As usual in the PC business, the prize didn’t go to the inventor but to the exploiter of the invention.

He is neither a strategist nor is he schooled in the operational arts, nor is he a tactician, nor is he a general. Other than that he’s a great military man.

The question of suicide was even more problematic. There is no theological support for such an action in Islam; indeed, it is expressly prohibited. “Do not kill yourselves,” the Quran states. The hadith, or sayings of the Prophet, are replete with instances in which Mohammed condemns the action. The specific punishment for the suicide is to burn in hell and to be forever in act of dying by means of the same instrument that was used to take his life. Even was one of his bravest warriors was severely wounded in battle and hurled himself upon his own sword only to relieve his terrible suffering, Mohammed declared that he was damned. “A man may do the deeds of the people of the Fire while in fact he is one of the people of Paradise, and he may do the deeds of the people of Paradise when in fact he belongs to the people of Fire,” the Prophet observed. “Verify, (the rewards of) the deeds are decided by the last actions.”

In his defense of the bombing, Zawahiri had to overcome this profound taboo. The bombers who carried out the Islamabad operation, Zawahiri said, represent “a generation of mujahideen that has decided to sacrifice itself and its property in the cause of God. That is because the way of death and martyrdom is a weapon thaqt tyrants and their helpers, who worship their salaries instead of God, do not have.” He compared them to the martyrs of early Christianisty. The only example he could point to in Islamic tradition was that of a group of Muslims, early in the history of the faith, who were captured by “idolaters” and forced to choose between recanting their religion or being killed by their captors. They choose to become martrys to their beliefs.

It was, Zawahiri argued, a suicidal choice. Other Muslims did not condemn them at the time because they were acting for the glory of God and the greater good of Islam. Therefore, anyone who gives his life in pursuit of the true faith – such as the bombers in Islamabad – is to be regarded not as a suicide who will suffer the punishment in hell but as a heroic martyr whose selfless sacrifice will gain him an extraordinary reward in Paradise.

With such sophistry, Zawahiri reversed the language of the Prophet and opened the door to universal murder.

Without Longstreet and with little more than half as many men as an enemy that had initially outmaneuvered him, Lee had grasped the initiative, gone over to the attack, and had repeatedly divided and manuevered his forces in such a way as to give them superiority or equality of numbers at the point of attack. Like a rabbit mesmerized by the gray fox, Hooker was frozen into immobility and did not use half his power at any time in the battle.

In sharp contrast with others, we are ready to take risks and to calculate the risk. Others are brave in the dark; thinking would just slow them down. But the truly brave are those who face danger undeterred by full recognition of life’s terrors and it’s delights.

Muslims all over the world greeted the bombings with horror and dismay. The deaths of so many people, most of them Africans, many of them Muslims, created a furor. Bin Laden said that the bombings gave the Americans a taste of the atrocities that Muslims had experienced. But to most of the world and even to some members of al-Qaeda, the attacks seemed pointless, a showy act of mass murder with no conceivable effect on American policy except to provoke a massive response.

But that, as it turned out, was exactly the point. Bin Laden wanted to lure the United States into Afghanistan, which was already being called the graveyard of empires. The usual object of terror is to draw one’s opponent into repressive blunders, and bin Laden caught America at a vulnerable and unfortunate moment in its history.


The usual object of terror is to draw one’s opponent into repressive blunders, and bin Laden caught America at a vulnerable and unfortunate moment in its history.