Oh . . . Canada?
George W. Bush heads into his second term with a stronger understanding of the world, having playing Risk with it for the past four years. In Canada yesterday for talks with Prime Minister Paul Martin, Bush told reporters in Ottawa: “Canada and the United States share a history, a continent, and a border.”
Protesters jeered at Bush when his motorcade arrived at the Canadian Parliament building, and reporters asked Bush whether he had any “responsibility” for Canadians and Americans “drifting apart.” That prompted this:
BUSH: I, frankly, felt like the reception we received on the way in from the airport was very warm and hospitable, and I want to thank the Canadian people who came out to wave—with all five fingers—for—(laughter)— for their hospitality. (Laughter.)
MARTIN: I know what you mean, Mr. President. I mentioned to the press who was with us in Chile that I found that we—that Spanish and English and French are three different languages, but that sign language is universal. (Laughter.)
Not every world leader is chuckling. Back in May 2002, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed visited the White House for a chat and then a press conference, and that prompted this:
REPORTER: Mr. President, what do you think of Dr. Mahathir’s definition of terrorism and his view that the root causes of terrorism must be addressed not through military action alone?
BUSH: I agree with that. I think that—but, first, some of these people are nothing but cold-blooded killers, and there’s no rehabilitation program, except for bringing them to justice. I mean, there’s no way that—these people made up their minds, the leaders of these groups have decided that they’re going to come and kill. And it may be an American, it may be a Malaysian, who knows—but we’re going to stop them.
And so the best program is to use our respective militaries, intelligence gathering, cutting off money, to go after these killers.
Now, in terms of youngsters who are looking for—you know, who are searching for a future, if there’s a hopeless future there may be an opportunity to convert them into potential suiciders or potential killers. And that’s what I think we need to talk about, about how to ease hopelessness where there is no hope; I mean, to help people and to help people realize there’s a better future other than joining up with a terrorist organization whose sole intent is destruction.
Bush talked big back then about hunting down Al Qaeda, but remember, even the 9/11 Commission, which was appointed by Bush, noted that the administration had ignored Al Qaeda before 9/11. Here’s some more from the Bush-Mahathir press conference in May 2002:
BUSH: In terms of the senior Al Qaeda members or some of these—listen, there’s no—as I say, I want to repeat, there’s no rehabilitation program for them. There’s only one thing to do, is to get them, and we’re going to. We’re going to bring them to justice. And I will remind the Prime Minister it’s going to take a while. This is a—and we’re patient. He needs to know that the American President, our government is a very patient government. And we’re steadfast. And we’re resolved. And we’re going to hunt them down. And we look forward to continue working with him to do just that. And we’ll bring them to justice, and that’s precisely what’s going to happen to these people.
Mahathir, a pretty grim, autocratic figure himself, is now out of office, after ruling Malaysia for two decades. But he’s still powerful enough to attend the just-concluded Leaders in Dubai conference of rich and powerful people, corporations, and banks—a $2,295-per-person meeting of thousands of bidnessmen, featuring speeches by Rudy Giuliani, Jack Welch, Tom Peters, and other high-paid, platitudinous hucksters. (Read Saifur Rahman‘s account of Giuliani’s speech by going to Gulf News and searching for “giuliani.”)
In this morning’s Gulf News, Mahathir, who previously has accused Bush of creating “anti-Muslim hysteria,” rips the president:
• “We know that his policies have increased the number of people involved in terrorism. Before, the Iraqis were not prone to tying bombs to their bodies and blowing themselves up. A lot of things which were not there before are now very common because of these policies. And he’s going to go on like that because he thinks he’s right.”
• “Most Americans don’t have passports, so they voted Bush in because he frightened them into thinking they were about to get attacked.”
• The Christianity of the “neocons and the born-again Christians” mixed up “politics and personal ambition, perhaps, with religion.”
• “When people start making use of religion and interpret it in order for it to suit them, you are going to have trouble. And it is happening now among Jews, Christians and Muslims.”
• “There was a time when Americans were very level-headed. Now we have a different leadership in America, and this leadership is totally in the service of Israel. And that is what is leading us away from solutions.”