Mrs. Bush speaks out on suicide bombers

Wednesday, May 15, 2002

PARIS -- First lady Laura Bush, weighing in on the Middle East crisis Tuesday, condemned young Palestinian suicide bombers and grown-ups who incite them.

The former schoolteacher and librarian also called for children across the globe to be taught tolerance and a respect for life.

"A lasting victory in the war against terror depends on educating the world's children because educated children are much more likely to embrace the values that defeat terror," Mrs. Bush said in a speech to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Her 25-minute address and a later interview with White House reporters in her traveling party made for a striking first outing into international affairs for a woman who once hated giving speeches.

Mrs. Bush said she had no trepidation -- "not really" -- about commenting on the Middle East, though the nuances and sensitivities of the region have tripped up many an official in recent months.

"It's so easy to empathize with families in Israel and around the world who literally would be afraid to send their children to the grocery store or the bowling alley" for fear of suicide bombers, the first lady said in the interview.

Asked if she had empathy for the other side in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, she answered with reflexive bluntness: "Can I empathize with a mother who sends her child out to kill herself and others? No."

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