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Beyond RNC's jingoistic orgy

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By The Staff

I wonder what President Dwight D. Eisenhower would have thought of the essentially substanceless orgy of chauvinistic nationalism and belligerent jingoism that was the recent Republican National Convention.

Surely he would have been appalled. It was he, after all, beloved Republican war hero, who warned us against the monstrous "military-industrial complex" that was taking shape after World War II, reminding us of our founding fathers' worry that a standing army would eventually corrupt and hobble our republic.

Indeed, if John McCain's convention is any indication, it's hard to deny that we have become a rather warlike and vengeful people, far too easily swayed to take up arms and destroy ill-defined enemies, whether out of bloodlust or the simple fear of the shadows and goblins that military industrialists, disaster capitalists, and cynical politicians concoct for our daily nightmares.

Look. Let's talk for a moment like true patriots and stop fanning the flames of national and international discord. The American who dares say no to a war of foolish aggression, one that arguably makes us less rather than more secure, is not an anti-patriot or a traitor but a true friend of liberty. And while it is foolish to let other nations govern our foreign policy, it is surely no less foolish to ignore the whole weight of foreign opinion when even our friends tremble at the drop of our boot.

This is not mere "liberal" folderol or naivete. For as much as the cheerleaders for unrestrained military engagement label the opposition as namby-pamby pacifists, the fact of the matter is that no given act of war is good and just simply because the United States is waging it.

Put the flag-waving aside and let's talk merits, cutting through the propaganda that warring and self-interested governments put forth by way of public relations and press releases.

"My country right or wrong" is a recipe for the great national pride that precedes a mighty fall - whether uttered by exceptionalist Americans or by the toadies of foreign tyrants.

Whose fantasy is greater: the Quaker activist insisting that "war is not the answer" or the Bush Administration ideolgue who still insists (how many years after "Mission Accomplished?") that uninvited democracy-building in foreign lands is a viable option?

So the much-touted surge "has worked." What does that mean, exactly? Worked for whom and by what means? Have the ends really been worth the means - either in terms of American or Iraqi dead and maimed? And if it has really worked so well, why should it remain necessary to maintain post-surge numbers of American troops even as late as February 2009 - when the current (and then-no-longer) president has presumptuously declared that only another 8,000 troops may be withdrawn?

And what about the largely "forgotten war" in Afghanistan, where Barack Obama has been way out in front of McCain in suggesting a need for more support? Only now, in the shadow of the November election, has the president ordered - still without any perceptible increase in troop levels - a heightened campaign, across Pakistani borders, (at the risk of provoking greater instability in Pakistan), in pursuit of an Osama bin Laden who was allowed to escape Afghanistan earlier, while Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld diverted themselves to Iraq, where they had ample reason to know that al-Qaida had never been?

But enough of all that. Set aside, even, McCain's abysmal record on supporting veteran care and his peevish attempt at taking credit for a new GI Bill that Sen. Jim Webb from Virginia pushed through and Obama supported, while until the latest possible moment McCain vigorously opposed it - a point on which he has been publicly called out by at least one veteran.

Just consider, if you will, the recent ballyhoo over the former Soviet state of Georgia, which McCain and Palin want us to believe is a bastion of democratic governance in a sea of encroaching tyranny - which Russia, that great Evil Empire in miniature, has attacked wholly without provocation.

According to Lou Dubose, whose reporting of Sept. 1 in The Washington Spectator provides but one of numerous reality checks on that convenient misrepresentation, Russia's action was scarcely unprovoked. Russia invaded Georgia only after Georgia's invasion of South Ossetia. Georgia's president, who made no secret of his designs on that disputed territory, understood the active U.S. role in arming, training and conducting joint exercises with his army (at U.S. taxpayer expense to the tune of $8 million) as our government's tacit promise to support him in a conflict with Russia.

Add to all this Bush Administration efforts to fast-track Georgia and Ukraine into NATO, and it's not hard to imagine that a prickly Russian bear might feel threatened - and act accordingly. And then, with such impeccable timing, Condoleezza Rice follows swiftly with a trip to Poland, where she announces a missile defense system (of highly questionable defensive merits) that her administration has recently strong-armed down the Polish government's throat - despite real concerns that Poland might face similar retaliation from a needlessly provoked former superpower.

The facts of the case are much more extensive than I can report here, and nowhere hinted at in the bluster of McCain and Palin trying to gain political creds by "standing up to Russia" - as if another confrontation with Russia ("cold" or "hot") could possibly be in anyone's best interests. There was certainly no mention at the RNC of the evident conflict-of-interest involved in the meddling in Georgian affairs - pre- and post-Russian invasion - by McCain's foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, a paid lobbyist for the governments of Georgia, Latvia and Romania, who stands to profit nicely if certain U.S.-based corporatist interests prevail in those places.

When he initially suggested both sides back down, Obama was trying to introduce a bit more nuance to the discussion. The nuance has been reported, anyway, if not very widely in the mainstream press. It is up to the American electorate to decide whether to buy into an honest assessment of complex reality or to give ourselves over once more to the simplistic good-evil scenarios of the fearmongerers, who stoop so low in their conventioneering as to use the dead of Sept. 11, 2001 as stage props in their jingoistic orgy of war hype.

Yes, our Republican and Democratic experiment is a great tradition, and we potentially a great nation, but let's be clear: we are intrinsically no better or superior - or "exceptional" - human beings than those of any other nation, nor are our dead intrinsically worth more than theirs. Three thousand of our dead in a single attack on an American city does not justify hundreds of thousands dead and maimed in a country where our attackers were not even based. Our greatness as a nation, it seems to me, lies in the collective will for "liberty and justice for all" that periodically has risen up among us - and it exists, always, as potentiality more than as actuality.

After all, here we are in the year of our Lord 2008, still manufacturing reasons to believe that a black man in the White House represents a greater national peril than four more years of brash and chauvinistic nationalism and a foreign policy that understands diplomacy primarily in terms of brute force or the immediate and credible threat thereof - and whose chanted chorus in response to all economic and social ills at home, to the crumbling of infrastructure and the foreclosing of middle-class hope, is Bush-McCain's unceasing faith that the American people - without any particular help from government - will, as always, find a way to pick ourselves up.

Of course, it will take at least another comment of roughly the same length to speak sensibly to the issues raised in the previous paragraph. And to better make the case that a vote for Barack Obama this November is much more in the interests of the common American - and Hoosier; and Perry Countian - than a vote for John McCain and the continuation of the disastrous foreign and domestic policies of this Bush Administration.

Tell City resident Brett Alan Sanders, a Perry Central teacher, is also managing editor of the literary webzine New Works Review (new-works.org) and a contributing writer and blogger at tertuliamagazine.com.