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Jewish World Review Nov. 12, 2001 / 26 Mar-Cheshvan, 5762

Tony Snow

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Musings -- USAMA BIN LADEN, declaiming via fax from the security of some hidden, stone-encrusted redoubt in Afghanistan, has redefined his war... again. He now claims he has taken righteous aim at the United States and Christians. This means that to date he has declared jihad against Jews and the Americans, Christians and the Americans, modernity and the Americans and the Americans. It also means that, whether we like it or not, our chief enemy is a rogue, assertive offshoot of Islam that remains powerful because respectable Muslim leaders haven't called it by its real name: Evil. Bin Ladenism is the bleakest ideology on earth devoid of hope, love, ambition; it offers only fireballs, shackles and rage. At its heart is not religion, but the utter lack of religion -- the worship of a vain and insatiable man. Eventually, bin Laden will fall, as megalomaniacs do. For the sake of real religion, we need to make sure he takes his toxic ideology with him.

We Americans recently have developed a mythology of war. The myth is that we can win major conflicts without suffering casualties, or, for that matter, having to spend more than a few weeks or months dropping bombs from high altitudes. The other myth is war is like a legal proceeding. You use the army to encircle an enemy so you can bring him to trial in the World Court or some other august tribunal -- that's what we did with Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia. Well, in recent days, president Bush has tried to dispel this fog by describing his war aims in stark moral terms. He is talking about a conflict between good and evil, saying he wants to consign our enemies not to courtrooms and jails, but oblivion. He has chosen his words carefully. As commander in chief, he knows this war won't be pretty, it won't be short, and -- he insists -- won't end for the United States and it's allies in anything short of total victory.

Sometimes, I wonder what some of my fellow inhaling are drinking. Recently, David Westin, the president of ABC News, told students at the august Columbia School of Journalism that he didn't think journalists had a professional right to draw value judgments about anything -- they had to reside in a realm of fact. He made the point in response to a question about whether one could condemn the September 11 assault on the Pentagon. Westin responded not once, but twice, that he could not render a verdict on the Pentagon as a target. Now, that was just plain dumb. Reporters have to make judgments with every story they cover, beginning with the choice of which fact is the most important and which sources matter. Only an imbecile would turn off his moral filters in order to cover breaking news -- especially stories that involve mass murder. Westin wants passionless automatons. While I'm happy to let such contraptions wash my car, I don't want them bringing me news. Do you?

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