What if George W. had said this instead?

I read about Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s vow to punish Hamas for the murder of those three Israeli teens found in the West Bank.  We know where this story leads.  Israel and the Palestinians have been playing this game of revenge for lifetimes, with no end in sight.  No end in sight that is, as long as they both continue to respond in the same ways. 

America is fortunate that we are rarely faced with situations calling for national vengeance.  But that got me thinking about the last big vengeance-provoking event we faced and how we might have brought about a much better future for everyone by responding in an unexpected way.  A response that I think would have been more appropriate for what many people claim is our “Christian Society”.

What if President George W. Bush had responded to the September 11th attacks with a speech like this?

In trying times, when faced with difficult decisions, I always first ask myself “what would Jesus do”?  We have been attacked on our own soil by angry people from the other side of the planet.  As I think Jesus would, I must ask – what have we done to make these people so angry that they would sacrifice their own lives in order to kill random Americans?  I ask myself, what would make me so angry at someone that I would sacrifice my life to kill other people?

Fortunately we have a clear list of complaints from the man who claims to have masterminded this terrible loss of life and immense destruction – Osama Bin Laden.  I must say that his complaints have some merit when viewed through the lens of someone who grew-up in an Arab Muslim culture, especially for a fundamentalist believer in Islam.  I can respect a man’s deeply held religious convictions – I have my own – but religious faith only begins to explain how he could recruit a dozen people to give their lives to perform this horrible action. 

I could only contemplate killing myself along with the people who limited my future options if I felt that my future looked so bleak that the uncertainty of heaven or hell seemed like a better option than the life laid out before me.  Those men who flew those planes must have felt so oppressed by American actions that they thought death was their best option. 

Whether real or imagined, such strong feelings require a response from America.  First, an apology to all the people in the Arab lands – I’m sorry for the oppression you feel from the American actions and inactions of the past.  We have behaved selfishly with little concern for you.  That will now change.

Starting today, we will begin a gradual withdrawal of all our military forces from all Arab countries so that within five years, no American soldier will be stationed on Middle East soil. 

I wish we could withdraw faster but it will take at least five years for us to no longer have any national interest in the Middle East – that is to say when we no longer care about Middle East oil.  Until America reduces its dependency on fossil-fuels, we must protect the flow of Middle East oil.  That is why today I am announcing a broad federal plan to invest heavily in renewable and carbon-neutral energy sources instead of fossil fuels, so we will no longer have any reliance on Middle East oil.  I have set 2011, ten years from today, as the last year America imports any oil from the Middle East.  In 2011 we will have also reduced by one-third the quantity of petroleum we use from ALL parts of the world and our own territories.  That number will grow to 50% by 2021, and grow again in another ten years – 2031 – to a 100% reduction – no petroleum oil will be used in America by 2031.

Thank you Mister Bin Laden for the wake-up call.  I’m very sorry we didn’t previously take seriously your concerns about American involvement in the Arab lands. However, you claimed responsibility for killing thousands of our people, and if we find your claim valid, you will be held responsible for those deaths. I hope you will turn yourself in peacefully and face trial for your actions.  If not, we will find you and bring you to trial.

Just imagine how the man on the street in the Middle East would have felt about this.  How instead of providing a focal point for the anger of millions of young Arab men with no better options for their lives, we would have turned their attention away from America and back onto their own oppressive governments.  Perhaps that awakening would have brought about an earlier or more effective Arab Spring.  Instead we put a generation of young Afghanis and Iraqis in a war zone, raising them on a violence-filled life ensuring that violence is all they know. If instead, America had responded to 9-11 “as Jesus would”, those millions of young people in the Arab world would now have little experience with war or violence, leaving the minority of angry fundamentalists with fewer and less interested recruits for violence and suicide.  If thirteen years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan have shown us one thing, it is that violence only brings about more violence. Responding to 9-11 with peace would have made the world a much better and safer place today for billions of people around the world.  Instead of being the target of anger for millions of disaffected youth in the Arab countries, America would now be a shining example of how a country should behave.