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Pataki justifies war on Iraq
Prem Panicker in New York |
September 03, 2004 15:16 IST
Perhaps the single most startling statement made by New York Governor George Pataki, who on day four of the Republican Convention introduced President George W Bush, came in his justification for the war in Iraq.
"With supreme guts and rightness, President Bush went into Iraq. The US had asked for peace, went to the UN time and again, asked Saddam to step aside.
"But Saddam would not be moved. So President Bush moved him. Our American troops, our citizen soldiers, and the coalition of the willing moved him. And soon, a dictator who had used poison gas on his own people was found cowering in the earth. Some people have called this an abuse of power. I call it progress.
"There are those who still say that there was no reason to liberate Iraq. They ask about weapons of mass destruction. On September 11 in New York we learned that in the hands of a monster, a box cutter is a weapon of mass destruction. And Saddam Hussein was a monster, a walking, talking weapon of mass destruction."
It was an applause-bait, and the packed hall at the Madison Square Garden rose to it.
What the din drowned out was a small internal voice, asking a small question: what, exactly, was Pataki saying? That because box cutters were used in the 9/11 terror attacks, and because Iraq probably had box cutters even if it did not have weapons of mass destruction, the attack was justified? Despite the Bush Administration's admission that it had found no link, covert or overt, between Iraq and the 9/11 attacks?
It was sophistry of the highest order, and it was slipped into the middle of what otherwise was a very personal speech that drew repeatedly on the 9/11 theme.
Pataki, whose speech was reportedly worked on by the storied speechwriter Peggy Noonan, who was late president Ronald Reagan's speechwriter and performed a similar function for the then vice-president George H W Bush's presidential campaign in 1988, started off by thanking the people of America for coming to the aid of his state after the terrorist strikes.
He spoke of how people in various states had in various ways instinctively come to the aid of the stricken city, and he said, "On that day, all Americans became New Yorkers. And this great state rolled up its sleeves, looked terrorism straight in the face, and spat in its eye."
The governor, who is being spoken of as a likely candidate to seek the party's presidential nomination in 2008 (as is former Mayor Rudy Giuliani), argued that America could not wait to be attacked; rather, it had to go out and fight the terrorists on their home ground.
Touching briefly on the economy, Pataki said President Bush had turned around the economy after having inherited a recession. That has been another recurring theme throughout the convention - that Bush in 2000 inherited a recession.
Interestingly, though, in his speech at the 2000 Republican Convention accepting the nomination, Bush had said America had a surplus.
The Republicans, in each recent election, have tended to identify a point of attack, craft it into a storyline, and hit hard at it on every possible occasion. It was 'serial exaggerator' for Al Gore in 2000; in 2004, it is 'flip flop' for Kerry. Pataki stayed on the theme, when he said Kerry had changed his position so many times, he needed "to Google his own name to find out where he stands."
Winding up to his conclusion, Pataki drew parallels between the Statue of Liberty and President Bush.
The governor said the Statue of Liberty -- "That noble statue that greeted the lonely, and seemed by her very grandeur to be telling them, take heart, take heart, it's going to be better here" - had been closed down after 9/11, but was opened again a few weeks ago.
"And now she stands, tall and immovable, lighting the way to dreams, that symbol of hope, that Statue of Liberty. Ladies and gentlemen, on this night and in this fight there is another who holds high that torch of freedom. He is one of those men God and fate somehow lead to the fore in times of challenge. And he is lighting the way to better times, a safer land, and hope."
Barring Pataki and the featured speaker President Bush, the evening was almost entirely devoid of interest. A few low key speakers, such as assistant convention secretary Michael Williams, former administration member and current senator from Florida Mel Martinez, spoke. In between, the in-house band kept the anticipatory crowd's mood up with covers of such standards as Dancing in the Street, the Martha and the Vandellas song that is a NY summer theme. Also
performing was gospel star Donnie McClurkin.
And the traditional balloons - which had, a week ago, been inflated by the members of the Baldwinsville Marching Band -- came down on schedule to signal the end of the convention.