When the White House promised to punish the murderers who sawed off Nicholas Berg's head, a spokesman said the crime "showed the true nature of the enemies of freedom."
Wrong. Or, rather, not wrong, but vague, and perilously so. It's not every enemy of freedom who shouts, "Allahu akbar (God is great)!" while committing murder in front of a video camera. What Mr. Berg's heinous killing showed was the true nature of fundamentalist and unreformed Islam, according to the Koran. "Now when ye meet in battle those who disbelieve, then it is smiting of the necks," says verse 47-4 in the Marmaduke Mohammad Pickthall translation. This and other venerable translations stand until modern Muslims renounce the principle of jihad, or holy war against the "infidel."
Until that happens, pulling the political veil over the face of the enemy is not just a fashionable nod to political correctness. Failing to unmask the brutal face of modern jihad is a possibly suicidal lapse of logic and nerve that has dangerously obscured the wider war on "terror" -- which, of course, is the euphemism of choice for Islamic jihad.
Mincing words also contributes to something else, something that has emerged from the flames of the utterly surreal conflagration over Abu Ghraib that still threatens to snuff our entire military mission. Only a politically correct ruling class (including Big Media) that converses in the opaque terms of "war on terror" and "enemies of freedom" could regard Abu Ghraib with the tunnel vision necessary to shut out all the world, past, present and future. Only the permanently and willfully blinkered can see in the finite abuses at the Baghdad prison -- abuses long halted and in the process of being rectified -- the epic horror of the age, while a war rages on.
But it is not just prison guards run amok that draw fire. Big guns now train their sights on the interrogation techniques used on all prisoners of the war on Islamic jihad, including top leaders and operatives of Al Qaeda.
Such a venture reveals a heedless ignorance of the fanatical barbarism of the jihadist enemy we face. That is, our jihad-obsessed enemy -- to whom "martyrdom" means paradise and 72 virgins, to whom killing as many "infidels" as possible on the battlefield means martyrdom, and to whom marketplaces and hotels and office buildings mean battlefields -- has evolved outside the Western tradition and far from the principles of the Geneva Convention.