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William Rivers Pitt: Blood in the Gutters

Blood in the Gutters

By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Tuesday 31 October 2006

If you elect the Democrats they'll tax you into the poor house, and on the way, you'll meet a terrorist on every corner, and when you try to run away, you'll stumble over an illegal immigrant.

- Former President Clinton, describing the GOP's midterm message, 10/29/06

Columnist William Fisher, in his Monday Truthout column, described the campaign tactics being deployed by the GOP as the final week before the midterm elections unfolds. "The Republican challenger for the Wisconsin House seat of Congressman Ron Kind," wrote Fisher, "runs a TV ad headed, 'Ron Kind Pays for Sex!' with 'XXX' stamped across Kind's face. It turns out that Kind - along with more than 200 of his colleagues in the House - opposed an unsuccessful effort to stop the National Institutes of Health from pursuing peer-reviewed sex studies."

"In New York," continued Fisher, "the National Republican Campaign Committee runs an ad accusing Democratic House candidate Michael A. Arcuri, a district attorney, of using taxpayer dollars for phone sex. The facts are that one of Arcuri's aides had tried to call the state Division of Criminal Justice, which had a number that was almost identical to that of a porn line. The misdial cost taxpayers $1.25. In Ohio, GOP gubernatorial candidate J. Kenneth Blackwell runs a TV spot accusing Democratic congressman Ted Strickland of failing to support a resolution condemning sex between adults and children. The truth: Strickland, a psychiatrist, objected to a line suggesting that sexually abused children cannot have healthy relationships when they grow up."

Gadzooks. You'd think we didn't have anything better to talk about.

House Republicans, increasingly desperate to smear and slime their way out of the myriad messes they have left in their wake, are throwing as much mud against the walls as can be found. In a way, it is all reminiscent of the 2004 presidential campaign, when issues like Iraq, Abu Ghraib, the economy, 9/11, and the continued freedom enjoyed by Osama bin Laden somehow took a back seat to spurious debates over gay marriage and the war in Vietnam.

It worked, back then. Time will tell if it works this time around. There are, you see, an astonishing number of hurdles to be overcome by the GOP in their quest to maintain power. Going negative is all the GOP has left in its bag of tricks, and if the campaign for governor in Massachusetts is any indication - Republican candidate Kerry Healy's relentlessly vicious attack ads against Democratic challenger Deval Patrick have earned her a 25-point deficit in the polls, in a state where Republicans have owned the governor's mansion for going on 20 years - taking the low road may not be effective medicine.

It is hard, you see, to overcome stuff like this:

103 American soldiers killed in Iraq during the month of October. 2,816 dead American soldiers killed in Iraq since March of 2003. 44,799 American soldiers wounded in Iraq, many of them permanently and grievously, since March of 2003.

In Baghdad over just the last 48 hours, a car bomb in Sadr City killed 29 people. A roadside bomb killed a policeman and three others. Another bomb killed three people and wounded ten others. 40 people were abducted by unknown gunmen. Isam al-Rawi, a doctor who ran the University Teacher's Association in Iraq, was shot dead in his home. The bodies of six policemen, all of which showed signs of torture, were retrieved from a river. Two other car bombs killed nine people and wounded thirty more. A suicide bomber in Kirkuk blew himself up inside a police headquarters building, killing two people and wounding five.

A serious rift is developing between the American government and the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki. Al-Maliki has demanded that US forces suspend the blockade surrounding the Sadr City slum that was implemented to quell the escalating violence in Baghdad. His ultimatum gave 5 p.m. Iraq time as the deadline. Despite this fight, the Iraqi government has requested $100 billion to rebuild their infrastructure. Add that to the hundreds of billions of dollars already spent.

Meanwhile, the ranks of Iraqi police appear to be riddled with militia fighters. The Washington Post reported Tuesday that "The signs of the militias are everywhere at the Sholeh police station. Posters celebrating Moqtada al-Sadr, head of the Mahdi Army militia, dot the building's walls. The police chief sometimes remarks that Shiite militias should wipe out all Sunnis. Visitors to this violent neighborhood in the Iraqi capital whisper that nearly all the police officers have split loyalties. And then one rainy night this month, the Sholeh police set up an ambush and killed Army Cpl. Kenny F. Stanton Jr., a 20-year-old budding journalist, his unit said. At the time, Stanton and other members of the unit had been trailing a group of Sholeh police escorting known Mahdi Army members."

Remember back in May, when right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh slapped aside the carnage in Iraq by comparing it to the rates of violence in Washington, Baltimore, Atlanta and several South American nations? "So Iraq, I mean, if you're just going to roll the dice and take your chances," he said, "Iraq's a much safer place to go than Washington or Jamaica or New Orleans pre-Katrina, or Venezuela."

Dozens of police officers and civilians aren't getting slaughtered every day in Baltimore and Atlanta. There are no car bombs popping off daily in Georgetown.

But yeah, we knew that.

It is going to be an ugly week in American politics, to be sure. The scum will rise and the stink will flood the airwaves, and pundits will shake their heads in mock dismay even as they revel in the chance to report on noise instead of news.

It will be bad, but it could be worse.

We could be in Baghdad, where dirty campaigns tend to involve bombs filled with nails and metal fragments, where torture and mutilation are the surest form of persuasion, where democracy means voting to stay inside so as to avoid being shot or abducted, where the failures of this administration and its rubber-stamp Congress are written in the blood flowing down the gutters.


William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence. His newest book, House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation, will be available this winter from PoliPointPress.

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