On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Bush beats war drums – and his election rivals

There is little doubt that Bush and his Republican Party
made history on Tuesday by emerging from the 2002 mid-term elections
controlling the House of Representatives and Senate.

With the White House under the Republicans already, the
huge victory means that conservative Republicans would also be running the
Supreme Court.

Supreme Court judges are political nominees in the US.
To put in simply, Bush is now in full control of Washington's
power centres over the next two years.

By beating the war drums, Bush successfully proved many
people wrong. It is not always true that the party holding the White House
almost always loses seats in the two Houses.

Never mind if the economy isn't so good and the US
is only starting to recover from the recession. Even all reports of corporate
scandals did not hurt a bit despite the strong political ties between big
business and the Republicans.

The ordinary six-pack Joe, who only watches wrestling and
The Survivor series on TV, will surely understand that transparency and
corporate governance is for banana republics in South-East Asia,
with the exception of the Philippines,

Based on sound political assessment and rational
political analysis, Bush should have been punished and the Democrats should
have maintained or even increase their strength in both Houses.

But these are extraordinary times. It's just a month
after the Sept 11 anniversary and the US
has just won a war in Afghanistan,
transforming Bush into one of the most popular presidents in American history
with approval ratings of over 60%.

The sense of insecurity, aggravated further by the recent
Bali bombings and the Chechen attack in Moscow,
encouraged Americans to rally behind Bush and the other Republican candidates.

The election was not over domestic issues, particularly
the economy, but solely on Bush and his war against terrorism and possibly
against Saddam. Pushed against the wall, the Democrats simply had no answer and
no way of countering the wave of popularity.

Osama may not realise it, or is cursing himself now, but
thanks to him, Bush has become stronger.

Then, there's Saddam. Doesn't it make you wonder why the
Iraqi President has continued to stay in office for so long? Every US
President needs him as a bogeyman to kick around for votes when the economy is
in bad shape.

That's not all. Bush and his allies do not seem to
realise that their insensitive handling of the war against terrorists irked
Muslims all over the world.

Raiding Muslim homes and detaining Muslim suspects,
simply because they keep a beard and wear a turban, have resulted in many
Muslims withdrawing their support for the US.

Even non-Muslims from Asian countries, who are put
through the strict and humiliating immigration and security checks at entry
points, are fuming over this treatment.

The clash of civilisations between the West and Muslim
world, which Osama wanted and was dismissed by many, seems to be turning into
reality at every twist and turn of US diplomacy.

The hawkish stance may help win votes but will not make
the world a better or safer place to live in.

Now that the Republicans are firmly in place, Bush could
perhaps take a step back and, with honesty, examine the root causes of the
hatred against the US.
No one, Muslim or otherwise, would sympathise with terrorists who justify
murders with political and religious reasons.