President George W. Bush's historic second inaugural speech sparked an all-too-predictable reaction.
The president failed to "reach out" and "heal our divisions." "His first priority is clearly the war on terrorism," said former White House aide David Gergen, "and an expansive, aggressive war on terrorism. His second priority is domestic legislation, and third, and oh, by the way, he is trying to heal the divisions in the country -- very different from what we thought."
What? A wartime president considers prosecution of the war his No. 1 priority? The president gave an eloquent and forceful restatement of the Bush doctrine -- harboring or protecting terrorists make you as guilty as the terrorists themselves. The president also told the haters in the Arab world to blame their corrupt, brutal, suppressive, politically and economically un-free societies for their backwardness and low standard of living.
Recall that the United Nations commissioned Arab scholars and analysts to publish the Arab Human Development Report. What causes the backwardness, the scholars wondered, of 22 Arab states, covering nearly 300 million people? Their conclusion? Of all world regions, the Arab countries scored the lowest in freedom, media independence, civil liberties, political process and political rights. The report found 65 million illiterate adults. Half of Arab women still cannot read or write. Ten million children between 6 and 15 years of age are not in school. The report points to a "severe shortage" of new writing. In the last 1,000 years, the Arabs have translated as many books as Spain translates in just one year. Only 1.2 percent of the population uses a computer, and only half of those access the Internet. In short, the peoples of these countries lack economic and political freedom.
Arab leaders point to America's relationship with Israel as proof of America meddling to undermine the religion of Islam. In one of his fatwas, Osama bin Laden attacked America for its support of corrupt regimes, like the House of Saud and the former Shah of Iran. But did Palestinians enjoy freedom when Egypt controlled the Gaza Strip or when Jordan controlled the West Bank?
According to Caroline Glick, deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post, the Palestinian Authority in the last decade has received more money per capita, in constant dollars, than did Western Europe under the Marshall Plan. As for the shah, did his replacement by the Ayatollah Khomeini advance the cause of peace, freedom and liberty for the Iranians?
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