Jewish World Review Nov. 1, 2004 / 17 Mar_Cheshvan, 5765

Heather Robinson

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Do we know the enemy? | Yesterday while reading about Margaret Hassan, the kidnapped British-Iraqi aid worker who is being threatened with beheading by terrorists in Iraq, a friend commented, "That poor woman went to Iraq to help the people. How can these terrorists imagine this will make anyone sympathetic to their cause?"

So deep is the misguided moral relativism in some corners of our society that I was actually relieved to hear a fellow liberal Democrat react to the news of such barbarity with an appropriate level of moral outrage. I have so frequently heard Americans speculate or imply that there is some possible justification for terrorism —usually something along the lines of the terrorists' "desperation" or America's "aggressive foreign policy" —that I have many times wondered, not rhetorically, if there is any monstrosity on earth terrorists could perpetrate which would earn them the unequivocal condemnation of America's left wing, so long as the terrorists, in the aftermath of the horror, pointed the finger at Israel, America, Great Britain, or any democratic nation (it seems shooting children in the back in Chechnya, brainwashing youths to turn themselves into human bombs in the Palestinian territories, and beheading kidnapped civilians on video tape in Iraq haven't quite done it).

To his credit, my friend recognized the terrorists' grisly and inexcusable amorality. Yet his comments reflected a lack of insight about their motives. This inability to grasp the nature of the terrorist enemy strikes me as common to many people in the United States, especially my fellow Democrats.

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Terrorists who intentionally take innocent lives are not, ultimately, seeking our sympathy. Although one notorious terrorist, Yasir Arafat, effectively manipulates world opinion (hence, perhaps, my friend's confusion), inciting youths to become suicide bombers as a means of eliciting sympathy for the cause seems somewhat unique to him, and is not an end in and of itself.

Nor are Arab dignity and self-determination the terrorist's goals. Those may be the hopes of decent Arabs, but terrorists do not represent those people. If they did, the Palestinians would have their state, which was offered, with Jerusalem as a shared capital with Israel, to Yasir Arafat at Camp David in 2000.

Why did Arafat turn it down? For the same reason the terrorists won't allow peace and democracy to break out in Iraq. When it does, they will be out of power.

The goal of the terrorist is to seize and maintain power —total, illegitimate, and corrupt power over other human beings. But because terrorists do not hold power by any legitimate means, they employ tactics like brainwashing and terrorizing in order to maintain it. Of their cult-like followers, it may be speculated that fanaticism and economic privation —along with weak-mindedness and many other factors —could fertilize conditions for their recruitment. But keep in mind that Bin Laden was not the one steering those planes into the World Trade Center on September 11. Yasir Arafat, too, is quite the survivor, for such a zealot. Terrorist leaders are amoral thugs who employ brutality on human beings as a tool. They use our vulnerabilities —and those of their victims —to get what they want. And in many ways, in many places around the world, it is working. It is working as we blame Western leaders, like George W. Bush and Tony Blair —well intentioned, albeit imperfect, human beings who are struggling to deal with this global threat —instead of placing the blame for atrocities in places like Iraq where it belongs —on the terrorists who, with murderous zeal, are willing to commit any atrocity to seize or maintain power.

Witness the murder of 50 Iraqis Saturday, Iraqis who were on their way to serving proudly in their new nation's National Guard. Those brave people, not the terrorists who killed them, knew what it meant to live with dignity.

Every time a well meaning Brit or American cries, "U.S. and allies out of Iraq," these people are on the way toward handing the terrorists just what they want —power: power to ride roughshod over the peace-loving people of Iraq.

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Heather Robinson is a New York-based journalist. Comment by clicking here.


10/28/04: Request to my fellow Jewish Dems: Keep your eyes on Bush's record

© 2004, Heather Robinson