Bering, Helle, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
Byline: Helle Bering
While waiting for the Bush administration to take action against the enemy who struck us on Sept. 11, we have had ample opportunity to consider the causes of the attack. Indeed, this has been a favored topic of discussion because the remedies themselves so far have been elusive and confusing.
Particularly intense is the debate over the religious aspects of the atrocity, which killed more than 6,000 Americans in New York and in this area. The infamous event has stirred up a strange mixture of self-recriminations, guilt, fear, racial and religious prejudice and a host of other atavistic reflexes not very comfortably dealt with by the machinery of modern policy-making. It looks as though at the beginning of the 21st century we are entering a period of religious wars.
However, when you consider the facts carefully, a different picture emerges - one characterized by freedom, tolerance and human rights on the one side and tyrannical despotism and disdain for human life on the other. President Bush made this point eloquently in his speech to the nation last Thursday night. The good news is that if you step back and look at the situation, if you refuse to accept the enemy's rhetoric and that of his sympathizers, Americans have good reason to feel proud of the way their country and government have handled the crisis. We occupy the high ground. When you have to fight, that's a great place to be.
Take the word "crusade." Both Mr. Bush and Osama bin Laden have called for a crusade against each other. There is a big difference, though. Mr. Bush rather awkwardly made his statement in front of a Muslim audience here in Washington, and later had to have White House spokesman Ari Fleischer eat his words on his behalf. Similarly, the Pentagon was on the verge of naming this mission "Operation Infinite Justice," but ran into furious opposition from Muslims on the basis that infinite justice supposedly belongs to Allah alone. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld backed down, concerned about hurting anybody's feelings.
Bin Laden, on the other hand, this week urged Muslims to join in "the American crusade," and threatened "jihad" against the United States. Somehow, he did not see fit to apologize for that statement or regret that it might have offended Americans. His Taliban friends, meanwhile, chimed in with threats against the lives of U.N. humanitarian aid workers, and issued a statement saying that "America wants to eliminate Islam, and they are spreading lawlessness to install a pro-American government in Afghanistan. …