Monday, January 12, 2009

I listened intently to President Bush's final press conference and I was struck by an answer the President gave to a reporter's question:
QUESTION: One of the major objectives that the incoming administration has talked frequently about is restoring America's moral standing in the world. And many of the allies of the new president -- I believe the president-elect, himself, has talked about how damaged -- that Gitmo, that harsh interrogation tactics that they consider torture, how going to war in Iraq without a U.N. mandate have damaged America's moral standing in the world....I'm wondering, basically, what is your reaction to that? You think that is something that America -- that the next president needs to work on?

President Bush: I strongly disagree with the assessment that our moral standing has been damaged. It may be damaged amongst some of the elite. But people still understand America stands for freedom; that America is a country that provides such great hope. You go to Africa. You ask Africans about American's generosity and compassion. Go to India and ask about, you know, America's -- their view of America. Go to China and ask. No questions, parts of Europe have said that we shouldn't have gone to war in Iraq without a mandate, but those are few countries.

Most countries in Europe listen to what 1441 said, which is "disclose, disarm, or face serious consequences." Most people take those words seriously. Now, some countries didn't and -- even though they might have voted for the resolution. I disagree with this assessment that, you know, people view America in a dim light. I just don't agree with that.

And I understand -- Gitmo has created controversies, but when it came time for those countries that were criticizing America to take some of those -- some of those detainees, they weren't willing to help out. And -- so, you know, I just disagree with the assessment.

I've -- I listened, I've told people, "Yes, you can try to be popular." In certain quarters in Europe, you can be popular by blaming every Middle Eastern problem on Israel. Or you can be popular by joining the International Criminal Court. I guess I could have been popular by accepting Kyoto, which I felt was a flawed treaty, and proposed something different and more constructive.

And in terms of the decisions that I had made to protect the homeland, I wouldn't worry about popularity. What I would worry about is the Constitution of the United States and putting plans in place that makes it easier to find out what the enemy is thinking. Because all these debates will matter naught if there's another attack on the homeland. The question won't be, you know, "Were you critical of this plan or not?" The question's going to be, "Why didn't you do something?"

Do you remember what it was like right after September the 11th around here? In press conferences, in opinion pieces and in stories that sometimes were news stories and sometimes opinion pieces, people were saying, "How come they didn't see it? How come they didn't connect the dots?"

Do you remember what the environment was like in Washington -- I do -- when people were hauled in front of Congress and members of Congress were asking questions about, "How come you didn't know this that or the other?"

And then we start putting, you know, policy in place -- legal policy in place to connect the dots, and all the sudden, people were saying, "How come you're connecting the dots?" And -- so, you know, I've heard all that. I've heard all that. My view is is that most people around the world, they respect America. And some of them doesn't like me -- I understand that -- some of the writers and the, you know, opiners and all that. That's fine. That's part of the deal. But I'm more concerned about the country and -- and how people view the United States of America. They view us as strong, compassionate people who care deeply about the universality of freedom.
Most people forget that President Bush made his case for war in Iraq based on two ideas. Number one - Every intelligence agency in the free world believed Saddam Hussein was looking to develop WMD's AND had used biological weapons on the Kurdish population in Iraq. Secondly, the United Nations had passed 14 resolutions, including resolution 1441- which gave Iraq "a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations," or face serious consequences including military means.

In order to give any teeth to the threat, military means had to be taken. When Obama, or anyone one on the left claims the "world is against us," what they really mean is Western European countries that as it turned out, were against us waging war because they had cut illegal financial deals with Saddam.

President Bush was spot-on. No one is saying he didn't make mistakes along the way (he cleared up that misconception as well today). But this idea that Obama is going to make the world love us again is just silly.

The Wall Street Journal makes this point as well:

Barack Obama takes the oath of office next week, having promised to win back the respect of "the world," which George W. Bush has alienated. So the big question is this: How long after Obama becomes president will it be before "the world" begins to sour on him--begins to suspect that he is one of us, not one of them?

The answer is minus 16 days.

On Sunday, Feb. 4, the Web site of London's Guardian published an article by one Simon Tisdall faulting Obama for failing to side with Hamas in its genocidal war against Israel:

Obama has remained wholly silent during the Gaza crisis. His aides say he is following established protocol that the US has only one president at a time. . . .
But evidence is mounting that Obama is already losing ground among key Arab and Muslim audiences that cannot understand why, given his promise of change, he has not spoken out. Arab commentators and editorialists say there is growing disappointment at Obama's detachment--and that his failure to distance himself from George Bush's strongly pro-Israeli stance is encouraging the belief that he either shares Bush's bias or simply does not care.
The Al-Jazeera satellite television station recently broadcast footage of Obama on holiday in Hawaii, wearing shorts and playing golf, juxtaposed with scenes of bloodshed and mayhem in Gaza. Its report criticising "the deafening silence from the Obama team" suggested Obama is losing a battle of perceptions among Muslims that he may not realise has even begun.

The Associated Press reports on one prominent Muslim who agrees with Tisdall:

Al-Qaida's No. 2 leader lashed out at President-elect Barack Obama in a new audio message Tuesday, accusing him of not doing anything to stop Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip, according to an intelligence monitoring center.
The recording purportedly by Ayman al-Zawahiri was al-Qaida's first comments on the Gaza crisis since Israel launched its offensive against the Islamic militants of Hamas on Dec. 27.
In the comments, which were posted on a militant Web site and obtained by the SITE Monitoring Service, al-Zawahiri described Israel's actions in Gaza as a "crusade against Islam and Muslims" and called it "Obama's gift to Israel" before he takes office later this month.

Meanwhile in the real world, the New York Times reports on the scene from a Gaza hospital:

A car arrived with more patients. One was a 21-year-old man with shrapnel in his left leg who demanded quick treatment. He turned out to be a militant with Islamic Jihad. He was smiling a big smile.
"Hurry, I must get back so I can keep fighting," he told the doctors.
He was told that there were more serious cases than his, that he needed to wait. But he insisted. "We are fighting the Israelis," he said. "When we fire we run, but they hit back so fast. We run into the houses to get away." He continued smiling.
"Why are you so happy?" this reporter asked. "Look around you."
A girl who looked about 18 screamed as a surgeon removed shrapnel from her leg. An elderly man was soaked in blood. A baby a few weeks old and slightly wounded looked around helplessly. A man lay with parts of his brain coming out. His family wailed at his side.
"Don't you see that these people are hurting?" the militant was asked.
"But I am from the people, too," he said, his smile incandescent. "They lost their loved ones as martyrs. They should be happy. I want to be a martyr, too."

If "the world" sides with an Islamist supremacist movement that cheers the deaths of Arab Muslims as a means to the end of exterminating the Jews, perhaps Obama is coming to realize that he--and America--can do without the respect of such a world.

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