Vol. 2, Issue 19, May 11, 2004
Bush Calls War on Terror a "Giant Game of Checkers"
President Bush's appearance on Arab-language television last Wednesday explaining U.S. policies received mixed reactions in Arab countries.
"The thing you've got to realize is, we're maneuvering in a giant checkers game against the forces of terrorism, and the stakes are high indeed," Bush said to an unconvinced audience of millions.
Bush said the allegations of prisoner abuse in Iraq had to be understood in the broader context of this game, and assured the Arab viewers that justice will be done as soon as America succeeded in "kinging more pieces."
"You see, when you get to the end of the board, usually through hard-working American determination, your piece turns into a king," he added. "Not that we have kings in America, of course. We're a democracy. Which is something you all should learn something about, by the way."
Former Egyptian diplomat Abdullah al-Ashaal said the president's words will satisfy many Arabs, but not all.
"In the Arab world, I think this is very much welcome because we want to hear from the president of the United States that the United States is at least playing according to some set of rules," he said. "The game of checkers would not be my first choice for these rules. I would have preferred the guidelines set down by the Geneva Convention. But something is better than nothing."
Others in the Arab world were not as receptive to the president's address. For instance, Hossam Zaki, spokesman for the Arab League, was unconvinced that Bush meant well by this analogy.
"Well, of course, in checkers you get a choice between the red and the black pieces," said Zaki. "Why don't you guess which color Bush has assigned to the Arab world."
The president's address also provoked mixed reactions back home. Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry called him to task for using such a simplistic game as an analogy.
"Now I have an actual military background," Kerry told reporters outside a convention center in Pittsburg. "When I make an analogy on international television, you can be sure I'll use something involving actual strategy, such as chess or Parcheesi."
"Well actually," said al-Ashaal, "the game Bush really seems to be playing is Risk."