Editorial: Beheading of Berg shows the true face of Islamic terrorism

May 16, 2004

As its name implies, the point of terrorism is to scare people, and the modern media can be the terrorists' best friend.

It is the transmission of the images of the terrorists' savagery that gives them an influence far beyond their actual power to do harm. Such was the case last week with the video images of the beheading of American contractor Nicholas Berg in Iraq.

At the same time, the modern media can be the greatest enemy of those who seek to fight terrorism. While terrorists take pride in the images of their incredible brutality, the American people are horrified, ashamed and embarrassed by the images of our soldiers' abuse of Iraqi prisoners in the Abu Ghraib prison.

Yet, the terrorists occasionally overplay their hand.

Certainly, they overplayed it on September 11, 2001, when they roused a slumbering nation to the reality of the terrorist threat.


They overplayed again it last week when televised hearings on prison abuse were interrupted by images of the horrible Berg slaying.

Those images served to jog our memories, to remind us of the poor souls we saw jumping out of the windows of the World Trade Center in New York, of the smoldering Pentagon, of the carnage of the bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa, of the children blown to bits on Israeli buses, of the mass graves of Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

Yes, the images of the beheading of one poor soul served to put in perspective what America and other nations who stand with us are up against in the fight against radical Islamic terrorism.

Never before has a war been fought in front of the camera to the degree that the war against terrorism is being fought. One of the challenges for those of us here at home, faced with the flood of images of war, is to remember what the fighting is all about.

It is to defend our way of life against terrorists who take pride in their killing, who kill for their death-god, who make no distinction between innocents and combatants, who will stoop to anything in pursuit of their fanatical hatred of our country and our civilization.

If Nicholas Berg's horrible death helps Americans understand that the war against terrorism is a war we cannot lose, then he will not have died in vain.

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