Sunday, September 07, 2003


By its very nature "terror" is no repsector of anyone.
''How,'' the editorial inquired, ''could the societies of the Middle East have deteriorated politically and morally to such a degree that this sort of attack has become routine? ... Where are the institutions, the forces, and the men and women of the Middle East who should stand in the face of such national deformity?''

I have an answer. The deformity begins with the first excuse for hijacking airplanes, blowing up buses, murdering diplomats and Olympic athletes. The only chance to stop it is at the first moral justification for the intentional murder of civilians and the religious sanction to kill those sent to free a long-suffering people.

It is a disease that starts by praising the destruction of ''Zionists'' or applauding a death sentence pronounced on a single author for blasphemy, but mutates and grows to encompass ever-growing groups — Americans, Europeans, Christians, Westerners and their friends, secularists and insufficiently fundamentalist Muslims.

It begins with the killing of one group — Americans in the World Trade Center, American soldiers in Iraq — but metastasizes to afflict the entire international body.

It is a pathology that, as former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has recently written, hails murderers as martyrs. It excused the slaughter of thousands in New York, Washington and a field in Pennsylvania. But having tolerated these, more attacks came in the same name: on a resort island in Indonesia, in Riyadh, in Casablanca, in Baghdad and Jerusalem, and most recently in Bombay.

The murder of the U.N. workers in Baghdad, tragic and deplorable, underscores a moral obfuscation: American soldiers in Iraq, no matter the humanitarian nature of their mission, are viewed as acceptable, perhaps deserving targets; but international bureaucrats are lamentable victims.

A world ungrateful for the liberation of Iraq, a world that silently accepts and at times openly lauds the murder of a liberating force, a world so willing to blur the lines between good and evil, freedom and oppression, cannot help but have its illusions shattered.

Illusions that terrorists will respect some lives but not others, that they would distinguish between soldiers and civilians, the United States and the United Nations, and respect the laws of war that render noncombatants and relief workers illegitimate targets. And shattered these illusions were, again, for the thousandth time, in the explosion in Baghdad.

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