Bully for Us

You talkin' to me, world? You talkin' to me? I'm the only empire around.

Washington, D.C—To much of the world, the United States is an out-of-control empire that must be carefully talked back down off the ledge before it drags everyone over the edge.

This situation is made all the more tricky because it is accompanied by unsettling suspicions that the empire—facing insurgencies around the world, its military stretched thin—is losing power. Things don't look good. The standard of living appears to be declining, trade is in dangerous straits, the dollar is losing to the euro.

At a time when most of the rest of the world hopes we will rejoin the international community, Bush is sounding more aggressive and militaristic than ever. When everyone else thinks we made a bad move in the Middle East and are facing disaster, the Republicans shrug off the facts and call it victory: "Today, because America has acted, and because America has led, the forces of terror and tyranny have suffered defeat after defeat, and America and the world are safer," proclaims the party platform.

Cheney says we are winning the war on terror from a podium in Madison Square Garden, where $50 million was spent last week to protect the victorious Republican officialdom from the defeated Al Qaeda.

News from the liberated colonies is grim. American troops are killed in ones and twos in Iraq day after day and are coming under increasing fire in Afghanistan—the two nations we liberated. Our commander in chief and his staff sat on their hands all during the first half of 2001, receiving warning after warning that an attack was coming, and never told us.

With its neoconservative foreign policy, the Bush administration continues its strategy of ridiculing and dissing international diplomacy through the U.N. and other institutions and, instead, pushes ahead with regime change by unilateral military force. "We are going after terrorists wherever they plot and plan and hide, changing the old course of pinprick strikes that did little to get at the root of terrorism," the platform states. "We eliminated many of Al Qaeda's key leaders and put the world on notice that nations that train, harbor, or finance terrorists are just as guilty as the terrorists themselves."

Last week at the convention, both Zell Miller, the Southern Democrat keynoter, and Cheney, in back-to-back speeches, ridiculed the very idea of international negotiations:

Miller: "He would let Paris decide when America needs defending. I want Bush to decide."

Cheney: "Senator Kerry has made it clear that he would use military force only if approved by the United Nations."

And Cheney laid it on the line: "And on the question of America's role in the world, the differences between Senator Kerry and President Bush are the sharpest, and the stakes for the country are the highest. History has shown that a strong and purposeful America is vital to preserving freedom and keeping us safe, yet time and again Senator Kerry has made the wrong call on national security."


Besides national security, the GOP's propaganda this election is aimed at taxes and sex.

Although the nation's deficit is growing at an alarming rate, thanks at least in part to reduced revenues caused by Bush's various tax cuts, the president wants more cuts.

This drive is to be accompanied by "reform" that eventually entails getting rid of the income tax and the hated IRS, two longtime conservative goals.

The Republicans, always alert to opportunities to shift the focus of power from federal to state and local governments, would cite reduced revenues as a rationale for defunding Social Security, thereby weakening the system and bringing on eventual ruin. When Social Security has been broken, then it will be more susceptible to privatization. The platform sets out the program: "Personal retirement accounts must be the cornerstone of strengthening and enhancing Social Security. . . . Today's financial markets offer a variety of investment options, including some that guarantee a rate of return higher than the current Social Security system with no risk to the investor." As the holders of 401(k)'s found out.

At home, sex is the determining factor in today's Republican Party. For social conservatives, men are the thinkers and doers, and women the loving helpmates. A woman's body, as some leftists would argue, has been exploited like a 19th-century colony: a source of sturdy, willing labor and a factory for more children, to create an ever burgeoning surplus labor force. Through her consumer spending habits (organized by men), the little woman provides a booming economic marketplace. And of course, sex is used to keep her in line. She's on the receiving end of the power arrangement. Abortion threatens this arrangement.

The key to organizing women is the nuclear family with its "traditional values," which are enforced by a social policy organized around sex roles, so that you qualify for things like welfare, tax breaks, unemployment insurance, and health care based on where you do it, how you do it, when you do it, and of course, with whom you do it. Under Bush, this role has been held in place by such well-known programs as tax incentives for married couples with children, intimidating anti-abortion regulations and laws, and strictures on welfare programs. As for the nuclear family, the Republicans are clear: "We strongly support President Bush's call for a constitutional amendment that fully protects marriage, and we believe that neither federal nor state judges nor bureaucrats should force states to recognize other living arrangements as equivalent to marriage. . . . President Bush will also vigorously defend the Defense of Marriage Act."

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