Something needs to be made very clear: The war we wage, the United States and its coalition of friends, now Spain-less (spineless), is not a war on "terror." Terror is an emotion. It is not a war on "terrorism." Like blitzkrieg, siege or ambush, terrorism is a tactic. And it's not a war against "evildoers," a creaky tag that conjures faceless heavies of a vaguely extraterrestrial nature, not the seedy killers who lurk in our cities' secret cells. The war we wage, the United States and its coalition of friends, is a war on Islamic jihad -- the spread of Islam by violent means -- and we wage it against Islamic jihadists who dream of death and destruction in their religion's name.
Two and a half years after the Twin Towers fell, our nation and its friends fight on, but in those two and a half years this great semantic fudge has allowed our enemies to remain ill-defined. Maybe that explains why we have seen confusion spring up between "the war on terror," which is conceived of as a response to the attacks of 9/11, and the "war in Iraq," which has sometimes been erroneously depicted, particularly by anti-war Democrats, as a wholly disconnected venture. No such confusion arises when you set out to combat global jihad, a phrase that just as aptly describes the struggle against Islamic fighters in Iraq or the West Bank as it does the struggle against Islamic fighters in the skies over Pennsylvania or on the train tracks of Madrid. Terrorism may be the tactic Islamic fighters employ, but jihad is the ideology they share.
A great irony of the Spanish election is that even as mass-murdering jihadists take credit for bringing about the Socialist victory -- expected to result in Spain's withdrawal from Iraq of its 1,300 troops -- they have also thrown a giant spotlight on the intertwined tactical connections between Islamic terror networks and the war in Iraq. The most likely scenario is that Islamic fighters either affiliated with or inspired by Al Qaeda chose to attack Spain in order to strike at the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq.
"The approaching general elections in Spain in March must be exploited to the extreme," announced an online manifesto that has been appearing on jihadist Web sites associated with Al Qaeda since December. The manifesto went on to predict that attacks on Spain would virtually guarantee a Socialist victory along with the jihadist objective of seeing Spanish troops leave the American-led coalition. If jihadists make the connection between "terrorism" and Iraq, why can't we?
Maybe the conclusion to be drawn is too horrifying: namely, that in warding off jihadist aggression, we combat an ideology born of a religion. In the formerly Judeo-Christian, currently relativist-hedonist West, such a thought triggers near-panic: How can religious worship, pure and unhijacked, inspire anything but goodwill among men? And aren't terrorist tactics opposed by all but a statistically invisible Islamic fringe? Perhaps it's better to ask what kind of religion offers salvation in exchange for unholy acts of violence. And better to wonder how invisible a fringe is when a recent poll, commissioned by the liberal British newspaper The Guardian, claims that more than 1 in 10 British Muslims (over 160,000 people) believe Al Qaeda-style attacks on the United States are justified.
But most of us don't ask and don't wonder. Valiantly, we fight "terrorism." Determinedly, we target "evildoers."
Maybe it is this same gauzy scrim that has obscured the other kinds of jihad -- quiet jihad or even cold jihad -- that have transformed the culture of Western Europe, from Granada, where the first mosque has opened since Christian forces ended Muslim rule in Spain in 1492, to Oxford, where historian Niall Ferguson reports that historian Edward Gibbon's prediction that minarets would one day rise over the university will come true next year with the opening of a grand new Islamic Studies center.
Such seismic cultural shifts mainly result from immigration policies that have introduced vast concentrations of non-assimilating Muslims throughout Western Europe. But there's something else. Some 14,000 "white Britons" have converted to Islam, according to the Times of London, including "some of Britain's top landowners, celebrities and the offspring of senior establishment figures." Among the converts are Yahya (formerly Jonathan) Birt, son of Lord Birt, former director-general of the BBC, and Emma Clark, great-granddaughter of the Liberal prime minister Herbert Asquith. Miss Clark, incidentally, helped design Prince Charles' Islamic garden at his home, Highgrove. "We're all the rage now," said Miss Clark, referring to Muslims. "I hope it's not a passing fashion."
In today's world, that's very hard to say.