7 September
by John Vomastic

A Winning Republican Strategy

I watched with interest the entire Republican National Convention (RNC) as I previously did with the democrats.

Speaker after speaker recalled the horrors of 9/11 in great detail. Nothing was off limits as Rudy Giuliani described people jumping from the top floors and counting the seconds before they hit the pavement. For the relatives of the victims of 9/11 these images were bound to recall deep memories and distressing emotions but that didn’t seem to matter. The republicans appear to be determined to ride the horse called 9/11 for all it’s worth.

It’s a great strategy and one that is likely to ensure victory for the republicans. I remember when Bush stood among the rubble shortly after 9/11 and said in effect we will get those responsible. Right on, Mr. President, right on I shouted with a clinched fist from my living room as I watched the events on my TV. Yes, I was among those who gave Bush a 90+ percent approval rating.

Americans have always rallied around their president in a time of crisis. All Bush had to do was declare a war on terrorism, and the nation united behind him. Democrats, republicans, independents, it really didn’t matter. Nor did it matter who was president. It’s what Americans do in a time of crisis. But it wasn’t just Americans, the whole world rallied behind us. The UN unanimously passed a resolution condemning the actions of the terrorists. Germany, France and other nations gladly sent troops to fight with us in Afghanistan. A Paris newspaper even declared that we are all Americans today. The world looked to us for leadership. It could have been our finest hour.

I wish America was a more peaceful nation. But our words often say otherwise. When Zell Miller gave the keynote address at the RNC, the more vitriolic the rhetoric the louder the applause. Whenever there is a discussion about how the wealth of America should be distributed it is not long before someone yells “class warfare.” When the subject of how to combat drug usage became a major focus, the solution was to declare a “war on drugs.” By declaring a war on drugs the focus of how to address the problem was narrowed to primarily a military solution. Destroy drugs at their origin, interdict supply routes and issue severe penalties for even minor usage. Focusing solely on a “war” solution eliminates other possible alternatives to solving the problem. A former president once declared a war on poverty to address the needs of the poor in our society. That’s about as nonsensical an approach to a problem as one can get.

Terrorism is no different. It is a war that can not be won solely by military means but rather must be fought for the hearts and minds of individual men and women. That is not to say that the support structure, sanctuaries, and the individuals themselves of a terrorist organization such as Al Qaeda should not be actively pursued. Their attempts and plans should be thwarted at every opportunity. Did France declare war against the Algerian terrorists who were fighting for independence? Did England declare war against the Irish Republican Army even though car bombings were occurring in London on a frequent basis? Are there ways to address terrorism other than a military response?

In the State of the Union Address (Jan 20, 2004), President Bush declared, “the terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States - and war is what they got.” Yes, Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden did declare war on the United States and even said that civilians were fair game. But neither Iraq nor Saddam Hussein declared war on the United States. There has never been any connection between Iraq and 9/11.

Those responsible for the events of 9/11were Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. But the direct links between the two were never mentioned in the RNC. Speaker after speaker recalled the horrors of 9/11 and then jumped to the war in Iraq as if there was a cause-and-effect relationship between the two.

I am reminded of the words of Herman Goering. Goering was one of the highest-ranking Nazis who survived to be captured and put on trial for war crimes in the city of Nuremberg by the Allies after the end of World War II. In a private interview he stated the following:
"Of course the people don't want war. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger."
Goering’s words were certainly true about the Iraq war. Just say the right words - no supporting data needed - people will follow.

During the first Gulf War (Desert Storm), Bush 41 (father of Bush 43) did a superb job as commander-in-chief. He formed a true coalition that even included the Arab countries and got the allies to pay for everything. But when the 1992 elections rolled around the war was forgotten and Bush 41 lost the election because of Clinton’s emphasis on the economy. Bush 43 was a major participant in that campaign and I am sure he remembered the lessons quite well. During the midterm elections of 2002 the economy was doing poorly so all of the emphasis was on Saddam. It worked brilliantly.

In 2004 all that is necessary is to beat the drums of war so loudly that all other issues, including the words or your opponent, are in the background noise. Ride that horse to victory!

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