Five hooded Islamic terrorists stood before a video camera in Iraq shrieking ‘God is great’ as al Qaeda’s chief enforcer, al Zarqawi, proceeded to slowly cut the head off a young, defenseless, American-Jewish businessman, as he screamed. Once Nick’s head was severed, the hooded executioner lifted it to the camera for the world to see. This barbaric act symbolizes what is at stake in Iraq and why the civilized world must win the global War on Terror.
Terrorists in Iraq typically target innocent men, women and children – like Nick Berg, the four U.S. contractors killed and dismembered in Fallujah, and Italian hostage Fabrizio Quattrocchi. Bin Laden’s al Qaeda, and the 36 other terror groups operating around the globe with impunity do not respect human life, the rule of law, or state borders. In fact, they consider the civilized world weak for doing so.
Berg’s murder, the Madrid bombings, the attack on the UN humanitarian mission in Iraq and other atrocities show that many terrorists are willing to carry-out bin Laden’s depraved February 1998 fatwa which stated, “It is an individual duty for every Muslim to kill the Americans and their allies – civilians and military.”
As grisly a sight and outrageous a crime against humanity as Berg’s murder is, the world’s liberal news media and domestic and international critics of U.S. policy like Ted Kennedy and Nelson Mandela have given disproportionately more attention to the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. The Berg murder just doesn’t fit their elitist worldview that it is the United States, rather than the terrorists, that poses the greatest threat to world peace.
The Arab Street has also greeted the Berg murder with relative silence. It is not hard to figure out why countries situated in the heart of the world’s terror region behave this way. Freedom House – a democracy and human rights watchdog group founded by Eleanor Roosevelt – ranks Arab governments as the most intolerant and their media as the least free in the world. To date, only three of 22 governments condemned Berg’s slaying, but no Arab leaders have, perhaps fearful that they too will fall victim to the butcher’s knife.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, whom many groups like the left-leaning National Council of Churches view as a world peace and human rights champion, only offered a tepid response to Berg’s murder. Annan chose not to appear publicly and, through a spokesman (perhaps not wanting to alienate his supporters or risk hostile questions from the press about the murder or the embarrassing UN oil for food program scandal), offered condolences to Berg’s family while suggesting that “mistreated prisoners” in the Iraq prison are victims like Nick Berg.
What Annan, and others like him, won’t say is that many of the Abu Ghraib prisoners are suspected terrorists, murderers and thugs and that Nick Berg was an innocent man. The same twisted logic that allows Annan to make such an analogy allows UN members to place terrorist states like Sudan, Iran, Libya, and Syria on the same moral plane, and to prominent positions within the UN system, as free and peaceful nations.
America’s domestic and international critics appear much more interested in hyping the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, rather than expressing outrage at Berg’s murder primarily because many of them believe the prison scandal can be used to diminish America’s moral standing and President Bush’s stature as the leader of the free world.
They don’t seem to care – in contrast to the hooded Berg butchers, the Arab silence, or the absent Annan – that President Bush publicly apologized for the reprehensible conduct of several U.S. soldiers who are presently being investigated and prosecuted for their offenses, or that the U.S. Congress called key administration and military officials to public hearings in which the sordid details of the prison abuse scandal were revealed to the world.
The critics also fail to acknowledge that what separates the United States from the barbarians who threaten humanity is that U.S. soldiers and anyone else in the chain of command that engaged in, or approved of, the mistreatment of prisoners will be held accountable in an American court of law, and in a free American election. Conversely, the hooded terrorists, who murdered Nick Berg and others, will be viewed by their fellow barbarians not as killers, but as heroes, in their stateless, lawless, uncivilized universe.
Iraq – which ironically is the historical birthplace of modern civilization – truly has become the central battlefront in the War on Terror – pitting the civilized world against the barbarians who would destroy it. And contrary to naysayer claims, the War on Terror will not be won by the likes of Kofi Annan who appear more willing to tolerate evil than confront it – it can only be won, and innocent lives, like Nick Berg’s, be saved – through continued bold and decisive action by U.S. leaders and soldiers and the steady commitment of the American people and her allies. The stakes couldn’t be any higher – and this is one battle the civilized world cannot afford to lose.
Fred Gedrich is a senior policy analyst at Freedom Alliance and a former State and Defense Department official.
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