Magazine article The Nation , Vol. 279, No. 8
More than a thousand days have passed since September 11, 2001, yet the wounds are still raw. In recent newspaper pictures, grief was still evident in the faces of relatives of those who died in the terrorist attacks as they listened to Congressional testimony about 9/11 intelligence failures.
All the more reason, then, that the Republican Party should avoid using the attacks as a political prop. Yet that is precisely what happened at its national convention. Any uncertainty about whether the Bush/Cheney 2004 campaign would exploit the memory of the victims of 9/11 disappeared on the convention's first night, when former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani went so far as to argue that Bush should be re-elected in order to honor the dead. "We owe that much and more to the loved ones and heroes we lost on September 11," the possible future presidential candidate said as a backdrop of the New York skyline appeared behind him.
If Giuliani's exploitation of 9/11 was profoundly distasteful--and roundly condemned as such by family members of the dead--Senator John McCain was subtler but no less exploitative when he suggested that the invasion of Iraq should be seen as a part of the response to 9/11. Never mind that there is no evidence of a link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda; McCain argued that the war in Iraq and the "war on terrorism" are one. And never mind that there can be no war on terrorism, since terrorism involves a tactic, not an organization or state; McCain argues that "only the most deluded of us could doubt the necessity of this war."
Was this all just convention rhetoric? No way. The Republicans are using 9/11 because they know that angry and fearful citizens will put rational thought aside to follow a leader who stirs their blood. Giuliani and McCain were trying out themes for the fall campaign.
This is a dangerous game, however, not just a despicable political tactic. …