To buttress crumbling support for his interventionist
policy, President Bush played his ace of trumps, sending his most popular champion,
Condi Rice, to the Southern Baptist Convention.
If seven standing ovations and 20,000 Christians bursting forth into a
spontaneous signing of "God Bless America" at the close is any measure, the
secretary succeeded splendidly in her speech.
Yet in carrying forward the faux-Churchillian, stand-up-to-the-isolationists
theme of the State of the Union, Condi employed a device readily recognizable
to any student of rhetoric.
She presented the good Baptist folks with the false alternative. America
has a choice, she said: to stand by a courageous president or to conduct a cowardly
retreat from the challenges of our time:
"Here, ladies and gentlemen, is the choice before our country, before
us as Americans. Will we lead in the world or will we withdraw? Will we rise
to the challenges of our time or will we shrink from them?"
Washington Post reporter Glenn Kessler seems to have been well briefed
on whom Condi was targeting.
"Rice did not specifically refer to isolationists, but her inference
was clear. …
"President Bush first raised concerns about isolationism in his State
of the Union Address this year. Since then, the outrage over the potential sale
of U.S. port operations to a Dubai-based company and the drive to build a wall
along the border with Mexico have added to the worries of administration officials.
They fear that it could result in demands even from the president's strongest
traditional supporters to pull out troops from Iraq and Afghanistan."
Why, one wonders, do President Bush and Rice not tell us who these dreaded
isolationists are and how they could conceivably seduce the Southern Baptists
into questioning Bush policy?
The truth: If Southern Baptists are peeling off from the Bush coalition
for moral imperialism and democracy crusades, the reason may not be that they
wish to flee the world, but that they see the Bush-Rice policy as failing. At
a great cost in blood and treasure, we seem to be reaping a rising harvest of
The same day the report on Rice's speech appeared in the Post, The
Washington Times reported on a remarkable rise of anti-American sentiment
in the Muslim world. In a wide-ranging survey of opinion on Iran's nuclear program
and Islamic attitudes toward the United States, a group called Terror Free Tomorrow,
which boasts John McCain among others on its board, reported that:
- Seven in 10 Pakistanis favor Iran's acquiring nuclear weapons.
- Two of three Pakistanis have a negative opinion of the United States,
a figure that rises to 71 percent among citizens of NATO ally Turkey and an
astonishing 89 percent in Saudi Arabia.
- Two-thirds of all Saudis, Turks, and Pakistanis believe those mocking cartoons
of Muhammad printed in the Danish newspaper and reprinted across Europe reflect
Western hostility toward their faith.
Did isolationists create such animosity toward America among our closest
allies in the Muslim world? How? And who are they?
Answer: No such beasts exist. The people who have produced such results for
America are the decision-makers themselves – Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Rice
– and their advisers, the neoconservatives.
To understand who is truly responsible for a situation where a U.S. secretary
of state has to go before a convention of religious conservatives to try to
hold their support for a president they put in office, Rice might ask herself
Is it the isolationists who cannot end a column or commentary without howling
for new preemptive strikes on "Islamofascists"? Was it isolationists who reveled
in those Danish cartoons, reprinting them and declaring them to be a fine expression
of Western values?
Was it isolationists who sent an army storming into Baghdad in search of
weapons of mass destruction that did not exist, resulting in tens of thousands
of Iraqi army and civilian dead, three bloody years of "collateral damage" to
Iraqi women and children, and the inevitable horrors of guerrilla war, such
as Abu Ghraib and Haditha?
Is it isolationists who are supporting Israel's strangulation of aid-dependent
Palestinians, the purpose of which was wittily described by Sharon sidekick
Dov Weisglass: "The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make
them die of hunger"?
Presumably, the hungry Palestinian children are to pressure Hamas to recognize
Israel. One wonders. Do the good Christian folks gathered at Greensboro, N.C.,
think what we are doing to these people is a Godly thing to do?
In Afghanistan, the Taliban are making a comeback. In Iraq, the new democratic
government Bush celebrated in his surprise visit is considering amnesty for
Sunni insurgents who only killed Americans.
Why did Condi rip into isolationism at the Baptist convention?
Because it is a less daunting task than defending the fruits of a foolish
interventionism that are now lying right in front of us.
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