Then and now: what did Bush really say?
The DNC recently took the extraordinary step of making an ad that included a clip of President Bush saying “We do not fight against Islam.” In the video, the Democratic Party was using Bush to convey the idea that he was more in line with their own denials about Islamic terrorism than today’s Republicans are.
But, unlike today’s Democrats, Bush never denied the existence of any connection between Islam and the terrorists. By distinguishing between radical (or “extremist”) Islam and Islam, Bush made a distinction that was politically correct at the time and for years to come—until the Obama administration decided that Bush’s formulation was unacceptable, and it was forbidden to draw the obvious connection between Islam and terrorists who said they were acting in the name of Islam.
In the immediate post-9/11 weeks and months, Bush faced a very different situation than today: he was dealing with a country and a Congress playing catch-up in learning about the menace of Islamist terrorism and what it really was capable of, a need to rally together all Americans in the wake of a terrorist attack that has still never been surpassed in magnitude and daring, the very real fear of a major backlash against innocent Muslims in the US, and the goal of gaining worldwide allies (including many Muslim countries) in fighting the country that had harbored Bin Laden—Afghanistan—as well as fighting Islamic terrorists as a whole.
That was a tall order. America had entered relatively unknown territory when 9/11 occurred, and Bush felt the need to tread carefully with at least some of his rhetoric. At the same time, his actions were strong, and involved the willingness to wage war if necessary.
In Bush’s first post-9/11 address to Congress, this is what he actually said. It was a mixture of soft and hard-hitting, reflecting the tightrope he was trying to walk. Paragraph 3 of the quote I’ve selected shows him moving back and forth rapidly between the two [emphasis mine]:
Americans are asking: Who attacked our country? The evidence we have gathered all points to a collection of loosely affiliated terrorist organizations known as al Qaeda…
…[I]ts goal is remaking the world – and imposing its radical beliefs on people everywhere.
The terrorists practice a fringe form of Islamic extremism that has been rejected by Muslim scholars and the vast majority of Muslim clerics – a fringe movement that perverts the peaceful teachings of Islam. The terrorists’ directive commands them to kill Christians and Jews, to kill all Americans, and make no distinction among military and civilians, including women and children.
This group and its leader – a person named Osama bin Laden – are linked to many other organizations in different countries…There are thousands of these terrorists in more than 60 countries. They are recruited from their own nations and neighborhoods and brought to camps in places like Afghanistan, where they are trained in the tactics of terror. They are sent back to their homes or sent to hide in countries around the world to plot evil and destruction.
Despite Bush’s “Islam is a peaceful religion” rhetoric, he correctly identified the terrorists as practicing a form of Islam. Bush also described its aims as killing women, children, Christians, Jews, Americans, with the goal of “imposing its radical beliefs on people everywhere.” So he understood even at the outset that worldwide domination was their aim.
This could not be more different from the situation today during the Obama administration.
None of the current terrorist activities are a surprise anymore, after what we’ve seen in the fourteen years since 9/11. There have been vanishingly few backlash attacks on innocent Muslims in this country. Obama isn’t waging a full-scale war on countries that harbor terrorist training camps and headquarters (despite his intermittently tough talk of red lines, and some bombing of ISIS oil trucks and the like) and therefore he doesn’t need those kind of allies—except, of course, our new loyal ally, Iran.
As for rallying Americans together, Obama’s method of operation is divide and conquer.
Democrats have retreated from Bush’s rhetoric, although they run ads selecting out his gentler statements and ignoring his more hard-hitting ones. As Mark Steyn writes, they’ve now rejected even Bush’s careful tiptoeing around the issue:
Secretary Kerry doesn’t care what you name it as long as you don’t name it “Islam”. Because the not-naming of Islam is more important than the actual naming of whatever it is. Even the qualification that many have been careful to make over the years – of course, most Muslims aren’t terrorists but an awful lot of terrorists unfortunately happen to be Muslim – will no longer suffice. As President-in-waiting Hillary Clinton assures us:
Muslims are peaceful and tolerant people and have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism.
So not only is terrorism nothing to do with Islam, but Muslims have “nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism”. She said this a few hours before yet another US citizen was killed by terrorists shouting “Allahu Akba
We’ve gone straight through the looking glass and then some.
So who does have something to do with terrorism? Republicans mainly. Republicans are the greatest recruiting tool for terrorism that has ever been devised – far more effective than jihadist snuff videos on social media. Just ask President Obama…
Read the whole thing. And then read President Bush’s State of the Union address from 2006. In it, Bush not only used the phrase “radical Islam,” he also warned that a retreat would engender a situation much like the one we are facing today, a prescient description that might send a chill down your spine:
No one can deny the success of freedom, but some men rage and fight against it. And one of the main sources of reaction and opposition is radical Islam; the perversion by a few of a noble faith into an ideology of terror and death. Terrorists like bin Laden are serious about mass murder and all of us must take their declared intentions seriously. They seek to impose a heartless system of totalitarian control throughout the Middle East and arm themselves with weapons of mass murder.
Their aim is to seize power in Iraq and use it as a safe haven to launch attacks against America and the world. Lacking the military strength to challenge us directly, the terrorists have chosen the weapon of fear. When they murder children at a school in Beslan or blow up commuters in London or behead a bound captive, the terrorists hope these horrors will break our will, allowing the violent to inherit the Earth…
In a time of testing, we cannot find security by abandoning our commitments and retreating within our borders. If we were to leave these vicious attackers alone, they would not leave us alone. They would simply move the battlefield to our own shores. There is no peace in retreat. And there is no honor in retreat. By allowing radical Islam to work its will, by leaving an assaulted world to fend for itself, we would signal to all that we no longer believe in our own ideals or even in our own courage.
You won’t be seeing an excerpt from that in any DNC ads.
[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]DONATE
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