Read - if you can bear it - this:
At least 110 people have been killed in a massive car bomb south of Baghdad, local medical officials say. At least 130 others have been wounded in the blast in Hilla, 100km (60 miles) south of the capital. The car, reportedly driven by a suicide bomber, exploded near a queue of people applying for government jobs. Iraqi insurgents are waging a violent campaign against US-backed authorities, targeting anyone associated with the government.
And then read this from a well-known essay three years ago by the political philosopher Michael Walzer, whose writings on the ethics of war, terrorism and political violence I often cite and have learned much from:
There is no deeper impulse in left politics than this enlistment [with those suffering uder oppression]; solidarity with people in trouble seems to me the most profound commitment that leftists make. But this solidarity includes, or should include, a readiness to tell these people when we think they are acting wrongly, violating the values we share. Even the oppressed have obligations, and surely the first among these is not to murder innocent people, not to make terrorism their politics. Leftists who cannot insist upon this point, even to people poorer and weaker than they are, have abandoned both politics and morality for something else. They are radical only in their abjection. That was Sartre's radicalism, face-to-face with FLN terror, and it has been imitated by thousands since, excusing and apologizing for acts that any decent left would begin by condemning.
Walzer was making a call to first principles for a decent Left: the need to exercise moral discrimination among the acts committed by those one sympathised with, and to condemn the deliberate targeting of civilians. The extraordinary thing to reflect on, alongside the horror at so callous an act of mass murder as today's bombing, is how far the issue has moved on in political debate since Walzer wrote. There is a type of 'Left' in the advanced industrial democracies that explicitly endorses the use of terrorism by forces that are not oppressed at all but are doing the oppressing. The 'insurgents' - to use the BBC's inaptly romantic euphemism - are slaughtering people who seek no more than to build a civil society and a constitutional order in a country that has lately emerged from arbitrary despotism.
Those of us on the Left who point this out are accused ad nauseam of being turncoats and reactionaries in supporting the overthrow of theocratic and Baathist tyranny, and the promotion of global democracy. What we actually do is ally without sectarianism with those who serve such purposes. We have no cause to cede the title deeds of our deepest beliefs to those who are not entitled to them.