The finding of the videotape of Osama bin Laden gloating over his calculated assault on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon was fortunate.
The White House decision to release them was wise.
Wise, not because most Americans need to be reminded who the enemy is, but because many Muslim skeptics need to be reminded who the enemy is not.
America and Islam are not at war.
We all understand there are clashes of values between freedom-loving Westerners and those of the conservative Islamic faith. And the grievances associated with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are bitter and decades, if not centuries, old.
However, these hurts cannot justify the destruction of the World Trade Center or the damage to the Pentagon. When Osama bin Laden and his followers cite their Islamic faith as justification for the taking of thousands innocent lives, we feel they have slandered the great faith of a billion people.
Part of what keeps criticism of America alive and condemnation of bin Laden at bay is the cynical argument that he could not have been responsible. The tapes put the lie to further skepticism.
Of course there are those who will claim forgery. Their claim is as credible as those who feel the U.S. or the Israeli Mossad staged the attacks on America. There will be no convincing such cynics.
But to those doubters in the Muslim world with enough objectivity to listen to both sides, we would ask this question: If the U.S. were to forge a tape such as this, why now? Why not do it before the coalition was built, before we asked Pakistan and Uzbekistan for help in siting our troops and aircraft?
And why such a poor forgery? Wouldn’t a clear voice track have been more persuasive — roused less debate?
It is our fervent hope that the tapes and America’s restrained prosecution of the war in Afghanistan will win over the doubters in Pakistan, Palestine and other Muslim regions of the world.
The differences between Islam and the Western world must be soothed by dialogue and understanding.
But the war — the war is against terrorism, and the war is righteous.