Vital Signs

MLK and Terrorism

On February 12, an endorsement of the United States’ war against terrorism, organized by the “nonpartisan” Institute for American Values, went out to President Bush and the national media over the signatures of what the U.S. State Department described as “sixty prominent U.S. academics.”  The term “prominent academic” can now be applied to Bill Kristol, Hillel Fradkin, and Midge Decter.

If only the signatories had not strained so hard to look smart, they might have confined their support to a patriotic cheer or simply invoked the time-honored argument that regimes are supposed to protect their citizens or subjects against violence.  The signatories (really, the authors) cannot figure out whether they are pushing a particular religion or set of doctrines.  They say they are not, but even those who claim to belong to “secular traditions” are convinced “that invoking God’s authority to kill or maim human beings is immoral and contrary to faith in God.”  It is strange to receive theistic instruction from self-avowed secularists who obviously have not read the Pentateuch—particularly the commands given to the children of Israel to exterminate Amalekites and other morally reprobate tribes.  Such acts are not only allowed but, even more shockingly, are laid as commandments upon the Israelites, whether fighting idolatry or settling their...

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