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Don’t Tread On This Burning Bush

If there is a hell, then you can bet that Sheikh Ahmed Yassin is roasting there now. And if there is a heaven, then rest assured that whether or not he wins the November election, President George W. Bush has earned his place in it.

What a week for contrasts. A so-called religious cleric whose principal contribution to his people was to inspire them to blow themselves up, taking as many innocent civilians along with them, dies and is hailed by the Arabs as a hero. But the principal savior of Arab life alive, a man who rescued more than 20 million Muslims from the clutches of Saddam Hussein, continues to be excoriated by the Arab press.

Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the quintessential wolf in sheep’s clothing, may indeed have been a Muslim cleric. But let’s not forget that Joseph Stalin was an ordained priest. And yet, even when it killed a cold-blooded murderer like Yassin, Israel came under a barrage of international condemnation. Among the inane arguments proffered was that eliminating Yassin would only inflame Palestinians and provoke Hamas.

Provoke Hamas? Really make them angry? You gotta be kidding. What are they going to do now? Kill hundreds of Israelis? They are already doing that. Dismember pregnant women? Been there, done that. Blow the arms and legs off children? Ditto.

Rather than excuse cowardice, let us all applaud courage. The man who is most attacked for having incited the Islamic militants to real shows of anger is Bush with his war of liberation in Iraq. Perhaps there is something redeeming about being the most powerful yet most vilified man on Earth. I would assume it keeps one humble. But let’s not ascribe that virtuous motivation to the president’s critics, the latest of whom is a former counterterrorism official in the Bush

White House, Richard Clarke, who has written a book alleging that the Iraq war actually made the U.S. more vulnerable by fomenting anti-American feelings and taking military resources away from the hunt for Al Qaeda.

In truth, Clarke strikes me as an opportunist with myopic vision. Terrorism in the Middle East is a direct outgrowth of Arab tyranny. If Arabs lived – like their Western counterparts – in open, prosperous, and democratic societies, then there would be no need on the part of their corrupt leaders to scapegoat Israel and the United States as the source of all Arab problems; Muslims wouldn’t be signing up by the truckload to attack Western targets.

While we may, from time to time, eliminate terrorist leaders like Yassin or even Osama bin Laden, a total end to Middle East terror will not come about until there is complete Arab democratization in the Middle East. And President Bush, in a sharp departure from his father, who lacked “the vision thing” and left Saddam Hussein in power, understands this. Iraqi citizens are now the first Arabs in modern history who don’t have to be afraid of their own government. But bureaucrats like Richard Clarke, who cannot see the forest for the trees, would have us focus only on individual terrorists instead of the governments that create, harbor, fund, incite, and inspire them.

How can anyone take Clarke’s criticism seriously when we have already seen the immense dividends of the Iraqi war, such as Moammar Khaddafi publicly disavowing his nuclear weapons programs and Syrian citizens being brazen enough to hold public demonstrations in Damascus for the first time, a fact that even The New York Times conceded would have been unthinkable prior to the toppling of Saddam.

It is time that I said in print what I have long felt in my heart: I not only support President Bush, I revere him. At a time when so many other world leaders want to paint September 11 as a terror attack, President Bush saw it for what it was: a clash of civilizations, a war to the death between two systems – one open, democratic, and respectful of human life; the other oppressive, tyrannical, and deeply contemptuous of human life.

Bush understands that the only way to defeat such a grave threat is by tumbling the dominoes that support terror one by one, even if he becomes the most criticized man on Earth for doing so. This week a liberal friend of mine called me to say that he was surprised that a man as “intelligent” as I could like Bush. I thanked him for the back-handed compliment and said, “You’ve heard Edmund Burke’s famous quotation that ‘All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.’ Why, then, do so many people hate Bush for simply doing something?”

And for all those who hate the Patriot Act and believe that the war in Iraq was a terrible mistake, isn’t the biggest proof of the correctness of the president’s vision the simple fact that, unlike Israel, which suffers daily from terror, the U.S. has not had a major terror attack on American soil since September 11, 2001? And shouldn’t the Sharon government, which finally toppled one of its leading enemies in a gutsy move, learn from the total war tactics employed by the American president?

The Bible says that when Moses first encountered G-d, He appeared in the form of a burning bush. Moses was commanded by G-d to be careful lest he tread on that bush. I have no problem with the president’s critics attacking his economic, environmental, or other such policies. Indeed, like any mortal, he is far from perfect as are some of his policies. But the part of his leadership that burns with virtue and blazes with uprightness, that protects the innocent and punishes the wicked, assails tyranny and upholds democracy, and puts the fear of G-d into cold-hearted killers – at least that part of him, let his critics refrain from trampling.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s newest book is “The Private Adam: Becoming a Hero in a Selfish Age.”

About the Author: Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi” whom the Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is the international best-selling author of 29 books, including The Fed-up Man of Faith: Challenging God in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.


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