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If there is a hell, then you can be that Sheikh Ahmed Yassin is roasting there now. And if there is a heaven, then rest assured that whether or not he wins the November election, President George W. Bush has earned his place in it.

What a week for contrasts. A so-called “religious cleric,” whose principal contribution to his people was to inspire them to blow themselves up – taking as many innocent civilians along with them – dies and is hailed by the Arabs as a hero. But the principal savior of Arabs still living – a man who rescued more than 20 million Muslims from the clutches of Saddam Hussein – continues to be vilified and excoriated by the Arab press.

Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, the quintessential wolf in sheep’s clothing, may indeed have been a Muslim cleric. But let’s not forget that Joseph Stalin was an ordained priest. And yet, even when it killed a cold-blooded murderer like Yassin – the primordial “wolf in sheep’s clothing” – the state of Israel came under a barrage of international condemnation.

Among the inane arguments proffered was that eliminating Yassin would only inflame Palestinians and provoke Hamas. Provoke Hamas? Really make them angry? You’ve gotta be kidding. What are they going to do now? Kill hundreds of Israelis? They are already doing that. Dismember pregnant women? Been there, done that. Blow the arms and legs off children? Ditto.

This reminds me of the claim of the defenders of Pope Pius XII, the foremost moral coward of the 20th century, that he never once condemned the Nazi extermination of European Jewry because he didn’t want to provoke the Nazis into further atrocities against the Jews. Had the pope spoken out, so the advocates of beatification for the pope argue, the Nazis would have stepped up their campaign against the Jews. But are they really suggesting the Nazis could have been come up with anything worse than Auschwitz? That the Germans could have stepped up a program that was already killing more than the 15,000 Jews per day in their crematoria?

Even when more than 1,000 Roman Jews were rounded up, on Oct. 16, 1943, directly in front of Pius’ Vatican window and kept at a military barracks not 300 feet from his office, Pius did not offer a protest. Was this in order to protect the Roman Jews from an even worse fate than they met a few days later when nearly all were gassed at Birkenau?

Rather than excuse cowardice, let us all applaud courage. The man who is most attacked for having incited the Islamic militants to real shows of anger is President Bush with his war of liberation in Iraq. Perhaps there is something redeeming about being the most powerful, yet most vilified man on earth. I would assume it keeps one humble. But let’s not ascribe that virtuous motivation to the president’s critics, the latest of which is a former counter-terrorism official in the Bush White House – Richard Clarke – who has written a book alleging that the Iraqi war actually made the United States more vulnerable by fomenting anti-American feelings and taking military resources away from the hunt for al-Qaida.

In truth, Clarke is an ignorant opportunist with a limited and myopic vision. Terrorism in the Middle East is a direct outgrowth of Arab tyranny. If Arabs lived – liked their Western counterparts – in open, prosperous and democratic societies, then there would be no need on the part of their corrupt leaders to scapegoat Israel and the United States as the source of all Arab problems, and Muslims wouldn’t be signing up by the truckload to attack Western targets.

Adolf Hitler, the Sheikh Yassin of his time, also brilliantly scapegoated the Jews as the source of all German unhappiness, even while he stole all freedom away from his people and turned them into decrepit murderers. While we may, from time to time, eliminate terrorist leaders like Sheik Yassin or even Osama bin Laden, a total end to Middle East terror will surely not come about until there is complete Arab democratization in the Middle East. And President Bush, in a sharp departure from his father who lacked “the vision thing” and left Saddam Hussein in power, understands this and gets it.

Iraqi citizens are now the first Arabs in modern Middle Eastern history who don’t have to be afraid of their own government. But petty bureaucrats – like Richard Clarke, who cannot see the wood from the trees – would have us focus only on individual terrorists instead of the governments that create, harbor, fund, incite and inspire them.

How could anyone take Clarke’s criticism seriously when we have already seen the immense dividends of the Iraqi war, such as Gadhafi publicly disavowing his nuclear weapons programs and Syrian citizens being brazen enough to hold public demonstrations in Damascus for the first time – a fact that even the New York Times conceded would have been unthinkable prior to the toppling of Saddam.

It is time that I said in print what I have long felt in my heart: I not only support President Bush, I revere him. At a time when so many other world leaders want to paint Sept. 11 as a terror attack, President Bush saw it for what it was: a clash of civilizations, a war to the death between two systems – one open, democratic and respectful of human life, the other oppressive, tyrannical and deeply contemptible of human life. President Bush understands that the only way to defeat such a grave threat is by tumbling the dominoes that support terror one by one, even if he becomes the most criticized man on earth for doing so.

This week, a liberal friend of mine – and I lead the satisfying life of being a political conservative, nearly all of whose close friends are liberals – called me to say he was surprised that a man as “intelligent” as me could like George Bush. I thanked him for the backhanded compliment and said, “You’ve heard Edmund Burke’s famous quotation that ‘All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.’ Why then do so many people hate Bush for simply doing something?”

And for all those who hate the Patriot Act and believe that the war in Iraq was a terrible mistake, isn’t the biggest proof of the correctness of the president’s vision the simple fact that, unlike Israel which suffers daily from terror, the United States has not had a major terror attack on American soil since Sept. 11, 2001? And shouldn’t the Sharon government, which finally toppled one of their leading enemies in a gutsy move, learn from the total-war tactics employed by the president?

The Bible says that when Moses first encountered God, he did so in the form of a burning bush. Moses was commanded by God to be careful lest he tread on that bush. I have no problem with the president’s critics attacking his economic, environmental or other such policies. Indeed, like any mortal, he is far from perfect as are some of his policies. But the part of his leadership which burns with virtue and blazes with uprightness, that protects the innocent and punishes the wicked, assails tyranny and upholds democracy and puts the fear of God into cold-hearted killers – at least that part of him let his critics refrain from trampling.

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