Jewish World Review May 17, 2004 / 26 Iyar 5764

Paul Greenberg

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Invitation to a beheading

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Every time I wonder whether the American people will have the heart and will to see this worldwide struggle against terror through, I soon realize I needn't worry.

Because we will soon enough be reminded of the nature of the threat against us, and of the character of our enemy in this struggle - whether in Iraq or Afghanistan, at home or around the world.

It happened again this week: another bloody beheading for the edification of Web watchers everywhere.

This - and worse - will continue to happen until these people are utterly defeated. Until they are, they will remain an unremitting danger. Because their aim, their will, their unrelenting barbarism is as clear as these televised pictures. Their aim is to kill us.

And as much as we would like to put off this confrontation, or walk away from this whole bloody mess, and escape the inescapable reality paraded before us on the latest video, we can't. We can't deny the undeniable. Not for long. For there it is. Right before our eyes. Again. And the nature of the threat we face has been made clear once more. As clear as the continuous loop of September 11th images we once thought we'd never forget.

No, the atrocities in this war have not been limited to one side. We must face that awful reality, too. The difference is that we are ashamed of ours, while our enemy is proud of his.

We want to know how Americans could do such things. We seek justice, and vow this shall not happen again.

But the enemy proudly trumpets his crime. He thinks we will be cowed. He doesn't know us. But we are beginning to know him. And we begin to understand: This scourge will have to be wiped out, no matter how long it takes, or no one decent will be safe - American or Arab, Christian or Muslim or Jew . . . .

Look at these latest pictures proudly beamed around the world. These people live to kill. And they are out to kill as many of us as they can reach, and usher in a new, dark age in which the only law is their terror.

Yes, this is a complicated struggle with many elements, but one thing it doesn't have, this struggle between us and them, is any kind of moral equivalence.


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Every year an award is given in the name of perhaps the most eloquent American jurist since John Marshall. This year the Learned Hand Medal for Excellence in Federal Jurisprudence went to The Hon. Michael B. Mukasey, chief judge of the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, and, by a poetic twist, Chief Judge Learned Hand's old court. Here is how Judge Mukasey began his acceptance speech - with a new twist on what may be Learned Hand's best known utterance:

"Learned Hand, among the last century's greatest judges, defined the spirit of liberty 60 years ago as 'the spirit that is not too sure it is right.' We must consider what message we can take from those words today. We are now in a struggle with a form of extremism that expresses itself in the form of terror attacks, and in that struggle we face what is probably the gravest threat to this country's institutions, if not to its physical welfare, since the Civil War. When one tries to assess people who can find it in themselves to fly airplanes into buildings and murder 3,000 of us in a single morning, whatever else you can say about such people, they are very sure that they are right; and wouldn't it be music to their ears to hear that our spirit says we're not too sure that we are right?"

We are not always right, Lord knows, as we have found out again of late. But of this much we can be sure: Our enemy is wrong, terribly wrong. And dangerous. And he is counting on us to grow weary, to doubt our cause, to let down our guard and turn our back once more. So he can strike again.

But every time I wonder whether the American people will have the heart and will to see this worldwide struggle against terror through, I soon realize I needn't worry. Because we will soon enough be reminded of the nature of the threat against us, and of the character of our enemy in this struggle.

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JWR contributor Paul Greenberg, editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, has won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. Send your comments by clicking here.

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