by John Hawkins | May 7, 2004 11:59 pm
IMAMS: “YOU HAD US AT ‘SORRY'”
Washington – The recent apology of US President George W. Bush for abuses by American military prison guards continued to reverberate around the globe today, as the White House was again inundated with with a flurry of “apology accepted” notes from world media, governmental leaders, and Islamic fundamentalist clerics.
Typical of the responses was a personal note from Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad, who wrote “aww, dude, you know I can’t stay mad at you,” saying that the apology had prompted him to immediately dismantle his country’s secret nuclear weapons program. In a postscript, Assad added, “good luck to the Rangers this year.”
“Now was that so hard?” joked Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat in an email to Bush. “Now get out of here ya knucklehead, before we have to do one of those awkward man-hugs.”
The apology also prompted an outbreak of gratitude in the Arab street, as hundreds of thousands of Muslims took to the streets Friday in an impromptu demonstration of thanks. In Gaza, a cheering crowd estimated at 30,000 waved American flags and banners reading “No Prablem Bosh” [sic], while in Damascus throngs gathered in the Square of the Martyrs chanting “U-S-A, U-S-A”.
“I used to dream about dying in a glorious fireball of martyrdom,” said Ali Ahmed Amoud, 23, a marcher in the first annual Infidel Appreciation Days parade in Nablus. “But that apology was so nice and sincere, it just seems kind of petty to keep nursing a grudge.”
In Tehran, the ruling council of Iranian clerics ordered a “national day of celebration and family fun” to commemorate the historic apology. “The Great Satan has given our honor back, so it’s time to move on and let bygones be bygones,” said Ayatollah Rafinstani in a nationwide radio address. Rafinstani also announced Iran’s immediate nuclear disarmament, and cautioned celebrants not to drink and drive.
In Cairo, local clerics were equally enthusiastic and appreciative of Bush’s gesture. In his weekly Friday sermon, Egyptian Imam Muqtaba Salim urged followers to show their appreciation by “reaching out and hugging a Zionist.”
“Sure, they’re a little pushy and abrasive, but c’mon guys — let’s take a deep breath and count to ten before we go all ‘martydom operations,'” said Salim.
Perhaps the biggest reaction to the Bush apology occured in Saudi Arabia, where leaders of the fundamentalist Wahabbist sect issued a rare commendation of the president.
“It’s just been such a catharsis for all of us,” said Imam Abdelkarim Matwalli, prayer leader of the Grand Mosque in Medina, choking back emotion. “All we really ever wanted was a simple ‘I’m sorry,’ and Mr. Bush delivered. Thank you, America.”
The president’s apology was no less well-received in Europe, with dozens of newspapers blaring effusive, pro-Bush headlines. The Parisienne Le Monde declared “All Is Forgiven, George” while the Manchester Guardian lionized Bush as “an Apologizer for the Ages”; the tabloid Sun carried a simple “Dubya, We Lubya” above a flattering photo of the president festooned with garlands.
The apology also appeared to have created a thaw in the United States’ sometimes icy relationship with continental political leaders. French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhardt Schroeder issued a joint communique welcoming the United States “back in the fold of civilized nations,” and vowed to introduce a UN resolution asserting the US right to exist, following scheduled week-long pro-Bush demonstrations across Europe.
Newly elected Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero also commended the President’s contrition, and said that “I would gladly once again pledge Spanish troops to the War on Terror, if the whole terror thing ever becomes a problem again.”
Domestic reaction was generally favorable, led by Congressional Democrats who drafted a resolution prasing the President’s “bold, thoughtful groveling for world peace,” and calling on Bush to “stop beating yourself up.” Progressive websites such as DemocraticUnderground, Daily Kos and BartCop urged readers to “forgive, forget, and send a nice thank you card to the White House.”
Despite the outbreak of world geopolitical harmony, not everyone was satisfied with Bush’s overture. In a scathing OpEd in today’s New York Times, columnist Thomas Friedman demanded an additional apology from the President.
“Fess up, Mr. Bush,” said Friedman, “that was my idea.”
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