President Bush's speech to the National Defense University in Virginia Tuesday was a first-rate definition of what freedom means to the West. The larger question is: Does it mean the same thing to the Islamic fascists in the Middle East and other parts of the world?
These fanatics believe the United States, Britain and the rest of the West are the ones in bondage. They note our promiscuity, our abortions, our obsession with homosexuality, our television, our provocative way of dressing and they wonder who is really free?
Can Muslim nations with religious and political dictatorships be liberated in the same way communist nations were set free? Are there millions of people who would live, worship and vote differently if they could think and act for themselves? Possibly. We will know soon.
There is also a chance we are being played for suckers by those who know us far better than we know them. While President Bush praises Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as a democratically elected leader, does he know that Abbas, a Holocaust denier, believes it was the Israelis who were responsible for the nightclub homicide bombing last month in Tel Aviv?
Abbas told Time magazine: "The bombers came from the suburb of Tulkarem to Tel Aviv, crossing the wall. So who is responsible? The wall and the Israelis." Yes, those crazy Jews kill each other as part of their conspiracy to dominate the world!
In a March 8 speech to the Palestinian Legislative Council, Abbas warned of a possible "serious impact" if Israel continues what he regards as its procrastination on the Palestinian proposal for an independent state with east Jerusalem as its capital and a return to the 1967 boundaries. Those concessions would set Israel up with indefensible borders and make it ripe for complete annihilation by her Arab enemies.
Anyone in doubt about the rules of the game should read a new book edited by Robert Spencer, director of Jihad Watch, "The Myth of Islamic Tolerance: How Islamic Law Treats Non-Muslims" (Prometheus Books). Spencer and a fine collection of knowledgeable authors unmask the enemies of freedom and document how much of the West is being duped into believing that the radicals are part of a "fringe" and that the overwhelming majority of Muslims wish no one harm and seek to live at peace with all.
In his National Defense University speech, President Bush said, "We're more secure because Pakistani forces captured more than 100 extremists across the country last year, including operatives who were planning attacks against the United States."
What about the extremists who are already in the United States and establishing terror cells bent on destroying us? What about those Muslim schools that preach and teach hatred of America on our soil? A spokesman for the Saudi Arabian embassy says textbooks used at these schools are being revised to remove the "5 percent" of incendiary material.
The president said, "The advance of hope in the Middle East requires new thinking in the region." How do you get new thinking when the old thinking is from Allah? Will an Ayatollah announce that Allah has changed his mind and wants all of his followers to begin loving those he once considered (and the Koran states) are infidels deserving of death? One might as well expect Jews to renounce the Torah, or Christians to deny Jesus Christ, though Jews and Christians are not commanded to rule the world by force or obliterate people of different faiths.
The president said "a critical mass of events is taking that region in a hopeful new direction." Significantly, he added, "And that goal is within reach if all the parties meet their responsibilities and if terrorism is brought to an end." He demanded that "Arab states must end incitement in their own media, cut off public and private funding of terrorism, stop their support for extremist education and establish normal relations with Israel."
All of that should come before Israel is forced to make any more concessions, but it won't and Israel's (and America's) enemies aren't about to end terrorism since terrorism has gotten them where they are.
I hope the president is right in his optimism and I am wrong in my skepticism. History, religious doctrine and actions favor the skeptical view.