And lastly, tonight, a Special Comment on the advertising of terrorism.
The commercial, you have already seen, it is a distillation of everything this administration and the party in power have tried to do these last five years and six weeks.
It is from the Republican National Committee, it shows images of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. It offers quotes from them, all as a clock ticks ominously in the background. It concludes with what Zawahiri may or may not have said to a Pakistani journalist as long ago as 2001, his dubious claim that he had purchased suitcase bombs. The quotation is followed by sheer coincidence, no doubt, by an image of a massive explosion. “These are the stakes” appears on the screen, quoting exactly from Lyndon Johnson’s infamous nuclear scare commercial from 1964, “Vote November 7th”.
There is a cheap Texas Chainsaw Massacre quality to the whole thing. It also serves to immediately call to mind the occasions when President Bush dismissed Osama bin Laden as somebody he didn’t think about, except, obviously, when elections were near. Frankly, a lot of people seeing that commercial for the first time have laughed out loud, but not everyone. And therein lies the true threat to this country.
The dictionary definition of the word ‘terrorize’ is simple and not open to misinterpretation: “To fill or overpower with terror; terrify; coerce by intimidation or fear.” Note please that the words ‘violence’ and ‘death’ are missing from that definition. For the key to terrorism is not the act-but the fear of the act. That is why bin Laden and his deputies and his imitators are forever putting together videotape statements and releasing virtual infomercials with dire threats and heart-stopping warnings.
But why is the Republican Party imitating them? Bin Laden puts out what amounts to a commercial of fear; the Republicans put out what is unmistakable as a commercial of fear.
The Republicans are paying to have the messages of bin Laden and the others broadcast into your home! Only the Republicans have a bigger bankroll.
When last week, the CNN network ran video of an insurgent in Iraq evidently stalking and killing an American soldier, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Mr. Hunter, Republican of California, branded that channel quote “the publicist for an enemy propaganda film,” and added that CNN used it to sell commercials. Another California Republican, Representative Brian Bilbray, called the video quote “nothing short of a terrorist snuff film.”
If so, Mr. Bilbray, then what in the hell is your party’s new advertisement? And Mr. Hunter? CNN using the film to sell commercials? Commercials? You have adopted bin Laden and Zawahiri as spokesmen for the Republican National Committee.
‘To fill or overpower with terror; terrify. To coerce by intimidation or fear’
By this definition, the people who put these videos together: first, the terrorists and then, the administration, whose shared goal is to scare you into panicking instead of thinking, they are the ones terrorizing you.
By this definition, the leading terrorist group in this world right now is al Qaeda, but the leading terrorist group in this country right now is the Republican Party.
Eleven presidents ago, the chief executive reassured us that ‘we have nothing to fear, but fear itself.’ His distant successor has wasted his administration, insisting there is nothing we can have but fear itself.
The Vice President, as recently as this month, was caught campaigning again with the phrase “mass death in the United States”. Four years ago, it was the now Secretary of State, Dr. Rice, rationalizing Iraq with quote, “we don’t want to be…the smoking gun to be the mushroom cloud.” Days later, Mr. Bush himself told an audience that quote “we cannot wait the final proof, the smoking gun, that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.”
And now we have this cheesy commercial, complete with images of a faked mushroom cloud and implications of mass death in America.
This administration has derived benefit and power from terrorizing the very people it claims to be protecting from terror. It may be the oldest trick in the political book: scare people into believing they are in danger and only you can save them. Lyndon Johnson used it to bury Barry Goldwater. Joe McCarthy leaped from obscurity on its back. And now the legacy has come to President George W. Bush.
Of course, the gruel of fear is getting thinner and thinner, is it not, Mr. President? And thus, more and more of it needs to be made out of less and less actual terror. After last week’s embarrassing internet hoax about dirty bombs in footballs stadiums, the one your Department of Homeland Security immediately disseminated to the public, a self-described former CIA operative named Wayne Simmons cited the fiasco as quote “The, and I mean, the perfect example of the President’s Military Commissions Act of 2006 and the NSA Terrorist Eavesdropping Program-how vital they are.”
Frank Gaffney, once a respected Assistant Secretary of Defense and now the president of something called The Center for Security Policy added “one of the things that I hope Americans take away from this is not only that they’re gunning for us. Not just in a place like Iraq, but truly worldwide.”
Of course, the “they” to which Mr. Gaffney referred, turned out to be a lone 20-year-old grocery bagger from Wisconsin named Jake. A kid trying to one-up some loser in an internet game of ‘chicken.’ His threat referenced seven football stadiums, at which dirty bombs were to be exploded yesterday. It began with the one in New York City, even though there isn’t one in New York City and though the attacks were supposed to be simultaneous, four of the games were scheduled to start at 1:00 pm Eastern time and the others at 4:00 pm Eastern time. Moreover, the kid said that he had posted the identical message on forty websites since September. We caught him in merely about six weeks, even though the only way he could be less subtle, less stealthy and less of a threat was if he bought an advertisement on the Superbowl telecast.
Mr. Bush, this is the what–100th plot your people have revealed that turned out to be some nonsensical misunderstanding or the fabrications of somebody hoping to talk his way off a waterboard in Eastern Europe? If, Mr. President, this is the kind of crack work your new ad implies that only you, and not the Democrats, can do, you, sir, need to pull over and ask for directions. The real question, of course, Mr. Bush, is why did your Department of Homeland Security even release that information in the first place? It was never a serious threat. Even the first news accounts quoted a Homeland spokesman as admitting strong skepticism. The kind of strong skepticism which most government agencies address before telling the public, not afterwards.