Bush's Hate Crimes Conversion

So war has been declared. George Bush Junior has promised "to rid the world of evil." A tall order indeed. Whether this is a winnable war is a question. At the very least, such a war would seem to be a violation of the Powell Doctrine, the principles first articulated by Gen. Colin Powell, now the Secretary of State, as a lesson learned from Vietnam. The Powell Doctrine is fairly simple: it says America will be very reluctant to go to war, but that when it does, it will fight for a specific objective with an overwhelming force. I know the U.S. military is the envy of the world, but I do not think that it can eliminate evil. Evil is more elusive -- and pervasive -- than the Viet Cong, Colombian drug lords or Osama bin Laden.

In fact, I don't think our armies, no matter how well lead, can eliminate evil from our country, our cities, our homes or even our hearts. Evil is a fact of life, a power that is everywhere. At times, it rises up and acts with tremendous force as it did at the World Trade Center; sometimes it acts in smaller ways, as when it recently encouraged commuters in ordinarily "nice" Seattle to shout "Jump" to a troubled young woman sitting on a bridge railing. And jump she did.

We don't see America as the home of evil -- quite the contrary. It is a place of red, white and blue hopes and good intentions. Yet evil acts here every day. It fills the streets with the homeless and the hopeless. It rapes and murders men, women and children every day of the week. It singles out blacks, gays and Arabs for harassment. It allows our oil pipelines to decay and explode, allows our air to contaminate our lungs, allows our wilderness to shrivel and die. It would be easy if we could say evil was an "Us versus Them" kind of thing, but evil is us, just as good is. The struggle is constant, and ongoing. We need to define a more winnable objective.

George Bush Junior's conversion to fighting evil is interesting, because evil, as I understand it, feeds on hate. And Bush was the man who told us there was no such thing as a "hate" crime. He refused to sign hate crimes legislation in Texas, despite the tearful pleadings of the family of a man who had been dragged to death in bloody bits behind a pickup truck because he was black. A crime is a crime, said Bush. Hate crimes are no special category.

At least, not until Sept. 11, 2001. Now America knows what it feels like to be the victim of heartless terrorism -- something millions of Americans experience in some small way each day. It may be the face of evil writ large, but make no mistake, it is the same face. Bush asks us to respond to this crisis; he uses the language of religious warfare in encouraging us to join his "crusade" for "Infinite Justice." He appeals to our anger, our fear and our patriotism to help overcome the evil-doers, the people who hate us simply because of who we are. Then he speaks out to protect American Arabs and Muslims from the unbridled hate of their fellow Americans.

I wonder if Bush believes in hate crimes now? If so, it would be the first important conversion in his Holy War.

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