administration's "evidence" of an al-Qaeda-Saddam link via Zarqawi may be an intercepted phone call by Zarqawi from a Baghdad hospital in 2002, while his leg was being attended to. But then "Zarqawi" shows up in a video with both legs in the 2004 beheading of hostage Nick Berg.
The truth is more straightforward. Zarqawi had no connection either with bin Laden or with Saddam. Secular Saddam hosting an Islamic radical, of all people, at a time when the American campaign against the "axis of evil" had reached a fever-pitch is a ludicrous proposition. A newspaper editor in the Sunni triangle says Zarqawi may have gone on an underground trip to Baghdad to have his leg operated on before scurrying back to Kurdistan. And sources in Peshawar confirm to Asia Times Online that Zarqawi never took the all-significant bayat (oath of allegiance) and so never struck a formal alliance with bin Laden and the al-Qaeda leadership.
For the rest of the story, go read it here
So that explains the fear tactic and why Kerry should stop playing into it. Fear about 'social security' and 'the flu' are a bit more diffuse that some nutjob paleostinian hacking somebody's head off with a machete. Hence, being weaker fears, they are lost in the fear shuffle.
Freedom over Fear. Really, without bringing the level of fear down, no other rational thoughts have a chance to proceed. The 'litany against Bush' falls on deaf, fearful ears. No matter who says it, and disregarding how many more votes that person got than Bush in 2000. (BTW, it was 500,000, the same number that came to NYC to protest the RNC, for a curious coincidence..) Here is an excerpt from Al(most President) Gore's recent reciting of the litany.
By failing to adjust their policies to unexpected realities, they have made it difficult to carry out any of their policies competently. Indeed, this is the answer to what some have regarded as a mystery: How could a team so skilled in politics be so bumbling and incompetent when it comes to policy?
The same insularity and zeal that makes them effective at smash mouth politics makes them terrible at governing. The Bush-Cheney administration is a rarity in American history. It is simultaneously dishonest and incompetent.
Not coincidentally, the first audits of the massive sums flowing through the Coalition Provisional Authority, including money appropriated by Congress and funds and revenue from oil, now show that billions of dollars have disappeared with absolutely no record of who they went to, or for what, or when, or why. And charges of massive corruption are now widespread. Just as the appointment of industry lobbyists to key positions in agencies that oversee their former employers has resulted in institutionalized corruption in the abandonment of the enforcement of laws and regulations at home, the outrageous decision to brazenly violate the law in granting sole-source, no-bid contracts worth billions of dollars to Vice President Cheney's company, Halliburton, which still pays him money every year, has convinced many observers that incompetence, cronyism and corruption have played a significant role in undermining U.S. policy in Iraq. The former four star general in charge of central command, Tony Zinni, who was named by President Bush as his personal emissary to the middle east in 2001, offered this view of the situation in a recent book: "In the lead up to the Iraq war, and its later conduct, I saw, at a minimum, true dereliction, negligence and irresponsibility; at worst lying, incompetence and corruption. False rationales presented as a justification; a flawed strategy; lack of planning; the unnecessary alienation of our allies; the underestimation of the task; the unnecessary distraction from real threats; and the unbearable strain dumped on our over-stretched military. All of these caused me to speak out...I was called a traitor and a turncoat by Pentagon officials."
Massive incompetence? Endemic corruption? Official justification for torture? Wholesale abuse of civil liberties? Arrogance masquerading as principle? These are new, unfamiliar and unpleasant realities for America. We hardly recognize our country when we look in the mirror of what Jefferson called, "the opinion of mankind." How could we have come to this point?
America was founded on the principle that "all just power is derived from the consent of the governed." And our founders assumed that in the process of giving their consent, the governed would be informed by free and open discussion of the relevant facts in a healthy and robust public forum.
But for the Bush-Cheney administration, the will to power has become its own justification. This explains Bush's lack of reverence for democracy itself. The widespread efforts by Bush's political allies to suppress voting have reached epidemic proportions. The scandals of Florida four years ago are being repeated in broad daylight even as we meet here today. Harper's magazine reports in an article published today that tens of thousands of registered voters who were unjustly denied their right to vote four year ago have still not been allowed back on the rolls.
If we don't shout Freedom over Fear, news stories like this, which expose Bush as a dangerously proficient spinner of the truth, get missed.
BAGHDAD, Iraq - At least 300 Iraqi soldiers abandoned their 750-man unit after they were deployed to Samarra earlier this month as part of a U.S.-Iraqi operation to retake the militant-controlled city. Like similar incidents earlier this year in Fallujah and Baghdad's Sadr City, the desertions are prompting coalition officers to improve training for Iraqi recruits.
U.S. and Iraqi officials said Iraqi forces are needed to help retake and hold the toughest insurgent strongholds, including Fallujah, where as many as 1,000 militants are believed to be entrenched.
We have a LOT OF HARD WORK TO DO. Bush is right about that. What Kerry is wrong about is not telling us not to be afraid. Over and over again.
This is Kerry's weakness, I'm afraid, and it's simply that HE IS NOT SCARED. He's been there, seen it, done it, wrote home about it. He doesn't feel the fear, and is having trouble capturing America's heart because of this lacking. Ironic, I know, but after spending a few months observing a country currently experiencing such a profound 'cognitive dissonance,' I'm not surprised by much any more in the political arena this year.
America can can come to our senses, and enough people will see the light, but only if we believe in Freedom over Fear.
And only if we say it, repeatedly.
Freedom over Fear.
[repeat as necessary]
One final note, if anyone has a DIVX rip of this BBC special, please tell me where to get it. Also, if anyone has a useful broadcasting network handy, please play this special. A synopsis.
This series shows dramatically how the idea that we are threatened by a hidden and organized terrorist network is an illusion. It is a myth that has spread unquestioned through politics, the security services and the international media. At the heart of the story are two groups: the American neoconservatives and the radical Islamists. Both were idealists who were born out of the failure of the liberal dream to build a better world. These two groups have changed the world but not in the way either intended. Together they created today's nightmare vision of an organised terror network. A fantasy that politicians then found restored their power and authority in a disillusioned age. Those with the darkest fears became the most powerful.
The rise of the Politics of Fear begins in 1949 with two men whose radical ideas would inspire the attack of 9/11 and influence the neoconservative movement that dominates Washington. Both these men believed that modern liberal freedoms were eroding the bonds that held society together. The two movements they inspired set out, in their different ways, to rescue their societies from this decay. But in an age of growing disillusion with politics, the neoconservatives turned to fear in order to pursue their vision. They would create a hidden network of evil run by the Soviet Union that only they could see. The Islamists were faced by the refusal of the masses to follow their dream and began to turn to terror to force the people to 'see the truth'.
Finally, we have one more thing for you, and it is brought to you by the wonder of hindsight, and denied to you because the 'many worlds' interpretation of quantum mechanics is, well, wrong.
Check out, "What Should Have Been: August 7, 2001" [via the Agonist].
Finally, vote Freedom over Fear on Nov. 2.