- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 23, 2002

The cold-blooded, senseless murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl is so bewilderingly barbaric, it is difficult to accept or fathom. Even those who never knew Mr. Pearl have been dealt a severe, demoralizing blow by his murder which serves as another unwelcomed reminder of the appalling potential for human savagery. Mr. Pearl's captors mentally, and perhaps physically, tortured him, by keeping his life hanging in the balance for days. They robbed him of his life, they attempted to dehumanize him by butchering him in the most animalistic way possible, and they have violated his family in a way that hardly needs expression. In the end, though, his captors have succeeded only in dehumanizing themselves. They have exposed themselves, in all their cruelty, to the world.
Mr. Pearl, a foreign correspondent based in Bombay, India, was kidnapped Jan. 23 in Karachi by an unknown group calling itself the National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty. At the time, he was researching possible links between al Qaeda and accused terrorist Richard Reid. Mr. Pearl's captors had demanded better treatment for the detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and the return of all Pakistani detainees to face trial in Pakistan. It is difficult to understand how the kidnappers, one of whom was educated at the London School of Economics, failed to see how their brutality delegitimized them in the eyes of the world.
In life, 38-year-old Daniel Pearl distinguished himself through his compassion, his playfulness, his ability to illuminate the overlooked in his reporting. Our condolences go to his grieving widow, Mariane, and family and friends and his unborn child. May they come to find peace and solace in the face of such an irreconcilable tragedy.
And, while it is difficult to accept Mr. Pearl's death, it is important to reckon with it and take a moment to weigh its significance. The actions of Mr. Pearl's kidnappers and killers are, of course, evil but they also represent a challenge to civilization. While these acts prompt widespread condemnation, they also generate desperation, hopelessness, cynicism. And to a certain extent, these uncivilized actors are attempting to goad the civilized world into adopting their brand of barbarism. In the hearts and minds of many, that temptation is great.
However, in the wake of Daniel Pearl's murder, governments around the world should stiffen their resolve not only to battle terrorism, but also to embrace the tenets of civilization tenaciously. This is, after all, what separates us from them.


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