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A great piece by an American commentator reprinted in today's Age.

West too squeamish to discuss death cult

By David Brooks
September 9, 2004

We've been forced to witness the massacre of innocents. In New York, Madrid, Moscow, Tel Aviv, Baghdad and Bali, we have seen thousands of people destroyed while going about the daily activities of life.

We've been forced to endure the massacre of children. Whether it's teenagers outside an Israeli disco or students in Beslan, Russia, we've seen kids singled out as special targets.

We should by now have become used to the death cult that is thriving at the fringes of the Muslim world. This is the cult of people who are proud to declare: "You love life, but we love death." This is the cult that sent waves of defenceless children to be mowed down on the battlefields of the Iran-Iraq war, which trains kindergarten children to become bombs, which fetishises death, which sends people off joyfully to commit mass murder.

This cult attaches itself to a political cause but parasitically strangles it. The death cult has strangled the dream of a Palestinian state. The suicide bombers have not brought peace to Palestine; they've brought reprisals. The car bombers are not pushing the US out of Iraq; they're forcing the US to stay longer. The death cult is now strangling the Chechen cause, and will bring not independence but blood.

But that's the idea. Because the death cult is not really about the cause it purports to serve. It's about the sheer pleasure of killing and dying.

It's about massacring people while in a state of spiritual loftiness. It's about experiencing the total freedom of barbarism - freedom even from human nature, which says, love children, and love life. It's about the joy of sadism and suicide.

We should be used to this pathological mass movement by now. We should be able to talk about such things. Yet when you look at the Western reaction to the Beslan massacres, you see people quick to divert their attention away from the core horror of this act, as if to say: We don't want to stare into this abyss. We don't want to acknowledge those parts of human nature that were on display in Beslan. Something here, if thought about too deeply, undermines the categories we use to live our lives, undermines our faith in the essential goodness of human beings.

Three years after September 11, too many people have become experts at averting their eyes. If you look at the editorials and public pronouncements in response to Beslan, you see that they glide over the perpetrators of this act and search for more conventional, more easily comprehensible, targets for their rage.

The Boston Globe editorial, which was typical of the American journalistic response, made two quick references to the barbarity of the terrorists, but then quickly veered off with long passages condemning Putin and various Russian policy errors.

The Dutch Foreign Minister, Bernard Bot, speaking on behalf of the European Union, declared: "All countries in the world need to work together to prevent tragedies like this. But we also would like to know from the Russian authorities how this tragedy could have happened."

It wasn't a tragedy. It was a carefully planned mass murder operation. And it wasn't Russian authorities who stuffed basketball nets with explosives and shot children in the back as they tried to run away.

Whatever horrors the Russians have perpetrated on the Chechens, whatever their ineptitude in responding to the attack, the essential nature of this act was in the act itself. It was the fact that a team of human beings could go into a school, live with hundreds of children for a few days, look them in the eyes and hear their cries, and then blow them up.

Dissertations will be written about the euphemisms the media used to describe these murderers. They were called "separatists" and "hostage-takers". Three years after September 11, many are still apparently unable to talk about this evil. They still try to rationalise terror. What drives the terrorists to do this? What are they trying to achieve?

They're still victims of the delusion the American critic Paul Berman diagnosed after September 11: "It was the belief that, in the modern world, even the enemies of reason cannot be the enemies of reason. Even the unreasonable must be, in some fashion, reasonable."

This death cult has no reason and is beyond negotiation. This is what makes it so frightening. This is what causes so many to engage in a sort of mental diversion. They don't want to confront this horror. So they rush off in search of more comprehensible things to hate.

David Brooks is a senior editor at the US journal The Weekly Standard and a columnist with The New York Times.