Tony Blair is mad—really mad.  Nasty people keep blowing up things in his London, and he is going to do something about it.  At a press conference in late July, he told the world that he wants to make it illegal for British subjects to leave Britain for advanced terrorist training in Pakistan.  The hidden premise of his proposal is the good news that Britain is now breeding so many homegrown Islamic terrorists that she no longer has to import them.  Nonetheless, British Muslims do lag behind in one important respect: They have to send apprentice terrorists to Pakistan to complete their training under the benevolent eye of President Musharraf, President Bush’s ally in the “War on Terror.”

Of course, it might be easier and vastly more effective if Mr. Blair simply expelled subcontinental Muslims from Britain and enacted a strict immigration policy, but such a step would entail a religious conversion from the goofy liberal pietism that has poisoned his will to the Christian chivalry of Charles Martel and Don John of Austria.  Determined to ignore reality, Blair insists that terrorist bombings in London have nothing to do with Britain’s involvement in Iraq.  The source of the problem, he added, is an ideology that must be rooted out.  The prime minister wants to shut down Islamic schools that preach hatred and violence toward the West, but, if he were really serious, he would have to shut down mosques and outlaw Islam per se, since true Islam has always preached and practiced violence against non-Muslims.  The lies told on this score, by both politicians and journalists, exceed the Stalinist propaganda of the 1940’s.

On one point, Blair is right.  Terrorism cannot be addressed until we confront the ideologies that inspire it, but hardly anyone in the West is willing to tell the truth about either the Islamic roots of terrorism in the Koran and in the life of Muhammad or the modern roots of Western terrorism in the French Revolution and the conduct of modern war.  The most obvious evidence of this willful self-deception are the statements of Prime Minister Blair and President Bush.  Neither is willing to face the reality that the continuous devastation of Iraq, from the 1991 Gulf War through over a decade of sanctions that cost hundreds of thousands of lives to the Iraq war whose end is not yet in sight, might just have strengthened the hand of militant Muslims around the globe.  The conquest of Iraq does not justify terrorism, but it does explain some of it.

What is terrorism?  The ism suffix suggests that it is not simply violence but an ideology of inflicting terror.  Terror has always been an instrument of war, especially in the Middle East.  The boasts of the Assyrian kings make grisly reading even for modern men whose conscience has been numbed by video games and FOX News, but Islam was the first political system to make terrorism a deliberate instrument of a righteous policy.  (Yes, Islam is a religion, but it is also a political ideology.)  To take only one of dozens of relevant texts, the Koran (5:33) prescribes execution or crucifixion for those who resist Allah and his messenger.

Islam is not the only religion that has preached death to infidels.  The Jews regarded the God of the Old Testament as angry and vengeful, and in His name they claim to have done terrible things, though the historical record suggests that the occupation of Canaan fell far short of genocide.  Muslim leaders, by contrast, have not merely recorded their history of bloodshed in boastful accounts; they have actively pursued terror as a policy of softening up an enemy before the actual invasion.  In the first millennium of the long Islamic nightmare, terror raids not only rewarded the Ghazi, whose loyalty was strengthened by the opportunity to loot and rape, but they made conditions of life so intolerable that Christians might be pardoned for welcoming the law and order promised by the caliph or sultan.  It is not always easy to determine the strict proportions of religious zeal, opportunism, and strategic policy that went into making the terror campaigns that destroyed the Eastern Roman Empire, but it is important to recognize that the history of Islamic terrorism represents something more than a series of very violent episodes: Terrorism is the essential tactic for subduing the infidel and extending Islamic power.

At the root of religious terrorism lies the conviction that mine is not only the true faith but the only faith with any truth.  “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet” is not merely a declaration of monotheism and an affirmation of the superiority of Islam.  It implies the radical division of the world into two camps: the peaceful realm of faithful Muslims and the realm of nonbelievers with whom they are at war.  Though the terms of that war may be mitigated by submission and payment of tribute, the war is itself as permanent and potentially ruthless as the war the Spartans annually proclaimed against the Helots.  While Spartans did not ordinarily go around killing their serfs, the declaration of war gave them absolute impunity.  Turks in Greece or Serbia, under sharia, enjoyed a similar privilege: When they killed a Christian or raped his daughter, no Christian’s testimony was valid in court.

Do not be deceived by the Muslims’ claim to honor the “peoples of the book.”  The scriptures of the Old and New Testaments that Muslims revere are the “authentic” versions, whose truths are taught in the Koran, whereas our Bible has been perverted by wicked priests and scribes.  There can be no compromise between absolute right and absolute wrong.  There are, of course, people who call themselves Christians who have taught something similar, but such an evil fantasy is contradicted not only by Christ’s moral injunctions but also by the Christian understanding of Him as the Logos by Whom all things were made.  Christians know that the religions of the Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Greek pagans, et al. are false, but they also acknowledge (with Saint Paul) that there are important elements of truth in each of them.  Ordinary Muslims, who do their best to tell the truth, deal honestly with their fellows, and worship Allah, are superior in most respects to post-Christian hedonists in the West.

Christians naturally wish to convert nonbelievers to the full truth, but, at the same time, they see even the most violent Islamic terrorists as creatures made in the image of God for whose salvation Christ took on human flesh and suffered death.  Crusaders were quite wrong when they violated treaties with Muslim rulers or mistreated civilians, and today, when Christian Zionists justify mayhem and murder against Palestinians (including Palestinian Christians), they reveal how far they have fallen from the Christian Faith.

Although Christianity is not a religion of pacifism or nonresistance, violence is permitted in only very restricted cases, mainly to preserve life or punish evildoers.  A Christian ruler may not go to war unless the cause is just—for example, to defend his country against aggression or to rescue the victims of aggression.  Even in a just war, however, a Christian ruler may not deliberately attack noncombatants or even wage war in such a way as to cause death to large numbers of women and children.  This is an exacting standard to which few Christian states have measured up, but it was and is and ever shall be the standard by which we judge the justice of any war.  During the 20th century, no important country made a serious attempt to conduct its wars according to Christian rules.  The record of such criminal states as the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany does not require comment, but Christians must also condemn Britain’s firebombing campaign against German cities, Harry Truman’s decision to drop atomic bombs on two Japanese civilian centers, Bill Clinton’s deliberate bombing of bridges and office buildings during the attack on Yugoslavia, and the massive “collateral damage” inflicted by the Bushes’ two Iraq wars.

A military operation might be immoral, in its brutal disregard for human life, without being an act of terrorism, but the bombings of Dresden and Hiroshima were intended to destroy the morale of the German and Japanese peoples.  That is the whole point of terrorism, as President Lincoln and his amoral generals knew.  Sherman’s March to the Sea was conducted on the theory that the Southern people were responsible for the war and, therefore, a legitimate target.  Sherman’s deliberate burning of Columbia, South Carolina, accompanied by massive looting and rape, was a war crime, and his attempt to deny his responsibility is either a sign of his insanity or else the tribute that vice used to have to pay to virtue.  Sherman’s actions and statements are explicit: His march was intended as a campaign of terror, and, as he jokingly told General Halleck, who had suggested that it would not be a bad idea if his boys, when they took Charleston, got careless with matches, with boys like these, you do not need an accident.  War is hell, Sherman said, and proceeded to make it so.

Then why the lie?  Because 150 years ago, there was still the vestige of a Christian conscience in Europe and North America.  Now that that conscience has virtually disappeared, the lovers of war crimes should exult in their heroes’ glorious deeds.  There are so many mass murderers to admire—Attila, Tojo, Sultan Mehmed II—but American conservatives must await the next book of Victor Davis Hanson to find out who their next criminal-hero will be.

Lincoln and his generals (Grant, Sherman, Sheridan) have often been accused of introducing the theory and practice of total war into the civilized world, but they do not deserve even that much credit for their originality.  The Jacobins, both in their democratic theory and in their war of genocide against the Vendée, blazed the trail that burned through Georgia and South Carolina and consumed the poor people of Dresden.

If Christianity forbids the slaughter of the innocent, it is not too difficult to see that rejection of Christianity is the first step toward creating a regime of mass murder.  That is the most obvious lesson taught by the French Revolution, the Third Reich, and the Soviet Union.  What of the architects of the American Vendée?  Lincoln was a mocker; Sherman, an “agnostic”—an atheist without the courage of his convictions—and Grant, a skeptic who went to church with his wife but never received communion, even on his deathbed.  Grant criticized the wealth (tax-exempt) of churches in America and repeatedly called for a strict separation of church and state.  His anti-Christian views made him the ideal hero for Mark Twain.

If American Christians would cease their everlasting prattle about living in a “Christian nation,” they might begin to hold their very unchristian leaders to account for their actions that contradict the teachings of Christ and His Church.  Terrorism is terrorism, whether practiced by Islamic extremists, Jacobin democratists, or post-Christian advocates of benevolent global hegemony, and if we seriously wish to combat terrorism, it cannot be with the methods of counterterrorism, a word that means nothing better than “terrorism against terrorism.”

Since the United States, far from being a “Christian nation,” forbids prayer in school and encourages infanticide, it is pointless to demand a Christian foreign policy from non-Christian (mostly anti-Christian) political leaders.  Is there anything, then, that Christian citizens can do to fight terrorism?  In practice, very little.  Your congressman is not going to listen to any argument framed in terms of a “just war,” and Muslim terrorists, thanks to the Bush administration’s refusal to defend our borders, will continue to flood into the United States across both the southern and northern borders.

Opposition to terrorism is a moral act and must begin with moral understanding.  You can, as a Christian, refuse to countenance any foolish talk that we are fighting a necessary, much less just, war in Iraq.  Such language is as unacceptable from serious-minded laymen as it is from pastors or priests.  One can argue pleasantly among friends about the facts of a war—whether, for example, Saddam Hussein had the will and the means to harm the United States.  But it would be hard to maintain Christian fellowship with those who, on principle, advocate either an unjust war or the slaughter of civilians.  At the same time, pacifism is not an option.  Pacifism, like terrorism, is a modern and anti-Christian ideology.  Most American pacifists are simply anti-American leftists from whom no good can ever come.  We must always bear in mind that it is American men and women who, carrying out the duties they must carry out, are dying by the dozens in Iraq.  Although they are not dying in a “noble cause,” they are dying for their country.

Christian conservatives (I am using the word in a limited sense that excludes most self-described conservatives) are in a difficult position.  Our political leaders want us to believe that Islam is good but that we have to kill Muslims simply because they do not want us to occupy their country.  In fact, we should be treating Muslim men and women justly, while doing our best to exclude this religion from the United States.  Before we can hope to exert any political influence, conservative Christians must achieve moral clarity and begin to act as men and women of faith who support (if they do) the Republican Party on practical grounds instead of being what too many Catholic and evangelical voters are today: Republicans who sing in church but leave their faith, along with the discarded bulletin, behind in the pew.