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It is easy to tell when the heat is on and getting to the American right wing. They lash out with lies and run back to their tried and true standbys, September 11th and the war on terror. Karl Rove, head propagandist in charge, didn’t just orchestrate the latest attack. He carried it out himself.

In 2004 Rove made certain that terror alerts were issued at key moments. If the Democrats received more press attention, if Bush poll numbers went south, we were warned that an orange, yellow or blue alert was necessary.

Just as he chose New York City, the 9/11 bulls eye, as the perfect spot for the Republican convention, he went to New York to deliver a blistering attack on “liberals.” He said that liberals don’t care about keeping America safe, liberals don’t want to get the evildoers, liberals are weak on defense. Only the right wing can keep the country safe.

Congressional Republicans kept up the attack by returning to one of their favorites, Old Glory. Yet another flag “desecration” amendment has been offered up as a tool to get Democrats. Democrats responded obediently, outdoing one another defending their patriotism and feverishly trying to have it both ways. Senator Hillary Clinton, Mrs. Triangulator, favors a federal law to protect the flag but is opposed to a constitutional amendment. The Yale Law school graduate has to know that even a federal law would be unconstitutional.

There is good and bad news to be seen in these events. The good news is that Karl and company are sweating, a lot. The perspiration results from the usually hapless Democrats standing and fighting for a change. So far the Democrats are not cooperating with the attempt to eviscerate Social Security while John Conyers, Maxine Waters and others continue to demand an official investigation of the Downing Street Memo that proves the Bushmen lied about Iraq.

But the Republican victories of recent years are not a fluke. The Republicans win because they know how to appeal to America’s most base and frightening emotions. It is easy to sneer at flag burning constitutional amendments. No one is burning the flag anymore. Even if it were it would clearly be constitutionally protected free speech. To add insult to foolish injury, most American flags aren’t even made in America. Cheap Chinese labor allows American hearts to fill with pride as they gaze at the Stars and Stripes.

And yet the Republicans are probably embarking on another successful round of propaganda. They know and count on an important fact. Most Americans love their empire. They love thinking that their nation will bomb the hell out of people in another part of the world. They truly believe that Iraqis are better off being killed by American bombs than they were being alive under Saddam Hussein.

Love of the empire is America’s true religion. The latest flag bill is called the “Flag Desecration Amendment.” It is an interesting choice of words. The flag is not a religious symbol, but it symbolizes an empire that many people love more than the God they claim to believe in. The system that Old Glory symbolizes looms larger than any church that Americans walk into on a Sunday morning.

The system that rewards white people more than any other group, the powerful more than the powerless, and the wealthy over the poor is seen as being inviolate and perfect. Love of the empire makes otherwise rational people vote against their economic and political interests. It makes otherwise peaceful people love violence and death.

Democrats are at a disadvantage. Instead of telling Karl Rove where he should go and how he should get there, they outdo one another proving their patriotism credentials. Instead of exposing Rove’s corruption they brag that they all voted for the Patriot Act and the destruction of Afghanistan. They also know that the empire is this nation’s true God.

Rove’s attack is proof that Democrats are at the very least getting under his skin. Unfortunately, truth-telling Dems get the smack down from their own party. Illinois Senator Richard Durbin was the latest victim of collective spinelessness. He correctly said of treatment of detainees at Guantanamo:

"If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime – Pol Pot or others – that had no concern for human beings."

The system, the empire, doesn’t take kindly to criticism. Critics of inhumane treatment and murder are treated worse than the murderers themselves. Durbin voted against the occupation of Iraq and the killing of thousands. The people in favor of killing are not only given immunity from criticism but they are made the arbiters of discourse, deciding who should and shouldn’t speak and what they ought to say. That is how empires are maintained.

After Durbin was beaten down and apologized on the Senate floor, documented reports of American military physicians aiding and abetting torture came to light. The critics who were apoplectic over Durbin’s remarks said nothing about American doctors channeling Mengele. Empires work that way.

On the bright side, empires aren’t fond of losing. Despite protests to the contrary, the war mongers will eventually find a way to cut and run. When the Congressman who gave us “freedom fries” says it is time to leave the exit is coming sooner rather than later. An exit won’t be worthy of celebration unless this country undergoes an enormous change and says farewell to empire once and for all. If not, more Iraqs are in our future.

Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BC. Ms. Kimberley is a freelance writer living in New York City.  She can be reached via e-Mail at [email protected]. You can read more of Ms. Kimberley's writings at

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June 30 2005
Issue 144

is published every Thursday.

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