- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 27, 2002

Crown Prince Abdullah has visited Crawford, Texas, and was preceded by a media charm offensive and "Morning in Saudia Arabia" television commercials. The spots are beautifully produced, but are not enough to obscure the haunting image, recently broadcast around the world, of a winsome 5-year-old girl, dressed to accompany her father at an anti-Israeli demonstration in Berlin. Three cardboard tubes, painted to look like sticks of dynamite, were strapped around her waist. Any father who would dress his innocent little girl to look like a suicide terrorist is beneath contempt. Any society that encourages young women to blow themselves up while killing others deserves the scorn of civilized nations.

The murderous culture behind this disgraceful picture and a number of similar photos of little boys wearing fake explosives at terrorist training camps is taught throughout the Middle Eastern and neighboring regions in radical Islamic schools called madrassas, which are largely funded by extremist Wahhabi sects based in Saudi Arabia. The culture of terrorism is also being taught in Yasser Arafat's Palestinian territories, where girls are taught to revere female bombers as role models.

It is bad enough to teach young men to rip themselves apart, but shameful for grown men to encourage young women to do the same. For cowards such as this, a millstone around the neck would be too kind.

Since the Intifada began in September 2000, four women associated with al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat have joined more than 40 men in suicide missions at restaurants, markets and other public places. A fifth homicide bomber, dressed as a pregnant woman, was stopped before she could detonate explosives hidden beneath her clothes. This woman was prepared to orphan her 7-year-old daughter, but said in a CBS Evening News interview that she would have changed her mind if the Palestinian leader had asked her to stop.

That did not happen because female suicide terrorists serve a useful purpose in Mr. Arafat's twisted scheme of things. According to James Phillips of the Heritage Foundation, an expert on the Middle East and terrorism, it is possible that Mr. Arafat is using the spectacle of fanatical women killing themselves to get other Arab regimes to join the conflict. In that part of the world, reluctant warriors are ashamed to be outdone by women. The concept of shame is more powerful than honor in inspiring reluctant warriors.

Leaders of the civilized world, starting with President Bush, ought to harness the power of shame toward a more worthy purpose: deterring those who finance and train the cult of homicide bombers. Someone needs to say what the diplomats will not say: Tolerance and praise of suicide murderers in the Arab world constitutes a sickening descent into cultural barbarism.

Examples of societal decadence abound. Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Britain wrote poetry to honor the "resistance" of a teen-age female bomber. Yasser Arafat's wife Suha, safely ensconced in Paris with her 7-year-old daughter, announced how proud she would be if her non-existent son blew himself to pieces while killing Israelis.

Telethons in Saudi Arabia raised millions for the families of "martyrs," and Saddam Hussein of Iraq sent checks averaging $25,000 to the families of homicide bombers. Saddam's blood money 2½ times the amount sent to other victims' families subsidizes and encourages even more carnage in the streets.

Last month, a mini-controversy arose when TV talk host Oprah Winfrey declined an invitation to accompany first lady Laura Bush and other leading women of the Bush administration on a trip to see newly reopened schools for girls in Afghanistan. According to the Chicago Tribune, the trip was supposed to reassure and impress American women voters "who may be growing weary of [wartime] killing and violence."

The visit was postponed and ought to be reconsidered, and not just because war zone security requirements would have strained all military units in the still dangerous area. Polls show unusually high support among women for the war on terrorism. The first lady does not need Oprah Winfrey to influence world opinion on the need for education and human rights for women.

Mrs. Bush deserves high praise for championing the right of Afghan girls to go to school, but they are not the only ones who have been truly oppressed by totalitarian governments in the Middle East and the crescent of Muslim nations. All of the girls and women in that troubled region deserve freedom, rights of citizenship, respect and education in schools that teach language, math and science, not radical madrassas that teach hatred and violence.

The war on terrorism was declared to defend the United States and to preserve civilization from those who would destroy it. It is not being fought only for the sake of schoolgirls in Afghanistan, but women and girls worldwide will be liberated by its success.

True respect for women, which is clearly lacking in Saudi Arabia, coincides with respect for human rights and a civilized order among nations. Civilization teaches good men to protect and defend women and children. Only bad men (and women) would inspire young boys and girls to kill themselves and unsuspecting civilians. Contrary to the tenets of feminist ideology, "equal opportunity" terrorism is not a step forward for women; it is a step backward for civilization.


Elaine Donnelly is president of the Center for Military Readiness, an independent public policy organization that specializes in military personnel issues.

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