The Republican Convention: A Parade of Extremism

Revolutionary Worker #1252, September 19, 2004, posted at

At this Republican National Convention (including in Bush's own acceptance speech), the United States was portrayed as the only force for goodness within a world of ominous evil.

From the convention podium we were told that the hopes of "god" himself rides on the tanks and missiles of the U.S. military. America, this capitalist "ownership society," was presented as the perfect model for those who are willing to go along, and as the merciless punisher for those who are not so willing.

Over and over, it was said that the U.S. needs a "commander-in-chief" who is free from doubts or hesitations. In modern America, nuanced thinking and even simple intellectual curiosity are often treated as dangerous weaknesses.

At this convention, it was said that the safety of every family in the U.S. demands an aggressive, unbeatable global military machine that is unrestrained by law or international opinion. Raw armed force was exalted as the salve for every fear and as the solution to virtually every international problem.

There were speakers who demanded a case-hardened, internal U.S. political climate where debate and dissent are considered suspicious and even treasonous. And meanwhile, kept slightly out of view of the television cameras, there lurked the full force of reactionary "cultural wars"--where the faithful are trained as belligerent Christian soldiers who snarl at women's rights, gay marriage, simple tolerance, notions of equality, and any hint of secular, progressive and critical thinking.

There they were, the delegates of this convention, serving as the backdrop for the powerful, chanting the empire's mindless mantra "USA! USA! USA!" until they were hoarse.

According to the Pentagon, the United States now has over 700 military installations outside its borders, in 130 countries. In the last three years, the Pentagon has set up a new string of "lily pad" bases for rapid deployment of forces in a dozen countries-- including in whole new regions of the world --like Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan in oil-rich central Asia and Poland, Romania and Bulgaria in Eastern Europe. And yet, clearly, at this convention, this was considered NOT NEARLY ENOUGH.

On this convention floor, France was an enemy, and the Muslim world was the devil himself. The willingness to launch "pre-emptive" war was treated as the litmus test of presidential leadership.

Over and over, 9/11 was waved frantically like a bloody shirt to push inconvenient facts into the background, to justify any imperialist act of brutality--now and forever.

Abu Ghraib has exposed the raw brutality of the U.S. operations. The absence of weapons of mass destruction has revealed that the Iraq invasion was justified by lies. There are new mass graves in Fallujah filled with civilians killed by U.S. forces. In Afghanistan and Iraq, the people live under foreign occupation, while corrupt puppet governments are installed by U.S. overseers. But here in Madison Square Garden, none of this was mentioned. There was only 9/11-- used over and over to justify a mood of self-righteous and bloody revenge.

This Republican National Convention was a tightly orchestrated, televised pep rally for history's most ruthless grab for global power. It was about training millions of people in how to view the world and the future. It was about defining and enforcing the political limits of acceptable thought. And it was about rallying and unleashing the most ignorant, gullible, vicious and corrupted forces of an empire, as the core forces for a permanent ongoing crusade.

Criticism as Treason

There was much talk in the media before the convention that the White House would show a "face of moderation" to the public-- to calm the fears of those who catch the whiff of raw fascism. And, true to form, a few so-called "moderate" Republicans (who have had no visible influence over policy) were allowed to speak, and meanwhile many of the most powerful and hated policy-makers, like Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, Rice and Wolfowitz, were kept far from the stage..

But at the same time, the "red meat" themes of this political campaign were never far from the spotlight.

Democratic Senator Zell Miller from Georgia, the convention's keynote speaker, raged that ANY questioning of the war and its motives put the lives and honor of U.S. soldiers at risk.

"Nothing," he declared, "makes this Marine madder than someone calling American troops occupiers rather than liberators."

At the climax of his rant, Miller proclaimed: "Now, while young Americans are dying in the sands of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan, our nation is being torn apart and made weaker because of the Democrats' manic obsession to bring down our Commander-in-Chief."

Here, in a sentence, is a defining theme of the official presidential campaign: Miller is saying that calling for the removal of this president (even within the channels of traditional electoral politics!)is treasonous activity that threatens American lives and encourages international enemies.

It is the theme of "With us or with the terrorists!" applied to domestic politics.

And Vice President Dick Cheney soon followed up. He launched his post-convention campaigning by saying that if Bush lost the election "then the danger is that we'll get hit again and we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the point of view of the United States."

Cheney later claimed he had not literally meant that a Kerry victory would directly encourage some massive new "terrorist" attack on the U.S. "homeland." But these vague denials just meant that this linking of Kerry and terrorism dominated the news for a few more days.

These statements by Miller and Cheney are all the more extreme when you look at John Kerry's campaign -- which has been tame in its criticisms of Bush, and belligerently pro-war in its own right.

The San Francisco Chronicle wrote in a front-page article: "Kerry's speeches and interviews with his military advisers make clear that he fundamentally agrees with Bush that the United States must maintain its unquestioned military dominance, the ability to project power anywhere it is needed, and that the United States should not just react to attack but be willing to launch preventive or pre-emptive wars." (Aug. 23, 2004)

Before the Republican Convention, Kerry even attacked this White House from the right, denouncing Bush for suggesting the pullout of some U.S. troops currently occupying South Korea.

Kerry supports the continued occupation of Iraq -- saying he thinks he can bring victory within four years. He says that he would vote to give Bush the power to attack Iraq all over again. He says he supports doubling the U.S. commando forces that carry out covert operations and assassinations.

The Democratic Party called for its supporters to be gentle and respectful in their criticisms of Bush. The Kerry campaign openly and officially distanced themselves from the New York City protests during the Republican Convention.

And yet. after the Democratic candidate slavishly endorsed all the many war crimes and aggressions of this administration, and after his party establishment worked to prevent this presidential election process from being a vehicle for antiwar sentiment.after all that, Cheney (and a hit squad of "surrogates," from the Swift Boat veterans to Zell Miller) say that any challenge to this White House (however tame or limited or fundamentally pro- imperialist) gives deadly encouragement to "the terrorists."

What this reveals is that the group now in power in the U.S. -- this Bush clique and its backers in the larger U.S. ruling class -- believe (and have long believed) that they are the only legitimate rulers of this society (and the world), and that anything that threatens (or even questions) their hold on power should be beaten back by any means necessary.

This is, after all, the same crew that snatched the election of 2000 by a shocking mix of dirty tricks and that has (more recently) discussed at the highest levels how they might cancel or postpone the coming national presidential elections. (See the revelations of Newsweek , July 19.)

The Bush administration has challenged and changed long-standing legal and political norms of U.S. society. They have suspended constitutional habeas corpus in unprecedented ways--holding significant numbers of people (both citizens and immigrants) in prison within the U.S. without charges or trial.

They have disregarded the Fourth Amendment prohibitions against "unreasonable search and seizure"--and unleashed a vast half-hidden campaign of infiltration, surveillance, warrantless searches and wiretapping. They have torn up or ignored long-standing international treaties, including the Geneva Conventions for prisoners of war-- and created "law-free zones" of torture and imprisonment in Guantánamo Bay, Afghanistan's Bagram Air Force Base, Abu Ghraib and other places that still remain unnamed.

And now, at the RNC, at the start of the official campaign season, they rather openly declared that even the slavishly small differences expressed during the presidential campaign must be seen as weakening the country and providing openings for "terrorism."


This RNC did not go down as planned. Karl Rove (Bush's political mastermind) had envisioned this as a triumphalist celebration of a war president held at New York's ground zero.

This convention could DEMAND mindless obedience and war fever--but at the same time, they could not PREVENT a powerful spirit of resistance from saying NO! to all that.

A river of people wound through the streets of Manhattan on August 29, and constant protests and actions punctuated the week that followed.

This convention could only take place surrounded by rings of armor, snipers, security guards and barricades. The authorities tried to pretend they were simply taking "anti-terrorist" precautions--but quite obviously, the Republican rally had to be sealed off from New York--and from the powerful protest manifested throughout the city.

And now, as a historic conflict over the future builds and presses forward, it is worth taking some time to really think through again what this convention represented, and what this larger Bush agenda calls for.

We need to look at what the world and the future will be like, if they have their way and if even more powerful and ongoing resistance is not built.

What would permanent U.S. domination and endless war be like, and what would be imposed on billions of people at the point of a gun?

What new Ashcroftian madness are these forces preparing to unleash on the people in "the homefront"--and what historic new changes do they intend to impose on life and politics?

And is it conceivable that they--and their apparatus of operatives, agents and foot soldiers--will simply allow themselves to be defeated and dispersed in the years ahead by electoral means?