The Guns of August

Forget the news analysis and all the previews leading up to tonight’s third evening of the Republican National Convention. Common wisdom would tell you that the heavy hitters of any political convention traditionally come on Wednesday, with the nominee set to wrap things up on Thursday. But all a person would have to have done is watch the past two nights out of Madison Square Garden to realize that the most powerful presenters of the Republican platform weren’t named Bush and Cheney, but were named McCain, Giuliani, and Schwarzenegger.

August 30th and 31st were banner days for the Republican Party following the massive throng that packed the streets in opposition of the Republicans in front of the Garden on the 29th. The flow of tough rhetoric and iron-fisted testimonials from the popular faces of the Republican Party was a brilliant strategy that served to humiliate John Kerry and the Democrats, and also turned a blind eye to the realities of not just the Bush administration, but to history as well.

This was plainly in evidence as the speakers continually talked of how there are now twenty-five million more free souls in the world today thanks to the United States, and more specifically, to the Bush administration. They have seen fit to change the reasonings behind going to war. They have taken the ongoing fight against terrorism, and lumped the greedy war in Iraq in with that fight. They talk of a budding democracy in the Middle East that is worth the cost in human lives, and that leaves America safer today. What they fail to mention are the scores of countries across the world that have governments that are every bit as oppressive as that of Saddam Hussein’s, but who do not garner the attention that his regime did. Some of these regimes pose a far more significant threat than did the all-but contained Iraq under Saddam Hussein.

Countries like North Korea, that has nuclear weapons, and is actively developing means to deliver those weapons to the west coast of the United States. And Iran, a country endlessly teetering on the brink of a democratic revolution that may never arrive, but whose government has shunned international criticism and now says openly that it will have nuclear weapons within a matter of years.

Then there are the countries whose citizens can truly count themselves as among the most unfortunate in the world.

Countries like Sudan where our government has just begun to give tacit admission that genocide is at this very moment being perpetrated against the black, Christian minority in the Darfur region, and whose government at one time harbored Osama bin Laden.

Countries like the Congo, which has essentially numerous governments shaped by a recent ceasefire ending the so-called “World War I of Africa” that left four million Congolese dead in less than half a decade. These multiple governments were left behind because the war that tore apart the Congo and involved armies from no less than seven African nations ended with no clear victor, and no administration left to run a country that is twice the size of Texas. The country is ruled by nothing but roving gangs, bullets, fear, rape and death. All the while the Congo finds itself being continuously robbed of its natural resources, which exist on a scale that should rank the Congo as among the richest countries in the world.

These and many other countries deserve our equal attention if the Bush administration is going to claim the newly freed Iraqi citizenry as its ultimate justification for the war in Iraq. It is pure fantasy that Iraq was in any more need of regime change than any of the countries mentioned above, or that its people were in any more of a state of plight. It also remains pure fantasy that Iraq was the churning center of the vortex, that Saddam Hussein was the crown prince of Middle Eastern terrorism. Iraq is at the center of a vortex, yes, but one that is now based on the American military’s presence in the very strategic center of the most important area of the world to United States interests. To be sure, if the Unites States was interested in being at the center of the most unstable region of the world, they would have to look no farther on the globe than the aforementioned Congo.

There is a good chance that within a generation, Iraq will be a nation on the world stage that embraces many of the ideals that western civilization considers paramount. But will that be justification for bringing war to its people? The Bush administration, and now the Republican Party as a whole, through the blaring trumpets of unity that paraded themselves on the stage the past two nights, have said “Yes, it is worth the cost.” How can we look back at a free Iraq in twenty years and say it was not worth the effort? Well, that will be very easy if Iraq is struggling to maintain unity or has split into three completely separate countries, or if it is attempting to rise from the ashes of a bloody civil war that has left the nation devastated and destitute, or if it turns out that the war in Iraq did absolutely nothing to combat terrorism, other than allowing terrorist organizations in other countries to regroup while the United States conducted a war of fancy. Any of these things could happen, as could a stable Iraq.

It is fantastic beyond words that Saddam Hussein is no longer in power, but it is an outright lie that the world is a better place now that he has been ousted. The war in Iraq shook the power structure of the world to such a level that it may never be the same again. There is a good chance that the United States has finally used up every last ounce of trust that the majority of countries in the world once had for it. Is a free Iraq worth that cost to us? Will it be worth it twenty years down the road, five years down the road, when we do face a nation that is a genuine threat, but we are unable to build a coalition because we have burned so many bridges? And once again, is it worth making Iraq free and not other nations? Finally, the most important question of all: who in their right mind believes that the situation in Iraq resembles freedom in any way? Saddam Hussein is gone, yes. But the Iraqi people cannot claim to be free, nor can we claim it for them.

The Republicans have come out strong for their president. They have beaten his toughness and firm resolve into millions of American minds. They will, and have, painted John Kerry as just short of a coward, and as an indecisive panderer to not just shifting political winds, but public opinion. They have only touched on admitting that maybe claiming Iraq had weapons of mass destruction was not the best reason for invading a foreign nation that, it now appears, possessed none (that Iraq had WMD in the eighties and early nineties there is no doubt, but maybe the president should listen to weapons inspectors the next time they say there are no weapons of mass destruction in a certain country).

The empty rhetoric that has come off of the podium at the Garden this week from such lauded figures in the public eye as Rudy Giuliani is enough to stun. It is, in fact, spin. It is empty praise. It is storytime. It is the type of speech one would hear at an awards ceremony for the Knights of Columbus. It is designed to shift focus from the facts of the last four years, and plant a seed of fear that John Kerry could not do as well of a job as President Bush. That would be truly frightening, indeed.

These speakers of the last few days have set the stage for Dick Cheney tonight and President Bush tomorrow. They understand the seriousness that follows their candidates around, and they know the race is far from won. What they have done is immeasurably important for the national party at this time of polarization among the people. But McCain, Giuliani, and Schwarzenegger are more than just wildly popular Republicans. They are also moderate Republicans. In an administration that has about as much use for moderate ideology as Rush Limbaugh has for liberalism, presenting this moderate face to the voters of this country is essential. President Clinton did it with great success in the nineties. The main difference between what Clinton accomplished and what Bush accomplished four years ago and is now trying again, is that the Clinton administration was a centrist administration that pissed off liberals as much as it did conservatives. Why you don’t hear about liberal angst with the Clinton administration is simply because he was a Democrat, which carries with it a gigantic stack of get out of jail free cards from the liberal populace.

The Bush administration has been staunchly conservative, only switching to centrist values when in senses defeat, whether it be in policy or in elections. Conservatives hold the power in the country right now, but that’s the dirty little secret they’re trying to hide from the masses of the electorate that don’t pay close attention to the trials and tribulations of American politics. More and more, this election, and watching it, has become nothing more than a sideshow. It is not for the benefit of those who have true, solid belief in one ideology or another, or one version of a certain ideology, or even unique combinations of many ideologies. No, most people have already decided who will get their vote. This is a sickening power struggle for influence amongst the ignorant.

Before the Republicans run Cheney and then Bush out on that stage, they had to soften the blow. Having people who are more popular than your candidate is common sense politics. And what could be better than magic pixie dust off of the shoulders of three men whom Democrats, by and large, would love to claim as their own.