Jewish World Review May 13, 2004 / 22 Iyar, 5764

Robert Stewart

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Nick Berg video will backfire on Muslims | The video showing the beheading of American hostage Nick Berg by terrorists in Iraq was a gut punch to his family and country. But the attempt by terrorists to drive Americans out of the country will succeed only in adding a very long nail to the coffin of al Qaeda.

Those who committed and filmed the atrocity made a grave miscalculation: before the video, the nation was at a near-nadir in post-war support for involvement in Iraq. No longer. This horrific act will serve only to enrage Americans and increase support for a continued-and intensified-fight against terrorists.

In the midst of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and near-constant American deaths in a still unstable Iraq, national resolve began to ebb. Support for continued American presence in Iraq declined as the bad news grew, and political rhetoric against the Bush administration and military chain of command reached near-crescendo levels. That all changed when the video was released.

Rather than merely running pictures of prison abuse in Iraq, news of terrorists attacking an American civilian now blanket the front pages of newspapers and lead the nightly news-at least in nations with free and open media. Reports of Iraqi prisoners-who, as Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla) said at Tuesday's Armed Services hearing, were "not there for traffic violations"-being abused by a handful of troops will pale in comparison to the brutal attack on an unarmed American civilian.

Though they've succeeded in wrenching stomachs around the world, they will never succeed in convincing Americans that this act of violence is a result of American involvement in Iraq or that leaving Iraq will assuage the anger or those with no limits to their evil. The world is learning, as recent attacks in Spain, Turkey and elsewhere made so clear, that withdrawing from the fight provides no immunity from attack-in many cases, the opposite is true.

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In Spain, a planned withdrawal of Spanish forces from Iraq and an election prejudiced by terror led only to additional attacks and further threats. And despite Turkey's reluctance to support or participate in the liberation of Iraq, Turks were granted no quarter from terrorist bombs-their civilians were killed even as their military stayed home.

The terrorists-reportedly including Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a senior al Qaeda operative in Iraq-attempted to link their latest atrocity with the recent photos of prisoner abuse by American troops: "How can free Muslims sleep soundly as they see . . . photographs of shame and reports of Satanic degradation of the people of Islam, men and women, in Abu Ghraib prison?"

But as al Qaeda made amazingly clear on 9/11 and since, here and around the world, terrorists bent on the destruction of free people and an end to freedom need no excuse for terror, no catalyst for atrocity. As Rep. Harold Ford, Jr. (D-Tenn.) said on Tuesday, terrorists "would have done it anyway. It's clear they have a mission to destroy us." The White House echoed those sentiments Wednesday with spokesman Scott McClellan saying terrorists "seek any excuse and try to change their excuses to try to justify murder, destruction and chaos."

Terrorists in Iraq and elsewhere know their grip is slipping: they've lost safe havens in Afghanistan and elsewhere; their funds are increasingly slowed and scrutinized; and their list of friends in power has significantly diminished. They have only the outrageous and brutal acts of desperate men to convey their evil, and are no longer afforded official government support and platforms.

Adding to their demise is that despite substantial setbacks, Hussein is gone and Iraqis are on the path to self-governance and democracy. Hussein's secret police no longer knock on the door in the middle of the night, women are free from the pre-liberation rape rooms, and parents are no longer tortured in front of their children.

American and world response to this latest brutal attack will either cement resolve in the war on terror or be the beginning of a long decline into withdrawal, fear and further violence. Nick Berg's death is a brutal tragedy, its aftermath must not be.

JWR contributor Robert Stewart, a former Army intelligence analyst, is now a writer based in Washington, D.C. Comment by clicking here.


03/23/04: The killing of a ‘moderate’
03/18/04: They can not be sated — only stopped
03/09/04: Is Iraq a success one year later? Ask the president of the Iraqi Governing Council
02/13/04: Kerry swings at Bush, hits Clinton
02/03/04: The coming anti-lobbyist lobby?
12/30/03: Bush Doctrine, often derided, is paying dividends in peace
11/24/03: Isolationism does not breed immunity
11/10/03: President Bush, like Eisenhower before him, is signaling the beginning of a new epoch
10/21/03: Is this war being won? You bet, just don't ask the congressman with the embarrassingly bad timing

© 2004, Robert Stewart