Saturday, November 17, 2001

Nothing is an outrage when the reigning fad is being nonjudgmental. So perhaps it is not surprising there has been no nationwide chorus of condemnation of Bill Clinton’s anti-American speech at Georgetown University. According to the former president, America is “paying a price today” for slavery in the past and for that fact that “native Americans were dispossessed and killed.”

Can you name a country, anywhere in the world, where there has never been slavery? Can you name a country, anywhere in the world, where land has not changed hands as a result of military conquest? It is a painful commentary on human beings that there are no such countries. But it is hogwash to single out the United States for sins that have afflicted the entire human race.

And to say Americans are paying a price today because of those sins is grotesque. Nobody in the World Trade Center owned any slaves or killed any Indians. This pushing of collective guilt, inherited from centuries past, is a shameless hustle that insults our intelligence.

All around the world, there are cities that have had different names at different periods of history because they were conquered again and again by different invaders. Istanbul was Constantinople before it was conquered, Bratislava was Pressburg, New York was New Amsterdam and so on and on.

Just for the record, slavery was abolished throughout Western civilization more than a century before it was abolished in the Islamic world for it is not completely abolished in the Islamic world to this very moment. But double standards are at the heart of the hustle. Nobody else is going to cough up the money that the hustlers want from the United States.

Mr. Clinton wants us to pay for the education of children in other countries because it is “a lot cheaper than going to war.” This kind of talk is considered Deep Stuff by shallow people.

According to Mr. Clinton, Americans “have to get rid of our arrogant self-righteousness so that we don’t claim for ourselves things we deny to others.” If other people don’t have what we have, does that mean we denied it to them?

Are people around the world to be encouraged to look to us as their sugar daddy, instead of looking to themselves to do the things that have lifted other countries from poverty to prosperity? The whole world was once poorer than today’s Third World and there was nobody to provide foreign aid.

We should also forgive Third World debt, according to Mr. Clinton. What this means, in plain English, is that American taxpayers should be lied to when they are told that their money is being lent overseas, because no one should expect the loans to be repaid. It also means no one should expect adult responsibility from Third World rulers, who live lavishly, build monuments to themselves and stash money in Swiss bank accounts.

The vast sums of money that can be borrowed legitimately from private lenders in international financial markets make it wholly unnecessary for Third World governments to “borrow” from the U.S. government in the first place. The difference is that private borrowing requires adult responsibility and investing the money in something that is going to actually produce some tangible benefits for people other than rulers and bureaucrats.

Not content with playing the slavery card and the conquest card, Mr. Clinton went back centuries before there was a United States to regale the Georgetown students with the atrocities of the Crusaders against the Muslims, saying “we are still paying for it.” Were there no atrocities the other way? Or among people on every inhabited continent, for centuries on end? But again, there is a double standard, of which the Blame America First ideology is just one example.

Bill Clinton closed by saying the issue revolves around “the nature of truth.” Who would have thought he was an expert on truth? Incidentally, as has often happened, he arrived 45 minutes late, keeping 1,000 people waiting. But that was only the beginning of his irresponsibility.

Thomas Sowell is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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