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Foolish Western Self-Flagellation

By Ed Koch

New York Times columnist David Brooks writes with the clarity of Bill Safire, whom he has succeeded as The Times' in-house moderate. In a June 8 column, Brooks vividly described the cruelty of the Iraqi insurgents:

"The insurgents' first advantage is that not only are they cruel, they are absolutely cruel. The defining feature of their violence is not merely that they murder, but that they torture those they are about to kill. Shiite militias use drills to bore holds into their victims' heads. Sunni insurgents saw off fingers and toes. Jihadists partially behead their victims then stomp on their torsos to create gushes of blood before finishing the job. Videos of such acts are posted on the Internet or sold in the markets of towns like Haditha."

In sharp contrast, Western countries constantly flagellate themselves when civilians are injured or killed in the course of defensive military action against al-Qaeda or its agents.

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, senior member of Al-Queda, was killed by U.S. forces directing bombs at a safe-house in which he was believed to be living. A number of men in the house at the time, thought to be his accomplices, were also killed. In addition, a woman and a child inside the house died. Normally when women or children are killed in a combat incident, denunciations of the American military are made. Few denunciations were made in this case, because of the prominence of the terrorist Zarqawi who is responsible for the deaths of thousands of Iraqi civilians and American and coalition civilian and military personnel.

But, what if Zarqawi had survived and escaped and the others in the house had not? The U.S. would have been denounced around the world by those opposed to our presence in Iraq today, even though the legitimately-elected Iraqi government recently advised the United Nations that it wanted us to remain.

Another example of foolish western self-flagellation is seen in the different responses to actions by Hamas and Israel. Palestinian terrorists, with knowledge and approval of Hamas, launch Qassam rockets at Israel from open fields, and the Israelis respond with artillery shells. The Palestinians' missiles are usually inaccurate, although they occasionally hit their targets -- the towns and cities of Israel and their civilian populations. The Israeli artillery directed at the open fields generally hit the fields and occasionally kill those who launched the missiles.

This weekend, The Times reports: "Hamas's military wing, which declared a tattered 16-month truce with Israel to be over after the deaths of eight civilians on a Gazan beach - apparently killed by an errant Israeli artillery shell - continued Sunday to fire volleys of Qassam rockets from Gaza into Israel. One rocket landed near a school in Sederot, Israel, and badly wounded a 60-year-old resident, Yonatan Engel, a friend of Defense Minister Amir Peretz. Another rocket made a direct hit on a house in Sederot, but there were no injuries."

Israel is denounced by nations around the world when Palestinian civilians are injured or killed, but rarely are the casualties suffered by Israeli civilians noticed, let alone denounced. There is a major difference between the nature of the two sides' actions. Israel is responding to missiles directed at its civilian population. It is a basic duty of any government to protect its population from foreign attack. No responsible person suggests that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) deliberately targeted innocent Palestinians on a Gaza beach who were injured by what The New York Times called "apparently...an errant Israeli artillery shell." It is the nature of artillery shells sometimes to go astray.

In 1968, Egypt began the so-called war of attrition against Israel. It fired daily at Israeli troops stationed on the eastern side of the Suez Canal manning the Bar Lev line. Israel responded with a daily barrage against military installations in the Egyptian cities situated on the western side of the Canal. When the Egyptians decided they were sustaining far more casualties and physical destruction than the Israelis, they entered into a cease fire which ended the shooting across the Canal.

We learned Monday that the IDF has ascertained and confirmed, "that the explosion that killed eight Palestinians on Friday, was caused by a stockpile of Hamas explosives." Will that make any difference to the weepers of the western world? I doubt it.

On the other hand, the Palestinians deliberately target Israeli civilians. The terrorists of Hamas know that Israel would not fire at the fields in northern and southern Gaza if terrorists were not firing at Israeli towns from Gaza with the sanction of the Palestinian Authority. Even Israel's targeted assassinations of war criminals who have deliberately killed Israeli citizens and are planning more suicide attacks against Israel would end at once if Hamas and Israel concluded a peace agreement which, of course, Hamas refuses to do.

The Hamas government has just stated that it will not only support terrorist suicide bombers being sent into Israel, but it will send in its own. Hamas should know that such attacks will elicit an Israeli military response. Hamas appears not to care.

The international terrorist organizations count on the infidels of the west to lose their collective nerve and be unwilling to sustain casualties in this ongoing war of survival between civilizations which might continue for decades. They hope the west will submit to defeat in Iraq and consent to the elimination of Israel, even if that would mean a world dominated by the Islamic fanatics.

Their weapon is fear and their willingness to die as martyrs for their cause while we in the west value every human life. Zarqawi, Osama bin Laden's deputy in Iraq, left us these words as his epitaph: "Killing the infidels is our religion, slaughtering them is our religion, until they convert to Islam or pay us tribute."

Illustrative of what the west is facing and the foolishness of some individuals is the recent response of the father of Nick Berg. Nick, an innocent young American who was in Iraq helping to repair its damaged infrastructure, was personally beheaded by Zarqawi in May 2004. The killers recorded the execution on television for the world to see.

On the death of Zarqawi who murdered his son, Nick's father, Michael, now a Green Party candidate for congress in Delaware, said:

"Zarqawi felt my son's breath on his hand as he held the knife against his throat. Zarqawi had to look in his eyes as he did it. George Bush sits there glassy-eyed in his office with pieces of paper and condemns people to death. That to me is a real terrorist."

These words are insane. I believe and I pray that most Americans are made of sterner stuff.

Ed Koch is the former Mayor of New York City.

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