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As War Rages in Israel and Lebanon, Republicans Demand... Coffin Denial
Click to visit VeggieCooking.com [Posted 16 July 2006]

Well, it's war in the Middle East again, and this time it's not just the latest Vietnam going down in Iraq. No, this time it involves Israel, and Israel is finally getting some violence in return.

As the Mideast's only nuclear power suffers casualties from its seemingly perpetual war on native peoples in that region, Republicans here in the states are working on their diplomatic response to... a commercial they found on the internet. That's right, the Republican "Diplomacy... WHAT'S THAT?" Party is pretty much ignoring the Mideast's latest new war, and instead is choosing to fight the easy battle of phoney indignation.

The ad in question was apparently posted on a Democratic web site (more specifics on that ad later) on July 2nd, but Repulicans didn't notice it (or didn't decide to exploit it) until Thursday, July 13th. Democrats responded that the ad wouldn't be pulled until the normal rotation of 14 days had passed, meaning that the ad would be yanked on July 16th (which it was, apparently due to its normal rotation schedule and not a lack of Democratic spinal columns, as at least one article claimed).

Republican demands for ignoring and discounting war deaths, giftwrapped as concern for military families, is nothing new. The issue of showing coffins has been a controversy since the outset of the war, when George W. Bush tried to prevent photos of coffins from entering the media. He claimed it was a matter of respect, but his "nothing to see here folks" strategy didn't fool anyone, or at least anyone intelligent:

"NEW YORK Just days after the first pictures of flag-draped coffins of Americans killed in Iraq loaded in cargo planes appeared in the press, newspapers across the country denounced official efforts to keep other photos hidden.

"In a typical comment, The Cincinnati Enquirer observed that bringing soldiers home 'under the flag of their country brings closure to their sacrifice. The government should allow us that image.' The Denver Post called publication of the photos 'a proper function of a free press in a free country ... despite Pentagon protestations.'

"On April 18, The Seattle Times broke the military's ban, publishing a photo of a row of coffins taken by Tami Silicio, a civilian contractor in Kuwait. She and her husband were then fired for releasing the photo. Later in the week many newspapers published photos of coffins at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, released to a Web site in what the military said was a mistake.

"The Pentagon and the White House have since re-affirmed their ban on the taking and releasing of such photos. This doesn't sit well with a vast majority of newspapers, judging by this past weekend's editorials in newspapers (which previously expressed a wide range of opinions on the Iraq war).

"The St. Louis Post-Dispatch slammed Bush's 'out-of-sight, out-of-mind standard. In doing so, the administration manipulates Americans' perceptions of the war, diminishes the gravity of the sacrifices of the dead and their families and denies our young men and women a last reverential salute from the country for which they died.'

"The Miami Herald called the photo ban 'a shameful restriction of free speech and an affront to the democratic values for which the soldiers gave their lives. ... The attempt to mask the terrible reality of war -- that lives are sacrificed -- is essentially dishonest. The Pentagon claims that its policy respects the memory and sacrifice of the U.S. soldier. In fact, the policy dishonors the men and women who have paid the ultimate price in service to their country.'

"The Journal News of White Plains, N.Y., said 'it is hard to see how dignity or privacy are served by equipping a nation with blinders. Or by keeping the nation blissfully ignorant of war's real cost.'

"The Berkshire Eagle of Pittsfield, Mass., noted that the White House may not enjoy seeing the coffin photos in an election year 'but they tell a truth about war in general and this war in particular, and Americans should never be prevented from seeing the truth by their leadership in Washington. ... An administration whose default position is always secrecy and obfuscation should put an end to this shameful policy.'

"And the Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram pointed out: 'The more we know, the better we can understand and the more intelligent our decisions as responsible citizens.'

"The Daily Camera of Boulder, Colo., observed that 'as the United States continues a war that is -- at this moment, at least -- being waged on the pretext of freedom, the government tries to censor images of flag-draped coffins. But the censorship has failed because it defies common sense and federal law. ... These images are what they are: a sad reflection of our president's war of choice. Yes, they are sobering. That is even more justification for their prompt and public release.'

"The Virginian-Pilot, which serves a military-dominated community in the Hampton Roads area, simply stated: 'Americans deserve to see who is paying the ultimate price for this war.' [Note that this is the same newspaper quoted in the article below.]

- Editorials Back Release of Soldier Coffin Photos by Greg Mitchell, 26 April 2004

Last Friday, the day after Republicans decided that coffin photos were more important than the Armageddon brewing in Israel, Virginia's infamous war whore Thelma Drake decided to exploit the issue for her own gain. I was a bit surprised, as Drake's OPENING STATEMENTat her first debate with Democratic challenger Phil Kellam included Drake's proud statement that she had recently traveled to Israel and met with Israeli leadership there. Although obviously meant to pander to Jewish voters in her district, her proud announcement of support for Israel would normally lead a person to believe that missiles hitting Israeli warships and Israeli soil would at least be a priority for her. But Drake's statements last week dealt with her outrage over the tired old issue of coffin photographs:

"VIRGINIA BEACH - U.S. Rep. Thelma Drake blasted Democrats on Friday for an anti-Bush advertisement that shows flag-draped coffins returning to the United States from the global war on terror. [Note that instead of naming the Iraq War, Republicans' political spin terminology "global war on terror" was used by the newspaper reporting this, The Virginian-Pilot, a local paper known for substandard writing and right-wing bias.]

"The ad, found at the Web site of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee
[Another Pam note: The Pilot doesn't give you the web site's address, but I will: http://www.dccc.org/], shows the coffins along with other pictures and a voice-over that criticizes the Bush administration and its policies.

"Drake said the advertisement is especially offensive in a congressional district that is heavy with active-duty military and veterans. She said many residents of the 2nd Congressional District have friends and relatives who have been killed or wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan.
[And of course she doesn't want to remind anyone that a war she supports is killing their friends and relatives, especially just before the election!]

"'It is just flat wrong,' Drake said at a news conference in her campaign headquarters.
[Note that a news conference was happening in her campaign HQ, where she has more control over who can enter to ask the "tough" questions... or not. Like, why don't you want people to see that people are dying from this war that you're always praising and voting for?]

"'The Democrat
[sic] Party should apologize and stop the ads today.' [And the Republic [sic] Party should apologize for its tacky exploitation of the issue, too.]

"...Drake asked her Democratic
[Well, at least the Pilot knows how to say "Democratic."] challenger, Phil Kellam, to condemn the ad and return any money that may be connected to it. ["Money connected to it" is highly unlikely, more likely a fantasy cooked up to bad-mouth her opponent as profiting from war dead while in fact Drake's supporters are the real war profiteers.]

"Kellam and his campaign did not comment Friday.
[Maybe he had other things on his mind... like the NEW WAR RAGING IN THE MIDEAST perhaps?]

Phil Kellam and Thelma Drake (seated), 17 June 2006

"Kate Bedingfield of the Democratic committee said the ad is not being broadcast on television and only appears on the committee's Web site.
[You see? A web site ad. Now that's WAY more important than spending any time on the new war in Israel.] She said the ad has been there for about 10 days and that it will not be pulled because of the criticism.

"She said the ad eventually will be taken off the Web site after it completes its normal cycle of about two weeks.

"She defended the use of tragedy in such ads, especially when it helps drive home points about policies that hurt the country. 'Tough questions need to be asked,' she said.

"Bedingfield said some Republican ads have done the same thing by focusing on the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

"'There is hypocrisy coming from the GOP side,' she said.

"She said Kellam's campaign recently has been included in the committee's 'Red-to-blue' program, which will increase the amount of money that Kellam will get from the committee's fundraising efforts.

"The program targets campaigns in which the committee believes Democratic challengers have a good chance of defeating Republican incumbents."
[A good chance of defeating Thelma Drake? Now why do you suppose THAT is?]

- "Drake demands Web site stop ad showing coffins" by Jon Frank, The Virginia-Pilot, 15 July 2006, page B3.

There are photos of military coffins, if you'd like to see what the government is hiding, at these web sites, among many others:

US contractor fired for coffin photo
Photos of Military Coffins
Curtains Ordered for Media Coverage of Returning Coffins

Unfortunately, because the ad became an issue just before it was scheduled to be rotated off of the Democrats' site, I can't find a link to it today. (I'm sure the internet will eventually come up with a copy, though!) Until another web site decides to rebroadcast the ad for its historical value, we'll have to settle for descriptions in the press:

"Rep. Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco and House Republican leaders exchanged verbal blasts Thursday over an Internet ad produced by Pelosi's Democratic House campaign committee that shows the flag-draped coffins of American soldiers killed in Iraq.

"Republicans, sensing an opportunity to rally their conservative base in the midterm election-year campaign, said they were outraged and called on Democrats to pull the ad, which was posted July 2 on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's Web site. Refusing to back down, Pelosi scoffed at the criticism, saying the Republicans are 'in denial of the consequences of their actions in Iraq.'

"'They have not wanted anyone to see the sad consequences of war,' said Pelosi, the House Democratic leader who in October 2002 voted against the resolution authorizing President Bush to use military force to oust Saddam Hussein and has been a leading critic of the war ever since, repeatedly calling it a 'grotesque mistake.'

"The furor's source is a one-minute video at www.dccc.org that opens with Pelosi greeting a young girl on Capitol Hill. It quickly moves to rapid-fire images of the war in Iraq, including a several-second shot of several flag-draped coffins of U.S. casualties being flown home from Iraq, and a photo of an impromptu battlefield memorial that a U.S. soldier created for his fallen buddy. The video then moves to images representing soaring gas prices and Hurricane Katrina while mixing in photos of Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Bush aide Karl Rove, former Republican leader Tom DeLay and lobbyist Jack Abramoff..."

- "GOP SLAMS DEMOCRATS OVER COFFIN IN AD" by Edward Epstein, The San Francisco Chronicle

"WASHINGTON, July 13 2006 - In an echo of the last election cycle, political operatives are at odds over a Democratic advertisement featuring coffins coming home from war.

"The advertisement, a short film posted on the Web site of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, is being attacked by Republicans as tasteless and disrespectful of American troops in Iraq.

"In 2004, President Bush's campaign released an advertisement showing a flag-draped body being removed from the site of the World Trade Center after the terrorist attack there. The shot outraged some victims' families, who accused Mr. Bush of exploitation.

"The current advertisement, a much smaller-scale production appearing only on the Internet, shows rows of coffins covered by American flags and lined up inside a military transport plane. The image is one of a montage of shots illustrating troubles that Democrats attribute to Republican leadership. Others include a gas pump displaying a price of $3.35 a gallon, and New Orleans residents stranded outside the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina.

"'Things have taken a turn for the worse,' a line of opening text says.

"Officials of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which is led by Representative Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, say they posted the advertisement more than a week ago. But Republicans did not seem to notice it right away.

"Now, however, Representative Thomas M. Reynolds of New York, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, has demanded that Democrats apologize for the clip. Even the former majority leader Tom DeLay, who has said little publicly since his resignation from the House last month, has issued a statement describing the ad as an act of 'pathetic desperation.'

"Carl Forti, a spokesman for the Republican committee, said in an interview Thursday: 'They've cited the President Bush ad showing the firefighters carrying someone away. I'm not sure how that's the same as showing a soldier who's given his life in battle in a flag-draped coffin. Nine-eleven was an event that brought people together; Democrats are trying to rip people apart. I think there's a big difference there.'

"But Mark McKinnon, a top Republican strategist and ad maker for Mr. Bush, said Democrats had not crossed any boundaries of taste.

"'This is one where I respectfully disagree with my colleagues: I think it is an appropriate image,' Mr. McKinnon said. 'I thought it was appropriate when we used it.'

"'It reminds people of the cost of 9/11,' he added. 'It reminds people of the cost of war. People die in wars, and people should understand that we shouldn't hide from that fact.'

"Democrats dismissed Republican criticism as hypocritical.

"'No administration in American history has so partisanized or politicized a war as this administration,' said Howard Wolfson, a Democratic strategist who advises Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York. 'They have absolutely no grounds to make any criticisms of this kind.'

- "Ad Showing Troop Coffins Causes Clash of the Parties" by ANNE E. KORNBLUT, The New York Times, 13 July 2006

You know, as the Republican Party hits new lows every day, I'm reminded of an old Congressman from California -- one who was literally removed from the House of Representatives because he showed up to wage verbal attacks on certain members there after being voted out of office. His name was Bob Dornan, and he was a basket case after his district, Orange County, elected a Latina -- something that everyone knew would eventually happen as the area's demographics went Latino. At the time, one of my favorite articles in the alternative press was "White Trash Disco" by the OC Weekly, mostly because the reporting included bad behavior usually ignored by the mainstream press, and it seems the lack of maturity described portends today's Republican Party. (And what a better way to start the article than with the former VP Dan Quayle). I still remember reading that article at my favorite coffeehouse in Oceanside. Well, years have passed and I can only find it on one website, an unofficial one, but it seems to be the same article I remember reading. Take a look:

"Seemingly oblivious to the political massacre taking place, a smiling Dan Quayle stood before his fellow Republicans on election night at the Sutton Place Hotel in Newport Beach and said, 'We have just begun to fight.'

"It was, of course, a little late to begin fighting. The polls had been closed for 90 minutes and, in a more working-class part of Orange County, Democrats like Loretta Sanchez had just begun to party.

"As the former vice president rambled inanely, a tall middle-aged white guy wearing a fashionable double-breasted suit drank from his Heineken, turned to me, took another gulp, looked with disgust at Quayle, and said, 'This really sucks.' Nearby, normally loquacious Laguna Niguel City Councilman Eddie Rose-decked out in a dark-blue zoot suit with sparkling white shoes-stood sullen, hands crammed into his pants pockets. A preppy twentysomething couple wearing pro-Lungren buttons hugged one another and cried softly as if someone had died.

"Someone had. From Klamath to Calexico, California Republicans had suffered one of their worst defeats this century. Democrats took the state's three top offices -- governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general -- and made their biggest gains locally in decades.

"Two middle-aged white guys (diversity alert: one drank red wine, the other white) summed it up nicely: 'Oh, God! What happened?' the red wine drinker repeated over and over. The white-wine drinker shook his head slowly and kept answering: 'I don't know. I don't know.'

"The party's band seemed to know what was happening. They cruelly broke into a rendition of 'Play that Funky Music White Boy' as the incredibly Caucasian crowd whined that voters in Los Angeles (God forbid!) and San Francisco (double God forbid!!) were ruining California. Secretary of State Bill Jones -- one of the more devious politicians alive -- tried a bit of, forgive me, black magic to lift everyone's spirits. As if it was the key word in a witch's spell, Jones barked from the podium, 'Reagan, Reagan, Reagan.' All I could think of was Reagan, the head-swirling, possessed girl in The Exorcist.

"You couldn't escape the sense of agony anywhere in the hotel. One irate Republican strategist had locked himself in a bathroom stall and -- while he took a noxious dump -- screamed obscenities about Senator Barbara Boxer at some poor soul on the other end of a cell phone connection. Angry Matt Fong supporters released tension by surrounding and verbally assaulting a startled black TV-news cameraman from Channel 9. Outside, a disappointed young black Republican on a trip from Washington, D.C., to recruit minorities into the GOP deeply inhaled his cigarette and said of the crowd, 'They just don't get it.' Religious Right crusader and Buena Park Southern Baptist pastor Wiley Drake inexplicably complained that 'our party needs to get candidates who don't drink.' Back inside, dozens of corporate lobbyists who poured millions of dollars into Republican campaign coffers slouched on lobby sofas, drinking hard liquor.

"That was before 9:30. The night would get worse, much worse. Enter Robert Kenneth Owen Dornan.

"The wrong thing to give a drug addict is another dose. The wrong thing to give a failed actor like Dornan is applause. At 11:13 p.m., the bitter, defeated ex-congressman hobbled onto the hotel's stage amid generous applause. He disingenuously promised that his concession speech would take only 'six or seven minutes.'

"At this point, it was clear that Dornan had lost again -- this time crushed by Sanchez and an insurmountable 17 percent lead. The Harlem, New York, native is nothing, however, if not a pathetic one-man vaudeville act. At the podium, he posed. He smiled. He quoted Yeats. The man who avoided combat duty and who was once jailed for violent spousal abuse peppered his incoherent remarks with references to 'character,' D-Day, citizen arrests, 'The Beast,' talk radio, Martin Luther King, Jr., strong women, Newt Gingrich, sexual predators, and the 'Antichrist.' Despite all the talk, Dornan couldn't summon the maturity to concede the race to Sanchez. In fact, the man who invented voter-fraud allegations against innocent Latinos to explain his 1996 loss said he would 'never' concede.

"A guy standing behind me in the audience had tired of Dornan. 'God, this guy really bugs me,' he said. 'When is this guy going to finally shut up?'

"Not any time soon. About 15 minutes into his 'six or seven minute' speech, the blotchy-faced Dornan paused for effect. He firmly gripped the podium with both hands. His blue eyes darted from side to side, soaking in the attention. 'I'm going to be Bob Dornan unfettered tonight -- man of truth,' Dornan said. 'A fog of evil has rolled across our country.' He then bitterly noted that he had 'busted' his 'chops' for an ungrateful Latino community. But there was more blame to go around. Why did Dornan believe he lost? Because of Republican Party interference, 'we didn't have time to get our message out,' said the man who spent 18 years as a congressman.

"Twenty-five minutes into his speech (and with GOP chiefs Tom Fuentes and Mike Schroeder angrily trying to get Dornan offstage so that Fong could speak before midnight), Dornan resorted to his forte: character assassination. 'We have a serial adulterer representing the 46th [Congressional District]. Did you hear that in the press?' he shouted before walking away from the podium and toward an offstage Reverend Lou Sheldon of the Anaheim-based Traditional Values Coalition. Kate, one of Dornan's scary daughters, then walked to the edge of the stage, glared at the TV cameras in the back of the ballroom and yelled: 'It's not over, Loretta. We're coming after you -- bad. Do you hear me?'

"The Dornan Family Theater wasn't over. On the other side of the stage, Kate found, of all people to heckle, a Fong supporter. Soon, people were wrestling on the floor. Blood poured. A member of the Dornan clan was hauled off in handcuffs. No arrests were made. But just as tempers were calming, a disheveled 42-year-old Bob Dornan Jr. showed up, made a derogatory remark about Fong, asked bystanders 'to show some class' and then challenged a few fellow Republicans to fistfights. Bob Jr. later described the encounter this way: 'I told them, 'Man, you aren't nothing but low-class *******s, so shut up.'

"Next on Team Dornan's assault list was fellow Republican Dana Rohrabacher. 'My dad gave you your seat,' Bob Jr. told the six-term Huntington Beach congressman. 'You and [Congressman Chris] Cox owe everything to my dad. Both of you are gone, buddy. We're going to see you in two years. My brother [Mark] is going to beat you, and even though I'm not educated, I'm going to beat Cox.'

"Rohrabacher tried to calm him down.

"'No. No. You listen to me,' Bob Jr. said. 'I'm a real man. My dad's a real man. Don't **** with me. My dad lost because you and Cox didn't support him.'

"'Come on, that's not true,' said Rohrabacher.

"'Don't patronize me. My dad doesn't play golf, and he doesn't go to the country-club parties, and that's why you and Cox put a knife in his back. By the way, why did Cox send O.J. [Simpson] letters when he was in prison, huh? My dad's not going to go away. Politics is a contact sport, and we're going to show you that, Dana.'

"Later, Rohrabacher demonstrated all-too-well that he understands politics. He told me the encounter was 'bizarre.' And he distanced himself from Dornan. 'I am pro-life, but I don't believe in pushing into people's private lives like Bob. You know, people in my district don't like negative politics,' he said. 'How ironic that a few years back, Dornan was trying to move me out of my seat. The real reason for that was that he wanted to get [Dornan's until-recently closeted gay advisor and Southern California Edison lobbyist] Brian Bennett to take over the 46th. Now, wouldn't that have been weird? Bob Dornan giving his seat to a homosexual. Imagine that.'

"While I was busy with Rohrabacher, my OC Weekly colleague Nick Schou approached the elder Dornan. 'Are you a homosexual?' the ex-congressman asked Schou before agreeing to talk. Schou asked if Rohrabacher -- who handily won his reelection bid -- was to blame for Dornan's stunning loss. 'He gave me a punk $1,000 contribution at the end of my campaign. And that's it. No further comment,' Dornan said.

"A few minutes later, Schou approached Dornan again. 'OC Weekly reporter-gotta go,' he said. As Dornan fled with his security detail through an exit, Schou asked, 'How does it feel to lose twice in a row to a Latina?'

"Dornan looked back. Gone was the fiery entertainer who likes to call himself a 'hero.' He said pitifully, 'I'm not answering any more questions for OC Weekly.'

"That's okay. We know the answers."

- White Trash Disco; Bob Dornan's shameful final hours by R. Scott Moxley, The OC Weekly, November 6 - 12, 1998

"I've reminded the Prime Minister -- the American people, Mr. Prime Minister, over the past months that it was not always a given that the United States and America would have a close relationship."
-- George W. Bush With Prime Minister Koizumi of Japan, White House, Jun. 29, 2006

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