The Obama administration says these bombings have nothing to do with religion. It's purely coincidental that the perps preach severe Islam. The attacks are merely meant to destabilize governments.
Once again, we grasp at a comforting explanation, deceiving ourselves. Yes, Islamist fanatics want to disrupt Pakistani society and Iraq's upcoming elections. But they're not butchering thousands of Muslims just over ward politics.
But "punishment" isn't even in our vocabulary.
When a bomb strikes a government ministry, that's one thing. But attacks that routinely turn public markets, clinics or schools into bloody craters aren't just about political rivalries.
True fanatics don't really want to reform or convert you. They need to make you suffer to please their god — and for their own psychological needs. Aztecs without the architecture, fanatics always crave an angry god. They may preach the kingdom of heaven, but long to burn others in hell.
Religious fanatics delight in killing and torturing the imperfect and impure. It's not about justice or redemption. The fanatic's joy lies in the deed itself, in the god-like thrill of inflicting pain. Religious butchers really love their work.
This is "unthinkable" to us — because we refuse to think it. Like children, we want the world to be a certain way, so we insist that it is that way — lovely, innocent and darkened only by responsible parents.
But the world is cruel, and no portion of this earth is crueler than the collapsed civilization of the Middle East. Underdevelopment is not the core problem. Poverty and injustice are symptoms. The region's catastrophic state is rooted in Wahhabi Islam — in the rise, three centuries ago, of a desert-dweller extremism that squeezed a once-great faith into a tribal cult.
Now we stand on the side of the most destructive elements within the Muslim world, the Saudis and their fanaticism. The greatest modern tragedy for the Arab world wasn't Israel's triumph, but who got the oil money: It wasn't the sophisticates of Cairo or Damascus, but illiterate Bedouins whose god likes to hurt people.
The combination of oil wealth and the Wahhabi cult created al Qaeda and internationalized violent jihad. The current tiff between the Saudi royal family and al Qaeda is a family quarrel over who gets to dictate the terms of Islamist tyranny.
Yet, one American president after another imagines that the Saudis are our buddies, even bowing to Saudi royalty — thus doing a terrible disservice to those Muslims who promote worthier forms of their faith.
When we lie and deny that religion has anything to do with Islamist terrorism, we're not doing Muslims a favor. We empower the worst elements in the Islamic world.
But we don't want to hurt the feelings of fanatics. So we insist that Maj. Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood avenger for Allah, was upset. And the deeds of Gitmo inmates had nothing to do with religion (although we rush to pander to their beliefs). Al Qaeda and the Taliban just want political power. And so on.
But men don't rush to die to achieve political power they won't live to exercise. The current epidemic of massacres is about faith gone homicidal. It's about uncompromising hatred in Allah's name, a hatred unappeasable on this earth.
And it's about punishment, that word we no longer dare think. Wahhabi Islam delights in tormenting women (paging Dr. Ali bin Freud). Our response to the general deprivation, enforced masking, lifelong imprisonment, random beating and cult murder of a half-billion human beings? "What right do we have to judge the culture of others?"
We're not only fools, but cowards, too.
The worst jihad isn't against us or the governments we back, but against a half-billion women. Think you'll ever get Washington to admit that?
Faced with supremely dedicated enemies blazing with faith, we make excuses for their love of death. Then we wonder why we don't make progress.
The recent bombings in Baghdad, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Kabul and elsewhere were committed by uncompromising believers. Compromise is our false god, not theirs.
Ralph Peters' latest book is "The War After Armageddon."