Coming as they did within hours of each other, two news stories defined the differences between America and its enemies. In the wake of the devastation in South Asia from a tsunami that has taken 77,000 lives [as of this posting], the United States is mobilizing to send food, water, medical supplies and teams of doctors, nurses, rescue workers and others to help the victims, many of whom are Muslim. Meanwhile, half-way ’round the world, a man who defines himself as a Muslim leader, Osama bin Laden, calls on his followers to kill not only Americans but fellow Muslims who dare to participate in elections in Iraq to choose their own leaders. No starker contrast could be made between good and evil. And yet so many people — not just among our enemies but our friends and even our own countrymen — fail to understand this struggle in its proper context.
The war we are fighting in Iraq is not a war of conquest. It is not about acquiring territory or, as so many of our critics contend, Iraqi oil. We are not in Iraq to create an American empire but to allow the Iraqi people — for the first time in their history — to create their own destiny. We are also there to rid ourselves and the world of the threat of men like Osama bin Laden and his imitators, including the vicious Abu Musab al Zarqawi, who has killed so many in Iraq.
This week, bin Laden made clear that Zarqawi is his deputy. The man who masterminded and ordered the killing of 3,000 innocent men, women and children on Sept. 11, 2001, embraces the man who, with his own hands, has beheaded dozens of Westerners and other foreign workers in Iraq. Bin Laden claims that he and Zarqawi are fighting “for God’s sake.” But what kind of god would ask his followers to slit the throats of those who have come to a country to build roads and sanitation systems.
Islamofascism is the personification of evil. It cannot be appeased; it cannot be reasoned with; it cannot be contained. The only possible way to deal with it is to defeat it, just as we defeated Nazism some 60 years ago. The battle will not be won easily or without the sacrifice of many good people. Defeating the Nazis and the Japanese cost America nearly a half-million lives and took nearly four years, and an even greater contribution in lives and years from our allies. To expect that we will be out of Iraq quickly or that we may not have to fight elsewhere to defeat this enemy is shortsighted.
We will wage this fight not only with soldiers, guns and bombs, though they are vital to winning the war, but with humanitarian assistance. The struggle to defeat Islamofascism will also come by building schools and sewage systems, which is why Zarqawi and his killers target those involved in helping to rebuild Iraq. And, as we see this week, we will not allow the bin Ladens and Zarqawis to define the Muslim people. When Muslims are dying and need our help, we heed the call, as we did when thousands of Muslims from Indonesia to Somalia suffered from the deadly tsunami in the Indian Ocean.
The United States will send millions of dollars in aid, not just from our government but also from ordinary Americans who want to help. We don’t ask whether those suffering share our values or politics or religion, whether they like us or wish us ill. No doubt, among those families who will receive American help in some of these nations will be those who are sympathetic to our enemies. We will help them, not because we hope to change their minds, but because it is the right thing to do. It is the difference between those who are fighting for good and those who are fighting for evil.