- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 14, 2001

He's back. Just when we thought that former President Bill Clinton was out of the public spotlight, he delivered a speech at Georgetown University last week on the state of "our world since September 11." His remarks caused public outrage, and rightly so.

Mr. Clinton stated that the United States is now "paying a price" for its previous practice of slavery and for looking "the other way when a significant number of native Americans were dispossessed and killed."

Essentially, he drew a parallel between the terrorists who slammed jet airliners into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the Pennsylvania countryside, and the "terror" that has existed in America for hundreds of years.

The remarks were not only offensive, but false. The United States is not "paying a price today" for the evils of slavery; rather, it paid a heavy price in blood and treasure nearly 150 years ago when the Civil War that ended the abomination of slavery resulted in 500,000 dead and deep social antagonisms.

Also, most of the Indian tribes that were wiped out following the arrival of Europeans in the New World were not murdered over "land or mineral rights," as Mr. Clinton suggested. Instead, more than 90 percent of native American deaths were caused by contact with deadly foreign diseases such as smallpox. This was an inadvertent consequence of European settlement.

However, even more outrageous is that Mr. Clinton is suggesting a moral equivalence between America's founding fathers and Osama bin Laden's army of hate. Mr. Clinton believes that America is a flawed nation that is despised by many people around the world, especially in the Middle East. Rather than being arrogant and self-righteous in its current campaign against terrorism, he wants the United States to be "more understanding" of the reasons for the anti-Americanism in the region and to "engage the Muslim world in a dialogue."

Mr. Clinton's speech reveals the instinctive America-bashing and intense hostility to moral absolutes at the heart of modern liberalism. Mr. Clinton and many other liberals are uncomfortable with the notion of the existence of evil in the world. They cringe at the fact that the United States has no choice but to lead an international coalition in defense of civilized values against mass murderers such as the Taliban and al Qaeda.

In his desire to blame America, he is blinded to the reasons for the terrorist attacks. Slavery and the mistreatment of Indians has nothing to do with the events of September 11. Bin Laden admitted that the atrocities were committed in response to recent U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East: American troops based in Saudi Arabia, continued sanctions on Iraq and Washington's support of Israel in the conflict with the Palestinians.

Furthermore, bin Laden's terrorist network is not interested in achieving rational foreign policy goals. Contrary to the claims of Mr. Clinton and many on the left, Islamic extremists cannot be appeased by dialogue or compromise: They are motivated by hate. Ultimately, bin Laden and his supporters seek the destruction of Western civilization by targeting two of its pillars the United States, the symbol of the West's power and cultural influence in the world; and Israel, the West's sole outpost in the Middle East.

Mr. Clinton's comments are offensive because they suggest that there is some kind of moral equivalence between the United States and its "racist," slavery-ridden past, and today's Muslim extremists who kill innocent civilians. There isn't. Thomas Jefferson for all of his flaws was no Osama bin Laden.

Moreover, to suggest that America is partially responsible for the terrorist attacks is not only an insult to the families of the victims, but undermines America's moral authority to conduct its current military campaign. How can the world's leaders be expected to fully cooperate with America's war on terrorism when one of its former presidents portrays the United States as a nation whose history was dominated by "terror" against blacks and Indians?

Instead of bashing America, Mr. Clinton should focus on his administration's failure to stem the tide of global terrorism. Under his presidency, the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center was treated as a criminal matter, rather than for what it was: an act of war. There also was no military retaliation for the 1996 terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia, or the bombing of the USS Cole.

Moreover, following the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa, Mr. Clinton launched a series of feeble surgical missile strikes against terrorist training camps in Afghanistan that did nothing to dismember bin Laden's network. In fact, Mr. Clinton's weak and ineffective response only emboldened bin Laden into believing that he could murder innocent American civilians and get away with it. The result was the heinous atrocities of September 11.

Yet, Mr. Clinton refuses to accept his share of responsibility for the terrorist attacks. Rather than blame America, he should start by blaming himself.

Jeffrey T. Kuhner is an assistant national editor at The Washington Times.

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