Friday, August 11, 2006

Bush is Right, Critics Wrong, Polls show: They Hate Freedom


News Analysis

Bush is Right, Critics Wrong, Polls show:
They Hate Freedom

by Edward Paynter

August 11, '06

For years President George W. Bush has tirelessly and passionately insisted that the only reason Muslim terrorists hate America is that we are a free people. Again and again he has asserted that the terrorists are nothing more than evildoers who have been driven to madness by their love of darkness and tyranny and their hatred for all the things our nation stands for: freedom, justice, and a love of liberty.

Thus, responding to the British roundup of terror suspects plotting to blow up three or more U.S.-bound airliners yesterday, the President said, "This is a stark reminder that this nation is at war with Islamic fascists who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom."

But for just as long, critics have insisted that the President is half right at best, and have berated him for trying to distract the world's attention from the "real" causes of Muslim terror, the policies of this nation toward the Muslim world, especially over the last six years, that are rightly or wrongly perceived by Muslims as being hostile to their civilization. Such critics cite especially the Bush administration's unfailing support for Israel's expansion into the West Bank and its building of a "separation barrier" running deep into Palestinian-settled territory. Israel's bombing of Gaza, and now of Lebanon, they say, certainly haven't helped.

Now, an amazingly comprehensive poll of Muslim terrorist prisoners conducted by the CIA and the intelligence agencies of several U.S. allies seems to confirm that the President has it at least half right. These captives do hate the United States for other reasons, the poll finds, but again and again, across the Muslim world from Morroco to Malaysia, results show that what they consistently hate about us above all is our freedom.

Captives were interrogated and given questionnaires everywhere: Morrocans in Spanish prisons, Algerians in French, Muslims of several nations in prisons in German and Italy, Muslim Brotherhood members imprisoned in Egypt, al Qaeda members in Saudi jails, Malayasian and Indonesian al Qaeda terrorists in the jails of those nations, the thousands of Iraqi prisoners in American jails in Iraq, and finally, an especially rich source, the 10,000 Palestinians languishing in confinement in Israeli facilities.

It is true that specific policies of the Bush administration are condemned by these terrorists. For example, 100% of Palestinians interned in Israel said the chief reason they hated the United States was that "America finances, arms, and encourages Israel to take land from the Palestinian people." But what will surprise the President's critics is the second grievance of the Palestinians, shared by 65%: they hate the Bill of Rights.

Similarly, while 80% of al Qaeda inmates held in Saudi Arabia said the chief reason they hate America is that "the infidels defiled the sands of the Land of the Prophet with their filthy presence," 70% said the next worst thing about America was the freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures guaranteed in the Fourth Amendment. Sixty per cent also detested habeas corpus.

And so it went across the Muslim world. Iraqi prisoners overwhelmingly said they hated the United States for invading their country, but a surprising percentage, 45, said they specifically loathed the Fifth Amendment guarantee of trial by jury in all criminal cases.

Indeed, it was the First Amendment to the Constitution, with its several guarantees of freedom of religion, speech, the press, assembly and the right of petition which was most deeply reviled from Morroco to the Philippines. Among Iraqi prisoners there was an intriguing split between Shia and Sunni over which was the more hateful of the religion clauses, the establishment or free exercise ("Congress shall make no law affecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof"), Shia, perhaps reflecting their now dominant status, now hating the first most, while Sunnis especially detest the second.*

President Bush may have been "thinking with his gut" when he concluded that they hate us for our freedom and for no other conceivable reason, but it seems he got it essentially right. But how, quite unknown to Bush, did these Muslims become so well acquainted with the Constitution of the nation they hate? It seems that in madrases from Riyadh to Rawalpindi it is not only the Koran that is taught. Pupils in these academies are also drilled endlessly in the U.S. Constitution, in Arabic, of course, as a sort of "evil writ" which their masters call "The Protocols of the Elders of the Great Satan." Madrasa graduates, then, have a knowledge of the Constitution that our law graduates well might envy, although from a diametrically opposed perspective. What we revere, they hold to be filth.

It will come as no surprise to learn that the person most detested by madrassa masters, one who is almost a stand-in for the Tempter himself, is Thomas Jefferson. Not because he was a slave owner, but because he was the world's most renowned gospeler of Natural Rights. "Jefferson is beneath camel dung," they will say. "Camel dung at least makes for a cheery campfire."

*One Abu Ghraib prisoner who holds a doctorate in Islamic studies from Baghdad University said he actually agreed with the free exercise clause, but that it had been wrongly interpreted. The Constitution guarantees "freedom of religion," he said, "but not freedom from religion." He said he was in perfect agreement with Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.