President Bush touched both ends of the violence spectrum today, promoting the assassination of Osama bin Laden while urging peace and respect for Muslims at the same time.
As the rhetorical assault on bin Laden has continued to escalate, Bush amplified his verbal attack with a statement at the Pentagon.
“I want him – I want justice,” he said. “There’s an old poster out west, as I recall, that said: ‘Wanted, dead or alive.'”
Bush has urged the American people to prepare for war, and has almost exclusively identified bin Laden and his organization as the culprits in the attacks on Washington, D.C. and New York City.
“All roads lead to … Osama bin Laden and his location in Afghanistan,” Secretary of State Colin Powell said.
Once again, Bush ensured an American victory, albeit one riddled with roadblocks.
“We will win the war and there will be costs,” Bush said at the Pentagon. “The U.S. military is ready to defend freedom at any cost.”
Despite a quarter-century-old executive order barring assassinations, officials say the possibility of an assassination attempt on bin Laden is real.
“[The executive order] does not limit America’s ability to act in its self-defense,” White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said in a press conference.
Bush also visited the Washington Islamic Center, about two miles from the White House, and urged respect for Muslim and Arab-Americans.
“The American people were appalled and outraged at last Tuesday’s attacks, and so were Muslims all across the world,” Bush said in a press conference at the Islamic Center. “Both Americans, our Muslim friends and citizens, taxpaying citizens, and Muslims in nations were just appalled, could not believe what we saw on our TV screens. These acts of violence against innocents violate the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith, and it is important for my fellow Americans to understand that.”
Understanding the Islamic religion was a focus for Bush.
“The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam,” Bush said. “That is not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don’t represent peace. They represent evil and war.”
Members of the Council on American Islamic Relations attended the meeting at the mosque and were pleased with the president’s call for curbing violence.
Scattered instances of violence against Arab- and Muslim- Americans erupted over the weekend.
Fleischer said the president visited the Islam center because it was the right thing to do.
“We thank the president for taking the initiative to reach out to the American-Muslim community during this time of national crisis,” said Nihad Awad, Executive Director of CAIR. “His supportive remarks will help set a tone of tolerance and inclusion for our society.”
Bush said respect is an American ideal, and that those who do not respect others do not represent the best of America.
“Those who feel like they can intimidate our fellow citizens to take out their anger don’t represent the best of America,” he said. “They represent the worst of humankind, and they should be ashamed of that kind of behavior.”