- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 1, 2004

Freedoms at risk

The U.S. ambassador to Australia recalled the “four freedoms” cited by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, as he warned of the dangers posed by Islamist terrorism against civilized countries.

Roosevelt, in his State of the Union address in 1941, said America stands for “the freedom of speech, the freedom of religion, the freedom from want and the freedom from fear,” Ambassador Thomas Schieffer said in a recent speech to the Adelaide Press Club.

“Today the acts of these terrorists have put those four freedoms at risk again,” he said. “They are not just the freedoms of America or Australia. They are the freedoms of men and women of good will everywhere.”

Mr. Schieffer rejected the often-cited “clash of civilizations” between the West and Islam as a reason for Muslim terrorism. He called the conflict a “clash against civilization” because Islamic extremists frequently kill other Muslims who oppose terrorism.

“We are in conflict because the basic building blocks of a free society are at risk,” he said.

“If the terrorists can win by blowing up trains, if taking hostages and beheading them work, if shooting women for going to school is accepted, if flying airplanes full of innocents into buildings is allowed, then we have slipped into a new dark age where the monsters of a few will reign over the hopes of the many.”

Mr. Schieffer disputed analysts who cite poverty as the underlying cause of terrorism, arguing that terrorist leaders such as Osama bin Laden are frequently wealthy, educated men although their followers may be poor.

“Osama bin Laden is a multimillionaire. He has surrounded himself with doctors, lawyers and engineers …,” Mr. Schieffer said. “To be sure the mules of terrorism are often uneducated, unemployed and unstable in any conventional sense, but the leaders are seldom men of modest means or low intelligence. …

“They seek power not from a message of hope, but one of hate. They spin out tales of conspiracy that appeal to prejudice, not reason.”

He said many people throughout the world live in poverty but do not “regularly advocate the killing of those who make more.”

Mr. Schieffer emphasized tolerance and understanding of Muslims who peacefully practice their religion.

“What Osama bin Laden and others have done is no more representative of what Islamic civilization stands for than what Hitler did was the reflection of Christian civilization,” he said.

Attacks condemned

The American Task Force on Palestine broke with tradition yesterday and condemned Tuesday’s suicide bombings in Israel that killed 16 Israelis on two buses in the town of Beersheba.

The task force, an advocacy group that supports a two-state solution to the conflict, explained that it normally declines to denounce such attacks, although its mission statement categorically rejects all violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Every innocent life lost in the conflict, whether Israeli or Palestinian, is equally precious and grieved for,” the task force said.

However, the group added, “It is important for the record to state our condemnation of [Tuesday’s] bombings as morally and politically reprehensible.

“These, along with the deaths of scores of Palestinian civilians over the course of the past several months, serve only to fuel impulses for retribution and revenge on all sides — impulses that stand in the way of peaceful coexistence between the two peoples in two viable states.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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