Expect Barack Obama to get a lot of flack for this statement, but I won’t be one of the critics. Instead, I’ll focus my criticism on the media that treats it as some sort of sea change for American statesmanship. We’ll start with Tom Raum of the AP:
Barack Obama, making his first visit to a Muslim nation as president, declared Monday the United States “is not and will never be at war with Islam.”
Calling for a greater partnership with the Islamic world in an address to the Turkish parliament, Obama called the country an important U.S. ally in many areas, including the fight against terrorism. He devoted much of his speech to urging a greater bond between Americans and Muslims, portraying terrorist groups such as al Qaida as extremists who did not represent the vast majority of Muslims.
“Let me say this as clearly as I can,” Obama said. “The United States is not and never will be at war with Islam. In fact, our partnership with the Muslim world is critical … in rolling back a fringe ideology that people of all faiths reject.”
Here’s the objectionable part:
The U.S. president is trying to mend fences with a Muslim world that felt it had been blamed by America for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Yes, because George Bush spent the last seven years blaming the entire Muslim world for the 9/11 attacks, right? Right? Er, no, as this collection of Bush quotes regarding Islam makes excruciatingly clear. In fact, Bush emphasized friendship with Muslims from the very start of the war:
- “I’ve made it clear, Madam President, that the war against terrorism is not a war against Muslims, nor is it a war against Arabs. It’s a war against evil people who conduct crimes against innocent people.” — Remarks by President George W. Bush and President Megawati of Indonesia The Oval Office, Washington, D.C. September 19, 2001
- “The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That’s not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don’t represent peace. They represent evil and war.” — Remarks by the President at Islamic Center of Washington, D.C. Washington, D.C. September 17, 2001
- “All of us here today understand this: We do not fight Islam, we fight against evil.” — Remarks by President George W. Bush to the Warsaw Conference on Combating Terrorism November 6, 2001
- “I have assured His Majesty that our war is against evil, not against Islam. There are thousands of Muslims who proudly call themselves Americans, and they know what I know — that the Muslim faith is based upon peace and love and compassion. The exact opposite of the teachings of the al Qaeda organization, which is based upon evil and hate and destruction.” — Remarks by President George W. Bush and His Majesty King Abdullah of Jordan The Oval Office, Washington, D.C. September 28, 2001
- “Islam is a vibrant faith. Millions of our fellow citizens are Muslim. We respect the faith. We honor its traditions. Our enemy does not. Our enemy doesn’t follow the great traditions of Islam. They’ve hijacked a great religion.” — Remarks by President George W. Bush on U.S. Humanitarian Aid to Afghanistan Presidential Hall, Dwight David Eisenhower Executive Office Building, Washington, D.C. October 11, 2002
And so on; there are plenty of examples to make the point. Obama spoke in the tradition established by Bush over the last seven-plus years of emphasizing that America did not declare war on Islam. That’s been obvious through our partnership with Islamic nations, such as Iraq, Turkey, Afghanistan, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, just to name a few. And he’s right; the last thing we would want to do would be to declare war on a billion people just on the basis of their religion. The more we can keep the Muslims on the sidelines, the better off we are in fighting against the radicals.
However, the AP wants to pretend that this is some new effort by the US to assure Muslims of our intentions. It decidedly is not, and perhaps a mention that Bush tried making these same assurances for almost his entire presidency would be in order here.
Update: Jules Crittenden declares “Jinx!” and assesses Obama a Coca-Cola on behalf of Bush.