The Message From Mumbai
Western commentators still don't grasp what the free world is facing. This was not merely a distant horror
Around the world, people have reacted with horror to the vile atrocities in Mumbai.
For three days, our TV screens transmitted images of carnage and chaos as the toll of murder victims climbed to upwards of 190 people, with many hundreds more injured.
Despite the fact that Western citizens were caught up in the attacks, there is nevertheless a sense that this was nothing to do with us — a horrible event happening in a faraway place.
Among commentators, moreover, there has been no small amount of confusion.
Were these terrorists motivated by the grievance between Muslims and Hindus over Kashmir, or was this a broader attack by Al Qaeda?
If British and American tourists were singled out over Iraq — which many assume is the motive for such attacks — why were Indians targeted in the Victoria railway station?
And why was an obscure outreach centre geared to Jews marked for slaughter?
Such perceptions and questions suggest that, even now, Western commentators still don't grasp what the free world is facing. This was not merely a distant horror.
We should pay the closest possible attention to what happened in Mumbai because something on this scale could well happen here.
But because we don't understand what we are actually up against, we are not doing nearly enough to prevent this — or something even worse — occurring; and if it were to happen here, we would be unable to cope.
The Mumbai atrocities show very clearly what too many obdurately deny — that a war is being waged against civilization.
It is both global and local. It is not 'our' fault; it has nothing to do with Muslim poverty, oppression or discrimination.
The Islamic fundamentalist fanatics use specific grievances — Kashmir, Iraq, Palestine, Chechnya — merely as recruiting sergeants for their worldwide holy war against all 'unbelievers'.
The Mumbai attackers targeted British, American and Indian citizens simply because they wanted to kill as many British, American and Indian 'unbelievers' as possible.
Where they found Muslims, they spared them.
They also singled out for slaughter the occupants of an outreach organization geared to Jews with no Israeli or political agenda — underscoring the point that at the core of the Islamists' hatred of Israel festers their hatred of the Jews.
This was not, as is so often described, 'mindless violence'.
On the contrary, the terrorists precisely calibrated both their choice of targets and the way in which they attacked them. This tells us many things.
India was chosen in order to further two aims. First was to foment greater tension between India and Pakistan.
No less important was the wish to destroy the ever more vital strategic alliance between India and the West in common defense against the Islamist onslaught.
That was why British and American visitors in those two grand hotels were singled out.
And that was why Mumbai itself was chosen — as the symbol of India's burgeoning commerce and prosperity and its links with the West.
The manner of these attacks also carried a message.
Many hostages were taken, but no attempt was made to use them to demand redress of any grievances. They were simply killed.
That made a statement that the terrorists' agenda is non-negotiable.
The attacks demonstrated, above all, the reach of the perpetrators and the impotence of their designated victims.
Those who believe that Islamist terror can be halted by addressing grievances around the world are profoundly mistaken.
With these atrocities, moreover, Islamist attacks have moved much closer to war than conventional terrorism.
The Iranian-born foreign affairs specialist Amir Taheri has pointed out that the Mumbai attacks embody the plan outlined by a senior Al Qaeda strategist after the U.S. decided to fight back following 9/11 — a decision that the Islamists had not expected.
This new strategy entails targeting countries with a substantial Muslim presence for 'low-intensity warfare' comprising bombings, kidnappings, the taking of hostages, the use of women and children as human shields, beheadings and other attacks that make normal life impossible.
Such a simultaneous, multi-faceted onslaught quickly reduces a city and a country to chaos. It can be repeated anywhere — and our cities must be among the most vulnerable.