NEW YORK, Dec 13: Conceding that the US has an “image issue” in the Muslim world, President George Bush has expressed hope that the negative American image will improve as it moves resources to help the Tsunami-affected regions and Pakistan where it was “first on the scene” to help the earthquake-affected people.

Mr Bush was answering a question by an audience member at a World Affairs Council meeting in Philadelphia on Monday where he was asked what the US was doing to create a favourable American image in the Muslim world and reach out to people across the world.

To underscore US efforts to help Muslim countries, Mr Bush said: “I cite two examples of where I think it will make a big — of where American image in the Muslim world will be improved. One is the tsunami. The tsunamis hit; it was the US military, through the USS Abraham Lincoln, that provided the logistical organization necessary… to save a lot of lives. We moved. A lot of people kind of sat around and discussed; not us. We saw a problem and we moved.

“Same in Pakistan. The earthquake in Pakistan is devastating. The United States of America was first on the scene. We got a lot of kids flying choppers all around that country, providing help and aid.”

Mr Bush said: “I recognize we got an image issue, particularly when you got television stations, ‘Arabic television stations that are constantly just pounding America’, creating — saying America is fighting Islam, Americans can’t stand Muslims, this is a war against a religion. And we’ve got to, obviously, do a better job of reminding people that ours is not a nation that rejects religion; ours is a nation that accepts people of all faith.

“It’s difficult. I mean, their propaganda machine is pretty darn intense. And so we’re constantly sending out messages, we’re constantly trying to reassure people, but we’re also acting. And that’s what’s important for our citizens to realize. Our position in the world is such that I don’t think we can retreat. I think we have a duty and an obligation to use our vast influence to help.

“A proper use of influence that helps improve people’s lives is the best way to affect – to change the image of country, and to defeat the propaganda.”

Mr Bush said: “One thing America must never do is lose our capacity to take people from all walks of life and help them become an American, first and foremost. That’s what distinguishes us from other cultures and nations. You can come from wherever you are, and I can come from Texas, and we both share the same deal – we’re Americans first and foremost. I happen to be a Methodist. You’re a Sunni.”

When asked “why it is that you and others in your administration keep linking 9/11 to the Iraq invasion when no respected journalist or Middle Eastern expert confirmed that such a link existed , Mr Bush said: “As soon as we see a threat, we have to deal with it.”

He said: “9/11 changed my look on foreign policy. It said that oceans no longer protect us, that we can’t take threats for granted; that if we see a threat, we’ve got to deal with it. It doesn’t have to be militarily, necessarily, but we got to deal with it. And so the first decision I made, as you know, was to deal with Taliban in Afghanistan because they were harbouring terrorists.”


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