Terror threat

The blind suicide bomb attacks in Istanbul once again showed that this type of terrorism knows no moral bounds. Those who engineered and carried out the synagogue blasts demonstrated that they do not only target Jews and Americans. The perpetrators did not hesitate to kill unsuspecting passers-by of the same creed in order to fulfill their objectives. In this asymmetrical global confrontation, where the most extreme faction of Islamic fundamentalism has declared war on the West, there are no boundaries and no limits. Blind violence and the cultivation of fear are elements that can, under no circumstances, be politically legitimated. The international community has a vital interest and moral responsibility to uproot terrorism. This means that it must eradicate the Al Qaeda network and all other organizations that fit the pattern. Police investigations and military action are extremely important but they are no panacea. No safety measures can offer 100 percent protection against infiltration by terrorists. Moreover, people in Western societies cannot live in a constant state of fear. It is not viable for them to barricade themselves within their countries and compromise their freedom in the name of security. For the counterterrorism campaign to be effective, it must be coupled with initiatives that seek to remedy the ideological and political factors that incubate Islamic fundamentalism. Otherwise, the relentless extremists will be seen as heroes in the eyes of angry Muslims, while ideas about the clash of religions and civilizations will increasingly resonate with these populations. For hundreds of millions of Muslims, the US is Satan and Bin Laden a hero. The combination of rampant poverty and of the widespread conviction that the Americans are giving Israel support while they seek to humiliate Islam is fueling anti-American sentiment and blind vengeance. The Istanbul explosions may well be the first in a long chain of similar attacks in other European nations whose governments have fallen behind Washington’s policies. Much of the responsibility lies with US President George W. Bush. For his war on terrorism to be effective, it must not be used as a pretext for settling broader geopolitical scores. The occupation of Iraq has allowed the US to assert control over the oil fields of the region and to gain a foothold in the heart of the Middle East, but it has done nothing to undermine Islamic terrorism. It has played right into its hands, providing terrorists, if not with political legitimacy, then at least with a new scope of activity.