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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

June 03, 2003

America the most important defender of peace-loving Muslims

The lifting of UN economic sanctions against Iraq won't silence the critics of the Bush administration's war on terrorism. Many of them see the U.S.-led campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan as ''acts of imperialism'' and an affront to Muslims everywhere. They talk as if the war against terror were really a crusade against Islam.

They've got it exactly backwards. America is the most important defender of peace-loving Muslims in the world.

Consider what's happened over the last 18 months. Two of the most brutal regimes in modern times have been toppled. In Afghanistan, the Taliban had imposed a nightmarish version of Islamic law. Men could be tortured for playing chess or listening to the radio. Girls were prohibited from attending school and banned from certain mosques. Wives accused of adultery might be executed on the spot. The Taliban leadership had a saying: ''Women belong in the house or the grave.''

In Iraq, Saddam Hussein ran the country like a Soviet gulag. Each day we learn more about the arbitrary arrests, the mutilations, the special prisons for children. About the athletes tortured for failing to win a soccer match. We read about the fedayeen--a terrorist version of the KGB--that publicly beheaded women considered political troublemakers. Each day, it seems, we watch mothers weep over the remains of missing children discovered in a mass grave.

Most of the victims of these governments were Muslim: men, women and children who embrace the Quran as their holy book. Eighteen months ago, about 45 million Muslims in these countries were living in fear. Today in Afghanistan, girls and women can attend school and worship with much greater freedom. In Iraq, Shiite Muslims--perhaps the most persecuted group--can hold Friday prayers, funeral processions and religious festivals without facing a government crackdown.

It wasn't the Arab League that came to their rescue. It was the U.S. military, under the leadership of George W. Bush. As political and cultural critic Paul Berman writes in Terror and Liberalism: ''No country on Earth has fought so hard and consistently as the United States on behalf of Muslim populations.''

This gives the administration the moral authority to help ensure that liberal governments emerge in both nations. [more]