“I called my wife and I told her: He is clever; when we spoke he didn’t make any mistake. Not even one? she asked. No, he didn’t make mistakes; he knew all you must know. He was really OK.” Surprised and in a hopeful mood, the hero of the fight for democracy in Egypt, Saad Eddin Ibrahim, just came out from an eye-to-eye meeting with the president of the United States.

I was there, in Prague, during a three days conference about “security and democracy” organized by two heroes and one good man: Vaclav Havel, the father of the democratic revolution of ’89, Nathan Sharansky, the most famous among the ex-refuseniks in USSR – both people who knows from up close the meaning of persecution and prison – and the former prime minister of Spain, a distinguished figure who, during his two terms, gave much space for implementing democratic values, Jose Maria Aznar.

Like professor Ibrahim, another about 25 dissidents, almost all with a personal story of heroism, tortures and jail for the cause of freedom, had the opportunity to speak to the president of the United States directly. Among them were Farid Ghadri and the ex-member of parliament Mahmoun Homsy, from Syria; Issam abu Issa, a Palestinian businessman; people like the Sudanese Mudawi Ibrahim Adam, baby-faced with a weird tragic white beard, a man as sweet as sometimes awful suffering can make you; the Byelorussian Vladislav Jandjuk, an outspoken victim of the incredible fascist-communist dictatorship in his country; the Chinese woman Rabia Khadir, whose two sons are in prison as revenge of the government; the Saudi Arabians, the Burmese, the Libyans, Garry Kasparov, the Russian chess champion. All of them, even if more or less happy with what Bush promised or did not promise them (Kasparov wanted a new tough cold war right away, and he might be right!), were enchanted and happy because they found in the president an open ear, a compassionate heart and the promise to be on their side. There is no doubt he is on the side of human rights and freedom.

No doubt? Not quite so. The day after I landed in Rome, and Bush, too, arrived there for a visit, I saw crowds of so-called “human rights supporters” filling the streets and squares to express how oppressive, aggressive, selfish, imperialist and idiotic is the cause of the “source of all evil,” the “war monger” George W. Bush, the “real violator” of civil and human rights. They couldn’t care less if the dissidents see Bush as their main ally in facing dictators, perhaps the only one they’ve got when comparing him to a lazy and old Europe.

Bush has accepted and put in practice, even while recognizing the many troubles of the Iraqi war and other contradictions, the idea that fighting for freedom is not only just, but it’s also the only way to fight terrorism. After 9-11 he has considered it his main task. In the jump from Prague to Rome, what was very easy to see was the fact that the leftists who see themselves as the defenders of worldwide human rights were never capable of putting it in the frame of the fight against terror. They don’t even believe there is a war against terrorism; they don’t care about it. They imagine the terrorists are a small phenomena that the USA and Israel have blown out of proportion for the sake of expanding their power and their aggressive inspirations.

This is a very serious divide that cuts the world in two: the Prague people, who experimented on their flesh the intrinsic connections between despotism and terrorism, and the people of Rome and rest of Europe, who do not want to know about it.

Mr. Homsy, the Syrian, has escaped to Lebanon, and there he is still afraid of being killed by Syria’s friend, Hezbollah. Eli Khouri, the initiator of the Cedar Revolution, has the same kind of worries, even if he doesn’t express them out loud. Bush knows fighting the terror of Hezbollah and the Syrian and Iranian regimes that back it is fighting for the freedom of Khouri and Homsy.

I suspect the crowds I saw in Rome are objectively defending the dangerous dictatorial countries Bush singles out as violators of human rights; nobody has ever seen the no-global groups or even the institutional left parties marching against Fidel Castro, Mugabe, Bashar Assad or other Arab dictatorial regimes, Ahmadinajad, the Chinese or the North Korea dictators, Nasrallah and Khaled Mashaal. These anachronistic Flower Children have adopted an extremely naive culture of nostalgia and ignorance in which Arafat and Che Guevara are widely represented in pictures held in demonstration against “the apartheid regime” of Israel and against Bush. Hamas, Hezbollah, even the Taliban, are people you have to talk to, find an agreement with, without questioning from whence they take their money.

Ask the dissidents: They don’t call terrorists “militants”; they don’t think democracy is when Hamas goes to the ballots and wins. They think democracy means defeating the extremists and the dictators with a civil system of human rights, and they hope, oh so much, that the U.S. will intervene to help regime change, to fight Ahmadinejad and stop the terrorist infrastructure that goes with his thirst for power and fanaticism. This is the fight for human rights today: Just fight against terror and you will meet the dissidents. Fight against Islamo-fascism and you will meet the Muslim democrats.

The square in Rome has the cause of human rights completely turned upside down because they miss the point of fighting terrorism; they suffer from either a form of idiocy or of cynicism – or both.

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