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Jewish World Review Oct. 1, 2001 / 14 Tishrei, 5762

Chris Matthews

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Don't create blood war -- I THINK of the Islamic 15-year-old.

He watches all this. He hears of the hijacked planes that hit the tallest building in New York. He learns of the zealous men who did it, who sacrificed their lives to avenge the desecration of Mecca and Medina and the "starvation of children" in Iraq.

Now he watches the retaliation. Giant warships loaded with the most expensive, most ferocious weapons charge toward the Arabian Sea. The same America that sides with Israel, that disobeys the teachings of Allah, now comes to kill Osama bin Laden.

What side does this 15-year-old in Afghanistan or Pakistan or Saudi Arabia or Iraq or Egypt take in this death struggle? Does he root for his kinsman or the "crusader" George W. Bush? And how does he react to the struggle's end?

If the Taliban troops stymie the American assault, do they become the heroes of the Islamic world? If they fall before the Americans' superior weaponry, do they achieve their martyr status all the quicker, all the more certainly?

This is the conundrum Israel has faced in the half century of its existence. Lose to Arabs and cease to exist. Kill Arabs and you radicalize its youth.

It explains the tough-minded strategy of the Jewish State. Study its history and you notice a common denominator of its governments, Lukud and Labour and coalition: avoid bloodbaths.

Morality is one factor. The people of Israel believe themselves to be a good people.

The second factor is practical. How can Israel ever hope to be accepted in the region if it allows its fight for survival to degenerate into a blood war. Otherwise, Israel will never, ever find peace. This is the lesson we Americans must now take to heart.

Until Sept. 11, we were a country of our own making. We created our own form of government. We created our own sports: baseball, basketball, American football. We wrote our own music, made our own movies, designed our own clothes, cars, buildings. We even invented our own catastrophes: slavery, the Civil War, Vietnam, you name it.

This is the first time we have had something done to us. Seven thousand of our people are dead because hundreds of millions of people in another part of the world don't like us and several dozen of them figured out how to show it.

We don't like it. We are united in our determination to do something about it.

The first smart thing we can do is realize that we are up against smart people. The hijackers knew they could get the pilots of those four planes to leave their cockpits by killing flight attendants. They know, too, that the way to lure us to Afghanistan is to attack us in our homeland.

Let's face it. Bush has been fantastic. But what red-blooded American president could have let this injury stand, this insult go unanswered?

The second smart thing we can do is start thinking like the smart Israeli. We need to catch the killers. We need to destroy bin Laden and the whole anti-American terror network. And we need to avoid a blood war. No sane American wants the people who have not forgotten the Crusades of a thousand years ago to spend the next thousand years avenging the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

We need to feel American, think Israeli.

We must never lose sight of the final goal, which is peace. If our forces, armed with the most state-of-the-art weapons on the planet, slaughter the Taliban forces in the field, we may find ourselves the battle's victor but the war's loser.

Our constant purpose must be not just triumph in Afghanistan, but peace at home.

We cannot achieve that purpose by making that 15-year-old into a blood enemy.

JWR contributor Chris Matthews is the author of Hardball. and hosts a CNBC show of the same name. Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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