The underlying theme of most Western politicians can be summed up in the phrase "It's not my fault." This is the motto of the Age of Irresponsibility.
Have you ever wondered how, if all the problems we face are nobody's fault, they became problems in the first place? It's been my experience that when I tracked down the source of nearly all of my problems, it was me. I was fortunate to grow up when the most commonly heard phrase was "no excuses."
It's the not-my-fault syndrome that explains why both President Bush and Great Britain's Tony Blair react so angrily when someone suggests that terrorist attacks are a response to American and British foreign policy. If they are a response, then the attacks are the fault of the policy-makers.
So, to avoid any share of responsibility whatsoever, both Bush and Blair propagate the line that terrorists are complete nut cases acting irrationally because of crazy hatred of our wealth and freedom. This is particularly clever political propaganda since it asserts that we are hated not for our faults, but for our very virtues.
It's pure hogwash, of course. Anyone who knows anything about the Middle East and terrorism knows that nearly all of the terrorist leaders are university-educated and come from middle-class to upper-class families. Why would bin Laden, himself a multimillionaire, hate wealth? Why would a man who freely chose a life of hardship when he could have been a decadent playboy despise freedom? Bin Laden fought for the freedom of Afghanistan. For whose freedom have Bush and Blair ever fought?
Bin Laden is certainly one of terrorism's wordiest leaders, but in all his speeches and messages of which I'm aware, he's never criticized wealth or freedom. He has been quite specific. He wants the U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf ended. He criticizes our support for Arab dictators and for Israeli abuses of Palestinians. He wants us out of the Persian Gulf, and he wants an end to Israel.
Acknowledging what he believes is not agreeing with him. You can agree or disagree, but it is both stupid and dishonest to deny that bin Laden believes what bin Laden says. The Bush-Blair ploy is the same as if Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill had said of Adolf Hitler, "Well, he's not really anti-Semitic and he's not really interested in controlling Europe, he just hates us Brits and Yanks because we are such virtuous people."
It's this irresponsibility that sickens me. I long for a leader with the guts to speak the truth. What's wrong with saying to the American people: "The terrorist attacks against us have nothing to do with Islam. They are a response to our policy of supporting Israel and the Arab governments we like, our military presence in the Persian Gulf, and our decision to attack Iraq. I think our objectives are worth the price, but if you disagree, vote against me in the next election."
It's been so long since honest speech has come out of a politician's mouth, I'd probably faint if I heard any. And it's not just foreign policy. Public education is entirely within the control of politicians, yet they deny any responsibility for its failures. They control Social Security and Medicare and deny any responsibility for the problems in those programs. They vote for the deficits and they write the tax laws, but they deny any responsibility for red ink or impossible-to-understand tax codes.
Insoluble political problems do not exist. The only question we face is, Do we have the brains and guts to preserve our country and its institutions and to demand accountability from our politicians? n
Charley Reese writes for King Features Syndicate, Inc.