New Delhi, India - The most important word in the question is 'three', for 9/11 occurred five years ago. Muslims of faith are sensitive to the difference between justice and injustice, and they view the occupation of Iraq, with its chorus of lies and daily scenes of death, as the ultimate injustice of our times.
The problem with George Bush is that of necessity. He must shade the truth whenever he is forced to defend the indefensible. He is not the most adept somnambulist but he must seek passage through a verbal minefield.
America has also sent an army to build a case for democracy. I cannot think of any exercise that might be more self-defeating. Soldiers are trained for war, not adult franchise.
The Indian army occupied half of Pakistan in 1971, and turned it into Bangladesh, a country now recognized by every nation including Pakistan. The smartest thing that India did was to withdraw its troops within three months of the declaration of victory. The difference between liberation and occupation is often measured by the length of an army's presence. Last heard, the American army chief in Iraq had become the surrogate chief of police of Baghdad. Was that written in the mission statement sent by Pentagon three years ago?
The story of Amahar, reported last week in the Washington Post, should be instructive: Iraqis cheered and celebrated the departure of 1200 British soldiers, who were shelled out from their base on the border with Iran. If America and Britain have lost the trust of the civilians they claim to save, then why are they there?
America is a giant at war with a shadow army in Iraq. One characteristic of a shadow is that it looms larger than it is; a second is that it flits, and is elusive.
America cannot restore its credibility with Muslims without restoring its goodwill. Bill Clinton had created goodwill for his country in much of the Muslim world; and as the question indicates, most Muslims sympathized when thousands of innocents died on 9/11.
The first step Washington needs to take is to plan a regional, multinational Muslim force to step into the space created by American withdrawal. The second is to put in place some socio-political plan for the country that has the support of this very tough neighborhood. To argue that it will be difficult, near-impossible and hazardous is to state the obvious, but when you are thigh-deep in a swamp and still sinking all rescue operations have their dangers. Third, Bush should get a speechwriter who understands Muslims. This of course might turn out to be more difficult than the first two.
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