The New York Post
September 4, 2004 -- THE mass murder of children revolts the human psyche. Herod sending his henchmen to massacre the infants of Bethlehem haunts the Gospels. Nothing in our time was crueler than what the Germans did to children during the Holocaust. Slaughtering the innocents violates a universal human taboo.
Or a nearly universal one. Those Muslims who preach Jihad against the West decided years ago that killing Jewish or Christian children is not only acceptable, but pleasing to their god when done by "martyrs."
It isn't politically correct to say this, of course. We're supposed to pretend that Islam is a "religion of peace." All right, then: It's time for Muslims to stand up for the once-noble, nearly lost traditions of their faith and condemn what Arab and Chechen terrorists and blasphemers did in the Russian town of Beslan.
If Muslim religious leaders around the world will not publicly condemn the taking of children as hostages and their subsequent slaughter — if those "men of faith" will not issue a condemnation without reservations or caveats — then no one need pretend any longer that all religions are equally sound and moral.
Islam has been a great and humane faith in the past. Now far too many of its adherents condone, actively or passively, the mass murder of school kids. Instead of condemnations of the Muslim "Jihadis" responsible for butchering more than 200 women and children in cold blood, we will hear spiteful counter-accusations about imaginary atrocities supposedly committed by Western militaries.
Well, the cold fact is that Western soldiers, whether Americans, Brits, Russians or Israelis, do not take hundreds of children hostage, then shoot them in cold blood while detonating bombs in their midst. The Muslim world can lie to itself, but we need lie no longer.
The tragedy in southern Russia occurred thousands of miles from the United States, but, in essence, that massacre happened next door. The parents, teachers and students kept for days without water or food in a sweltering school building before being butchered were our children, our sisters, our wives, our parents.
The mass hostage situation wasn't about Chechen rebels (and at least 10 Arabs) opposing the Russian government. It was a continuation of the universal struggle between good and evil. And there is no doubt which side is evil, scorned though the word may be by our own elite.
How can any human being with a shred of conscience dismiss what occurred in that school as anything less than evil?
The attack in Beslan wasn't about Russia's brutal incompetence in Chechnya — as counter-productive as Moscow's grim heavy-handedness may have been. It was about religious bigotry so profound that the believer can hold a gun to a child's head, pull the trigger and term the act "divine justice."
We will hear complaints that the Russian special forces should have waited — even after the terrorists began shooting children. Negotiations are the heroin of Westerners addicted to self-delusion. Who among us would have waited when he or she saw fleeing children cut down by automatic weapons? The urge to protect children is as primal as any impulse we ever feel.
Make no mistake: No blame attaches to the Russians for the massacre at that school. The guilt is entirely upon the Islamic extremists who have led the religion they claim to cherish into the realms of nightmare.
There will be repercussions. Having suffered the hijacking and destruction of two passenger jets, a deadly bombing at a Moscow subway station and a massacre in a primary school all in less than two weeks, the Kremlin will have learned to rue the day it imagined that there was anything to gain by opposing American efforts against terrorists, whether Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein.
As they inevitably do, the terrorists reminded the world of their heartless barbarism. Even if France manages to beg the release of its kidnapped journalists in Iraq, it has begun to sense its vulnerability. And all Europeans with a vestige of sense will recognize that the school seizure in Russia could easily repeat itself in Languedoc or Umbria, Bavaria or Kent.
An attack on children is an attack on all of humanity.
No matter what differences Western states discover to divide them, the terrorists will bring us together in the end. Their atrocities expose all wishful thinking for what it is.
A final thought: Did any of those protesters who came to Manhattan to denounce our liberation of 50 million Muslims stay an extra day to protest the massacre in Russia? Of course not.
The protesters no more care for dead Russian children than they care for dead Kurds or for the hundreds of thousands of Arabs that Saddam Hussein executed. Or for the ongoing Arab-Muslim slaughter of blacks in Sudan. Nothing's a crime to those protesters unless the deed was committed by America.
The butchery in Russia was a crime against humanity. In every respect. Was any war ever more necessary or just than the War on Terror?
And what will terror's apologists say when the killers come for their own children?
Ralph Peters is the author of "Beyond Terror: Strategy in a Changing World."