What Bush Said
"How do I respond when I see that in some Islamic countries there is vitriolic hatred for America? I’ll tell you how I respond: I’m amazed. I’m amazed that there’s such misunderstanding of what our country is about that people would hate us. I am like most Americans, I just can’t believe it because I know how good we are."
~ President George W. Bush, October 11, 2001
What Bush Should Have Said
My fellow Americans:
The war against the al Qaeda terrorists is proceeding. As I’ve said, it will be a long battle. Right now, we’re destroying the Taliban forces that harbor the terrorist network. Soon we will be on the ground, hunting for these guys. It may take us a long time to smoke them out of their caves and out in the open, but we will get them.
We are squeezing the terrorists financially by freezing their funds and assets. We are isolating countries that have supported them. Police in various countries are tracking down and arresting cell members. In short, the war is going well.
But terrorism does not spring full-grown from the head of a beast. It grows out of popular discontent, and in this case allied with religious fanaticism. We can do little to alter how people affiliate religiously. But we can do something about helping to ameliorate the discontent.
It’s difficult for me to say this I’ve learned a lot in the past month and not all of it is pretty but I do believe that the United States has been partially responsible for helping create the conditions that have led to a large part of the discontent in the Middle East.
Our original mindset was derived from the old days of colonial power, when the British and French and others in the West simply carved up the old Arabic lands and Muslim empire, to serve their financial and power interests. We didn’t stop and think how the world was changing, and our policies reflected that ignorance and denial.
We continued to support ruling oligarchies, who became corrupt and authoritarian. We supported Israel blindly ,and refused to use our considerable leverage in helping to solve the riddle of Israeli/Palestinian peace. We stationed our troops in Saudia Arabia, hardly thinking about how many Muslims consider this a sacrilege. We continued to enforce sanctions against Iraq, sanctions that benefit only Saddam Hussein and the wealthy coterie around him, while leading to untold death and misery for his people. We did little to aid poor and powerless people in many of those countries, preferring instead to deal with their oppressive rulers.
In short, my fellow Americans, by not paying attention to what was going on amidst the citizens of the region, we played directly into the hands of the growing terrorist movement. Some of this was out of ignorance, some because oil and other corporate interests had too much influence on our policy, some was out of a sense of denial: America has always been drawn reluctantly into the complexities of politics abroad, and even when the terrorists struck our assets bombing embassies in Africa, blowing up our ship in Yemen or barracks in Saudia Arabia we thought that was over there and we could handle it at arm’s length. September 11 changed all that way of thinking.
Now, you may say that by promising to re-examine our foreign and military policies, we are capitulating to the demands of the bin Ladens of this world. Not at all. We are going to change the policies that need to be changed because it is in the national self-interest of America, because doing so helps protect us and our allies in the region and, by the way, because it’s the right thing to do. Shining light on one’s shadow history is painful at first, but in the long run it leads to honest actions and pays extraordinary dividends to us all.
My unshakable mandate, as I see it, is to help protect and defend the interests of America and Americans. That is why I am ordering today a full review of American national policy in the Middle East and South Asia, and will expect recommendations for change within 30 days.
We will reduce tensions in that area, we will work with our partners and allies to change how things are done; in short, we will, as best we can, reduce the opportunities for terrorist fanatics to gain new converts to their deadly, inhumane cause. We may not be able to influence those in al Qaeda clearly, they are, in their political/religious frenzy, dedicated to mass-murder and mayhem in their desire to destroy the "infidel" West but, by changing our policies, we may help alter the chemistry of the soil in which future terrorism would grow. That, along with wiping out the al Qaeda terror network, is the best thing we can do to protect our country and help make for a better world.
Thank you, and God bless America.