At Tuesday's White House press conference, President Bush was asked
about the chilly reception he received from Islamic leaders at an Asian
summit last week in Indonesia.
These leaders asked Bush why Americans think all Muslims are
terrorists. Bush replied that the leaders were mistaken Americans
know perfectly well that terrorism is restricted to "the acts of a few."
The President has been saying this since 9/11. It's possible that many
people here believe him. But quite obviously, the Islamic world
Why not? The answer isn't complicated. Muslim leaders know better.
And they think Bush does, too.
Part of the problem derives from what Bush would call fuzzy language.
He insists on talking about "the war on terror." But terrorism is a
technique, not an enemy, and you don't make war on a technique. You
make war on enemies.
For reasons of domestic political correctness and international
diplomacy, the Bush administration refuses to name its enemies, even
in a general way.
The President talks about terrorism as if it existed in a vacuum. He
never uses the terms "Islamic terrorism" or "Arab terrorism." At his
press conference, he blamed the recent spate of bombings in Baghdad
on "foreign terrorists" as though these fighters could easily be Belgian
Catholics, Chinese Buddhists or Indian Hindus.
The administration also dissembles by using surrogate demons. Osama
Bin Laden is the enemy, but not Saudi Arabia, the source of Bin Laden's
anti-American doctrines. Saddam Hussein and his band of followers are
the enemy, but they are merely a small and unrepresentative band of
outlaws who can be rounded up and rooted out. Yasser Arafat is an
enemy, but he is the false leader of a people yearning for compromise
and peace. The ayatollahs are the enemy, but the Iranian masses love
America and yearn for democracy.
This is sheer nonsense, and nobody knows it better than the Arab and
Iranian dictators of the Middle East and their Islamic allies. They know
perfectly well that America is hated and feared by the clerical and
political classes the only ones that matter from North Africa to
This hatred is so widespread and powerful that it unites ancient rivals.
Sunnis and Shiites, Persians and Arabs, Baathists and royalists, tribal
leaders and urban intellectuals, theologians and supposedly secular
military officers all gather under the banner of jihad.
Bush can insist all day long that America isn't at war with Islam. But
that misses the point. In varying degrees, the Islamic world is at war
with the U.S., its interests and purposes.
Muslim leaders know that, obviously, and they think Bush must know
Tuesday night, Bush hosted his annual dinner marking the Muslim holiday
of iftar. The guest list included many dignitaries from Islamic countries
and organizations now engaged in undermining U.S. efforts in
Afghanistan, Iraq, the Mideast and elsewhere. Or, in Bush's own terms,
actively aiding and abetting terrorists.
In past years, the President has used this dinner to proclaim that the
U.S. isn't at war with the Islamic world, only individual bad guys who
happen to be Muslims, that Islam is a religion of peace and there is no
inherent conflict between American and Islamic ideologies or
This message always wins Bush a round of polite applause. But not a
single one of his guests believes it.
They all know better.