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