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Published: Tuesday, 8/16/2005

Manipulating a memorial

THE anniversary of some events in America are so weighted with emotion and solemnity that any injection of politics into the affairs is abhorrent. But that isn't stopping Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the Pentagon from using a somber remembrance of a national tragedy as a vehicle to sway public opinion about unrelated administration policy.

The guile of the administration in planning what amounts to a publicity stunt to coincide with the fourth anniversary of Sept. 11 is stunning. Tucked into an Iraq war briefing being delivered by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was a surprise.

The Pentagon was initiating a 9/11 march and country music concert to commemorate "the sacrifices of this generation and of each previous generation."

It was no fluke that the Pentagon chief announced that the "Department of Defense will initiate an America Supports Your Freedom Walk" at the same time he was discussing the war in Iraq. The administration has purposefully linked Iraq with 9/11 - even though there is no connection - to promote the perception that Iraq is simply one front in the seamless war on terror.

By organizing a massive march that obviously supports the President's "democracy on the march" logic in Iraq, and throwing a patriotic country music concert to support the troops making the "sacrifices of this generation" and others, the Pentagon clearly intends to blur any distinction.

But the difference is substantial. The terrorists attacks of Sept. 11 that took nearly 200 lives at the Pentagon were the work of Islamic extremists waging a violent jihad against the West and its ways. Iraq was a predominantly secular society whose regime thumbed its nose at the international community but, in March, 2003, did not threaten the world as the al-Qaeda network did and does.

While the move to exploit the upcoming anniversary with Pentagon propaganda on the Iraq war has angered many, including some relatives of the 9/11 victims, administration supporters are rallying behind Mr. Rumsfeld.

One, Republican Rep. Pete King of New York, even added a new twist to the tangled web the administration has woven about Iraq and Sept. 11. "You do not defeat al-Qaeda until you stabilize the Middle East," he said, "and [that wasn't] possible as long as Saddam Hussein [was] in power."

Add a march and music and call it a made-for-maximum-effect memorial.



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