Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Let us pray by all means, and then pass the ammunition

By Barbara Amiel
Daily Telegraph (London)

Last Friday millions of Spaniards marched against terror and demanded vengeance for the atrocity in Madrid.

On Saturday, after the arrest of some Moroccans and Indians that pointed to an Islamist connection, some thousands marched in the streets once again. This time they were protesting against government policies that had allied Spain with America in the war in Iraq and, in their view, invited the terrible act of retribution.

Each of these rallies made for a news item in its own right. One can't blame the media for doing their work but perhaps commentators might have made the point that Spain has always had people opposed to the war just as most other countries have - including America.

You can always find some, even many, with the view that we should not provoke the Islamic world and anything we do to protect ourselves from it will be provocative. Appeasement is nothing new and its futility seems lost in one of those great fogs that befuddle human minds.

Perhaps it was Osama bin Laden behind the Madrid bombings, perhaps not. The tape in London claiming responsibility for al-Qa'eda has none of the rather high-flowing rhetoric he sometimes reaches.

But ever since the bomb explosion in Oklahoma City in 1995, it's been a mug's game trying to decide who is behind such monstrous attacks - until you know. The immediate betting on that 1995 atrocity, with 68 dead and more than 1,000 injured, was Islamic terrorists, which made perfect sense at the time.

But early sense was wrong. The Oklahoma bombing was the work of one Timothy McVeigh, a home-grown terrorist with a deep hatred of the federal government. He was a God fearin' white American boy, from a blue-collar Bruce Springsteen sort of place.

Take your pick of the usual - and unusual - suspects for Madrid. In France today, the authorities are confronted with the ACZ terrorists. They have threatened to blow up the high-speed trains in France unless they receive $5 million. Who are they? Blackmail doesn't look like the modus operandi of Eta or al-Qa'eda but the group blew up a portion of railway track just to prove they, too, mean business.

ACZ, Eta, Hezbollah and their many lookalikes have one thing in common. They all partake of the satanic nature of the terrorist culture. They inhabit a different moral universe from us. This is not the Satan of the Old Testament who under God's strict watch goes on earth to test the goodness of men.

This Satan is the revelation of the New Testament, a Satan that is evil incarnate, who can seize men's souls and turn them into his subordinates on earth.

"What are the causes (of the Madrid bombing)?" James Naughtie asked Spain's Foreign Minister Ana Palacio on the Today programme, as if it were a perfectly rational question. Showing admirable restraint, Palacio merely replied: "Terrorism cannot claim any cause." Naughtie might as well have asked what the causes of evil are. Perhaps next time.

Whether it is the IRA, Chechens in a Moscow theatre, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the suicide bombers of Arafat's al Aqsa Martyrs, Hamas, Islamic Jihad or the now-defunct Irgun and Stern gangs, makes no difference. These groups deliberately target non-combatants, with the aim of killing and maiming them: they are terrorists.

A bus mistakenly bombed by Nato in Serbia is not the same as a bus deliberately blown up in Jerusalem or a Shining Path car bomb in Lima. Such actions are not the tragic collateral damage of war but murder and damnation, even if the BBC won't say so. What astonishes is that the terrorist war against the West has been going on for more than 35 years now, and still the majority of Western countries are in denial.

Like many things in life, these inhabitants of Beelzebub's universe exist on a continuum. All evil is not equal. Dante's Hell has different circles with different inhabitants and some are more damned than others. Some aspire to world domination, a bizarre notion that seems more suitable to a "red robot" blog site.

The Nazis and the Communists came out of that bottle but, as we now see, even their cultural assumptions were just a little less distant from ours than those of today's terrorists.
As distorted, evil, and inhuman as Hitler and Stalin were, even their followers had the occasional flash of light. SS Captain Wilm Hosenfeld knew two verities: music and his Church. Both led him to help the terrified Jewish pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman survive in the ruins of Warsaw.

In fact, certain moral notions such as loyalty, conscience, support of the downtrodden or the innocence of the young, were never entirely dead even in that part of Satan's empire. The Soviets tried not to harm children or old women. The Nazis rarely raped, at least in the West.

Such pinpricks in the darkness are missing from today's Satanists. No compunction mitigates or limits their murder. Only our actions on earth can stop them but their deeds are so transcendentally satanic that it genuinely leads to the invocation "deliver us from evil". One feels impelled to invoke the moral force of a deity against them.

Among terrorists, the Islamists represent the most formidable challenge. Theirs is a culture from another era - and not a good one. Danny Kaye, in his film of Franz Werfel's Jacobowsky and the Colonel gave us a benign view of such a clash when he told the inflexible, down-on-his-luck European nobleman that "you have the finest mind of the 12th century". Madrid is what happens when the worst minds of the darkest ages confront modern times.

It is possible that Spain would not have had the explosions at this time if it had stayed on the sidelines in the war against Saddam. Their innocent people, now dead or wounded, blinded and crippled, might have been spared till next month or next year as the acolytes of bin Laden concentrated first on the more visible allies of the Great Satan America.

Or not, for Islamists have a special issue with Spain. One should remember the words of bin Laden, who in October 2001 spoke of the "tragedy in Andalusia", a reference to the final ending of the great Muslim advance in the Iberian peninsula by the Moors.

By their own mad statements, the Islamists will not be content until all the lands they believe belong to the Muslim world are free of the infidel and the "humiliation of 80 years ago" is reversed, meaning the reversal of the end of the Ottoman Empire.

Given their rather bloody interpretation of the command of the Koran to spread the word to all infidels, unless we pull ourselves together we shall find ourselves spread all over streets and railway lines. In the fight against Satan, it is traditional to have a deity onside. Let's pray by all means - and then pass the ammunition.


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