Whether the tape offering European countries a "truce" if they won't attack Muslims was recorded by Osama bin Laden or not, it surely marks a shift in strategy by the al-Qaida leadership.
The intent is clear - to drive a wedge between Europe and the United States in the war on terrorism. The success terrorists had in ousting Spain's pro-United States anti-terrorist government gives them reason to believe they can use the threat of terrorism to force similar changes throughout Europe.
The tape, making the rounds on Arab broadcast outlets, says the "truce" would begin when Europe pulls its troops out of Islamic nations.
The seven-minute tape excludes the United States and Israel from the "truce." Indeed, it vows revenge against both nations for the Israeli assassination of Hamas founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin and United States' "corporate profiteering" in Iraq.
The initial response from European capitals, including France, Germany, Italy and Britain, was to reject the "truce" offer out of hand. It would smack of submitting to extortion if they'd said anything else.
But al-Qaida isn't looking to Europe's leaders to go soft on terrorism. They're seeking to manipulate the European masses - who are dumb enough to hate President George W. Bush more than they hate bin Laden - into putting pressure on their politicians to eventually accommodate al-Qaida's terms.
And why not? The terrorists got their way in Spain, didn't they? Moreover, Europe's historic addiction to appeasement when the going gets tough is widely known the world over.
This is why al-Qaida has reason to be optimistic about its "truce" proposal, at least over the longer term. But not if Europe, and the rest of the world, come together and stand firm in defense of freedom and against a brand of extremist Islamic terrorism that's designed to destroy modern civilization.
The war against terrorism is also a war for sane spirituality, decency, compassion, love and humanity. This not only involves violence - it also involves battling for the hearts and minds of much of the world's population.
It boils down to a test of wills - a test the world cannot afford to lose.
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