What a week for contrasts. A so-called "religious cleric," whose principal contribution to his people was to inspire them to blow themselves up, taking as many innocent civilians along with them, dies and is hailed by the Arabs as a hero. But the principal savior of Arab life alive, a man who rescued more than 20 million Muslims from the clutches of Saddam Hussein, continues to be vilified and excoriated by the Arab press.
Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, the quintessential wolf in sheep's clothing, may indeed have been a Muslim cleric. But let's not forget that Joseph Stalin was an ordained priest. And when the State of Israel rightly defended itself from this cold-blooded murderer, it came under a barrage of international condemnation. Among the arguments proffered was that eliminating Yassin would only inflame Palestinians and provoke Hamas. Provoke Hamas? Really make them angry? You gotta be kidding. What are they going to do now? Kill hundreds of Israelis? They are already doing that. Dismember pregnant women? Been there, done that. Blow the arms and legs off children? Ditto.
This reminds me of the claim of the defenders of Pope Pius XII, the foremost moral coward of the 20th century, that he never once condemned the Nazi extermination of European Jewry because he didn't want to provoke the Nazis into further atrocities against the Jews. Had the Pope spoken out, so the advocates of beatification for the Pope argue, the Nazis would have stepped up their campaign against the Jews. But are they really suggesting that the Nazis could have been come up with anything worse than Auschwitz? That the Germans might have stepped up a program that was already killing more than the 15,000 Jews per day in their crematoria? Even when more than 1000 Jews of Rome were rounded up, on October 16, 1943, directly in front of the Pope's Vatican window and kept at a military barracks not 300 feet from his office, Pius did not offer a protest. Was this to protect the Roman Jews from an even worse fate than they met a few days later when nearly all were gassed at Birkenau?
In truth, Clarke is an opportunist with a limited and myopic vision. Terrorism in the Middle East is a direct outgrowth of Arab tyranny. If Arabs lived, like their Western counterparts, in open, prosperous, and democratic societies, there would be no need on the part of their corrupt leaders to scapegoat Israel and the United States as the source of all Arab problems and Muslims wouldn't be signing up by the truckload to attack Western targets. Adolph Hitler, the Sheikh Yassin of his time, also brilliantly scapegoated the Jews as the source of all German unhappiness, even while he stole all freedom away from his people and turned them into ruthless murderers. While we may, from time to time, eliminate terrorist leaders like Sheikh Yassin or even Osama bin Laden, a total end to Middle East terror will surely not come about until there is complete Arab democratization in the Middle East. And President Bush, in a sharp departure from his father who lacked "the vision thing" and left Saddam Hussein in power, understands this.
Iraqi citizens are now the first Arabs in modern Middle Eastern history that don't have to be afraid of their own government. But bureaucrats like Richard Clarke, who cannot see the forest from the trees, would have us focus only on individual terrorists instead of the governments that create, harbor, fund, incite, and inspire them. How could anyone take Clarke's criticism seriously when we have already seen the immense dividends of the Iraqi war, such as Qaddaffi publicly disavowing his nuclear weapons programs and Syrian citizens being brazen enough to hold public demonstrations in Damascus for the first time, a fact that even the New York Times conceded would have been unthinkable prior to the toppling of Saddam?
It is time that I said in print what I have long felt in my heart. I not only support President Bush, I revere him. At a time when so many other world leaders want to paint September 11th as a terror attack, President Bush saw it for what it was: a clash of civilizations, a war to the death between two systems--one open, democratic, and respectful of human life, the other oppressive, tyrannical, and contemptuous of human life. President Bush understands that the only way to defeat such a grave threat is by tumbling the dominoes that support terror one by one, even if he becomes the most criticized man on earth for doing so.
This week a liberal friend of mine--and I lead the satisfying life of being a political conservative nearly all of whose close friends are liberals--called me to say that he was surprised that a man as "intelligent" as me could like George Bush. I thanked him for the back-handed compliment and said, "You've heard Edmund Burke's famous quotation that 'All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.' Why then do so many people hate Bush for simply doing something?" And for all those who hate the Patriot Act and believe that the war in Iraq was a terrible mistake, isn't the biggest proof of the correctness of the president's vision the simple fact that, unlike Israel which suffers daily from terror, the United States has not had a major terror attack on American soil since September 11th, 2001? And shouldn't the Sharon government, which finally toppled one of their leading enemies in a gutsy move, learn from the total war tactics employed by the president?
The Bible says that when Moses first encountered G-d, he did so in the form of a burning bush. Moses was commanded by G-d to be careful lest he tread on that bush. I have no problem with the president's critics attacking his economic, environmental, or other such policies. Indeed, like any mortal, he is far from perfect, as are some of his policies. But the part of his leadership which burns with virtue and blazes with uprightness, which protects the innocent and punishes the wicked, assails tyranny and upholds democracy, and puts the fear of G-d into cold-hearted killers--that part, at least, let his critics refrain from trampling.