Another Opportunity Slipping
I know they’re distracted at the White House, what with Harriet Miers stepping down, the Special Prosecutor charging Scooter and a new nominee to find, but c’mon George, you could make some real strides right this moment in the Muslin world for almost no effort.
As the helicopter revved its engines for takeoff, a balding man with a beard leaned across the edge of the lowered cargo ramp and, smiling his gratitude, extended his hand toward Brandon Chasteen, a 21-year-old Army medic from Chattanooga, who gave it a hearty shake.
Remember Pakistan, the earthquake? It was on your ‘to-do’ list last week. Forget Karen Hughes (the quicker the better) and step into the vacuum created by a reliably helpless U.N. There are two or three million people homeless and helpless in the mountains of Pakistan and Kashmir. Winter is tomorrow, George and winter in the Himalayas is as tough as it gets when you have no home, no heating materials, no time to prepare. Add to that the loss of friends, family. All the things that hold us together in society have been shattered for these millions.
Listen up, George, they are all Muslim.
"Obviously, this is the other side of the United States," said Maulana Shabbir Ahmad Shujabadi, a prominent religious scholar in the port city of Karachi. "For the first time in so many years I have seen the American planes dropping relief and not bombs on the Muslim population."
I know, we’ve had our helicopters in there, airlifting food and tents, pulling out the badly hurt on the return trips and the reaction has been amazing. Helicopter crews cheered, their hands shaken by grateful survivors. Not a Kalashnikov in sight. This is the stuff of providence, George, a possible turning-point in a very bad string of experiences you’ve had lately with Islam.
Don’t blow it.
Don’t let Cheney or Rummy anywhere near it. Call in the top Democrat and Republican leadership and get it done, George. You’ll take some heat in New Orleans for another foreign disaster aid response after what you put together for the tsunami victims, but what-the-hell, go for it.
"It's a nice break," Lewis said. "It was strange for us to come over from Afghanistan because we had no idea how we'd be treated. But they came out, shook our hands. They're very nice people."
America is at its best when it shows its ability to help. For three years we have fueled the passions of those who will remember our brutality in Iraq for generations. Islam is pulled up at the pump, George, waiting to fill up. The opportunity to pour in practical help as the rest of the world stands by will have passed as a week, then two go by and this part of the world becomes impassable.
Move, George. Move now.