- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 14, 2001

There was not much applause, but that doesn't mean they weren't listening at the United Nations when George W. Bush gave the General Assembly a lesson in the new way of the world. And no wonder. Mr. Bush's U.N. address on Saturday, delivered with the unadorned grace of plain-spoken English, may well have marked the first time diplomats accustomed to well-padded euphemisms ever heard anything like it.

After expressing America's gratitude for condolences received since September 11, Mr. Bush made a simple but spine-straightening point: "The time for sympathy has now passed. The time for action has now arrived." Such action, Mr. Bush informed the world body, includes freezing and confiscating terrorist assets, coordinating law enforcement and denying sanctuary or transit to terrorists. "Every known terrorist camp must be shut down, its operators apprehended, and evidence of their arrest presented to the United Nations," he said, adding, "These obligations are urgent and they are binding on every nation with a place in this chamber."

Urgent? Binding? On every nation? With language like this, pointed enough to pierce the buffers of diplomatic doublespeak, Mr. Bush made it clear that just another U.N. resolution won't satisfy his resolve. "In this world there are good causes and bad causes," he continued, "and we may disagree on where the line is drawn. Yet there is no such thing as a good terrorist. No national aspiration, no remembered wrong can ever justify the deliberate murder of the innocent. Any government that rejects this principle, trying to pick and choose its terrorist friends, will know the consequences."

To nations still mourning the deliberate murder of the innocent, such moral clarity is an inspiration. To nations still resisting the pull of the coalition, it is a warning. The response? The General Assembly gave the American president one measly round of applause prompted less by Mr. Bush's call to arms, perhaps, than by his invocation of "a day when two states, Israel and Palestine, live peacefully together." That single burst of applause was no doubt muted by the president's assertion that Israeli-Palestinian peace is only possible "when all have sworn off, forever, incitement, violence and terror."

If fulfilled, of course, such an oath would likely leave Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat out of a job. Meanwhile, Mr. Bush is facing a formidable communication gap chasm, really that seems to defy the reach of cross-cultural understanding. The international community seems willing enough to fight against terrorism so long as it is defined by the al Qaeda gang and, implausibly, not to mention immorally, by the democratic state of Israel. This is not only absurd, but anathema, to suggest aligning members of the anti-terrorist coalition with such terrorist organizations as Hamas and Hezbollah. Indeed, this urgent dispute is a fact as unsettling as it is officially unmentionable, and there can be no solid foundation to the war on terrorism until it is well understood.


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