First lady puts fresh perspective on U.S. interest in Afghanistan

Posted: Monday, November 26, 2001

A bit of history was made Saturday (Nov. 17) as Laura Bush became the first president's spouse to deliver the traditional Saturday morning radio address from the White House. She did so to stress the importance of saving the women of Afghanistan from the brutality they suffer at the hands of extremist factions. ...

However, there was an important message behind Mrs. Bush's easy style. She did nothing less than bring to light a new reason for the war in Afghanistan. The president has cited only U.S. interests in the campaign to bring down the Taliban and al-Qaida. It is a matter of self-defense. But Laura Bush added the issue of the Afghan women.

Her speech focused on common humanity, rather than cultural differences. She said repression of women is a trademark of the Taliban and terrorist regimes, not of mainline Islamic teaching. That redefined the message that President Bush offered in his national address of Sept. 13: The enemy is terrorists, not Islam.

Her radio address, along with a State Department report on the repression of Afghan women released the same day, move the Bush administration into the forefront on international women's rights. Mrs. Bush may not see herself as a follower of Eleanor Roosevelt (as Mrs. Clinton did), but her radio address was in a spirit of humanitarian leadership that Mrs. Roosevelt would have admired.

-- The Morning Call, Allentown, Pa.

Nov. 20

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