If a doctor, even a God-fearing, Bible-believing
evangelical Christian, misdiagnoses a mortal malady, there is a probability
the medicine he prescribes will do no good and the surgery he proposes may worsen
the patient's condition.
Rereading the president's inaugural and State of the Union, this seems an
apt metaphor for U.S. war policy.
In his inaugural, President Bush described Sept. 11 as "a day of fire
when freedom came under attack." But was it really freedom that
was under attack on 9/11? Was bin Laden really saying, "Give up your freedom!"?
Or was he saying, "Get out of our world!"?
If al-Qaeda was attacking our freedom, which of the freedoms in the Bill of
Rights does Bush believe bin Laden wishes to abolish?
No. Al-Qaeda was no more attacking our "freedom" when it drove those
planes into the World Trade Center than were Iroquois, Sioux, and Apache attacking
our freedom when they massacred settlers on the frontier. Like Islamists, the
Indians saw us as defiling their sacred soil, dispossessing them, imposing a
hated hegemony. They cared not about our Constitution they wanted us
off their land.
If we were truly being attacked for our beliefs, and not our behavior, the
war would have no end. Yet all the other guerrilla and terror wars against Western
powers there have ended. How?
When the British left Palestine, Irgun terror ended. When the French left
Algeria, FLN terror ended. When Israel left Lebanon, Hizbollah terror largely
ended. These countries chose to resolve their terror problem by giving up their
occupations and letting go. Their perceived imperial presence had been the cause
of the terror war, and when they departed and went home, the wars faded away.
The president says we must fight them over there, so we do not have to fight them
over here. But, before we invaded Iraq, not one American had been killed by an
Iraqi in a dozen years. Since we invaded, 1,500 Americans have died and the number
of insurgents has multiplied from 5,000 to 20,000. By Don Rumsfeld's own metric,
our intervention is creating more terrorists than we are killing. We are fighting
a guerrilla army that our own invasion called into being.
Do our Saudi friends whose necks are now on the line agree with us that terrorists
attack America because of our democratic principles? Or do they believe al-Qaeda,
when it says it is attacking us because of our Middle East policies and presence?
It would appear to be the latter. For Riyadh has lately asked us to remove our
planes from Prince Sultan Air Base and our troops from Saudi soil.
Even the Saudis believe they are safer without the provocative presence of U.S.
Americans have often fought wars over lands we coveted or deemed to be ours:
the French and Indian War, Jackson's invasion of Florida, the war of Texas independence,
the Mexican-American War. Yet never has an enemy attacked us because we were
free. Who told the president this was what 9/11 was all about?
Consider the Bush panacea for peace: democracy, rule by the people and by governments
that reflect the popular will.
But what makes Bush believe this would advance peace or U.S. vital interests?
Does the Arab street share our love for Israel or Bush's admiration for Sharon
as a "man of peace"? Do Arab masses revere Bush, or bin Laden?
When free elections were held in Algeria, the people voted for an Islamic republic.
In Gaza, they just voted 70 percent for Hamas. Moderate Mahmoud Abbas was elected
to succeed Arafat, but only because Marwan Barghouti, now serving a life sentence
in Israel, declined to run. In Iraq, the Shia voted as an ayatollah told them
to vote, so they could take over the country from the Sunni.
Democracy is America's panacea. But if the abdication of the kings, sheiks,
sultans, and autocrats in Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and the
Gulf states would be good for America, why is the fall of these royal houses
and of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt also sought by bin Laden and the Muslim Brotherhood?
What assurances are there, in the history of the region, that when the kings
depart, democrats will arise?
President Bush's advisers were 100 percent wrong about what would happen in
Iraq, but perhaps they are right now. If not, however, he and we may discover
that the alternative to autocracy is not democracy, but Islamic fundamentalism
or anarchy, and Bush may find himself with the epitaph
penned a century ago by an old imperialist who knew the region well:
"A fool lies here/Who tried to hustle the East."
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