Jewish World Review Dec. 9, 2002/ 4 Teves, 5763

Wesley Pruden

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Clearing the air over Baghdad | George W. Bush is not very convincing as the theologian in chief - he dropped in at the Islamic Center Thursday with Ramadan hosannas for the religion of peace - but the commander in chief has Kofi Annan's number.

When Mr. Annan, the secretary-general of the United Nations, praised Saddam Hussein for his "cooperation" with the U.N. arms inspectors, the president scoffed out loud, like a retired fighter pilot should.

"Well," he said, "we've been at this - what? - five days? This is after 11 years of deceit and defiance. One of my concerns is that in the past, he has shot at our airplanes. Anybody who shoots at U.S. airplanes or British airplanes is not somebody who looks like he's interested in complying with disarmament."

The president has different loyalties and responsibilities than the secretary-general, and different constituents. It's no particular skin off the nose of Mr. Annan's constituents at the U.N. if Saddam shoots down an American or British pilot. His constituents nurture solidarity with third-world tinpots and keep undisturbed their sweet life on Manhattan's comfortable East Side, where the beds are soft, the four-star restaurants are plentiful and the wine flows discreetly for the Muslim diplomats. (Just because you feel solidarity with the third world doesn't mean you want to live there.)

The ranters and rabble at the U.N. have made it clear where their sympathies lie. When the inspectors left for Baghdad, Mr. Annan cautioned them not to upset Saddam and to remember to be careful of Iraqi sentiments and sovereignty.

Nevertheless, Mr. Annan's soothing words for Saddam are useful to George W. The day will soon be at hand when he must give the order to unhorse the Iraqi tinpot, and when he does the scoffers, whiners and layabouts at the United Nations will be left to stew in the rancid juice of their own making. (The French are particularly talented at making rancid sauces edible.)

Mr. Bush is skillfully using the U.N. resolution to keep the Europeans on the spot between the rock of their own cowardice and the hard place in the language of the resolution the U.N. Security Council adopted unanimously, demanding that Saddam give up his weapons of mass destruction.

"I remind our citizens that the U.N. Security Council voted overwhelmingly, 15 to nothing, for this approach we've taken," he said. "Our NATO allies have joined us. And we all expect Saddam Hussein to disarm."

Actually, none of us expect that. Our "allies," left to their own fears, are more than willing to leave the crocodile undisturbed in the wan hope that it will eat them last. George W. doesn't expect Saddam to disarm, either, but going through the motions of believing it will hoist his critics on their own towering vanity when the Americans and the British do the job. "This is our attempt to work with the world community to create peace," he said.

The president's robust remarks reflect a robust understanding not only of what must be done, but a robust willingness to do it the only way that it can be done, with the usual Anglo-American expenditure of blood, sweat and tears.

George W.'s performance as commander in chief thus makes his performance as theologian in chief easier to swallow. The theologian in chief was back in the pulpit yesterday at the Islamic Center in Washington, this time praising Islam not only as a religion of peace but as a religion of all the things it appears not to be, "hope and mercy."

"Our Muslim citizens are making many contributions," the president said. (True enough.) "Muslim members of our armed forces and of my administration are serving their fellow Americans with distinction, upholding our nation's ideals of liberty and justice and a world at peace." (That's good to hear.)

But in a burst of more candor than he probably intended, the director of the Islamic Center, Abdullah Khouj, told the president that his visit demonstrated "the value of human tolerance, a virtue taught by Islam and practiced here in America." Also true, sad but true. There is no such tolerance practiced in most of the Islamic world. Even the advocacy of religious tolerance in Saudi Arabia, to pick an example well known to Mr. Bush, is enough to cost a man, particularly if he is a Christian, his very head. Our Saudi friends, in fact, would not even allow the president's father to observe Christmas with the young Americans he dispatched at risk of life and limb to save the corrupt Saudi royal family during the Gulf war.

Life, as we all know, is not fair. In the wake of December 7, FDR felt no need to assuage Americans of Japanese origin with hosannas for Shinto, or Americans of German origin by dishing up bratwurst and sauerkraut at the White House. George W. Bush, in the wake of a second date that will live in infamy, is required to gag on some of the things he has to say, just like the rest of us.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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