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Jewish World Review Oct. 22, 2002 / 16 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763

Tony Snow

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Musings | Just in time for Halloween, Hollywood is sharing its thoughts on war and peace.

Woody Harrelson has written a polemic that accuses the US government of starving hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children and of lying to him. Harrelson also reveals that he once played basketball with some Iraqi guy and that his chauffeur, also named Woody, drinks beer.

Sean Penn spent nearly 57 thousand dollars on a published open letter to the president. Without citing specifics, it accuses George W. Bush of squashing civil liberties and waving the bloody shirt. He also urges the commander in chief to "listen to Gershwin, read chapters of Stegner, of Saroyan, the speeches of Martin Luther King."

After all, it's always important to get literary advice from the star of Fast Times at Ridgemont High. And Barbra Streisand blasted a GOP politician for misrepresenting her quote: "deep opposition to the Iranian dictator, Saddam Hussein." Ah, Tinseltown!

President Bush stands accused in foreign capitals of unilateralism. He has rejected elite European opinion on the Kyoto environmental treaty, which is an irretrievable mess; the International Criminal Court, which would subject American diplomats and troops to criminal review by kangaroo courts, and now, Iraq, where pacifists seem to argue that Saddam Hussein is more trustworthy and peace-loving than the American president.

The United States stands apart on these issues because as a nation, we still believe in such things as the value of human dignity, and we're willing to fight for them.

Continental Europe, in contrast, has lost the capacity to believe in belief. It meanders from fad to fad, with a sense of desultory ennui -- and an underlying crust of moral cowardice. Of course the U-S wants as many friends as possible.

But what distinguishes us from the pack is the fact that we won't abandon our principles just to cut a deal. And if that's unilateralism, I'm for it.

Consider two seemingly unrelated news stories. First, a shooter in the Washington, D.C. area has murdered people and wounded others in a weeks-long spree.

Second, an ex-military officer in Indonesia set off a bomb in Bali that killed upwards of 200 and wounded at least 300.

Several threads link the stories. Both concern acts of terror that frightened a restive public, and both force us to grapple with a truth: that the facts of terror lead toward the necessity of action. Public opinion polls - taken after the Bali blast - indicate an instant swing in British support for action against Iraq; Ditto for Australia, which lost dozens of citizens in the resort blast.

Suddenly, the war of terror looks less like an American fight than a battle to preserve freedom and democracy. Terror always sews its destruction as fright gives way to rage, and then to action. The Bali bomber not only hastened the end of al Qaeda he probably also shortened the political lifespan of Saddam Hussein himself.

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