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Friday, February 29, 2008

Boomtown Bush - Geldof on GWB

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In Time Magazine's online presence, there is an interesting interview posted 2/28/08, Geldof and Bush: Diary From the Road in which now occasional rocker and full-time activist Bob Geldof documents his experiences on the road with President George W. Bush during the President's recent pan-Africa trip. It is interesting for more than the fact that a fading rock star should have such access to the leader of the free world but is actually worth reading for Geldof's conversations with and observations of GWB.

Geldoff, not maintaining what is the usually de rigueur Bush-is-Hitler mantra, is actually quite complimentary of the President, at least on the subject of Africa. Geldoff finds him "curious and quick" and has high praise for his African policies which he says, with no sign of squeamishness, have "saved millions of lives." Geldof paints a picture that we've seen before of Bush from most of those who've had contact with him; very much the Texan, loose in conversation but disciplined and smart, "an emotional man" possessed of a great capacity for compassion for his fellow man. This is not the image of heartless rube warmonger who launches massive military campaigns to line the already overstuffed pockets of his buddies that most on the Left imagines and try to popularize.

Aside from the interesting character observations, Geldoff does elicit some comments from the President that are worthy of deeper analysis. At one point Bush says, "See, I believe we're in an ideological struggle with extremism,"..."These people prey on the hopeless. Hopelessness breeds terrorism. That's why this trip is a mission undertaken with the deepest sense of humanity, because those other folks will just use vulnerable people for evil. Like in Iraq." Now while this particular trope has some validity, as most cliches do, there is still something troubling about it. The idea that Islamic terrorists must troll through the ranks of the poor and disaffected to find followers creates an impression that is not just wrong, but is actually helpful to those same terrorists.

The fact is many terrorists have little, if any, experience of poverty and deprivation at all. Osama Bin Laden is the scion of famously wealthy family. Many of the 9/11 hijackers were middle class or better, college educated and familiar with the West. The attack on the Glasgow. Scotland Airport in 8/07 was carried out by a PhD Engineer and a physician. The four 7/07 London suicide bombers were homegrown, middle-class Brits. What drew them all into terrorism wasn't poverty and therefore you won't won't eradicate terrorism by eradicating poverty. Modern-day terrorism is motivated by Islam. Period. To blame anything but Islam as the animating force behind it is to cut Islam a break that is counterproductive. In order to defeat terrorism we have to confront (and terrorism is just a tactic after all) it where it is born; in the teachings of Islam. Islam won't confront its own failings if we let it off the hook. We have to point out with vigor and in detail the ways that Islam is failing the world. Islam is in need of a major reformation and we do it and ourselves no favor by being bashful about pointing out that fact.

Now Bush must certainly realize this and it has to be admitted that he is confronted with a real problem in figuring out how to deal with Islam. As President, if Bush were to come out and say, "Islam is the cause of terrorism. Islam as it currently exists must be stopped" he would in effect be turning the very hostile eyes of most Americans on the Muslims living here, most quite peacefully, those who although they are Muslim don't have the violent inclinations of the more strictly devout. During WWII Roosevelt put thousands of Japanese into internment camps. It was not America's finest moment and not one most of us would like to relive.

Geldof's piece paints a generally positive picture of the President but it also reveals a man who, after all this time, is still having a difficult time getting a handle on this particular enemy.

Toward the end of his essay Geldof, apparently in an attempt to maintain at least some of his rock-buddies' respect, rips Bush for Iraq, Guantanomo, Abu-Ghraib and the usual litany of left-wing complaints. He does it without subtly or any new or particularly insightful thinking. No surprises here. The article is still worth reading however for giving a vivid picture of George Bush and, unintentionally no doubt, for highlighting how Bush is still struggling, unsuccessfully here, with the enemy we now face and will be facing for some time to come.

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