On the eve of the Pope's visit to the U.S., journalist Raymond Arroyo has taken President Bush to task for his policy toward the plight of Christians in Iraq. Arroyo, anchor of the show, "The World Over," has aggressively questioned Bush about some of the issues we raised in a recent column. The entire interview first aired at 8 p.m. Friday, April 11, on EWTN Global Catholic Network. Here are excerpts from his tough interview with the President:
QÂ¯I think his [the Pope's] perspective is going to be very different from what we're reading in the newspapers this week. I think what he'll primarily talk about, and if my sources at the Vatican can be believed, he will probably talk about the 40 bombed churchesÂ¯
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
QÂ¯40 percent of the refugees being ChristianÂ¯
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
QÂ¯he's very concerned about that Christian minority in Iraq.
THE PRESIDENT: Absolutely.
QÂ¯When he spoke to you in 2007 he raised this. What is the administration prepared to do for this fledgling remnant of ChristianityÂ¯an ancient community there?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, absolutely. You know, it's something we have been doing all along, is urging the government to understand that minority rights are a vital part of any democratic society. And by the way, my concern isn't just for minority rights in Iraq; it's for minority rights throughout the Middle East. And I have dealt with the Holy Father aboutÂ¯with not only the issue of Iraq, but also the issue of Catholics inÂ¯and Christians in the Holy Land. I can remember very well, early in my presidency, I think it was Cardinal Egan or maybe Cardinal McCarrick came to see me about the mosque encroaching on the CatholicÂ¯the great Catholic Church, and would I use my influence with the Israelis to convince them to be mindful of the need for minority rights? And I said, absolutely. In my visit to the Holy Land, this recent time, there's a lot of concern about the kind of, theÂ¯I guess, non-acceptance. I met Sisters that were in the Galilean area that were just serving mankind so beautifully, and yet their leadership was concerned about minority rights. So my view is likeÂ¯Iraq is important, but I've used our influence all throughout the region. And I've used our influence all throughout the world to promote rights for all religious minorities, including China.
QÂ¯We saw that Archbishop Raho, he was murdered in Iraq. This past weekendÂ¯
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, yes.
QÂ¯an Orthodox priest slain on the doorstep of his home. Is the administrationÂ¯do you believe that this is religiously motivated violence?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I do. I believe they'reÂ¯I believe what they're trying to do is trying to send messagesÂ¯"they" being the killersÂ¯trying to send messages that it's not worth your time, that you must abandon the efforts of helping this free society deliver. I don't think this is government-sponsored. I think these are a bunch of thugs and killers who have this kind of dark, dim view of the world, and are willing to kill anybody who's willing to stand up to them. And it's not just these religious figures. There are a lot of innocent men, women and children who are being killed by them, as well. This is their techniques, this is their tactics, and it's the same type of mentality that caused people to fly airplanes into our buildings to kill 3,000 of our citizens.
QÂ¯What can we tangibly do? What can the administration tangibly plead with the Iraqi government to do to protect this fledgling minority? Is there anything we can doÂ¯
THE PRESIDENT: Well, one thing we can do is to keep our troops there long enough to have a civil society emerge, and go after them, and go after these killers, and bring them to justice so they quit killing people, including our own troops, because this is a war.
The question we posed in our column remains valid: Does Bush want to go down in history as the U.S. President who launched a war that resulted in the destruction of the Christian community in Iraq?
We need less talk about using "influence" and "urging" the Iraqi government to do something. We are paying for that government. Our troops are there to prop it up. This is a Muslim government that has failed to protect the Christians. In fact, it discriminates against them.
It's time to order U.S. troops to protect Christian churches and believers. All it would take is one call from Bush to General David Petraeus.
Make that call, Mr. President, before the Pope embarrasses you with more questions about your failure to prevent this terrible catastrophe.