After Trent Lott, R-Miss., made remarks widely perceived as stupid and racially insensitive, his career as Senate majority leader went supernova. Question: What happens now to Sen. Patty Murray's, D-Wash., career, after statements made at a Washington high school, in which she offered her analysis of Osama bin Laden's popularity and the Arab world's anti-Americanism?
"We've got to ask," said Murray, "why is this man so popular around the world? Why are people so supportive of him in many countries that are riddled with poverty?" The answer, according to Murray, lies in bin Laden's charity, generosity and concern. For bin Laden has been "out in these countries for decades, building schools, building roads, building infrastructure, building day care facilities, building health care facilities, and the people are extremely grateful. We haven't done that. How would they look at us today if we had been there helping them with some of that rather than just being the people who are going to bomb in Iraq and go to Afghanistan?"
Take Egypt, where 76 percent view America unfavorably. America gives substantial aid to Egypt, nearly $2 billion a year, making Egypt the second largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid.
America used its military to save Muslims in Kuwait, Somalia, Kosovo and Bosnia. Yet in a post-Gulf War poll, 74 percent of Kuwaitis called Osama bin Laden a hero, with 36 percent calling the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks justified.
Osama bin Laden builds infrastructure, schools and day care facilities? Well, yes, but he also supported regimes like the Taliban and the Sudanese government in exchange for safe havens for his terrorist training camps. In the Sudan, bin Laden receives income from the drug trade, a business that utilizes slave labor. According to Brig. Katumba Wamala, commander of the Ugandan forces fighting the rebels, "We know that large numbers of children abducted by the Lord's Resistance Army are being sold into slavery in Sudan. Bin Laden is the main buyer of these children. He has very big marijuana farms in Sudan and he buys the children as slave labourers." Schools? The senator, perhaps, means madrasas, or down-with-the-infidel-hate-America indoctrination centers.
Perhaps Sen. Murray might offer suggestions to Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf. He promised to end his country's hate-America schools, but confronts a problem -- an insufficient number of "pro-American" teachers. According to the Los Angeles Times, "Mohammed Kamal, the head of the Rawalpindi branch of the Jamaat-I-Islami religious party, said that teaching contempt for the U.S. isn't extremist. It is an obligation, deduced by simple logic. 'When (our teachers) see Americans supporting those who kill Muslims around the world -- in Palestine, in India -- they develop a hatred,' Kamal said. 'So they teach students that Americans are against their religion and so they should fight against them.'" Oh, well.
If it's about money, schools and roads, how does Sen. Murray explain the Palestinians? Two years ago, before the current campaign of violence, the Palestinian economy showed great promise, in part due to trade with and Palestinians working in Israel. Now 50 percent of Palestinians live below the poverty line -- doubled since 2000 -- with unemployment tripled to 30 percent. Gross national income fell by at least $2.5 billion, effectively bankrupting the government. A Palestinian economist with the International Monetary Fund, commenting on the Palestinian economy's freefall since October 2000, pronounced it "catastrophic." Yet despite the collapse of the Palestinian economy, 63 percent of Palestinians say the suicide bombings should continue, and a staggering 80 percent support the intifada.
And, by the way, bin Laden, himself, rejects the poverty-leads-to-hatred line of reasoning. In a 1998 session attended by ABC news reporter John Miller, bin Laden said, "They claim that this blessed awakening and the people reverting to Islam are due to economic factors. This is not so (emphasis added). It is rather a grace from Allah, a desire to embrace the religion of Allah. And this is not surprising. When the holy war called, thousands of young men from the Arab Peninsula and other countries answered the call and they came from wealthy backgrounds . . . "
The scope of Murray's ignorance, naivete and dangerously foolish worldview simply leaves one speechless. The senator refuses to recognize flat-out contempt, assumes that with good money and a kind heart, one can simply melt the hearts of terrorists who, in their own words, urge the destruction of America.
A post-Sept. 11th poll showed that much of the Arab world simply despises America, a view unlikely to change no matter the American hand-wringing, self-flagellation and "atonement." Under Sen. Murray's theory of the world, President George W. Bush simply writes a check, and, voila, hostilities cease. Why didn't he think of that?
So call Sen. Lott's "racially insensitive" remarks -- made at a birthday celebration -- stupid. But Sen. Patty Murray's romantic, thoughtless brand of brain-dead, let's-all-hold-hands-together-and-sing worldview truly threatens national security.