Friday, August 20, 2004

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice yesterday urged patience for President Bush’s plan to spread democracy throughout the Middle East, saying that most Muslims don’t know the “simple truths” of religious tolerance that Americans take for granted.

In an address to the U.S. Institute of Peace, Miss Rice decried the “tendency toward impatience with every twist and turn in Iraq.”

She also suggested that the country has a lower hurdle to leap toward tolerance and unity because, unlike the United States, it does not have to overcome a legacy of slavery.

“These are people in their first stages of democratic development,” Miss Rice said. “And if I could say one thing to all of us in the United States of America, who live in a democracy that is 230 years old, it is that we need to be both more patient with people who are making these early steps, less critical of every twist and turn, less certain that every up and down is going to collapse the process, and more humble about how long it has taken us to get to a multiethnic democracy that works.

“And I will tell you one thing. To this point, I have not yet seen the Iraqis make a compromise as bad as the one that in 1789 made my ancestors three-fifths of a man,” said Miss Rice, who is black.

The administration’s handling of the war on terror has become a major issue in President Bush’s re-election campaign, with Democrats casting doubt on Mr. Bush’s aggressive plan to change hostile, autocratic regimes into democratic friends of the United States — starting with Afghanistan and Iraq.

Miss Rice’s speech and question-and-answer session yesterday was one of the administration’s strongest and most thorough explanations of the president’s complex plan.

Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry said earlier this month that Mr. Bush’s decision to topple Saddam Hussein and his execution of the war on terror is “actually encouraging the recruitment of terrorists.”

Miss Rice said Mr. Bush’s strategy is the best way to drown out the “small minority of extremists in the Muslim world who indeed hate America and will always hate America.”

“They hate our policies, our values, our freedoms, our very way of life,” she said. “When that hatred is expressed through terrorist violence, there is only one proper response, and that response is that we must find them and defeat them, defeat those who seek to kill our people and to harm our country.”

The fact that most of the 1 billion Muslims in the world don’t hate the United States is proven by the “many Muslims born in other lands” who have learned of America’s tradition of religious tolerance and good intentions “as they pray in America’s 1,200 mosques and raise their American children in the Islamic faith,” she said.

Mr. Bush wants to spread democracy in the Middle East, however, because “we cannot take for granted that Muslims in the rest of the world know these simple truths.”

“We need to get the truth about our values and our policies to the people of the Middle East because truth serves the cause of freedom,” Miss Rice said. “We must also do everything that we can to support and encourage the voices of moderation and tolerance and pluralism within the Muslim world.”

Miss Rice said the rapid turnover of sovereignty to a new Iraqi government was driven by the Bush administration’s cognizance that many in the Middle East resent what they see as Western meddling in their culture.

“There is a hunger for new ideas and fresh thinking in the broader Middle East, and that hunger cannot ultimately be satisfied by the work of outsiders,” Miss Rice said. “Just as freedom must always be chosen, lasting progress and reform in society must emerge from within.”

Miss Rice delivered her speech on the first anniversary of the terrorist bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad. The United Nations refused the protection of U.S. forces and quit Iraq shortly after the attack, leaving the 11-month occupation of the country to the United States.

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