Bush "Victory" ad infringes on reality, if not law

By Mary Jacoby
Published August 20, 2004 8:33PM (EDT)

A sunny new Bush-Cheney campaign ad touting the participation of two new free and democratic countries at the Olympic games in Athens -- Iraq and Afghanistan -- is more than just ironic, given the fighting that is raging in Najaf and the bombs that are going off at voter registration centers in Afghanistan. The ad also skirts the bounds of legality.

The United States Olympic Committee, which has exclusive rights to the words "Olympic" and "Olympiad," as well as Olympic symbols such as the five interlocking rings, has asked the Bush campaign for a copy of the ad so the U.S.O.C. can evaluate whether its copyright has been infringed. A U.S.O.C. spokesman, Darryl Seibel, told Salon by phone from Athens Friday that the committee had not made a judgment yet because the Bush campaign has not yet given it a copy of the ad. Asked if he'd ever heard of the World Wide Web, where the ad can be accessed in seconds off the Bush-Cheney campaign site, Seibel demurred, saying that official channels had to be followed.

Contacted for a response, Bush-Cheney spokesman Scott Stanzel -- while professing little knowledge of the matter -- suggested that perhaps it is not illegal to use "Olympics" in the plural. Sure enough: the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act of 1999, which grants the U.S.O.C. its rights, says the committee has exclusive use of the words "Olympic and "Olympiad," but not "Olympics" in the plural.

Technically legal or not, the ad certainly violates the spirit of the law, which is to prevent the Olympic brand from being diluted and sullied by political or commercial uses. Even worse, perhaps, is the ad's gossamer treatment of the "freedom" that it says Bush has brought to Iraq and Afghanistan, countries on the brink of failure and chaos.

"Freedom is spreading throughout the world like a sunrise," the narrator says as an American-looking female swimmer dives into a pool. An underwater camera shows her gliding, missile-like, through the water, sunlight shimmering through the water.

The narrator continues: "And this Olympics, there will be two more free nations (the flags of Iraq and Afghanistan flash on the screen) and two fewer terrorist regimes. With strength, resolve and courage, democracy will triumph over terror (shot of the American-looking swimmer emerging from the pool, her fist clenched in victory). And hope will defeat hatred."

Okay, for starters: Iraq and Afghanistan barely have any women at all competing in Athens, much less swimmers. With armed Taliban still roaming Afghanistan, and Islamic fundamentalism on the rise in Iraq, it's a safe bet that any Iraqi or Afghan woman who dared to appear in public in the kind of bathing suit featured in the Bush ad would find herself either raped or flogged. Of the two Afghan women competing in Athens, one is a runner who has to train in long sweat pants and a head scarf. Meanwhile, Iraqi Olympian Alaa Jassim, a runner from Baghdad, frequently cannot train at all because of "street fights and bombings," according to her official Olympic biography.

The title of the Bush ad is "Victory."

Mary Jacoby

Mary Jacoby is Salon's Washington correspondent.

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