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In Philippines, Bush’s crusade continues

While much of the world may be busy discussing the possibility of U.S. unilateralist ambitions in Iraq, President George W. Bush has, as quietly as one might do such a thing, engaged the United States in a brand new foreign military entanglement -- in the Philippines. The U.S. military, it was announced, will now move from an advisory to a combatant role.

This seemingly minor involvement in the domestic affairs of a developing nation has consequences the Bush team may in passing acknowledge, but in reality ignore.

The United States will aid in the pursuit of Muslims. Muslim terrorists, no less, as a step toward democratic stabilization, no doubt.

Had the Bush administration wanted to send a message to the American people about its capacity to assist in other nations’ attempts at domestic political and social stability in the midst of insurrections, terrorist incursions and fledgling civil wars, there are plenty of nations to choose from.

Africa offers several options.

But instead, Bush has sent a signal -- again -- to the simmering Islamic world.

However, this is not a benign involvement.

Bush has chosen to assert American military presence in a Catholic country. In the most Catholic nation in the Asian-Pacific region, he is siding with the Christian majority against the Muslim minority. Openly.

No lessons have been learned from his Sept. 16, 2001, gaffe when world uproar followed his declaration, “This crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take a long time.”

The Islamic world presumed, immediately and understandably, he was equating the United States’ response with what Muslims call “the war of those signed with the cross.” The American president was quick to distance himself from that interpretation, and Islamic moderates in time took him at his word.

Now they may revisit that assessment, reasoning, if it looks like a crusade and acts like a crusade, perhaps it is a crusade.

What the Philippines’ involvement certainly represents is this militaristic U.S. administration’s unwillingness to learn any lessons from history, including its own as recent as Sept. 16, 2001.

In a heavily Muslim region of the world, the United States’ acceptance of the invitation to enter the Filipino fray -- if that’s truly how it came about -- will not, in the long run, do the Christians of Asia any great favors.

National Catholic Reporter, March 7, 2003