The attack on a cafe in Sydney, Australia, by a self-described Islamic cleric with a long police record, left two hostages dead, along with the cleric, one Man Haron Monis. He was an Iranian refugee who enjoyed the hospitality and protection of the Australian government.
That incident, which was televised worldwide, was quickly eclipsed by the massacre of 145 people at an army-run school in Peshawar, Pakistan. Many of the dead were children. Press reports said Pakistani Taliban fighters burned a teacher alive in front of children and beheaded some of them. A Taliban spokesman said they were exacting revenge for a major operation by Pakistan’s army to clear Taliban strongholds in the North Waziristan tribal area near the Afghan border.
How is the West responding to these and other atrocities? More important, how is the Muslim world responding?
In the United States, we have been preoccupied with a one-sided and incomplete report by Democrats on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that details some of the enhanced interrogation techniques used in the aftermath of Sept. 11 to extract information from prisoners confined to Guantanamo Bay and other facilities run by the U.S. government. Supporters of those techniques assert that they saved lives by thwarting more terrorist attacks; detractors assert the opposite.
In Britain, the army has issued new guidelines for interrogating suspected terrorists. They include no shouting, no banging of fists on tables and no “insulting words.” If Britain employed those techniques during World War II, Hitler’s face, instead of the Queen’s, might be on the British pound note. When I was in the U.S. Army, drill sergeants frequently yelled at me and they pounded more than tables.
Are we fighting a war or trying to win “Miss Congeniality”?
Every time we witness these attacks, the apologists here and abroad are quick to issue the familiar excuses. This doesn’t represent true Islam, which they say is a religion of peace. These are “lone wolves.” (Lone rats would be a better designation; wolves at least have some nobility attached to their species.) The Islamic State openly campaigns on the Internet to attract more “lone wolves.” In the end, it doesn’t matter whether one person or an army of Taliban terrorists kill you. You are still dead.
When the next attack occurs in America — as it surely will — will the Obama administration issue the predictable denunciations and apologies for Islam, or will we do what needs to be done to stop the killers? Civil liberties are worth protecting until they are used by our enemies — along with the constitutional protections we enjoy — to commit murder. If we are attacked again as on Sept. 11 and many thousands more of us are killed, what then? Will we eventually go back to business as usual, thus ensuring more attacks?
Why aren’t the world’s estimated 1.1 billion Muslims forming an army of their own to take out those they claim misrepresent their religion? Why must America face most of the financial and human burden? These killers claim to be acting in the name of Islam, so how about members of the “peaceful religion” doing themselves and the world a favor by taking the lead and neutralizing the threat of Islamic radicalism?
Or would that be an “enhanced technique” that might offend the sensibilities of Democrats on the Senate intelligence committee? Apparently, those senators have forgotten that the one hijacked plane American heroes forced down in Pennsylvania might have been headed for the U.S. Capitol.
• Cal Thomas is a nationally syndicated columnist. His latest book is “What Works: Common Sense Solutions for a Stronger America” (Zondervan, 2014).