By now, anyone following the US presidential election campaigns can't help but notice how both parties are falling over themselves trying to convince voters that their candidate is more homicidally gung-ho than the other guy's. As Democrats and Republicans slug it out for yet another round of high octane pissing on the campaign trail, voters are treated to the spectacle of conjoined rivals, Genghis Khan and Genghis “Khan't”, doing battle on the same side of the testosterone divide. In other words, John Kerry and George Bush pulling out all the stops to prove their “heroism” (which, depending on your party affiliation, could either mean re-opening your war wounds or re-opening your dental records).
In the meantime, Americans find themselves in the ensuing media crossfire, ducking for cover as veterans dredged up from an earlier conflict hurl petrified pellets of Mekong Delta mud at each other. For the media, focusing on the brouhaha over swift boats here at home is a cost effective way of reducing its poorly rated presence in more hostile war zones overseas.
While the faux crisis of John Kerry's tour in Vietnam (did he or didn't he perform the combat equivalent of a porn star and empty his load into a helpless teenager?) heats up on the domestic front, the bodies elsewhere continue to pile up. But as Abu Ghraib recently proved, it's not just the dead anymore, who make up the ghastly pyramids of human remains we normally associate with genocidal conflicts elsewhere. Empire no longer relies on mere corpses to lay the foundations for its monuments anymore than it tallies up the death toll of its conquered citizenry. For now, at least, with the smoldering boneyard conveniently hidden from view, the fugitive stench of enduring human misery hasn't made many inroads towards shifting our frame of reference away from the non-issues of this election -- chief among them “swift boats.”
As alternative candidates and platforms are purged from the American political landscape, both Kerry and Bush can safely sum up their positions as “You're either with us or you're....with us.” When Henry Ford famously quipped “You can buy a Ford in any color as long as it’s black,” he may have laid the foundations for the “Anyone But Bush” doctrine. Clearly, ABB adherents had his cynical prophecy in mind when they nominated war criminal John Kerry to make a point about warring criminal George W. Bush.
To this day, both presidential candidates defend the continuing occupation of Iraq, but if one was forced to take a moral stand on the issue of waging war “preventively” (or as some would falsely insist, “pre-emptively”) it would only be argued on the unilateral nature of the invasion and not the invasion itself. For John Kerry, who to this day defends his imperious and Quisling Senate record, “unilateralism” was this administration's only real crime -- an embarrassing blunder up there with the President slurping from his fingerbowl at Buckingham Palace.
Conveniently for both candidates, a brutal and morally indefensible attack on a civilian population doesn't enter into the debate. Not surprisingly, neither does the Palestinian/Israeli crisis. Both candidates are content to straddle the electrified wall on that one, which they refer to in unison as a “security fence.” It only goes to show how quickly “Anyone But Bush” has morphed into “Everything But Bush” with John Kerry playing “Little Sir Echo” to the Republican attack dogs nipping at his heels, matching them bark for bark with rabidly foaming rhetoric of his own.
American voters, harnessed and hamstrung by their own government's assaults on their liberties, (not to mention their intelligence) can do little more than watch as the two parties cannibalize each other's platforms for the benefit of each, and to the exclusion of everyone else. If the voting public seems not only blinkered but color blinded as well, it's thanks to the recent onslaught of intentionally misleading “terror alerts” which serve to give the Republicans an edge in fighting a war against those who might interpret them as a distraction.
Notice, too, how they all come with the same warning, regardless of color, which goes something like this: “If a few thousand flaming tons of glass, steel and concrete should happen to fall on you this holiday weekend, continue shopping.” And perhaps even more ominously: “Report anything suspicious -- starting with the person who pointed out to you how these terror alerts seem to rise according to the President's dipping poll numbers.”
And should reality ever rear its shrunken head and intrude leering into the present, the administration can be counted on to crank up the colors a notch or two until the escalating violence on our TV screens becomes just more background noise to ignore during dinner. Notice how “threats” to the immediate physical security of Americans, however dimly perceived (and never to be confused with more immediate threats to jobs, healthcare, or education), always takes precedence over loss of life elsewhere?
Given all the false alarms and laughable “intelligence”, the present alert must be at the exact shade of red creeping up from under the collars of presumably embarrassed Homeland Security officials. In all fairness to our neo-Gestapo friends, it must have been a pretty thankless task -- trying to whip up a frenzied public outpouring of grief and sympathy over vague threats to Manhattan's financial institutions. All the harder, still, when they're based on three-year-old “intelligence” from an outed counterspook on the Pakistani government payroll. Unfortunately for the administration, the renewed surge of patriotism they were hoping for as shell shocked citizens laid down their ballots to join hands and sing “We are the World....We are the Stock Exchange...” didn't quite come off the way it was meant to. More likely, Homeland Security's entertainment directors are feeling every bit as silly by now as anyone caught on camera cowering under a desk during a fire drill, with the world looking on in undisguised, snickering contempt.
It might be more fruitful for them to analyze the “chatter” of all those botoxed debutantes and their Ken doll equivalents announcing the terror alerts from their news desk teleprompters. Or the silvery sleek pundits who emerge on cue from their DC flotation think tanks, sternly intoning their own wishful thinking: to stumble ecstatically through Armageddon with rolling clouds of spent aircraft fuel bearing down on them in a blizzard of ash. This is what the horse whisperers of the apocalypse dream about while the rest of us are asleep - their own self-fulfilling prophecies of being obliterated in a blinding, bone shattering instant of pain and bliss.
Bush's own death wish is partially reflected in his decision to hold the RNC in New York, where hundreds of thousands of protesters have formed a locust swarm of dissent all over the televised proceedings. But after the appearance of the whorish and boorish Bush twins on the convention stage, protesters may have found their most effective weapon yet in the fight to bring down the house of Bush: the embedded twins, Barbara and Jenna.
Republicans may have lost the election (regardless of what the fraudulently even poll numbers might suggest otherwise) but they've certainly won the battle to keep voters of all political persuasions in lock step with the principles of “all-terror-all-of-the-time.” As the DNC recently proved with its uniformed “heroes” taking center stage, and the blaring muscle car music pumping up the delegates between bomb bursts of tri-colored confetti, the so-called “blue” party, in keeping with these grimly goose stepping times, has traded in its regal robes for a more utilitarian khaki.
Off-camera, and away from the bombast and the bomb blasts of the convention floor, the keys to the looted kingdom are being handed over in a skull and bones handshake. In the meantime, the indolently snappish First Wife, Theresa Heinz Kerry -- (a curious cross between Winnie Mandela and Zsa Zsa Gabor) is offered up as a sort of consolation prize for the attending women delegates who may have been feeling a little underwhelmed by all the dick swinging onstage.
Regardless of the outcome in November, voters on either side of the fence can be sure about one thing, though: No “girlie man” will be “reporting for duty” in the Oval Office come November. And even if he happens to be a Democrat, we can be equally certain that his ascension to the country's highest office will be rubberstamped by the backroom brokers of Wall Street -- the very ones who are hard at work right now making sure that Bush's sinking “slow” boat doesn't necessarily spell the end of business or Empire-as-Usual.
Leilla Matsui is a freelance writer living in Tokyo, Japan. She can be reached at: email@example.com. This essay is a shorter version of a piece that will appear in the forthcoming edition of Covert Action Quarterly.
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