Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Fight on two fronts

Bombay bombings: Terrorist myths

Another day, another vicious mass bombing. Monday, it was Bombay's turn. Bombings there killed at least 44. The Indian government linked the attacks to two militant Islamic groups, one allegedly connected with al-Qaida. Muslim Pakistan, which has fought three wars with India over the contested province of Kashmir, condemned the bombings for "wanton targeting of civilians."

Whether it's a U.N. headquarters in Baghdad, a bus in Israel, a theater in Moscow, a nightclub in Bali, a financial district in Bombay or New York City, the bombers' mission is always "wanton targeting of civilians," and the common thread is "Islamic militants" behind it. In recent years, most of the deadliest attacks and hardest to stop have been suicide bombings, even though Islamic law explicitly prohibits suicide and the killing of innocents.

By now, no "soft target" anywhere should be considered off-limits to terrorists, and all peace-loving nations should unite in countering this global scourge. Otherwise the bombers decide history, shape countries like Iraq and with a single, body-ripping blast, can veto peace for Palestine and beyond. Lawful nations also need to attack the militants' myth that their victims aren't really "civilians" and suicide bombers aren't really killers of innocents - they are "martyrs" who sacrifice themselves.

The United Nations and other world bodies need to constantly refute fraudulent clerics and terrorist ringleaders who twist the cause of revenge to such extremes that even babies on buses aren't innocent civilians, but legitimate enemy targets. Terrorist groups such as Hamas have raised suicide bombing to the level of ritual, glorifying killers martyrs in posters, calendars and the obligatory farewell videotape. Funds created by Saudis and Iraq's Saddam Hussein reward bombers' families. Some recruits have sense enough to ask, if suicide bombing is such a heroic shortcut to paradise, how come terrorist dispatchers don't go for it or send their own sons and daughters to such a glorious reward.

The war on terror will be won on two fronts - one military, the other ideological. We haven't made much progress since 9/11 in heaping universal scorn on cowards who deliberately slaughter innocent civilians.

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