Communication technology has truly made a small village of our world. The moment President Bush stood up to deliver his speech, Arabic satellite channels were all tuned in for real-time transmission; a privilege hardly ever enjoyed by any Arab president, king, prince, sheikh or sultan. The politics of the only super power in the world directly affects each and every individual life and future in our region – especially that they often times carry some form of threat for one Arab or Muslim country or another. From this perspective, and the relationships it entails between East and West and the three monotheistic religions, it is quite important to scrutinize Bush’s last speech.
While President bush was addressing his speech to the National Institute for Democracy, a number of events were taking place. American forces were bombing down eight new bridges over the Euphrates. “Islamic terrorists,” who emerged out of thin air in Iraq after the war, were killing praying Iraqis and destroying another historic mosque in al-Hulla. Karin Hughes, Bush’s advisor, was summarizing her trip to the Middle East in two major points. The first was that establishing a Palestinian state and ending Israeli occupation is a central issue for Muslims. The second was that Saudis (and I would personally add Syrians, Lebanese, Palestinians and Arabs in general) feel as threatened by “terrorism” as Americans do. Hughes, however, believed that “Americans are unaware of this fact.” Concurrently, having failed to find a publisher in the United States, Jimmy Macy was launching his book “Kill, Kill, Kill” in France, where he describes how soldiers in his unit used to kill Iraqi civilians “due to an exaggerated sense of danger.”
Karin Hughes’ mission is reminiscent of Edward Djerjian’s in 2003 on reforming American diplomacy in the Muslim World. Djerjian’s report concluded that Arabs and Muslims support American values, however, they believe that “ American policies contradict these values,” and that %80 of hostile anti-American feelings are due to American policies towards Arabs, Muslims, the Palestinian, and now the Iraqi, issue. In his speech, casting the conclusions of both missions aside, President Bush observed that Muslim countries from “Spain” – he must have meant Morocco here, as Spain has stopped being Muslim 800 years ago – to “Indonesia” are infested, not with freedom, democracy and human rights activists, but with Bin Ladens and Zarqauis. The United States and the “civilized countries” therefore shoulder the responsibility of fighting this “terrorist Islamic danger” and this “dictatorial empire.”
President Bush did not shy away from using phrases like “Islamic fascism,” “violent Jihad,” “Islamic terrorism,” thus condemning everything that is associated with Islam. It is however inappropriate to associate Americans indiscriminately with Guantanamo, Abu Gharib, or Falluja. It is neither acceptable to associate Christianity with extremism, or Israeli publicly proclaimed systematic assassinations, house-demolishing and aggression raids with Judaism. President Bush also overlooked the fact that Arabs and Muslims have also been victims to the same terrorism in Iraq. Alongside Daniel Pearl, Nicholas Berg and Margaret Hasan, Bush had no names for the Iraqi scientists, scholars and secular thinkers who have been targeted since the beginning of occupation, nor for more than a hundred thousand killed in Iraq since the beginning of the war on Iraq. He did not speak either of the eminent threat of civil war, ethnic dissection and sectarian strife rampaging Iraq and the region ever since. As usual, President Bush referred back to the “different and varied sources here and abroad” that informed his speech. They must have been the same sources that have substantiated his war on Iraq and policies towards the Middle East.
The speech might have been different had President Bush read the Hughes or Djirjian’s report, or considered some resources that are less hating of Muslims and Arabs, or less oblivious of Arab and Muslim suffering. Then his speech could have reached solutions rather than concluded with threats. Had President Bush ratified the Senates’ decision to stop treating war prisoners with “cruelty, in an inhumane way and with humiliation” – a euphemism for torture – he might have been able to see humanity in light of equal rights to freedom and dignity. He might have refrained from dividing the world into “civilized” and “uncivilized,” “liberal” and “illiberal.” He might have not bypassed “peace” for the “democracy” that brought chaos and terror to Iraq. He could have called for building instead of “bombing” bridges.