America Will Use Shuttle Disaster Accident to Whip Up War Nationalism

Watch of the Shuttle accident to be cynically manipulated to whip up a phony "national unity" in the service of America's genocidal war against Iraq.

Strait Times

Tragedy could unite Americans for war

With the public rallying behind the President in times of crisis, a war could even be a national catharsis

By Leon Hadar

WASHINGTON - Seventeen years ago, when another conservative Republican, President Ronald Reagan, was occupying the White House, Americans faced the horror of the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle.

GRIEVING AMERICA: Like thousands throughout the United States, flags near the Washington Monument fly at half-mast as the country grieved for the seven crew members of the space shuttle Columbia, which exploded as it re-entered the Earth's atmosphere on Saturday. -- AFP

Most observers agree that Mr Reagan, through his inspiring oratory, proved to be very effective in uniting the American people in the aftermath of that tragedy.

He rallied them behind the national symbols that the space programme embodies: America's drive for exploration and adventure and its scientific and technological achievements.

That sense of American national and universal mission that Mr Reagan highlighted was intertwined with the other main themes of his presidency: Leading the struggle against the Soviet 'Evil Empire' and restoring the strength of the American economy after years of economic recession and inflation, and of national humiliation of Vietnam, the Arab oil embargo and the Iranian hostage crisis.

Under President George W. Bush, the United States is facing similar, if not more complex, challenges these days.

At a time when national tragedies like the Sept 11 terrorist attacks and the Columbia disaster are broadcast live on television before anxious American and global viewers, the pressure on the American President to 'do something' is enormous.

If he fails to rise to expectations, he will be punished by an angry Congress, media and public.

This public restiveness is all the more acute given these unsettling times in the US and the world. Not only is the US continuing to move troops to the Persian Gulf in preparation for an attack on Iraq that is expected to take place in early March, but there are also reports that additional US air and naval forces are being sent to North-east Asia in response to the escalating crisis over North Korea's nuclear programme.

These military and diplomatic crises are taking place at a time when President Bush is facing growing challenges to his aggressive foreign policy, at home and abroad.

In that context, the Columbia tragedy, if its aftermath is handled effectively by the White House, could strengthen President Bush's hands in relation to Congress and the public, just as he is devising the diplomatic endgame of his Iraq strategy and as US Secretary of State Colin Powell prepares to address the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday to try to mobilise international backing for an attack on Iraq.

Most political experts agree that in times of national tragedy, the American people tend to rally behind their president and are less willing to tolerate partisan bickering in Congress and in Washington. Critics of Mr Bush in Washington will be more reluctant to attack him when he is trying to unify a grieving nation.

Even before the Columbia explosion, the President was making it clear that he was accelerating the efforts to go to war against Iraq. His main challenge would now be to try to integrate his message on Iraq with the themes he will use in his addresses on the shuttle tragedy.

Like Mr Reagan after the Challenger explosion, he will need to persuade the American people that they are taking part in a difficult but rewarding mission to make the world better - in space and on earth.

Preparing them for a war aimed at defending US interests and values could serve as a form of national catharsis in the aftermath of the tragedy,4393,,00.html

Posted on the Independent Newswire on 3 February 2003.

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