29 October 2003

A Willful Ignorance

The answer is that in these cases politics takes priority over the war on terror. Moderate Muslims would have more faith in America's good intentions if there were at least the appearance of a distinction between the U.S. and the Sharon government - but the administration seeks votes from those who think that supporting Israel means supporting whatever Mr. Sharon does. It's sheer folly to keep General Boykin in his present position, but as Howard Fineman writes in a Newsweek Web-exclusive column, the administration doesn't want 'to make a martyr of a man who depicts himself as a Christian Soldier, marching off to war.'

Muslims are completely wrong to think that the U.S. is engaged in a war against Islam. But that misperception flourishes in part because the domestic political strategy of the Bush administration - no longer able to claim the Iraq war was a triumph, and with little but red ink to show for its economic plans - looks more and more like a crusade. 'Election Boils Down to a Culture War' was the title of Mr. Fineman's column. But the analysis was all about abortion and euthanasia, and now we hear that opposition to gay marriage will be a major campaign theme. This isn't a culture war - it's a religious war.

Which brings me back to my starting point: we'll lose the fight against terror if we don't make an effort to understand how others think. Yet because of a domestic political struggle that seems ever more centered on religion, such attempts at understanding are shouted down.

Hear John Howard, during his gush to parliament before the Bush address:

George Bush, the 43rd President of the United States, rallied his own people and the people of the world in the fight against terrorism. He reminded us then, as we should be reminded today, that terrorists oppose nations such as the United States and Australia not because of what we have done but because of who we are and because of the values that we hold in common, and that terrorism-and we should remind ourselves of this again and again-is as much the enemy of Islam as it is the enemy of Judaism or

Howard, of course, adduced no evidence in support of his high rhetoric. Why? because even arguing his case would reveal that his rhetoric has a single purpose, to place not just our commitment to the War on Terror, but the tactics we use, beyond question.

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