September is steadily gaining a name for itself as the most damned month of the year. World War II broke out in September. In "Black September," King Hussein confronted Arafat and his cronies, and exiled them to Lebanon. The Al-Aqsa intifada, in which 4,000 Israelis and Palestinians lost their lives, began in September. The assault on the Twin Towers, which exposed America's vulnerability to foreign aggression for the first time since Pearl Harbor, took place in September. This September will be remembered for the terror attack in North Ossetia - one of the cruelest, bloodiest rampages the human eye has ever seen on live TV.
Unlike September 1939, when Europe quickly realized that it was looking at a world war, it's not clear whether Europe today realizes what America grasped long ago - that World War III is in full swing. This war is different from all the wars in history. It's not countries fighting countries. It's not a war that can be won by conquest or some cut-and-dried military victory. Because the enemy is terror. It's everywhere and nowhere.
Terror is not bound by the Geneva Convention. Not only is harming civilians not a problem, but those are precisely the targets it seeks out - women, children, old people. Ordinary folk are murdered just because they happen to be there. To make it hurt more. If the Al-Qaida pilots had settled into the cockpit two hours later, the casualty figures for 9/11 would have hit 30,000.
The world has known all kinds of terror since World War II: anarchists like Danny the Red and Carlos; the Irish, the Basques and the Palestinians, spurred on by nationalism. But those who have inflated terror to its current proportions - murdering indiscriminately, shooting helpless children, choosing random targets - are the Muslims, and to what aim no one has entirely figured out.
In his book "What Went Wrong," Prof. Bernard Lewis speculates that it is connected to the backwardness of Muslim society since the fall of the Ottoman Empire, and Islam's inability to keep pace with Western modernization. Islamic regimes have contributed nothing since then to world culture or the advancement of their people.
President Bush is the only one who hasn't beaten around the bush. He says there's an Axis of Evil out there. A war without rules and borders, a war that must be stopped before the worst happens, which could be anything from a biological holocaust to a nuclear showdown. The terror organizations and those who harbor them must be fought wherever they are, using every ounce of strength the world can muster. But the strength of Monsieur le President de la Republique and Herr Chancellor lies in condolence telegrams.
Europe has donned kid gloves and is playing UN. It decides which terror is justified and which isn't. When the attack is in Israel, it's because we're being tough on the Palestinians. As if terror will stop as soon as an agreement is signed. President Putin enjoys great respect in Europe even when 100,000 people are massacred in Chechnya as it battles for independence. To paraphrase Skinny in "The Teahouse of the August Moon," political pornography is also a matter of geography.
In the European Union, hypocrisy and double standards are the name of the game. When it comes to gathering intelligence, the countries of Europe may help America here and there, but they won't physically participate in the war on terror or those who harbor terrorists. They won't raise a finger against Syria, which shelters Hezbollah and Hamas, or against Saudi Arabia, which supplies manpower for the most gruesome attacks, for fear of an oil embargo. They won't say boo to Iran, despite definite proof that it has been involved in mega-attacks in recent years and is building itself up as a nuclear power with missiles capable of reaching the very heart of Europe.
Israel is both a victim and a member of the Bush brigade, a tiny link in a family of nations determined to defend itself against the scourge of terror. In the eyes of this family, there is no such thing as justified and unjustified terror. Terror is terror. The entire Western world is a potential target. One day, when someone decides in the hallowed name of Allah to carry out the ultimate attack-to-end-all-attacks, even Europe will not be spared.
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