We have a habit of thinking that the bombers don't understand the outside world. If they are "against democracy", they wouldn't understand us, would they? But they do. They knew exactly what they were doing when they attacked the Australians in Bali - they knew the Iraqi invasion was unpopular in Australia, that Howard might ultimately be blamed. They knew the invasion was unpopular in Italy. So Italy would be punished for Berlusconi's hubris.
They knew, too, of the demonstrations that awaited George Bush in London. So why not distract attention from the whole panjandrum by assaulting Britain in Turkey. Who would care about Bush's visit to Sedgefield when Britons are lying dead in the grounds of their consulate in Istanbul? Just so in Iraq. The Iraqi insurgents are well aware of George Bush's falling opinion polls in the United States. They know how desperate he is to extract himself from Iraq before next year's presidential elections. Thus are they increasing their assaults on American forces and their Iraqi supporters, provoking the US army to ever more ferocious retaliation?
We have a kind of fatal incomprehension about those against whom we have gone to war; that they are living in caves, cut off from reality, striking blindly - "desperately" as Mr Bush would have us believe - as they realise that the free world is resolved to destroy them. Just now, I suspect they are resolved to destroy Mr. Bush - politically if not physically. Mr Blair too. In a war in which we go all out to crush the leadership of our antagonists, we can only expect them to adopt the same policy.
But we go on misunderstanding. Take those tiresome speeches by Osama bin Laden. When his audio-tapes are aired, we journalists always take the same line. Is it really him? Is he alive? That becomes our only story. But the Arab response is quite different. They know it's him. And they listen to what he says. So should we.
Best New Blog finalist - 2003 Koufax Awards
A non-violent, counter-dominant, left-liberal, possibly charismatic, quasi anarcho-libertarian Quaker's take on politics, volleyball, and other esoterica.
Lo alecha ha-m'lacha ligmor, v'lo atah ben chorin l'hibateyl mimenah.