Sunday, June 7, 2009

Presidential speeches about relationships with Islamic countries

President Obama speech in Cairo:
Cairo University Cairo, Egypt, Jun 04, 2009 @1:10 P.M. (Local)

President Bush Attends World Economic Forum
Sharm el Sheikh International Congress Center
Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, May 18, 2008

Both speeches follow:

Cairo University Cairo, Egypt, Jun 04, 2009 @1:10 P.M. (Local)

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you very much. Good afternoon. I am honored to be in the timeless city of Cairo, and to be hosted by two remarkable institutions. For over a thousand years, Al-Azhar has stood as a beacon of Islamic learning; and for over a century, Cairo University has been a source of Egypt's advancement. And together, you represent the harmony between tradition and progress. I'm grateful for your hospitality, and the hospitality of the people of Egypt. And I'm also proud to carry with me the goodwill of the American people, and a greeting of peace from Muslim communities in my country: Assalaamu alaykum. (Applause.)

We meet at a time of great tension between the United States and Muslims around the world -- tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate. The relationship between Islam and the West includes centuries of coexistence and cooperation, but also conflict and religious wars. More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations. Moreover, the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam.

Violent extremists have exploited these tensions in a small but potent minority of Muslims. The attacks of September 11, 2001 and the continued efforts of these extremists to engage in violence against civilians has led some in my country to view Islam as inevitably hostile not only to America and Western countries, but also to human rights. All this has bred more fear and more mistrust.

So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, those who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity. And this cycle of suspicion and discord must end.
I've come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect, and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles -- principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.

I do so recognizing that change cannot happen overnight. I know there's been a lot of publicity about this speech, but no single speech can eradicate years of mistrust, nor can I answer in the time that I have this afternoon all the complex questions that brought us to this point. But I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly to each other the things we hold in our hearts and that too often are said only behind closed doors. There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground. As the Holy Koran tells us, "Be conscious of God and speak always the truth." (Applause.) That is what I will try to do today -- to speak the truth as best I can, humbled by the task before us, and firm in my belief that the interests we share as human beings are far more powerful than the forces that drive us apart.

Now part of this conviction is rooted in my own experience. I'm a Christian, but my father came from a Kenyan family that includes generations of Muslims. As a boy, I spent several years in Indonesia and heard the call of the azaan at the break of dawn and at the fall of dusk. As a young man, I worked in Chicago communities where many found dignity and peace in their Muslim faith.

As a student of history, I also know civilization's debt to Islam. It was Islam -- at places like Al-Azhar -- that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe's Renaissance and Enlightenment. It was innovation in Muslim communities -- (applause) -- it was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra; our magnetic compass and tools of navigation; our mastery of pens and printing; our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed. Islamic culture has given us majestic arches and soaring spires; timeless poetry and cherished music; elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation. And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality. (Applause.)

I also know that Islam has always been a part of America's story. The first nation to recognize my country was Morocco. In signing the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, our second President, John Adams, wrote, "The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims." And since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States. They have fought in our wars, they have served in our government, they have stood for civil rights, they have started businesses, they have taught at our universities, they've excelled in our sports arenas, they've won Nobel Prizes, built our tallest building, and lit the Olympic Torch. And when the first Muslim American was recently elected to Congress, he took the oath to defend our Constitution using the same Holy Koran that one of our Founding Fathers -- Thomas Jefferson -- kept in his personal library. (Applause.)

So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed. That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn't. And I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear. (Applause.)

But that same principle must apply to Muslim perceptions of America. (Applause.) Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire. The United States has been one of the greatest sources of progress that the world has ever known. We were born out of revolution against an empire. We were founded upon the ideal that all are created equal, and we have shed blood and struggled for centuries to give meaning to those words -- within our borders, and around the world. We are shaped by every culture, drawn from every end of the Earth, and dedicated to a simple concept: E pluribus unum -- "Out of many, one."

Now, much has been made of the fact that an African American with the name Barack Hussein Obama could be elected President. (Applause.) But my personal story is not so unique. The dream of opportunity for all people has not come true for everyone in America, but its promise exists for all who come to our shores -- and that includes nearly 7 million American Muslims in our country today who, by the way, enjoy incomes and educational levels that are higher than the American average. (Applause.)

Moreover, freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one's religion. That is why there is a mosque in every state in our union, and over 1,200 mosques within our borders. That's why the United States government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab and to punish those who would deny it. (Applause.)

So let there be no doubt: Islam is a part of America. And I believe that America holds within her the truth that regardless of race, religion, or station in life, all of us share common aspirations -- to live in peace and security; to get an education and to work with dignity; to love our families, our communities, and our God. These things we share. This is the hope of all humanity.

Of course, recognizing our common humanity is only the beginning of our task. Words alone cannot meet the needs of our people. These needs will be met only if we act boldly in the years ahead; and if we understand that the challenges we face are shared, and our failure to meet them will hurt us all.

For we have learned from recent experience that when a financial system weakens in one country, prosperity is hurt everywhere. When a new flu infects one human being, all are at risk. When one nation pursues a nuclear weapon, the risk of nuclear attack rises for all nations. When violent extremists operate in one stretch of mountains, people are endangered across an ocean. When innocents in Bosnia and Darfur are slaughtered, that is a stain on our collective conscience. (Applause.) That is what it means to share this world in the 21st century. That is the responsibility we have to one another as human beings.

And this is a difficult responsibility to embrace. For human history has often been a record of nations and tribes -- and, yes, religions -- subjugating one another in pursuit of their own interests. Yet in this new age, such attitudes are self-defeating. Given our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail. So whatever we think of the past, we must not be prisoners to it. Our problems must be dealt with through partnership; our progress must be shared. (Applause.)

Now, that does not mean we should ignore sources of tension. Indeed, it suggests the opposite: We must face these tensions squarely. And so in that spirit, let me speak as clearly and as plainly as I can about some specific issues that I believe we must finally confront together.
The first issue that we have to confront is violent extremism in all of its forms.

In Ankara, I made clear that America is not -- and never will be -- at war with Islam. (Applause.) We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security -- because we reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject: the killing of innocent men, women, and children. And it is my first duty as President to protect the American people.

The situation in Afghanistan demonstrates America's goals, and our need to work together. Over seven years ago, the United States pursued al Qaeda and the Taliban with broad international support. We did not go by choice; we went because of necessity. I'm aware that there's still some who would question or even justify the events of 9/11. But let us be clear: Al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 people on that day. The victims were innocent men, women and children from America and many other nations who had done nothing to harm anybody. And yet al Qaeda chose to ruthlessly murder these people, claimed credit for the attack, and even now states their determination to kill on a massive scale. They have affiliates in many countries and are trying to expand their reach. These are not opinions to be debated; these are facts to be dealt with.

Now, make no mistake: We do not want to keep our troops in Afghanistan. We see no military -- we seek no military bases there. It is agonizing for America to lose our young men and women. It is costly and politically difficult to continue this conflict. We would gladly bring every single one of our troops home if we could be confident that there were not violent extremists in Afghanistan and now Pakistan determined to kill as many Americans as they possibly can. But that is not yet the case.

And that's why we're partnering with a coalition of 46 countries. And despite the costs involved, America's commitment will not weaken. Indeed, none of us should tolerate these extremists. They have killed in many countries. They have killed people of different faiths -- but more than any other, they have killed Muslims. Their actions are irreconcilable with the rights of human beings, the progress of nations, and with Islam. The Holy Koran teaches that whoever kills an innocent is as -- it is as if he has killed all mankind. (Applause.) And the Holy Koran also says whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind. (Applause.) The enduring faith of over a billion people is so much bigger than the narrow hatred of a few. Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism -- it is an important part of promoting peace.

Now, we also know that military power alone is not going to solve the problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That's why we plan to invest $1.5 billion each year over the next five years to partner with Pakistanis to build schools and hospitals, roads and businesses, and hundreds of millions to help those who've been displaced. That's why we are providing more than $2.8 billion to help Afghans develop their economy and deliver services that people depend on.

Let me also address the issue of Iraq. Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq was a war of choice that provoked strong differences in my country and around the world. Although I believe that the Iraqi people are ultimately better off without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, I also believe that events in Iraq have reminded America of the need to use diplomacy and build international consensus to resolve our problems whenever possible. (Applause.) Indeed, we can recall the words of Thomas Jefferson, who said: "I hope that our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us that the less we use our power the greater it will be."

Today, America has a dual responsibility: to help Iraq forge a better future -- and to leave Iraq to Iraqis. And I have made it clear to the Iraqi people -- (applause) -- I have made it clear to the Iraqi people that we pursue no bases, and no claim on their territory or resources. Iraq's sovereignty is its own. And that's why I ordered the removal of our combat brigades by next August. That is why we will honor our agreement with Iraq's democratically elected government to remove combat troops from Iraqi cities by July, and to remove all of our troops from Iraq by 2012. (Applause.) We will help Iraq train its security forces and develop its economy. But we will support a secure and united Iraq as a partner, and never as a patron.

And finally, just as America can never tolerate violence by extremists, we must never alter or forget our principles. Nine-eleven was an enormous trauma to our country. The fear and anger that it provoked was understandable, but in some cases, it led us to act contrary to our traditions and our ideals. We are taking concrete actions to change course. I have unequivocally prohibited the use of torture by the United States, and I have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early next year. (Applause.)

So America will defend itself, respectful of the sovereignty of nations and the rule of law. And we will do so in partnership with Muslim communities which are also threatened. The sooner the extremists are isolated and unwelcome in Muslim communities, the sooner we will all be safer.
The second major source of tension that we need to discuss is the situation between Israelis, Palestinians and the Arab world.

America's strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.

Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed -- more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, it is ignorant, and it is hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction -- or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews -- is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.

On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people -- Muslims and Christians -- have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than 60 years they've endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations -- large and small -- that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. And America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own. (Applause.)

For decades then, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It's easy to point fingers -- for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought about by Israel's founding, and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond. But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: The only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security. (Applause.)

That is in Israel's interest, Palestine's interest, America's interest, and the world's interest. And that is why I intend to personally pursue this outcome with all the patience and dedication that the task requires. (Applause.) The obligations -- the obligations that the parties have agreed to under the road map are clear. For peace to come, it is time for them -- and all of us -- to live up to our responsibilities.

Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and it does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America's founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It's a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign neither of courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That's not how moral authority is claimed; that's how it is surrendered.

Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people. Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have to recognize they have responsibilities. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, recognize Israel's right to exist.
At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel's right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine's. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. (Applause.) This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop. (Applause.)

And Israel must also live up to its obligation to ensure that Palestinians can live and work and develop their society. Just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel's security; neither does the continuing lack of opportunity in the West Bank. Progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people must be a critical part of a road to peace, and Israel must take concrete steps to enable such progress.

And finally, the Arab states must recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their responsibilities. The Arab-Israeli conflict should no longer be used to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems. Instead, it must be a cause for action to help the Palestinian people develop the institutions that will sustain their state, to recognize Israel's legitimacy, and to choose progress over a self-defeating focus on the past.

America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and we will say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs. (Applause.) We cannot impose peace. But privately, many Muslims recognize that Israel will not go away. Likewise, many Israelis recognize the need for a Palestinian state. It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true.

Too many tears have been shed. Too much blood has been shed. All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of the three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra -- (applause) -- as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed, peace be upon them, joined in prayer. (Applause.)

The third source of tension is our shared interest in the rights and responsibilities of nations on nuclear weapons.

This issue has been a source of tension between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran. For many years, Iran has defined itself in part by its opposition to my country, and there is in fact a tumultuous history between us. In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government. Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has played a role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians. This history is well known. Rather than remain trapped in the past, I've made it clear to Iran's leaders and people that my country is prepared to move forward. The question now is not what Iran is against, but rather what future it wants to build.

I recognize it will be hard to overcome decades of mistrust, but we will proceed with courage, rectitude, and resolve. There will be many issues to discuss between our two countries, and we are willing to move forward without preconditions on the basis of mutual respect. But it is clear to all concerned that when it comes to nuclear weapons, we have reached a decisive point. This is not simply about America's interests. It's about preventing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that could lead this region and the world down a hugely dangerous path.

I understand those who protest that some countries have weapons that others do not. No single nation should pick and choose which nation holds nuclear weapons. And that's why I strongly reaffirmed America's commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons. (Applause.) And any nation -- including Iran -- should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That commitment is at the core of the treaty, and it must be kept for all who fully abide by it. And I'm hopeful that all countries in the region can share in this goal.

The fourth issue that I will address is democracy. (Applause.)

I know -- I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear: No system of government can or should be imposed by one nation by any other. That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people. Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. These are not just American ideas; they are human rights. And that is why we will support them everywhere. (Applause.)

Now, there is no straight line to realize this promise. But this much is clear: Governments that protect these rights are ultimately more stable, successful and secure. Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them. And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments -- provided they govern with respect for all their people.
This last point is important because there are some who advocate for democracy only when they're out of power; once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others. (Applause.) So no matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who would hold power: You must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Barack Obama, we love you!

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you. (Applause.) The fifth issue that we must address together is religious freedom.
Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance. We see it in the history of Andalusia and Cordoba during the Inquisition. I saw it firsthand as a child in Indonesia, where devout Christians worshiped freely in an overwhelmingly Muslim country. That is the spirit we need today. People in every country should be free to choose and live their faith based upon the persuasion of the mind and the heart and the soul. This tolerance is essential for religion to thrive, but it's being challenged in many different ways.

Among some Muslims, there's a disturbing tendency to measure one's own faith by the rejection of somebody else's faith. The richness of religious diversity must be upheld -- whether it is for Maronites in Lebanon or the Copts in Egypt. (Applause.) And if we are being honest, fault lines must be closed among Muslims, as well, as the divisions between Sunni and Shia have led to tragic violence, particularly in Iraq.

Freedom of religion is central to the ability of peoples to live together. We must always examine the ways in which we protect it. For instance, in the United States, rules on charitable giving have made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation. That's why I'm committed to working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat.

Likewise, it is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit -- for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear. We can't disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretence of liberalism. In fact, faith should bring us together. And that's why we're forging service projects in America to bring together Christians, Muslims, and Jews. That's why we welcome efforts like Saudi Arabian King Abdullah's interfaith dialogue and Turkey's leadership in the Alliance of Civilizations. Around the world, we can turn dialogue into interfaith service, so bridges between peoples lead to action -- whether it is combating malaria in Africa, or providing relief after a natural disaster.

The sixth issue -- the sixth issue that I want to address is women's rights. (Applause.) I know –- I know -- and you can tell from this audience, that there is a healthy debate about this issue. I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal, but I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equality. (Applause.) And it is no coincidence that countries where women are well educated are far more likely to be prosperous.

Now, let me be clear: Issues of women's equality are by no means simply an issue for Islam. In Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, we've seen Muslim-majority countries elect a woman to lead. Meanwhile, the struggle for women's equality continues in many aspects of American life, and in countries around the world.

I am convinced that our daughters can contribute just as much to society as our sons. (Applause.) Our common prosperity will be advanced by allowing all humanity -- men and women -- to reach their full potential. I do not believe that women must make the same choices as men in order to be equal, and I respect those women who choose to live their lives in traditional roles. But it should be their choice. And that is why the United States will partner with any Muslim-majority country to support expanded literacy for girls, and to help young women pursue employment through micro-financing that helps people live their dreams. (Applause.)

Finally, I want to discuss economic development and opportunity.
I know that for many, the face of globalization is contradictory. The Internet and television can bring knowledge and information, but also offensive sexuality and mindless violence into the home. Trade can bring new wealth and opportunities, but also huge disruptions and change in communities. In all nations -- including America -- this change can bring fear. Fear that because of modernity we lose control over our economic choices, our politics, and most importantly our identities -- those things we most cherish about our communities, our families, our traditions, and our faith.

But I also know that human progress cannot be denied. There need not be contradictions between development and tradition. Countries like Japan and South Korea grew their economies enormously while maintaining distinct cultures. The same is true for the astonishing progress within Muslim-majority countries from Kuala Lumpur to Dubai. In ancient times and in our times, Muslim communities have been at the forefront of innovation and education.

And this is important because no development strategy can be based only upon what comes out of the ground, nor can it be sustained while young people are out of work. Many Gulf states have enjoyed great wealth as a consequence of oil, and some are beginning to focus it on broader development. But all of us must recognize that education and innovation will be the currency of the 21st century -- (applause) -- and in too many Muslim communities, there remains underinvestment in these areas. I'm emphasizing such investment within my own country. And while America in the past has focused on oil and gas when it comes to this part of the world, we now seek a broader engagement.

On education, we will expand exchange programs, and increase scholarships, like the one that brought my father to America. (Applause.) At the same time, we will encourage more Americans to study in Muslim communities. And we will match promising Muslim students with internships in America; invest in online learning for teachers and children around the world; and create a new online network, so a young person in Kansas can communicate instantly with a young person in Cairo.

On economic development, we will create a new corps of business volunteers to partner with counterparts in Muslim-majority countries. And I will host a Summit on Entrepreneurship this year to identify how we can deepen ties between business leaders, foundations and social entrepreneurs in the United States and Muslim communities around the world.

On science and technology, we will launch a new fund to support technological development in Muslim-majority countries, and to help transfer ideas to the marketplace so they can create more jobs. We'll open centers of scientific excellence in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, and appoint new science envoys to collaborate on programs that develop new sources of energy, create green jobs, digitize records, clean water, grow new crops. Today I'm announcing a new global effort with the Organization of the Islamic Conference to eradicate polio. And we will also expand partnerships with Muslim communities to promote child and maternal health.

All these things must be done in partnership. Americans are ready to join with citizens and governments; community organizations, religious leaders, and businesses in Muslim communities around the world to help our people pursue a better life.

The issues that I have described will not be easy to address. But we have a responsibility to join together on behalf of the world that we seek -- a world where extremists no longer threaten our people, and American troops have come home; a world where Israelis and Palestinians are each secure in a state of their own, and nuclear energy is used for peaceful purposes; a world where governments serve their citizens, and the rights of all God's children are respected. Those are mutual interests. That is the world we seek. But we can only achieve it together.

I know there are many -- Muslim and non-Muslim -- who question whether we can forge this new beginning. Some are eager to stoke the flames of division, and to stand in the way of progress. Some suggest that it isn't worth the effort -- that we are fated to disagree, and civilizations are doomed to clash. Many more are simply skeptical that real change can occur. There's so much fear, so much mistrust that has built up over the years. But if we choose to be bound by the past, we will never move forward. And I want to particularly say this to young people of every faith, in every country -- you, more than anyone, have the ability to reimagine the world, to remake this world.

All of us share this world for but a brief moment in time. The question is whether we spend that time focused on what pushes us apart, or whether we commit ourselves to an effort -- a sustained effort -- to find common ground, to focus on the future we seek for our children, and to respect the dignity of all human beings.

It's easier to start wars than to end them. It's easier to blame others than to look inward. It's easier to see what is different about someone than to find the things we share. But we should choose the right path, not just the easy path. There's one rule that lies at the heart of every religion -- that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. (Applause.) This truth transcends nations and peoples -- a belief that isn't new; that isn't black or white or brown; that isn't Christian or Muslim or Jew. It's a belief that pulsed in the cradle of civilization, and that still beats in the hearts of billions around the world. It's a faith in other people, and it's what brought me here today.

We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the courage to make a new beginning, keeping in mind what has been written.

The Holy Koran tells us: "O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another."

The Talmud tells us: "The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace."

The Holy Bible tells us: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." (Applause.)

The people of the world can live together in peace. We know that is God's vision. Now that must be our work here on Earth.

Thank you. And may God's peace be upon you. Thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause.)
END 2:05 P.M. (Local)

2 President Bush Attends World Economic Forum
Sharm el Sheikh International Congress Center
Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, May 18, 2008

THE PRESIDENT: Klaus, thank you very much. Thanks for inviting me. Klaus said, it's about time you showed up. Proud to be here. Laura and I are so honored that, Klaus, you gave us a chance to come. I do want to thank President Mubarak and Mrs. Mubarak for their wonderful hospitality. I want to thank the members of Congress who are here. I appreciate the heads of state who have joined us. I thank the foreign ministers who are here, including my own, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. And I want to thank the members of the Diplomatic Corps.
Laura and I are delighted to be in Egypt, and we bring the warm wishes of the American people. We're proud of our long friendship with your citizens. We respect your remarkable history. And we're humbled to walk in the ancient land of pharaohs, where a great civilization took root and wrote some of the first chapters in the epic story of humanity.

America is a much younger nation, but we've made our mark by advancing ideals as old as the pyramids. Those ideals of liberty and justice have sparked a revolution across much of the world. This hopeful movement made its way to places where dictators once reigned and peaceful democracies seemed unimaginable: places like Chile and Indonesia and Poland and the Philippines and South Korea. These nations have different histories and different traditions. Yet each made the same democratic transition, and they did it on their own terms. In these countries, millions every year are rising from poverty. Women are realizing overdue opportunities. And people of faith are finding the blessing of worshiping God in peace.

All these changes took place in the second half of the 20th century. I strongly believe that if leaders like those of you in this room act with vision and resolve, the first half of 21st century can be the time when similar advances reach the Middle East. This region is home to energetic people, a powerful spirit of enterprise, and tremendous resources. It is capable of a very bright future -- a future in which the Middle East is a place of innovation and discovery, driven by free men and women.

In recent years, we've seen hopeful beginnings toward this vision. Turkey, a nation with a majority Muslim population, is a prosperous modern democracy. Afghanistan under the leadership of President Karzai is overcoming the Taliban and building a free society. Iraq under the leadership of Prime Minister Maliki is establishing a multi-ethnic democracy. We have seen the stirrings of reform from Morocco and Algeria to Jordan and the Gulf States. And isolation from the outside world is being overcome by the most democratic of innovations: the cell phone and the Internet. America appreciates the challenges facing the Middle East. Yet the light of liberty is beginning to shine.

There is much to do to build on this momentum. From diversifying your economies, to investing in your people, to extending the reach of freedom, nations across the region have an opportunity to move forward with bold and confident reforms -- and lead the Middle East to its rightful place as a center of progress and achievement.

Taking your place as a center of progress and achievement requires economic reform. This is a time of strength for many of your nations' economies. Since 2004, economic growth in the region has averaged more than 5 percent. Trade has expanded significantly. Technology has advanced rapidly. Foreign investment has increased dramatically. And unemployment rates have decreased in many nations. Egypt, for example, has posted strong economic growth, developed some of the world's fastest growing telecommunications companies, and made major investments that will boost tourism and trade. In order for this economic progress to result in permanent prosperity and an Egypt that reaches its full potential, however, economic reform must be accompanied by political reform. And I continue to hope that Egypt can lead the region in political reform.

This is also a time to prepare for the economic changes ahead. Rising price of oil has brought great wealth to some in this region, but the supply of oil is limited, and nations like mine are aggressively developing alternatives to oil. Over time, as the world becomes less dependent on oil, nations in the Middle East will have to build more diverse and more dynamic economies.

Your greatest asset in this quest is the entrepreneurial spirit of your people. The best way to take advantage of that spirit is to make reforms that unleash individual creativity and innovation. Your economies will be more vibrant when citizens who dream of starting their own companies can do so quickly, without high regulatory and registration costs. Your economies will be more dynamic when property rights are protected and risk-taking is encouraged -- not punished -- by law. Your economies will be more resilient when you adopt modern agricultural techniques that make farmers more productive and the food supply more secure. And your economies will have greater long-term prosperity when taxes are low and all your citizens know that their innovation and hard work will be rewarded.

One of the most powerful drivers of economic growth is free trade. So nations in this region would benefit greatly from breaking down barriers to trade with each other. And America will continue working to open up trade at every level. In recent years, the United States has completed free trade agreements with Jordan, Oman, Morocco, and Bahrain. America will continue to negotiate bilateral free trade agreements in the region. We strongly supported Saudi Arabia's accession to the World Trade Organization, and we will continue to support nations making the reforms necessary to join the institutions of a global economy. To break down trade barriers and ignite economic growth around the world, we will work tirelessly for a successful outcome to the Doha Round this year.

As we seek to open new markets abroad, America will keep our markets open at home. There are voices in my country that urge America to adopt measures that would isolate us from the global economy. I firmly reject these calls for protectionism. We will continue to welcome foreign investment and trade. And the United States of America will stay open for business.

Taking your place as a center of progress and achievement requires investing in your people. Some analysts believe the Middle East and North Africa will need to create up to 100 million new jobs over the next 10 to 15 years just to keep up with population growth. The key to realizing this goal is an educated workforce.

This starts early on, with primary schools that teach basic skills, such as reading and math, rather than indoctrinating children with ideologies of hatred. An educated workforce also requires good high schools and universities, where students are exposed to a variety of ideas, learn to think for themselves, and develop the capacity to innovate. Not long ago the region marked a hopeful milestone in higher education. In our meeting yesterday, President Karzai told me he recently handed out diplomas to university graduates, including 300 degrees in medicine, and a hundred degrees in engineering, and a lot of degrees to lawyers, and many of the recipients were women. (Applause.)

People of the Middle East can count on the United States to be a strong partner in improving your educational systems. We are sponsoring training programs for teachers and administrators in nations like Jordan and Morocco and Lebanon. We sponsored English language programs where students can go for intensive language instruction. We have translated more than 80 children's books into Arabic. And we have developed new online curricula for students from kindergarten through high school.

It is also in America's interest to continue welcoming aspiring young adults from this region for higher education to the United States. There were understandable concerns about student visas after 9/11. My administration has worked hard to improve the visa process. And I'm pleased to report that we are issuing a growing numbers of student visas to young people from the Middle East. And that's the way it should be. And we'll continue to work to expand educational exchanges, because we benefit from the contribution of foreign students who study in America because we're proud to train the world's leaders of tomorrow and because we know there is no better antidote to the propaganda of our enemies than firsthand experience with life in the United States of America.

Building powerful economies also requires expanding the role of women in society. This is a matter of morality and of basic math. No nation that cuts off half its population from opportunities will be as productive or prosperous as it could be. Women are a formidable force, as I have seen in my own family -- (laughter and applause) -- and my own administration. (Applause.) As the nations of the Middle East open up their laws and their societies to women, they are learning the same thing.

I applaud Egypt. Egypt is a model for the development of professional women. In Afghanistan, girls who were once denied even a basic education are now going to school, and a whole generation of Afghans will grow up with the intellectual tools to lead their nation toward prosperity. In Iraq and Kuwait, women are joining political parties and running campaigns and serving in public office. In some Gulf States, women entrepreneurs are making a living and a name for themselves in the business world.

Recently, I learned of a woman in Bahrain who owns her own shipping company. She started with a small office and two employees. When she first tried to register her business in her own name, she was turned down. She attended a business training class and was the only woman to participate. And when she applied for a customs license, officials expressed surprise because no woman had ever asked for one before.

And yet with hard work and determination, she turned her small company into a $2 million enterprise. And this year, Huda Janahi was named one of the 50 most powerful businesswomen in the Arab world. (Applause.) Huda is an inspiring example for the whole region. And America's message to other women in the Middle East is this: You have a great deal to contribute, you should have a strong voice in leading your countries, and my nation looks to the day when you have the rights and privileges you deserve.

Taking your place as a center of progress and achievement requires extending the reach of freedom. Expanding freedom is vital to turning temporary wealth into lasting prosperity. Free societies stimulate competition in the marketplace. Free societies give people access to information they need to make informed and responsible decisions. And free societies give citizens the rule of law, which exposes corruption and builds confidence in the future.

Freedom is also the basis for a democratic system of government, which is the only fair and just ordering of society and the only way to guarantee the God-given rights of all people. Democracies do not take the same shape; they develop at different speeds and in different ways, and they reflect the unique cultures and traditions of their people. There are skeptics about democracy in this part of the world, I understand that. But as more people in the Middle East gain firsthand experience from freedom, many of the arguments against democracy are being discredited.

For example, some say that democracy is a Western value that America seeks to impose on unwilling citizens. This is a condescending form of moral relativism. The truth is that freedom is a universal right -- the Almighty's gift to every man, woman, and child on the face of Earth. And as we've seen time and time again, when people are allowed to make a choice between freedom and the alternative, they choose freedom. In Afghanistan, 8 million people defied the terrorist threats to vote for a democratic President. In Iraq, 12 million people waved ink-stained fingers to celebrate the first democratic election in decades. And in a recent survey of the Muslim world, there was overwhelming support for one of the central tenets of democracy, freedom of speech: 99 percent in Lebanon, 94 percent here in Egypt, and 92 percent in Iran.

There are people who claim that democracy is incompatible with Islam. But the truth is that democracies, by definition, make a place for people of religious belief. America is one of the most -- is one of the world's leading democracies, and we're also one of the most religious nations in the world. More than three-quarters of our citizens believe in a higher power. Millions worship every week and pray every day. And they do so without fear of reprisal from the state. In our democracy, we would never punish a person for owning a Koran. We would never issue a death sentence to someone for converting to Islam. Democracy does not threaten Islam or any religion. Democracy is the only system of government that guarantees their protection.

Some say any state that holds an election is a democracy. But true democracy requires vigorous political parties allowed to engage in free and lively debate. True democracy requires the establishment of civic institutions that ensure an election's legitimacy and hold leaders accountable. And true democracy requires competitive elections in which opposition candidates are allowed to campaign without fear or intimidation.

Too often in the Middle East, politics has consisted of one leader in power and the opposition in jail. America is deeply concerned about the plight of political prisoners in this region, as well as democratic activists who are intimidated or repressed, newspapers and civil society organizations that are shut down, and dissidents whose voices are stifled. The time has come for nations across the Middle East to abandon these practices, and treat their people with dignity and the respect they deserve. I call on all nations to release their prisoners of conscience, open up their political debate, and trust their people to chart their future. (Applause.)

The vision I have outlined today is shared by many in this region -- but unfortunately, there are some spoilers who stand in the way. Terrorist organizations and their state sponsors know they cannot survive in a free society, so they create chaos and take innocent lives in an effort to stop democracy from taking root. They are on the wrong side in a great ideological struggle -- and every nation committed to freedom and progress in the Middle East must stand together to defeat them.

We must stand with the Palestinian people, who have suffered for decades and earned the right to be a homeland of their own -- have a homeland of their own. I strongly support a two-state solution -- a democratic Palestine based on law and justice that will live with peace and security alongside a democrat Israel. I believe that the Palestinian people will build a thriving democracy in which entrepreneurs pursue their dreams, and families own their homes in lively communities, and young people grow up with hope in the future.
Last year at Annapolis, we made a hopeful beginning toward a peace negotiation that will outline what this nation of Palestine will look like -- a contiguous state where Palestinians live in prosperity and dignity. A peace agreement is in the Palestinians' interests, it is in Israel's interests, it is in Arab states' interests, and it is in the world's interests. And I firmly believe that with leadership and courage, we can reach that peace agreement this year. (Applause.)

This is a demanding task. It requires action on all sides. Palestinians must fight terror and continue to build the institutions of a free and peaceful society. Israel must make tough sacrifices for peace and ease the restrictions on the Palestinians. Arab states, especially oil-rich nations, must seize this opportunity to invest aggressively in the Palestinian people and to move past their old resentments against Israel. And all nations in the region must stand together in confronting Hamas, which is attempting to undermine efforts at peace with acts of terror and violence.

We must stand with the people of Lebanon in their struggle to build a sovereign and independent democracy. This means opposing Hezbollah terrorists, funded by Iran, who recently revealed their true intentions by taking up arms against the Lebanese people. It is now clearer than ever that Hezbollah militias are the enemy of a free Lebanon -- and all nations, especially neighbors in the region, have an interest to help the Lebanese people prevail. (Applause.)

We must stand with the people of Iraq and Afghanistan and other nations in the region fighting against al Qaeda and other extremists. Bin Laden and his followers have made clear that anyone who does not share their extremist ideology is fit for murder. That means every government in the Middle East is a target of al Qaeda. And America is a target too. And together, we will confront and we will defeat this threat to civilization.

We must stand with the good and decent people of Iran and Syria, who deserve so much better than the life they have today. Every peaceful nation in the region has an interest in stopping these nations from supporting terrorism. And every peaceful nation in the region has an interest in opposing Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions. To allow the world's leading sponsor of terror to gain the world's deadliest weapon would be an unforgivable betrayal of future generations. For the sake of peace, the world must not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon. (Applause.)

The changes I have discussed today will not come easily -- change never does. But the reform movement in the Middle East has a powerful engine: demographics. Sixty percent of the population is under 30 years old. Many of these young people surf the web, own cell phones, have satellite televisions. They have access to unprecedented amounts of information. They see what freedom has brought to millions of others and contrast that to what they have at home.
Today, I have a message for these young people: Some tell -- some will tell you change is impossible, but history has a way of surprising us, and change can happen more quickly than we expect. In the past century, one concept has transcended borders, cultures, and languages. In Arabic, "hurriyya" -- in English, "freedom." Across the world, the call for freedom lives in our hearts, endures in our prayers, and joins humanity as one.

I know these are trying times, but the future is in your hands -- and freedom and peace are within your grasp. Just imagine what this region could look like in 60 years. The Palestinian people will have the homeland they have long dreamed of and deserve -- a democratic state that is governed by law, respects human rights, and rejects terror. Israel will be celebrating its 120 anniversary as one of the world's great democracies -- a secure and flourishing homeland for the Jewish people.

From Cairo, Riyadh, Baghdad to Beirut, people will live in free and independent societies, where a desire for peace is reinforced by ties of diplomacy and tourism and trade. Iran and Syria will be peaceful nations, where today's oppression is a distant memory and people are free to speak their minds and develop their talents. Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, and Hamas will be defeated, as Muslims across the region recognize the emptiness of the terrorists' vision and the injustice of their cause.

This vision is the same one I outlined in my address to the Israeli Knesset. Yet it's not a Jewish vision or a Muslim vision, not an American vision or an Arab vision. It is a universal vision, based on the timeless principles of dignity and tolerance and justice -- and it unites all who yearn for freedom and peace in this ancient land.

Realizing this vision will not be easy. It will take time, and sacrifice, and resolve. Yet there is no doubt in my mind that you are up to the challenge -- and with your ingenuity and your enterprise and your courage, this historic vision for the Middle East will be realized. May God be with you on the journey, and the United States of America always will be at your side.

Thank you for having me.

END 3:25 P.M. (Local)

A superpower that feeds on mediocrity cannot survive for long on leftovers from the past

Obama's message of weakness. By Mark Steyn
A superpower that feeds on mediocrity cannot survive for long on leftovers from the past.
Orange County Register, Friday, June 5, 2009

As recently as last summer, General Motors filing for bankruptcy would have been the biggest news story of the week. But it's not such a very great step from the unthinkable to the inevitable, and by the time it actually happened the market barely noticed, and the media were focused on the president's "address to the Muslim world." As it happens, these two stories are the same story: snapshots, at home and abroad, of the hyperpower in eclipse. It's a long time since anyone touted GM as the emblematic brand of America – What's good for GM is good for America, etc. In fact, it's more emblematic than ever: Like General Motors, the U.S. government spends more than it makes, and has airily committed itself to ever more unsustainable levels of benefits. GM has about 95,000 workers but provides health benefits to a million people: It's not a business enterprise, but a vast welfare plan with a tiny loss-making commercial sector. As GM goes, so goes America?

But who cares? Overseas, the coolest president in history was giving a speech. Or, as the official press release headlined it on the State Department Web site, "President Obama Speaks To The Muslim World From Cairo."

Let's pause right there: It's interesting how easily the words "the Muslim world" roll off the tongues of liberal secular progressives who'd choke on any equivalent reference to "the Christian world." When such hyperalert policemen of the perimeter between church and state endorse the former but not the latter, they're implicitly acknowledging that Islam is not merely a faith but a political project, too. There is an "Organization of the Islamic Conference," which is already the largest single voting bloc at the United Nations and is still adding new members. Imagine if someone proposed an "Organization of the Christian Conference" that would hold summits attended by prime ministers and Presidents, and vote as a bloc in transnational bodies. But, of course, there is no "Christian world": Europe is largely post-Christian and, as President Barack Obama bizarrely asserted to a European interviewer last week, America is "one of the largest Muslim countries in the world." Perhaps we're eligible for membership in the OIC.

I suppose the benign interpretation is that, as head of state of the last superpower, Obama is indulging in a little harmless condescension. In his Cairo speech, he congratulated Muslims on inventing algebra and quoted approvingly one of the less-bloodcurdling sections of the Quran. As sociohistorical scholarship goes, I found myself recalling that moment in the long twilight of the Habsburg Empire when Crown Prince Rudolph and his mistress were found dead at the royal hunting lodge at Mayerling – either a double suicide, or something even more sinister. Happily, in the Broadway musical version, instead of being found dead, the star-crossed lovers emigrate to America and settle down on a farm in Pennsylvania. Recently, my old comrade Stephen Fry gave an amusing lecture at the Royal Geographical Society in London on the popular Americanism, "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade" – or, if something's bitter and hard to swallow, add sugar and sell it. That's what the president did with Islam: He added sugar and sold it.

The speech nevertheless impressed many conservatives, including Rich Lowry, my esteemed editor at National Review, "esteemed editor" being the sort of thing one says before booting the boss in the crotch. Rich thought that the president succeeded in his principal task: "Fundamentally, Obama's goal was to tell the Muslim world, 'We respect and value you, your religion and your civilization, and only ask that you don't hate us and murder us in return.'" But those terms are too narrow. You don't have to murder a guy if he preemptively surrenders. And you don't even have to hate him if you're too busy despising him. The savvier Muslim potentates have no desire to be sitting in a smelly cave in the Hindu Kush, sharing a latrine with a dozen half-witted goatherds while plotting how to blow up the Empire State Building. Nevertheless, they share key goals with the cave dwellers – including the wish to expand the boundaries of "the Muslim world" and (as in the anti-blasphemy push at the U.N.) to place Islam, globally, beyond criticism. The nonterrorist advance of Islam is a significant challenge to Western notions of liberty and pluralism.

Once Obama moved on from the more generalized Islamoschmoozing to the details, the subtext – the absence of American will – became explicit. He used the cover of multilateralism and moral equivalence to communicate, consistently, American weakness: "No single nation should pick and choose which nations hold nuclear weapons." Perhaps by "no single nation" he means the "global community" should pick and choose, which means the U.N. Security Council, which means the Big Five, which means that Russia and China will pursue their own murky interests and that, in the absence of American leadership, Britain and France will reach their accommodations with a nuclear Iran, a nuclear North Korea and any other psychostate minded to join them.

On the other hand, a "single nation" certainly has the right to tell another nation anything it wants if that nation happens to be the Zionist Entity: As Hillary Clinton just instructed Israel regarding its West Bank communities, there has to be "a stop to settlements – not some settlements, not outposts, not natural-growth exceptions." No "natural growth"? You mean, if you and the missus have a kid, you've got to talk gran'ma into moving out? To Tel Aviv, or Brooklyn or wherever? At a stroke, the administration has endorsed "the Muslim world's" view of those non-Muslims who happen to find themselves within what it regards as lands belonging to Islam: the Jewish and Christian communities are free to stand still or shrink, but not to grow. Would Obama be comfortable mandating "no natural growth" to Israel's million-and-a-half Muslims? No. But the administration has embraced "the Muslim world's" commitment to one-way multiculturalism, whereby Islam expands in the West but Christianity and Judaism shrivel remorselessly in the Middle East.

And so it goes. Like General Motors, America is "too big to fail." So it won't, not immediately. It will linger on in a twilight existence, sclerotic and ineffectual, declining unto a kind of societal dementia, unable to keep pace with what's happening and with an ever more tenuous grip on its own past, but able on occasion to throw out impressive words albeit strung together without much meaning: empower, peace, justice, prosperity – just to take one windy gust from the president's Cairo speech.

There's better phrase-making in the current issue of Foreign Affairs, in a coinage of Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Committee on Foreign Relations. The president emeritus is a sober, judicious paragon of torpidly conventional wisdom. Nevertheless, musing on American decline, he writes, "The country's economy, infrastructure, public schools and political system have been allowed to deteriorate. The result has been diminished economic strength, a less-vital democracy, and a mediocrity of spirit." That last is the one to watch: A great power can survive a lot of things, but not "a mediocrity of spirit." A wealthy nation living on the accumulated cultural capital of a glorious past can dodge its rendezvous with fate, but only for a while. That sound you heard in Cairo is the tingy ping of a hollow superpower.

'Atlas Shrugged': Ayn Rand laughs; the rest of us weep

'Atlas Shrugged': Ayn Rand laughs; the rest of us weep. By Frank Miele
Daily InterLake, Saturday, June 6, 2009 11:20 PM CDT

"I will stop the motor of the world."

With those words, a charismatic hero was born. John Galt, the mysterious character at the heart of Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged," decided that he could not stand idly by as the nation put on chains and fetters as if they were party favors.

Today, more than 50 years after the novel was written, Galt is offering hope to many Americans who see the country on a slow but steady slide toward socialism. As we talk about the government takeover of General Motors, it is educational to remember that the fictional Galt rose up out of the ashes of another car company, the Twentieth Century Motor Company, which like GM, ended up in bankruptcy.

The allegoric lesson of Twentieth Century Motors is much more instructive for the country as a whole, however, than for another automaker, because it is about how "hope" and "change" can motivate people to make choices that lead inevitably to "despair" and 'stagnation."

A former worker at the plant, now a lonely tramp, tells the story years later of how the workers let themselves be inspired by the company's new owners to work for the common good. "They told us that this plan would achieve a noble ideal."

Yes, a noble ideal, a way to help each other, something no one could possibly oppose. But there were few details on the table when the company's workers were asked to vote on their future, just these vague promises and a few catchphrases on which to pin their hopes.

"None of us knew just how the plan would work, but every one of us thought that the next fellow knew it. And if anybody had doubts, he ... kept his mouth shut -- because they made it sound like anyone who'd oppose the plan was a child-killer at heart and less than a human being."

And so the workers voted overwhelmingly to follow the new plan, which would mean that no worker would fall through the cracks -- everyone would take care of everyone else. "We thought it was good," the tramp says wearily. "No, that's not true, either. We thought that we were supposed to think it was good."

And so begins this experiment in "modified" capitalism. As the worker explains it, "The plan was that everybody in the factory would work according to his ability, but would be paid according to his need." Of course, in the long run, "modified capitalism" turns out to be socialism or worse, and as Rand points out with brutal logic, it leads inevitably to a system that encourages laziness and lying and punishes success.

The tale of Twentieth Century Motors is one small sliver of "Atlas Shrugged," but on virtually every page of the gargantuan novel, there is some bit of wit or wisdom that presages the mess of the current era.

The 'shrug" of the title tells it all. It is a symbol of indifference, but also a symbol of frustration, and a telling representation of the tremendous power wielded by the talented individual such as John Galt. Atlas, the great being on whose shoulders rests the world, finally gets tired of being taken for granted, and up-ends literally everything with the slightest of gestures.

Likewise, "Atlas Shrugged" tells the tale of a handful of innovators who struggle to survive in an era of big government and corporate greed, and seem doomed to fail, until one man -- Galt -- dares to change everything. Rand said the idea came to her during a phone conversation when she asked a friend, "What if all the creative minds of the world went on strike?"

Few prophetic novels get everything right, and "Atlas Shrugged" gets plenty wrong, but Rand's image of recession-weary America as a nation sputtering toward collectivism and running out of intellectual steam is so familiar to observers of the current scene that her excesses and errors are easily forgiven.

In particular, her ability to lampoon government intervention in business is deadly accurate. Time after time, Congress passes laws in the novel that are trumpeted as necessary for the common good, but which ultimately weaken society in unexpected ways and enrich only a few (those whom Rand characterizes as "looters"). It is almost scary how much of the villainous agenda of Rand's novel would fit perfectly well into the world as envisioned by readers of the Huffington Post.

The "Anti-Dog-Eat-Dog Rule" passed by the railroad industry gives the National Alliance of Railroads the authority to protect established railroads from new competition. The theory seems to be that the established company has only limited resources and shouldn't have to stretch itself thin by defending itself against fresh and innovative competition. This is great if you care about protecting established companies, but not if you care about providing the consumer with the best service and prices.

It has to remind you a little bit of the government's takeover of GM. Pity poor Ford Motor Co. which was the only one of the Big Three automakers in the United States that was healthy enough to pass up government bailout money last November. Now, instead of owing money to the government, they actually have to compete AGAINST the government (the new owner of GM) selling cars.

Supporters of government intervention, of course, say they are doing what is necessary to clean up after the horrid capitalists who mismanaged their companies into bankruptcy, but that fails to acknowledge the fact that the American economy is far from capitalism. It is instead what Rand called with unfeigned disgust a "mixed economy" -- namely, a mix between freedom and regulation -- and it is the government's own policies which lead inevitably to economic failure.

The latest real-life government intrusion being plotted by the "looters' in Congress is to force the health insurance industry to jettison the basic principles under which it operates in order to once again serve the "common good," or as Rand put it, "a noble ideal." This suggests a basic misunderstanding of the principles of liberty and equality. "Equality of opportunity" is the God-given right that our Constitution is supposed to protect, but instead our government has decided to ensure "equality of results' and is willing to bankrupt us all to do so. In its wrong-headedness, at least, it is reminiscent of the "Equalization of Opportunity Bill" from "Atlas Shrugged," which forbids any one person or corporation from owning more than one type of business concern.

One disastrous result of that bill in the novel is that companies which had planned on expanding must instead shut down their older, still viable, operations in order to be able to expand into much more prosperous new ventures. Thus, when companies, following the logic of the Equalization of Opportunity Bill, start closing their factories on the East Coast in order to move to the West (Colorado is the symbol of American resilience and energy), Congress is suddenly enlisted to try to correct yet another unintended consequence. This time, there is demand for a Public Stability Law that would forbid companies from abandoning their current territory for a new one. The argument is that people have a right to expect jobs that existed yesterday to continue to exist tomorrow. But no explanation how Colorado is going to get the equipment, factories and jobs it needs while the government is propping up foundering industrial dinosaurs elsewhere.

Rand's vision of the economic madness of government "do-good-ism" culminates in Directive 10-289, which mandates that everything must stop where it is. The order doesn't just freeze wages and prices; it also forbids workers from changing jobs without permission from a federal board. It halts new product development (too confusing) and makes the U.S. government the keeper of all intellectual property as a means of ensuring that no one takes advantage of anyone else. Needless to say, with the government in charge of everything, chaos ensues.

These are just a few of the touchstones of "Atlas Shrugged" which resonate as pure prophecy to an audience that has lived through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Perhaps that's why the book is more popular than ever, and why "Going Galt" has become a symbol for our time of resistance to over-regulation.

Critics were merciless in mocking Rand's magnus opus when it appeared in 1957, but 50 years later, as her worst fears are realized, it appears to be a bet certain that Ayn Rand will get the last laugh.

Frank Miele is managing editor of the Daily Inter Lake and writes a weekly column.

Baby boomers heap insincere praise on the "greatest generation"

Too Much, Too Late. By David Gelernter
Baby boomers heap insincere praise on the "greatest generation."

My political credo is simple and many people share it: I am against phonies. A cultural establishment that (on the whole) doesn't give a damn about World War II or its veterans thinks it can undo a half-century of indifference verging on contempt by repeating a silly phrase ("the greatest generation") like a magic spell while deploying fulsome praise like carpet bombing.

The campaign is especially intense among members of the 1960s generation who once chose to treat all present and former soldiers like dirt and are willing at long last to risk some friendly words about World War II veterans, now that most are safely underground and guaranteed not to talk back, enjoy their celebrity or start acting like they own the joint. A quick glance at the famous Hemingway B.S. detector shows the needle pegged at Maximum, where it's been all week, from Memorial Day through the D-Day anniversary run-up.

When I was in junior high school long ago, a touring arts program visited schools in New York state. One performance consisted of a celebrated actress reciting Emily Dickinson's poetry onstage for 90 minutes or so. I defy any audience to listen attentively to 90 minutes of Dickinson without showing the strain, and my school definitely wasn't having any.A few minutes into the show, the auditorium was alive with student chatter, so loud a buzz you could barely hear the performance. Being a poetry-lover, I devoted myself to setting an example of rapt attention for, maybe, five minutes, at which point I threw in the towel and joined the mass murmur.

The actress manfully completed her performance. When it was over we gave her a stupendous ovation. We were glad it was finished and (more important) knew perfectly well that we had behaved like pigs and intended to make up for it by clapping and roaring and shouting. But the performer wasn't having any. She gave us a cold curtsy and left the stage and would not return for a second bow.

I have always admired her for that: a more memorable declaration than anything Dickinson ever wrote. And today's endless ovation for World War II vets doesn't change the fact that this nation has behaved boorishly, with colossal disrespect. If we cared about that war, the men who won it and the ideas it suggests, we would teach our children (at least) four topics:

• The major battles of the war. When I was a child in the 1960s, names like Corregidor and Iwo Jima were still sacred, and pronounced everywhere with respect. Writing in the 1960s about the battle of Midway, Samuel Eliot Morison stepped out of character to plead with his readers: "Threescore young aviators . . . met flaming death that day in reversing the verdict of battle.
Think of them, reader, every Fourth of June. They and their comrades who survived changed the whole course of the Pacific War." Today the Battle of Midway has become niche-market nostalgia material, and most children (and many adults) have never heard of it. Thus we honor "the greatest generation." (And if I hear that phrase one more time I will surely puke.)

• The bestiality of the Japanese. The Japanese army saw captive soldiers as cowards, lower than lice. If we forget this we dishonor the thousands who were tortured and murdered, and put ourselves in danger of believing the soul-corroding lie that all cultures are equally bad or good. Some Americans nowadays seem to think America's behavior during the war was worse than Japan's--we did intern many loyal Americans of Japanese descent. That was unforgivable--and unspeakably trivial compared to Japan's unique achievement, mass murder one atrocity at a time.

In "The Other Nuremberg," Arnold Brackman cites (for instance) "the case of Lucas Doctolero, crucified, nails driven through hands, feet and skull"; "the case of a blind woman who was dragged from her home November 17, 1943, stripped naked, and hanged"; "five Filipinos thrown into a latrine and buried alive." In the Japanese-occupied Philippines alone, at least 131,028 civilians and Allied prisoners of war were murdered. The Japanese committed crimes against Allied POWs and Asians that would be hard still, today, for a respectable newspaper even to describe. Mr. Brackman's 1987 book must be read by everyone who cares about World War II and its veterans, or the human race.

• The attitude of American intellectuals. Before Pearl Harbor but long after the character of Hitlerism was clear--after the Nuremberg laws, the Kristallnacht pogrom, the establishment of Dachau and the Gestapo--American intellectuals tended to be dead against the U.S. joining Britain's war on Hitler.

Today's students learn (sometimes) about right-wing isolationists like Charles Lindbergh and the America Firsters. They are less likely to read documents like this, which appeared in Partisan Review (the U.S. intelligentsia's No. 1 favorite mag) in fall 1939, signed by John Dewey, William Carlos Williams, Meyer Schapiro and many more of the era's leading lights. "The last war showed only too clearly that we can have no faith in imperialist crusades to bring freedom to any people. Our entry into the war, under the slogan of 'Stop Hitler!' would actually result in the immediate introduction of totalitarianism over here. . . . The American masses can best help [the German people] by fighting at home to keep their own liberties." The intelligentsia acted on its convictions. "By one means or another," Diana Trilling later wrote of this period, "most of the intellectuals of our acquaintance evaded the draft."

Why rake up these Profiles in Disgrace? Because in the Iraq War era they have a painfully familiar ring.

• The veterans' neglected voice. World War II produced an extraordinary literature of first-person soldier narratives--most of them out of print or unknown. Books like George MacDonald Fraser's "Quartered Safe Out Here," Philip Ardery's "Bomber Pilot," James Fahey's "Pacific War Diary." If we were serious about commemorating the war, we would do something serious. The Library of America includes two volumes on "Reporting World War II," but where are the soldiers' memoirs versus the reporters'? If we were serious, we would have every grade school in the nation introduce itself to local veterans and invite them over. We'd use software to record these informal talks and weave them into a National Second World War Narrative in cyberspace. That would be a monument worth having.

Speaking of which: I am privileged to know a gentleman who enlisted in the Army as an aviation cadet in 1942, served in combat as a navigator in a B-24, was shot down and interned in Switzerland, escaped, and flew in the air transport command for the rest of the war. He became a scientist and had a long, distinguished career. Among his friends he is a celebrated raconteur, and his prose is strong and charming. He wrote up his World War II experiences, and no one--no magazine, no book publisher--will take them on. My suggestions have all bombed out.

If you're interested, give me a call. But I'm not holding my breath. The country is too busy toasting the "greatest generation" to pay attention to its actual members.

Mr. Gelernter is a contributing editor of The Weekly Standard and professor of computer science at Yale.

Federal President may not know it, but his 'Muslim world' is split by a war of ideas

Barack Obama extends his hand to Islam's despots. By Amir Taheri
The American President may not know it, but his 'Muslim world' is split by a war of ideas.
The Telegraph, Jun 06, 2009

What do you do when you have no policy, but want to appear as if you do? In the case of Barack Obama, the answer is simple: you go around the world making speeches about your "personal journey".

The latest example came last Thursday, when Mr Obama presented his "address to the Muslim world" to an invited audience of 2,500 officials at Cairo University. The exercise was a masterpiece of equivocation and naivety. The President said he was seeking "a new beginning between the US and Muslims around the world". This implied that "Muslims around the world" represent a single monolithic bloc – precisely the claim made by people like Osama bin Laden and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who believe that all Muslims belong to a single community, the "ummah", set apart from, and in conflict with, the rest of humanity.

Mr Obama ignored the fact that what he calls the "Muslim world" consists of 57 countries with Muslim majorities and a further 60 countries – including America and Europe – where Muslims represent substantial minorities. Trying to press a fifth of humanity into a single "ghetto" based on their religion is an exercise worthy of ideologues, not the leader of a major democracy.

Mr Obama's mea culpa extended beyond the short span of US history. He appropriated the guilt for ancient wars between Islam and Christendom, Western colonialism and America's support for despotic regimes during the Cold War. Then came the flattering narrative about Islam's place in history: ignoring the role of Greece, China, India and pre-Islamic Persia, he credited Islam with having invented modern medicine, algebra, navigation and even the use of pens and printing. Believing that flattery will get you anywhere, he put the number of Muslim Americans at seven million, when the total is not even half that number, promoting Islam to America's largest religion after Christianity.

The President promised to help change the US tax system to allow Muslims to pay zakat, the sharia tax, and threatened to prosecute those who do not allow Muslim women to cover their hair, despite the fact that this "hijab" is a political prop invented by radicals in the 1970s. As if he did not have enough on his plate, Mr Obama insisted that fighting "negative stereotypes of Islam" was "one of my duties as President of the United States". However, there was no threat to prosecute those who force the hijab on Muslim women through intimidation, blackmail and physical violence, nor any mention of the abominable treatment of Muslim women, including such horrors as "honour-killing". The best he could do was this platitude: "Our daughters can contribute just as much to society as our sons."

Having abandoned President Bush's support for democratic movements in the Middle East, Mr Obama said: "No system of government can or should be imposed on one nation by another." He made no mention of the tens of thousands of political prisoners in Muslim countries, and offered no support to those fighting for gender equality, independent trade unions and ethnic and religious minorities.

Buried within the text, possibly in the hope that few would notice, was an effective acceptance of Iran's nuclear ambitions: "No single nation should pick and choose which nations should hold nuclear weapons." Mr Obama did warn that an Iranian bomb could trigger a nuclear arms race in the region. However, the Cairo speech did not include the threat of action against the Islamic Republic – not even sanctions. The message was clear: the US was distancing itself from the resolutions passed against Iran by the UN Security Council.

As if all that weren't enough, Mr Obama dropped words such as "terror" and "terrorism" from his vocabulary. The killers of September 11 were "violent extremists", not "Islamist terrorists". In this respect, he is more politically correct than the Saudis and Egyptians, who have no qualms about describing those who kill in the name of Islam as terrorists.

Mr Obama may not know it, but his "Muslim world" is experiencing a civil war of ideas, in which movements for freedom and human rights are fighting despotic, fanatical and terrorist groups that use Islam as a fascist ideology. The President refused to acknowledge the existence of the two camps, let alone take sides. It was not surprising that the Muslim Brotherhood lauds him for "acknowledging the justice of our case" – nor that his speech was boycotted by the Egyptian democratic movement "Kifayah!" ("Enough!"), which said it could not endorse "a policy of support for despots in the name of fostering stability".

In other words, the President may find that by trying to turn everyone into a friend, he has merely added to his list of enemies.