DUSTY RHOADES: Politicizing of Bodies: Depends on Whose
I have it on no less an authority than Republican House Majority Leader John Boehner.
First, a little background. Recently, the Democratic House Campaign Committee ran an ad entitled "Things Have Taken a Turn for the Worse." The ad showed, among other things, flag-draped coffins coming back from Iraq. It also showed the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the idea being that things aren't going so well, either here or abroad, under total Republican control.
Well, if there's one thing that the Republicans can still do competently, it's get huffy, and huffy is exactly what they got over the ad, which they claimed "politicized" the war and "insulted" military families.
"For the Democrats, everything is about politics, so nothing they have done over the last three years to shamelessly politicize the war in Iraq has shocked me, but this crosses the line," said Rep. Tom Reynolds of New York, chairman of the House Republican campaign committee. Republican leaders demanded loudly that the ad be removed from the DCCC Web site.
Some Democrats recalled, however, that there was a pretty famous campaign ad for George Dubbya Bush that featured flag-draped coffins being carried from the ruins of the World Trade Center. Why, they asked, is it "politicizing" those who died in Iraq, and not "politicizing" when Republicans show the dead being carried out of the WTC?
What was even more surprising was that certain members of the long-dormant press got off their duffs and actually asked the same question. This was a significant departure from the usual run of lazy reporting, which normally consists of "Republicans said 'A.' Democrats said 'B.' Now here's Tom with the sports."
Someone actually put the question to the highest Republican member of the House of Representatives, the aforementioned Rep. Boehner. According to a story in The Cincinnati Enquirer, Boehner was railing against the Democrats and their evil commercials, saying it was "appalling" to "use those images to rally Democrats and raise money."
At that point, one reporter spoke up. What, he asked Boehner, was the difference between the Democratic ads and the ones showing the flag-draped coffins at Ground Zero?
I like to imagine that at that moment, a hush fell over the room and all eyes turned in shock to gaze at the reporter who dared to ask an actual tough question of a Republican in power. But that's just me being dramatic. We do know, from the Enquirer story, that Boehner seemed "tongue-tied."
"These were American citizens killed by terrorists," he said. "That is a very different policy issue than American soldiers dying on the battlefield protecting the rights and freedoms of American people."
Then a reporter did something even more astounding. He asked an actual follow-up question. "How so?"
"How so?" Boehner sputtered. "You want me to describe the difference between men and women of the military out there defending the American people, and victims -- victims -- of terrorist activities?"
Well, yeah, I thought when I first read this. Especially since, after all the other rationales for the Iraq war have proven false, we keep hearing about how our soldiers and pilots are fighting terrorists. Iraq, George Dubbya has said over and over, is the "central front" in the War on Terror. We're fighting them "over there" so we don't have to fight them "over here." Ergo, the ones killed in that fight are, it would seem, "victims of terrorist activities."
But when a reporter pointed this out, Boehner got a little testy: "The World Trade Center victims were victims of a terrorist act here on our shore," he said, "and I think all Americans were appalled that this did in fact happen. But I think the differences, in terms of the images, are as clear as night and day."
So, what do we learn from this? It's OK to wave the bloody shirt when the victims were killed by a "terrorist act." But when you're showing victims of IEDs and insurgent attacks in Iraq, the difference is "night and day." So, what can we conclude? Anyone? Anyone?
We can't just say that Boehner meant that it's OK for Republicans to use images of the honored dead and not Democrats. That, after all would be nothing less than sheer hypocrisy. It would be the most shameless, bald-faced and cynical type of double standard. No one would dream of Republicans acting like that, would they?
The only alternative explanation is: American casualties in Iraq weren't killed or wounded by terrorists. Therefore, we've won.
So can they come home now?
Dusty Rhoades lives, writes and practices law in Carthage. His second novel, "Good Day in Hell" is available now from St Martin's/Minotaur. The third, "Safe and Sound," will be published next year.
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