"We will not live in fear.” President Bush’s statement to the American people attempts to convince us that the way to ensure that we will not live in fear is to attack Iraq. Surely, the president seems to be suggesting, we can live without fear if we exert our power and eliminate the threat of our enemies.
I am not immune to the seduction of being invited to a White House briefing, nor of being called a “religious leader,” so I flew to Washington in mid-October (at my own expense) and showed up as instructed at the Executive Office Building. There were more than a hundred of us. I recognized three Presbyterian peers, pastors of large churches.
Barring a miracle or the sudden discovery of a moral backbone in Congress, President Bush will get his mandate to attack Iraq. Although the U.S. didn’t attack either the Soviet Union or the People’s Republic of China when both were well stocked with nuclear arms, we now want to attack a small country because it has the potential to do us harm.
"Wars are not won on the defensive,” asserts Vice President Dick Cheney. “We must take the battle to the enemy and, where necessary, preempt grave threats to our country before they materialize.” For the Bush administration, this policy appears to include a preemptive strike against Iraq, which is viewed as another installment in its war against terrorism.
Last January President Bush announced that he was building on “a magnificent, courageous and compassionate response to terrorism” with the creation of the USA Freedom Corps, an initiative that combines the AmeriCorps, Senior Corps and Peace Corps. Then he added a new organization, the Citizens Corps, which will focus on prevention of and emergency response to terrorism.
A massive public outcry greeted the ruling last month by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals declaring that the words “under God” in public school recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance violate the “no establishment of religion” clause of the First Amendment. Congress rushed to condemn the decision. President Bush termed it ridiculous and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle called it “just nuts.
A popular Middle Eastern joke insists President Bush’s recent speech on a Palestinian state was delayed for a few days, waiting for a translation from the original Hebrew. The joke reflects Arabic anger that U.S. policy is driven by what the current Israeli leadership thinks is good for Israel.
The United States “has too much power for anyone’s good, including its own.” So argues Timothy Garton Ash, who observes that since the demise of the Soviet Union there is no countervailing force on the world scene to check the use of U.S. power. Economically, the U.S.’s “only rival is the European Union. In military power it has no rival.
When 25 Muslims walked out of a meeting at the White House last month, the Bush administration had an embarrassing but correctable public relations problem on its hands. Of more long-range significance is what the action said about the political consciousness and activity of the millions of Muslims—the figure may be as high as 6 million—living in the U.S.