We Americans are uncomfortable with such ideas as holy wars and religiously motivated mass murder. Raised to believe in equality, tolerance and diversity, we cannot imagine slaughtering fellow human beings so that adherents of the "true faith" might prevail over "enemies of God." Nor can most of us imagine others acting in this way. Our imaginations are failing us.
Two years ago, Andrew C. McCarthy published "Willful Blindness," his authoritative memoir of the years he spent prosecuting terrorists for the federal government. It should have opened the eyes of anyone who, despite the atrocities of 9/11/01, still could not grasp the fact that those who say they are waging a jihad against infidels really mean they are waging a jihad against infidels.
But the response to the attempted terrorist bombing in Times Square demonstrates that many political and media leaders continue to view the global conflict though clouded eyes, insisting that terrorism must be motivated by political grievance or personal frustration or economic deprivation or desperation - anything but theological conviction.
For example, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg theorized that the would-be car bomber might be "someone with a political agenda that doesn't like the health-care bill or something."
The Associated Press was quick to tell the public that the perpetrator's motives were "unknown." It added, however, that suspect Faisal Shahzad's "life had unraveled." National Public Radio provided a specific turning point: "Times Square Suspect's World 'Flipped Upside Down' Last Summer."