I got a lot of heat for criticizing the last first lady.

But I don’t regret it. After all, Hillary Rodham Clinton parlayed her unelected position and her warped ideas into a powerful position in the U.S. Senate and possibly a future run for the presidency.

Now I’m going to show, once again, I’m an equal-opportunity offender by taking on Laura Bush.

The first lady gave a radio address last Saturday that simply cries out for comment. I doubt anyone else will do it, so here goes.

Mrs. Bush said the war on terrorism is a fight for the rights and dignity of women and children. As an illustration of what she meant, she said: “Life under the Taliban is so hard and repressive, even small displays of joy are outlawed. Children aren’t allowed to fly kites. Their mothers face beatings for laughing out loud.”

“Because of our recent military gains in much of Afghanistan, women are no longer imprisoned in their homes,” she added. “They can listen to music and teach their daughters without fear of punishment. Yet the terrorists who helped rule the country now plot and plan in many countries. And they must be stopped. The fight against terrorism is also a fight for the rights and dignity of women.”

You’re probably wondering, “Farah, tell me how you disagree with Mrs. Bush’s comments.”

I don’t, as far as they go. But let’s be clear about something. It wasn’t terrorism that oppressed women in Afghanistan. It was Islamism. Mrs. Bush is confusing the two terms. And we must be clear as a nation just who the enemy is and for what we are fighting.

If the goal of the U.S. war is to liberate women, we can’t stop in Afghanistan. The same draconian Taliban laws that oppressed women exist in many parts of the world – including among some of the nations with whom we have chosen to ally ourselves.

In fact, the Taliban regime was sponsored by our “friends” in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. The Taliban regime was supported by the U.S. – particularly by the Clinton administration, which paid so much lip service to women’s rights.

In Saudi Arabia, women are oppressed every bit as much as they were in Afghanistan. They can’t even drive cars.

Now, we’ve been told over and over again by the Bush administration that we are not at war with Islam. We’ve been told ad nauseam what a wonderful religion it is. President Bush even invited 50 Islamic ambassadors to the White House this week for Ramadan prayers.

So which reality are we supposed to believe? Are we at war with terrorism? Or are we at war with radical, fanatical Islamism?

Mrs. Bush muddied the waters even more with her radio address.

“Islam is a religion that respects woman and humanity,” she said. “The Taliban respects neither.”

Maybe Mrs. Bush would like to believe that Islam is a religion that respects women and humanity, but the historical and current political records don’t necessarily support such a conclusion. Islam does not have a great record when it comes to fostering representative government. It does not have a great record in fostering human rights. And it certainly does not have a great track record in furthering the rights of women.

In fact, only the Judeo-Christian tradition does all of those things. That’s not to say Jews and Christians have a perfect record. But it was the Judeo-Christian heritage that spawned western civilization and led to those concepts.

It wasn’t Islam.

To suggest otherwise is to confuse the issues – and, I fear, deliberately.

We can all rejoice that the Taliban has been crushed. But that was not the original stated goal of our policy. We, as a nation, asked the Taliban to hand over the terrorists. They did not. Thus, the Taliban paid a price. Let’s not pretend this military action was designed to liberate the women of Afghanistan. That may be a nice side benefit. But if that is our goal – to liberate the oppressed women of the Islamic world, then it’s time to turn our sights to Saudi Arabia and other equally oppressive regimes.

Am I advocating such a policy? No. But I am advocating that we clearly recognize whom we are fighting and why.


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