In the longest speech he has ever given, yesterday President George W. Bush made specific retorts to arguments that cite Islamic principles as justification for terrorism. That is a first for an American president.
The extraordinary speech, given before the National Endowment for Democracy, represents other firsts as well. The speech:
> revealed the number of major al Qaeda plots that have been foiled since 9/11;
> clarified that US troops would not voluntarily withdraw from Iraq even if limited military objectives in the country were met; and
> restated the limited US "War on Terror" on al Qaeda's terms; i.e., publicly recognized al Qaeda's stated plans to establish a global caliphate via armed conquest of the West and framed the US response accordingly.
If that last sounds terribly ominous -- a de facto declaration of World War Three -- on the contrary. Bush's speech was simply a bow to the Arab Street, which has been buzzing with rumors that the US is planning to cut and run from Iraq -- and which has long held that the United States won't stay in the Middle East to see the larger job through and that the Bush administration is clueless about what al Qaeda is really up to in Iraq.
So the speech was to set the rumors to rest, to give assurance that the United States is in for the long haul, and to demonstrate that the United States government is abreast of al Qaeda's plans.
The game is up in Iraq for al Qaeda and they know it. They made two critical miscalcuations:
> They didn't predict that His Honorable Eminence Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Husaini Sistani would emerge as Iraq's George Washington. (No one could have predicted that.)
> They didn't factor in that the vast majority of Iraqi people, whose patience had been honed under Saddam's long brutal rule, would show such tenacity under the onslaughts of terrorist bombs.
All that's left now for the terror masters is to throw what's left of their bombs at innocent Muslims and stoke the rumor that the US is quitting Iraq at the first opportunity.
President Bush's ringing words yesterday will go a long way to quashing the rumor. And the US military working alongside Iraq's will run the varmits out of Iraq.
As for al Qaeda's talk about a global caliphate: on her "listening mission" in the Middle East, Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Karen Hughes, listened very carefully with fresh ears (and her long experience as a professional reporter) to the many Muslims who advised her about their concerns. And she very carefully reported to President Bush all she was told. Pundita doubts she reported that what the world's Muslims want is to establish a global caliphate.
So I'd say the puppetmasters in Tehran have also miscalculated. They definitely got it wrong, if they assumed that no US President would ever dare confront the totalitarian cant in Wahabist dogma for fear of bringing on the wrath of the Muslim world. Americans, it's to be remembered, practically invented war against totalitarian regimes.