Good observations from The Australian, with thanks to Jean-Luc:
ANYBODY who still doubts the appalling lengths Islamic terrorists will go to achieve their evil ends should check the news coverage of Thursday’s failed suicide bombing on the West Bank.
The human bomb, a boy in his early teens, lost his nerve, broke down and pleaded with Israeli troops guarding a checkpoint to save him. The soldiers kept their nerve, and used a robot to cut him free from the 8 kilograms of explosives strapped to his body. If the whole incident had not been filmed by a passing Palestinian cameraman who works for a press agency, cynics would be dismissing it as a stunt organised by the Israelis. But it is an awfully routine part of life in the Middle East. Suicide bombers are generally young men, although a new tactic favoured by Palestinian terrorists is to bully young women into blowing themselves up, on the promise that by dying they will atone for their so-called sexual infidelities. The only thing that makes this latest attempted attack more grotesque than usual is the fact the bomber was so young. The corruption in the souls of terrorist commanders who sacrifice the lives of young people while they, and their own children, stay safe beggars belief.
It takes an extraordinarily brutal commitment to a cause, be it the destruction of Israel or the independence of Chechnya, to use suicide bombings as a standard strategy. But it is what nations around the world, including Australia, must understand they also face. The murder of 88 Australians and other innocents in Bali, bombings in Manhattan, Moscow and Madrid, and in any number of Muslim cities around the world demonstrate that ordinary people everywhere are at risk in the war on terror. And beyond breaking up the terror cells and capturing or killing their commanders, there is nothing we can do to stop them. We certainly cannot reason with Islamic fundamentalists who believe they are fighting decadent Westerners and apostate Muslims to establish God’s rule on earth in a war that may take centuries. We no longer hear the guff about terrorism being caused by poverty as much as we did immediately after September 11, but people who still think we can appease the terrorists should consider Thursday’s attack. People who will use a child to murder other children as part of a struggle to destroy Israel and impose religious rule throughout the Muslim world are interested in winning, not negotiating. That fundamentalists have no hope of ever taking power through the ballot box, as demonstrated by the trouncing of the Islamic fundamentalist party in last weekend’s Malaysian elections, will only make the terrorists more determined to follow the path of violence.
Which means we have no option but to stand firm and not be swayed from prosecuting the war on terror on all fronts – Iraq included. In Washington this week, Richard Clarke, a former counter-intelligence chief, testified that the Bush administration was obsessed with Saddam Hussein and underestimated the threat from Osama bin Laden’s al-Qa’ida organisation before September 11. His old colleague, former CIA director George Tenet, denied it. If Mr Clarke is right, it was a grievous operational failing. But this does not mean the United States should now lose sight of the need to fight terrorism on all fronts. To abandon the Iraqi people to the terrorists, who are now desperate to reduce Iraq to anarchy, and focus solely on hunting down bin laden in Afghanistan would be like the US ignoring Hitler’s Germany and only fighting in the Pacific because it was surprised by the Japanese at Pearl Harbour. To defeat Islamic terror, the US and its allies, including Australia, must defend Iraq. As the Malaysian elections demonstrate, genuine Muslims will renounce fundamentalism when they have a chance, and a stable democratic Iraq will light a path away from terror throughout the Middle East. Labor leader Mark Latham talks of bringing our troops home from Iraq to defend Australia. What he does not get is that in the war on terror, conventional borders and battle-lines are meaningless. What Darwin represented for the national defence of Australia in 1942, Baghdad does today.