Tomorrow may bring indictments of Karl Rove and Scooter Libby on charges that can charitably be described as trivial. Tonight, one of our readers urged us to link to President Bush’s great speech to the Joint Armed Forces Officers’ Wives’ group rather than being distracted by the minutiae of the day. Good suggestion. President Bush gave another magnificent speech; here are a few highlights:
Some have argued that extremism has been strengthened by the actions of our coalition in Iraq, claiming that our presence in that country has somehow caused or triggered the rage of radicals. I would remind them that we were not in Iraq on September 11th, 2001, and al Qaeda attacked us anyway. The hatred of the radicals existed before Iraq was an issue, and it will exist after Iraq is no longer an excuse. (Applause.)
The government of Russia did not support Operation Iraqi Freedom, and yet the militants killed more than 150 Russian schoolchildren in Beslan. Over the years these extremists have used a litany of excuses for violence — the Israeli presence on the West Bank, or the U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia, or the defeat of the Taliban, or the Crusades of a thousand years ago. In fact, we’re not facing a set of grievances that can be soothed and addressed. We’re facing a radical ideology with inalterable objectives: to enslave whole nations and intimidate the world.
No acts of ours involves the rage of killers. And no concessions, bribe, or act of appeasement would change or limit their plans of murder. On the contrary; they target nations whose behavior they believe they can change through violence. Against such an enemy, there is only one effective response: We will never back down, never give in, and never accept anything less than complete victory. (Applause.)
The murderous ideology of the Islamic radicals is the great challenge of our new century. Yet, in many ways, this fight resembles the struggle against communism in the last century. Like the ideology of communism, Islamic radicalism is elitist, led by a self-appointed vanguard that presumes to speak for the Muslim masses. Bin Laden says his own role is to tell Muslims — and I quote — “what is good for them and what is not.” And what this man who grew up in wealth and privilege considers good for poor Muslims is that they become killers and suicide bombers. He assures them that this is the road to paradise — though he never offers to go along for the ride. (Laughter.)
When 25 Iraqi children are killed in a bombing, or Iraqi teachers are executed at their school, or hospital workers are killed caring for the wounded, this is murder, pure and simple — the total rejection of justice and honor and morality and religion. These militants are not just enemies of America or enemies of Iraq, they are the enemies of Islam and enemies of humanity. (Applause.)
We have seen this kind of shameless cruelty before — in the heartless zealotry that led to the gulags, the Cultural Revolution, and the killing fields. Like the ideology of communism, our new enemy pursues totalitarian aims. Its leaders pretend to be an aggrieved party, representing the powerless against imperial enemies. In truth, they have endless ambitions of imperial domination; they wish to make everyone powerless, except themselves.***
Like the ideology of communism, our new enemy is dismissive of free peoples, claiming that men and women who live in liberty are weak and decadent. Zarqawi has said that Americans are, “the most cowardly of God’s creatures.” But let us be clear: It is cowardice that seeks to kill children and the elderly with car bombs. It’s cowardice that cuts the throat of a bound captive. It is cowardice that targets worshipers leaving a mosque. It is courage that liberated more than 50 million people; it is courage that keeps an untiring vigil against the enemies of a rising democracy. It is courage in the cause of freedom that will once again destroy the enemies of freedom. (Applause.)
Some observers look at the job ahead and adopt a self-defeating pessimism. It’s not justified. With every random bombing and every funeral of a child, it becomes more clear that the extremists are not patriots or resistance fighters — they are murderers at war with the Iraqi people, themselves. In contrast, the elected leaders of Iraq are proving to be strong and steadfast. By any standard or precedent of history, Iraq has made incredible political progress — from tyranny to liberation, to national elections, to the ratification of a constitution — in the space of two and a half years. (Applause.)
There’s always a temptation, in the middle of a long struggle, to seek the quiet life, to escape the duties and problems of the world, to hope the enemy grows weary of fanaticism and tired of murder. That would be a pleasant world — but it isn’t the world in which we live. The enemy is never tired, never sated, never content with yesterday’s brutality. This enemy considers every retreat of the civilized world as an invitation to greater violence. In Iraq, there is no peace without victory — and we will keep our nerve and we will win that victory. (Applause.)
Throughout history, tyrants and would-be tyrants have always claimed that murder is justified to serve their grand vision — and they end up alienating decent people across the globe. Tyrants and would-be tyrants have always claimed that regimented societies are strong and pure — until those societies collapse in corruption and decay. Tyrants and would-be tyrants have always claimed that free men and women are weak and decadent — until the day that free men and women defeat them.
It is rather pathetic, frankly, to compare the soaring vision of freedom that President Bush has elaborated over the past five years to the cramped, hateful hectoring the Democrats have produced during the same time.
UPDATE: A law professor with too much time on his hands (and with readers whose mouths should be washed out with soap, based on their comments on his site) claimed that my reference to the “trivial” charges against Rove and Libby somehow contradicted a statement I made, back in 1998, that the fact that Bill Clinton committed perjury was a serious matter. This professor evidently assumes that Rove and/or Libby is about to be indicted for perjury. I don’t make that assumption. If it should happen, it would indeed be a serious charge, and if either man should be convicted of perjury, it would be, in my view, a very serious matter, just as it was when Clinton lied under oath. But, again, I know of no reason to expect that this will happen.
What I consider to be “trivial” is the claim that Rove and/or Libby discussed Valerie Plame’s CIA desk job with a reporter, in the context of trying to respond to the web of lies that was spun by Joe Wilson, including his lies about how he came to be sent to Niger.