- The Washington Times - Friday, March 1, 2002

Why was Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl abducted, tortured, then murdered? Let's quote one of the killers, Fahad Naseem: Mr. Pearl was "anti-Islam and a Jew."
Cold? Too damn cold. Blunt words? Bluntly indicative of the hard men and hardened mindsets within al Qaeda and a score of other terror clans.
Proud of their evil, the killers filmed the atrocity, expecting TV to disseminate terrifying images of Mr. Pearl's suffering and their decisive cruelty.
Here's the agitprop intent of this terror "propaganda by deed" followed by video replay: "The World Trade Center was terror en masse, our 'execution' of Mr. Pearl is terror in the particular. America and the West, you must continue to fear us."
No, I haven't seen the barbaric pictures. I pray for Mr. Pearl's pregnant wife. I pray for two friends of mine, both foreign correspondents for major news organizations, currently reporting from South Asia. I also pray for Naseem and his cohorts, repugnant as they are, though I doubt they believe God hears my prayers.
Mr. Pearl's murder is a reminder that this Millennium War is a long and difficult haul. The viciousness, the agitprop glorification of that brutality and the insistence that such iniquitous behavior is sanctified by God once again demonstrate that the theo-terrorists intend to wage a war without limits.
His murder is also another terrorist boomerang that steels Western will to destroy the terror syndicates.
From the get-go, Osama and his crowd overestimated their own power, underestimated American might and underestimated Western resolve.
Admittedly, past torture slayings of Americans such as the 1990 murder of U.S. Marine Col. William R. Higgins' by Hezbollah in Lebanon didn't elicit tough reprisals. But September 11 has changed that. Yes, that theo-terrorist "propaganda by deed" produced a political tectonic shift, but not the quake they intended. Nor was the Afghan War CENTCOM waged the fight Mullah Omar expected.
The Taliban anticipated a reprise of the Soviet-Afghan War, a Cold War superpower with tanks clanking into Himalayan valleys. Instead, the United States adapted cutting-edge military operational capabilities to the realities of tribe- and ethnic-based combat forces. American battlefield intelligence and surveillance assets, the cool facility of U.S. special operations soldiers and the newest generation of precision-guided munitions utterly surprised bin Laden.
The biggest irony of the Afghan War was that it was predominantly a war between Muslims. The cops and soldiers hunting Mr. Pearl's killers in Pakistan are also Muslims. The Yemeni troops attacking al Qaeda bases in eastern Yemen are Muslims. September 11 gave China (the Uighurs), Russia (the Chechens) and Indonesia (Aceh Province) a freer hand to deal with Islamist-inspired rebellions.
Those aren't the only reversals of terrorist expectation. The squeeze on terror finances instituted by the United States, Japan and Western Europe after September 11 has apparently had some success. Battlefield victory, as well as svelte politicking by the U.S. State Department, has also muted "the Arab street."
Bin Laden gambled on a global Muslim uprising. That has fizzled. The multimillionaire terrorist also banked on the sympathy of the world's poor. Isolated among theo-babbling yes men and blinded by his own megalomania, bin Laden failed to understand that food aid, security assistance and medical relief (most often provided by Western organizations) have more appeal to the planet's impoverished than his embedded sense of grievance that the Muslim caliphate no longer exists.
Yet it is a huge mistake for anyone to underestimate the theo-terrorists' biggest asset: a cadre of men willing to commit atrocities like Mr. Pearl's murder, to die in suicide bomb blasts and to guide jetliners into skyscrapers.
When given the opportunity, these hard men will commit more murders. Denying them the opportunity demands the technological expertise of the U.S. military, global police cooperation and individual vigilance.
In a democracy all of us share the privilege of leadership. It comes with the ballot as well as the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights also protects a free press. In a very real sense, Daniel Pearl was killed because he accepted the responsibility a free press has to a free nation.
To successfully prosecute an effective war against al Qaeda's fanatics requires long-term commitment propelled by sustaining will. The tragic murder of Daniel Pearl only reinforces our sense of purpose.

Austin Bay is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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