Russian tragedies

Sunday, September 5, 2004

A beautiful tradition in Russian culture is parents taking their children to school on the first day of class with flowers and balloons for their teachers. There is excitement and pride about a new year. New clothes. New shoes. New hope.

On Wednesday, in a Russian town a little smaller than Cape Girardeau, the good feeling turned to horror when terrorists attacked, taking more than 1,000 students and their parents hostage. Immediately, the terrorists began wiring the school with explosives. On Friday, it now appears some of those explosives went off, leading to more explosions, and then the hostages frantically running to get out. What ensued led to the deaths of hundreds, including the indiscriminate shooting of children by the terrorists.

I have seen the photographs and watched the videos. The school is a building, built with the same color bricks as Central High School, that I have seen many times elsewhere in Russia. Those other times, there were always kids playing in the courtyard, laughing and innocent.

The love and warmth of parents toward young children is universal, but in Russia, where there are fewer material items, that love is the ultimate treasure. Few of us could watch the scene at a school when young mothers walk their kids to the door -- and then sit with them for the welcoming ceremony -- without feeling a tug on our hearts.

On Friday, that scene in a small Russian town culminated in tragedy. The photos and the videos show broken, bloodied bodies. Tears. Grief-stricken parents.

Why?

This attack was not because Russia supports Israel, as some like to say about America and 9-11. It was not because Russia has a simple-minded president who didn't take terrorism seriously, as some say wrongly about George Bush before 9-11.

This attack was because terrorists have a coldly calculating plan to target innocents in order to force larger powers to capitulate to their demands. It is a rational plan. And it has worked. Spain's departure from Iraq to the cheers of both European appeasers and American liberals is the type of capitulation that fans the flames of evil. The more terrorists get what they want by their brutal tactics, the more they demand and the more brutal they become.

If our families are our greatest treasure, if our children are our greatest love, then we must do all we can to protect them. That is why we are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan -- spending billions of dollars there. That is why, if we are attacked again, we must not give in.

That is why our president -- this president -- deserves our support.

Jon K. Rust is co-president of Rust Communications.

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