Viewpoint: Bush dishonors 9-11 victims

Last January, George W. Bush was asking Congress for a mammoth increase in military spending to prosecute the war on terror.

At the time, he told the legislators: “I have no ambition whatsoever to use this as a political issue.”

Now Bush has launched his blitz of the TV screens with election messages that bear the ham-handed and tasteless marks of Karl Rove, his political adviser.

When the Republican National Committee met in Austin, Texas, this winter, Rove told them: “Go to the country on this issue.” Obviously, they took his advice.

Never one to avoid pseudo-patriotism, Dubya is wallowing in the painful memories of Sept. 11 and using the trauma of Ground Zero as a backdrop. Even the Republican convention will be in New York City, not far from where the twin towers once stood.

The entire approach has angered the families of World Trade Center victims and disgusted many compassionate Americans.

Kristen Breitweiser, whose husband, Ronald, perished in the 9-11 attacks, termed the television ads “political propaganda.”

Another WTC widow, Monica Gabrielle, was more pointed in her comments. “Unconscionable, that any political candidate or person would use Ground Zero, the hallowed ground of 3,000 dead, including my husband,” she said.

One of the Bush spots shows firefighters at work in the WTC rubble. That drew the ire of the president of the International Association of Firefighters, Harold Schaitberger. “Disgraceful,” he bellowed. “Hypocrisy at its worst.” However, the union has endorsed John Kerry.

Is this just George’s crassness and insensitivity, or is there something more to these Republican rants?

Public Citizen has just released a report, “Bush Campaign Ads: Brought to you by…Special Interests.” It details how emissaries from real estate, finance, energy, communications, health care and insurance have dumped a ton of cash into Dubya’s campaign funds.

In return, they have received tax breaks, favorable regulatory changes, legislative favors and plum appointments.

Many of these beneficiaries are “Rangers” and “Pioneers,” donors who deliver contributions amounting to $200,000 and $100,000 or more, respectively.

The Bush ads are targeting voters in 17 states considered undecided for November. At the end of January, Bush had used at least $41 million of his campaign funds. He has another $110 million left and is expected to bring in $50 million more before September, and will accept $75 million in public financing for the final two months before the vote.

Public Citizen said the 416 Rangers and Pioneers have brought in $58.1 million or more and that 90 percent of them represent the special interests of big corporations. And you thought Bush was running things.

The watchdog group said Bush has given tax breaks to aid the finance industry, made it easier for real estate developers to build on wetlands and in the Florida Everglades, backed off a pledge to regulate carbon dioxide emissions (to the delight of the electric utility and mining industries), made the amount of public land available for oil and gas drilling and coal mining greater, put mining industry executives into top Interior Department posts, and handed a plum to the pharmaceutical industry by pushing the pro-industry Medicare drug program.

“When people watch TV this week and see the ads touting President Bush and his record, they should know that major corporations helped pay for those ads,” said Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen. “More important, they should know that these industries got their money’s worth from Bush administration decisions worth billions of dollars.”

Frank Clemente, who heads Public Citizen’s Congress Watch, commented: “This report shows the insidious influence of money in politics. The Bush campaign’s unprecedented fundraising has made this administration more indebted to special interests than any in recent times.”

Will it be any different if we get Kerry in November? Kerry accepts funds from big-time law firms representing telecommunications interests and also gets money from many corporations that have moved operations off-shore and put thousands of Americans out of work.

It is glaringly obvious that Bush dances to Ariel Sharon’s tune. What about Kerry? There was a last-minute question at the Democratic candidates’ debate in New York.

“Is the barrier Israel is building in the West Bank a wall or a fence?” Kerry and Edwards nearly fell down in their haste to answer. “A fence,” they said. “Israel needs it to be secure, because Israel has no partner to negotiate peace.”

Ira Chernus, professor of religious studies at the University of Colorado, noted: “No partner. It’s the mantra that the Israeli government whipped up over three years ago in one of the great PR ploys of our time. They convinced much of the world that Yasir Arafat had no interest in negotiating with Israel, that he had become ‘irrelevant.’”

Chernus said the Israelis conveniently did not mention that there was no “partner for peace’ because they had made it so by ruling out Arafat.

Said Professor Chernus: “The ‘no partner’ mantra is a litmus test for supporters of the Sharon government’s policies. Kerry and Edwards were breathlessly eager to show that they pass the test.”

Chernus said there are millions of Jews in this country, in Israel and around the world who know that “no partner” line is a guarantee of further death and suffering on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

That observation seems to be echoed by Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss, spokesman for Neturei Karta International, an organization of anti-Zionist Jews.

Rabbi Weiss announced the group would burn the Israeli flag in a series of ceremonies around the globe on the feast of Purim.

The rabbi said: “The Zionist experiment has reached its inevitable conclusion. Death tolls mount and no viable solution is in sight. Slowly the Jewish people are awakening to the reality of Zionism, its rejection of Torah views of exile and redemption, combined with its aggressive stance towards Gentiles in general and Palestinians in particular.”

Rabbi Weiss added: “By burning the Israeli flag, we are symbolically declaring that the Israeli state, contrary to its absurd claims, is not representative of the Jewish people. In fact, its denial of our faith and its brutalization of the Palestinian people, renders it antithetical to Judaism.”

If that holds for the Jewish people, what does it mean in the case of Americans in leadership positions who follow the dictates of a foreign government and turn their backs on our Constitution and Bill of Rights?

Where is the candidate who puts America first and not Israel?

Sources: Newsday; Neturei Karta International; Common Dreams; Public Citizen

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