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Nonmilitary targets no less than murder - Greg Gelpi

Killing is killing, and a life is a life, but distinction must be made in Iraq.

Working as a cops reporter in East Texas during the attacks on Sept. 11, immediately the attacks spawned the newsroom debate over the term "terrorism."

I followed the debate online as well as media and ethics experts took on the word and its use since, as some put it, one person's terrorist is another's freedom fighter.

All of the lives lost on Sept. 11 were tragic, but particularly tragic in my mind were the lives of those in the planes and in the World Trade Center. Those victims were nonmilitary. They were citizens. And, they served as no strategic target.

They were killed for flying and killed for working. I venture to say that few ever knew of Osama bin Laden, much less personally offended him enough to warrant death.

Similarly, the string of kidnappings and beheadings in Iraq target citizens who are noncombatants.

Contractors rebuilding the nation ravaged by war and years of sanctions are building water treatment facilities, power plants and schools. Regardless of political ideology, nationality or religious faith, the aforementioned projects are good.

At worst, foreign companies are awarded contracts for these projects and reap the financial benefits, but still the education and utilities furnished would be for Iraqis.

Foreigners likely wouldn't run an extension cord from an Iraqi power plant and run it to their home in other countries.

Still, they kill. Still, they fail to and even refuse to distinguish between foreign soldiers and foreign workers.

An American is an American, and a death is one more tally on the terrorists' goal of driving policy by brutal acts.

And what do the killers want, at least for now, for a pause in their blood lust?

They demand the release of all women taken into U.S. custody during the war in Iraq. According to reports by the Associated Press, there are only two - Rihab Rashid Taha and Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash, respectively known as "Dr. Germ" and "Mrs. Anthrax" for their work on Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction program.

So, Iraqi captors resort to killing contractors who are building up the country, hoping to free scientists considered to have been instrumental in helping Saddam kill thousands of the captors' fellow Iraqis.

I'm far from a military affairs analysts, an expert on Middle Eastern culture or a diplomat. That being said, the acts of the Iraqi captors extend beyond any military, cultural and diplomatic reasons or ideologies.

As a firm believer in the concept that all people are created equal, that belief is shaken by the proposed trade of an American contractor for an Iraqi with hands bloodied by mass murder.

The killers' demands speak about their intentions, hearts and mindsets. Killers who demand to free killers. Killers who want to restore the evil nature of the Saddam regime.

Contrast the one who kills in a moment of passion with the one who kills on deadline, cold and calculating, thinking of killing while watching the clock tick.

Contrast the one who kills another soldier in the midst of military conflict with the one who kills a man trying to better the world, trying simply to make a living and support his family.

With eyes fixed on breaking the spirit of Americans and the citizens of other countries working in Iraq, the captors have only strengthened the resolve of Americans to finish the job and bring the killers to justice.

Greg Gelpi covers education for the News Daily. He can be reached at ggelpi@news-daily.com or (770) 478-5753 Ext. 247.