16 October 2001 -- Of the five countries described below, can you identify the one(s) excluded from the US-led coalition in the war on terrorism?
Country A is free and democratic, a steadfast ally of the United States. Its citizens know what it means to be victimized by terrorism, and they were deeply shaken by the Sept. 11 atrocities. Thousands of them lined up to donate blood for wounded Americans, as rescue teams volunteered to fly to New York. Country A has formidable military and intelligence capabilities, which it instantly made available to American officials.
Country B, a military dictatorship, has been the leading supporter of Afghanistan's Taliban regime. In a recent report on world terrorism, the State Department admonished Country B for "providing the Taliban with materiel, fuel, funding, technical assistance, and military advisers." Islamist terrorists operate openly in Country B. Many of them are armed by the government, which refers to them as "freedom fighters."
Country C is a theocratic monarchy that enforces the same extreme brand of Islam favored by the Taliban. Perhaps for that reason, it was one of the very few countries to extend diplomatic ties to the Taliban before Sept. 11. Osama bin Laden recruits heavily from Country C and was behind the terrorist attacks that killed 23 US servicemen there. Those attacks were never properly investigated, because the monarchy refused to let the FBI examine evidence or question the suspects.
Country D, a major Arab power, is also a major recipient of US foreign aid. Nevertheless, the people of Country D were joyful over last month's slaughter of Americans. As one wire service reported: "Students, taxi drivers, and shopkeepers crowded round television sets stacked up in store windows... celebrating a string of elaborate attacks on New York and Washington. ´Bull's-eye!´ commented two taxi drivers.... ´Mabruk! Mabruk! [Congratulations!]´ shouted a crowd..."
Country E has long been on the State Department's list of states that sponsor terrorism. In April 2001, Secretary of State Colin Powell described it as "the primary state sponsor of terrorism." Country E has actively incubated terrorist attacks on Americans, and calls for anti-American violence are a staple of the government's rhetoric.
If you follow the news, you will recognize Countries A through E as Israel, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Iran. Of the four, the only one not invited to join Washington's anti-terror front is Israel - the loyal American ally, the regional military power and the nation with more experience than any other in fighting Islamist terror. Less than a week after the September 11 massacres, Powell told the Arabic television network Al-Jazeera, according to The New York Times, "that he saw no role for Israel in any military response to last week's attack."
Are terrorists who butcher innocents in the World Trade Center different than terrorists who butcher innocents in a Tel Aviv discotheque?
Incredibly, the United States seems to be going out of its way to give the back of its hand to the only nation in the Middle East and South Asia that shares its democratic values, while extending an olive branch to nations that harbor, foment or celebrate terrorism. On September 27, the State Department spokesman actually announced that terrorism against Americans and terrorism against Israelis are "essentially ... two different things." In one case, he said, "there are violent people trying to destroy societies," while in the other, "there are ... political issues that need to be resolved in the Middle East." So terrorists who butcher innocents in the World Trade Center are evil, but terrorists who butcher innocents in a Jerusalem pizzeria or Tel Aviv discotheque must be indulged because they have "issues." Is that really what Washington believes?
Apparently so. Neither Hamas nor Hezbollah, two of the bloodiest terror groups on earth, was included in President Bush's executive order freezing terrorist assets. "This isn't a Hezbollah moment," a US official told reporters. "It's an Osama bin Laden moment." If the United States cannot say unambiguously that organizations it has labeled terrorist for years are targets in the war on terrorism, what kind of war on terrorism is it?
It is one thing to acknowledge that geography compels us to make an arrangement with Pakistan, or to decide that the Arab world will be more forthcoming if Israel's role is muted. It is something quite different to imagine that governments that nurture and protect terrorists can be induced to help us crush terrorists.
Pakistan is an unabashed sponsor of radical Muslim terrorists in Kashmir. Iran and Syria are the leading backers of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah. Saudi Arabia is a key source of funds for fanatic Islamists, including Al Quaeda. Yasser Arafat - whom the Bush administration decided to reward last week with a declaration in support of Palestinian statehood - is one of the most notorious terrorists of modern times. If these are the partners we are relying on in our war to rid the world of terror, that war is as good as lost.
When Bush addressed Congress on September 20, his words rang with clarity and truth, "From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime." That must be our guiding principle, for if the war against terrorism means anything, it means abolishing the regimes that keep terrorism alive. If we choose instead to embrace those regimes - to "fight" terror by winking at terror - we will have squandered our moral authority.
And 7,000 victims will have died in vain.
Jeff Jacoby is a regular columnist for the Boston Globe.